Kale Top Salad with Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

Kale Top SaladIt’s May, and that means the local farmer’s market is back with a vegetable vengeance. This year there really seems to be more farmers in attendance, and I returned home with bags of fresh produce (Chard leaves the size of your head!), and armfuls of starters for my garden (The tomato man was there, whoot!!!) One of the most interesting edibles that I scored was a bag of bright purple kale tops.

Picked during the spring from the tops of over-wintering brassicas, these little bundles of buds are amazingly tender and subtlety flavoured. The perfect foundation for an early-summer tossed salad. This recipe is a classic menagerie of very friendly veg, all balancing the bitterness of everyone’s favourite super-green.

Left to marinate for a couple of minutes before serving allows the kale (and in this case: buds) to soften slightly. The agent of transformation will be a sharp, summery vinaigrette made with a lemon-thyme-infused white wine vinegar. The vinegar should be started a day in advance:

Lemon-Thyme Vinegar

Making herb-flavoured vinegars is so simple and will always yield delicious results if you follow a couple of simple rules: Heavy vinegars (like sherry, cider and red wine) work well with strongly-flavoured heavy herbs (typically ones with thick wooden stems like rosemary, sage or lavender) and need to be heated up to steep properly. Light vinegars (like white wine and rice vinegar) favor the subtle flavours imparted by light herbs (fennel, dill, thyme or parsley) and can be steeped in room-temp vinegar right out of the bottle.

Lemon Thyme VinegarTrim some fresh lemon thyme from the garden, wash and dry ’em thoroughly on a paper towel. Use a wooden chopstick (don’t use metal instruments on anything that will be preserved long-term) to arrange the thyme in a sterilized bottle or jar. Pour in enough white wine vinegar to reach up to ½” from the top of the container. Seal the container with a sterilized, tight-fitting lid, and give it a love-shake to dislodge all the air bubbles hiding amongst the herbs. This vinegar should be allowed to steep for a week to completely marry up the flavours… But if you just can’t wait to make awesome salads, you can use it the next day.

Kale Top Salad with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette (Serves 4)

Ingredients

·         1 handful of Sliced Almonds (about 36g)

·         2 tbls. (30ml) Olive Oil

·         1 ½ tbls.(22ml) Lemon-thyme Vinegar

·         ½ tbls.(7.4ml) Liquid Honey

·         1 tsp. (5ml) Dijon Mustard

·         2 cups (100g) Kale Tops (washed and trimmed 1” from the tip)

·         1 cup (65g) Young green Kale Leaves (trimmed from the stems and chopped)

·         1 cup (85g) Fennel (thinly sliced)

·         ½ Green Apple (about 80g, cored and thinly sliced)

·         1 cup (80g) Dried Cranberries

·         5 ¼ oz. (about 150g) Fresh Goat’s Cheese (sliced, or broken apart by hand)

Method

  1. Fire up a small sauté pan on med-high heat and toss in the almonds. Shake them around and toast for 1 ½ minutes. If they have a slightly darker colour and smell nuttier, pour them into a small heatproof container to cool. If they need more time, put èm back on the heat for 1 minute until they’re done. Set aside.
  2. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey and mustard in a small bowl. In a larger bowl mix together the kale tops, leaves, apple slices and fennel. Pour the dressing into the larger bowl and toss it to incorporate a nice shiny, even layer on everything. Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.More salad
  3. When ready to serve, garnish with dried cranberries, goat’s cheese and almonds.

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