When I was around fourteen years old I remember going out for lunch with a friend and, after I got home, proudly telling my parents about the healthy choices we had made; we’d split zucchini sticks and a Caesar salad. I felt ripped off when I realized how unhealthy those choices really were; I thought we had cracked the code! That day still stands out in my memory as when I began to understand the immense complexity around food and nutrition. How could a salad be unhealthy?! And yet, those restaurant Caesar salads – laden with creamy dressing and deep-fried croutons – are anything but.
This Caesar salad, though, is something to write home about. It starts with lacinato kale, which is a little bit sweeter and more approachable than your standard curly kale. Torn into bite sized pieces, the kale is massaged with a yogurt-based Caesar dressing that not only lightens up the recipe considerably, but also means that this Caesar is free from eggs. The traditional anchovies are replaced with umami-rich miso paste, and liquid aminos (or soy sauce) replaces the Worcestershire sauce that is ubiquitous in Caesar dressings.
There are croutons, of course; oven-baked cubes of a dark, dense Danish-style rye bread that not only complements the flavor of the kale perfectly, but also brings considerably more nutrition to the table than a standard white-bread crouton would. If you’re looking to switch things up, try replacing the croutons with roasted chickpeas, and of course you can leave the croutons out altogether if you’d prefer, but if you’re in the mood for a crouton (and really, who isn’t?) then I recommend giving these a go.
One last note – if you find kale salads a little too kale-y, or you’re trying to convert a kale skeptic, please don’t skip the massaging step. It may sound ridiculous to massage a salad, but it does wonders to break down and tenderize the tough leaves. Alternately, try going 50/50 with kale and torn romaine lettuce.
For the croutons:
- 2 cups dark rye bread cubes about 4 slices
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing:
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
- Scant ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Heaping ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon light soy sauce or liquid aminos I use Bragg's brand
- ½ teaspoon miso paste
- 1 clove garlic crushed
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad:
- 1 bunch lacinato kale destemmed, washed, and torn into bite-sized pieces
- Extra Parmesan for sprinkling on top
Make the croutons:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Toss the cubed rye bread with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, flipping twice, until crunchy. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Make the dressing:
- Combine the Greek yogurt, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, miso, garlic, and black pepper in a small bowl and whisk well to combine.
- Taste test and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Make the salad:
- In a large bowl, toss the torn kale with a small amount of dressing (this recipe will make more than you need for one salad). Using clean hands, massage the dressing into the kale. Add a little bit more dressing and toss to coat.
- Add croutons and extra Parmesan, and toss again.
- Serve immediately.