This salad is the bridge between two seasons: we are a few weeks away from pea shoot-topped salads and rhubarb cocktails, and kale is still de rigeur in my kitchen. I haven’t completely tired of roasted root vegetables yet, believe it or not: the crisped edge of an olive oil-drizzled Brussels sprout still holds its appeal.
Not to mention that I’ve only just discovered the whole massaged kale thing. Not only does massaging your finely chopped kale in olive oil turn it into a tender but toothsome forkful, I think that the act of rubbing each leaf, thumb across four fingers, is one of the most sensually lovely acts of food preparation. Along with, perhaps, folding rum-laced molten chocolate into egg whites for a dark, frothy mousse.
This salad happened by happy accident, when we had a meal of roasted squash, simple grilled pork tenderloin, and a kale caesar salad for which I had none of the proper ingredients. Instead of parmesan, I had feta, and instead of croutons, I brushed pita with olive oil, seasoned it with salt and pepper and baked it on low until it was browned and crispy. The next day I combined all the leftovers in a container to take for lunch, and the amalgamation of the three was better than each in isolation.
This is not much of a recipe, really, I suppose. I used Annie’s massaged kale caesar salad dressing, without the Parm or anchovies. Into a bunch of finely chopped kale with the stems removed went a tablespoon of olive oil, which I rubbed into the leaves until they were dark and soft. I crumbled some feta into the kale, and would have added some roasted nuts if I had some around that day. Almonds or pecans would be ideal. The tenderloin was rubbed with salt and pepper and grilled, and the butternut squash skinned, cubed, and tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper before being roasted until tender. I crumbled the pita over the salad and topped it with the warm meat and vegetable, as well as another generous sprinkle of salty feta. Though the acidity of the dressing is a bright reminder of warmer days to come, this salad is still the hearty and deeply comforting fare of winter, and will take the chill off any rainy April day.