Editor’s note: Earth Day is Friday (April 22), and we all know what the Earth is experiencing is no fairy tale, with pollution and climate change looming. One way to temper our impact on the planet is to reconsider our diets. Switching to a plant-based menu — either entirely or for a few meals a week — can help us do our part to reduce emissions, according to the Stanford Report*: “If everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would have the same environmental impact as taking 7.6 million cars off the road.” With that in mind, here’s a healthy — for the planet and for you — recipe from Madison Winn, whose (primarily) plant-based food columns will appear occasionally in Inland 360. It converted this kale skeptic into a true believer. Enjoy!
In the original version of the fairy tale “Rapunzel” by the Brothers Grimm, Rapunzel’s mother became very ill while pregnant. The only thing she craved was a salad with ominously local salad greens: They came from the neighboring farm and belonged to a sorceress. Rapunzel’s mother craved the salad so much that her husband journeyed into the yard to get them, got caught and struck a bargain with the witch, giving us the fairy tale we know today.
Seems like a lot of trouble for a salad, right? Wrong. I never understood the reasoning until I made this salad, inspired by one my friend Thomas made for me. I have now made it for my friends and family, veggie haters and lovers alike; it seems to be the salad that keeps on giving. I know what you may be thinking: This is a lot of pomp and circumstance for a kale salad. Believe me when I say it’s easier to prepare than it was to read my introduction.
Kale & White Bean Salad (serves 4 as side or 2 as main dish)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
2 bunches kale of choice
16 ounces cannellini beans or other white bean
⅔ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1-1½ cups freshly microplaned Parmesan cheese
1 bunch scallions
3 tablespoons high-quality balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
½ cup high-quality olive oil
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet on medium low. With a sharp knife, slice cleaned scallions thinly using all of the whites and the greens. In a colander, clean, rinse and rip the kale into bite-size pieces. Dry them with a towel, then transfer to a large bowl with some kosher salt and a small amount of olive oil.
To a glass jar with a lid, add the scallions, the vinegars, the salt and the rest of the olive oil. Replace the lid and shake until the vinaigrette is incorporated.
Add the panko to the pan and toast on low heat — don’t walk away from it for too long.
Using clean hands, massage the kale for a minute or two until the leaves are dark and glossy. The abrasive kosher salt tenderizes the kale while also seasoning it. Add the beans and the vinaigrette to the kale and toss.
Grate the cheese at this point if not already done and check on the panko. Once the panko is toasted and the cheese is grated, it’s time to layer them into the salad. Add half the Parmesan and toss the salad so it sticks to the kale and beans. Add half the warm panko; toss again. Add the remaining cheese and toss. Add the remaining panko and toss.
Serve immediately. If you’re making this ahead of time, add the panko and kale in layers right before serving.
Where to find:
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar: Ampersand Oil and Vinegar Taphouse, in Lewiston and Moscow
An infused olive oil or balsamic vinegar would create so many flavor combinations. The sweet basil balsamic is wonderful in this vinaigrette.
Kale: Clarkston Farmers Market (or your local farmers market of choice)
When the Clarkston Farmers Market starts up again, you will find it chock full of diverse produce. A highlight for me is always the fresh kale.
Panko: your regular grocery store
Panko has gained popularity in non-Asian cooking in the last few decades. You should be able to find it in your regular grocery store next to Italian breadcrumbs. Panko is unique due to its large crumb and crispy texture – don’t skip out on this ingredient!
Parmesan: cheese or deli section of the grocery store
Nothing beats freshly grated Parmesan cheese. The stuff that comes in a container just won’t yield the same results in this salad. This fluffy salty cheese will cling to the kale and create a barrier of fat between the vinaigrette and the toasted panko.
- The secret to tasty raw kale is to massage it with salt. Bitter, toothsome kale is the butt of tired vegan jokes. Well, no more! Kale, especially varieties found at our very own local farmers markets, is a delicious base for so many salads.
- When toasting anything on a low heat, don’t walk away from it for too long. Move it around in the pan every so often until there is a uniform toast.
- Lastly, and most importantly, experiment with measurements and ingredients to discover what you like best. Add whatever herbs, vegetables and other goodies you love the most to make it your own.