A Kale Salad for All Seasons
It's from a terrific cookbook coming out in May.
IF, LIKE ME, YOU LIE AWAKE at night worrying that the world might be running out of ways to eat kale salads—who wants to live on that planet?—you might be as excited about today’s salad as I was when I saw it in an advance copy of the cookbook Love Japan: Recipes from Our Japanese American Kitchen. It’s the first from the chef-owners of the Brooklyn restaurant Shalom Japan, Aaron Israel and Sawako Okochi, whose food is described as a playful approach to New American cuisine, “highlighting the chefs’ connections to their respective Jewish and Japanese roots.”
When the restaurant opened back in 2013, it was a hit. Hannah Goldfield, the New Yorker magazine’s food critic, first pointed out that the restaurant’s name sounded almost like the setup to a joke—a Jewish guy and a Japanese woman walk into a bar—and went on to hail their food as “fusion in the truest sense, seamless and utterly convincing,” making special mention of the matzoh-ball ramen and the challah (made with yeast left over from sake brewing).
Today, the menu at Shalom Japan includes such alluring dishes as a Wagyu pastrami sandwich served on Japanese milk bread, Japanese fried chicken with pickled chilies, a lox bowl (sushi rice, cured salmon roe, avocado, Japanese pickles, fried capers, chili mayo) and Japanese sweet potato cheesecake for dessert.
But since the book is also meant for those of us who live far away from Brooklyn and cook at home, the couple (who are married) also feature dishes her mother taught her growing up in Japan with influences from his Jewish heritage. And I love it.
I was tipped off to the book and to the kale salad in question by one of its coauthors, Gabriella Gershenson, who also mentioned a few other salad-adjacent treasures for us to try here, so get ready for that.
It takes two kinds of lettuce (🥬 + $$) to keep the Department of Salad alive. The best way to support us, if you don’t already: Press the green button.
Those of you who’ve been with us since the beginning know that we love kale salads here in the DOS, and that we’ve given you a lot of them.
For instance, below, this beauty with smoked trout and yogurt and chickpeas and cucumbers, by the British food writer Ed Smith, from his book Crave (it’s in this issue, along with Alison Robicelli’s brilliantly simple grapefruit vehicle).
And this sweet felicity, below, which I feel compelled to show you with and without grated cheese, and which I replicated after having it at an Italian restaurant here in Atlanta; it accompanied a breakfast salad from the great Andrew Zimmern, in this issue.
And, oh my lord, how about this majestic invention—Apple, Prosciutto, and Radicchio Salad with Za’atar-Parmesan Squash Croutons and Sherry Vinaigrette by Food & Wine editor Chandra Ram—from this issue.
And this ego favorite, by me, the Dreamy Kale and Edamame Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette and Soba Noodles, from this issue.
By the way: Please let this casual list of some of our greatest kale hits serve as a reminder to you that if you’re subscribed to the Department of Salad that means you’ll always have access to the searchable archive.
Anyway! While we’ve loved every single one of these kale salads madly, we’re always searching for the next delectable thing, and that search has made us realize that part of the reason we love kale in salads is that is stands up to big flavors and textures.
But today’s salad also reminded us of how that sturdy, hit-me-with-anything quality often overshadows the fact that kale can be an absolute star on its own. It doesn’t always want to be dressed up like a damn floozy.
This salad also feels special because you can whip it up in 15 minutes. Despite its simplicity, it is so delicious you’ll want to make piles of it to eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Plus, the carrot-ginger dressing happens to be delicious on many other salads (or a nice big plate of blanched broccoli).
*RECIPE: Kale Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing, from Love Japan
Serves 4 to 6
In their book, the couple mentions that in addition to serving this dressing on a wintery kale salad (which is good left overnight in the fridge and eaten the next day like a slaw), they also love it in the spring on baby lettuces and radishes and in summer with romaine, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Note: I used pre-toasted pumpkin seeds here, but the original recipe recommends toasting your own in a skillet (over medium heat with a teaspoon of olive oil) and salting them lightly.
For the dressing
1 small carrot, cut into rough chunks (about ½ cup)
2-inch piece fresh ginger
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons yuzu juice
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup canola oil or other neutral oil
For the salad
8 cups finely shredded Tuscan, curly, or Russian red kale, tough ribs removed (about 2 bunches)
¼ cup toasted pumpkin seeds (or pepitas)
¼ cup golden raisins
¼ cup grated carrot (grated on the large holes of a box grater)
To make the dressing: In a blender or mini food processor, combine the carrot, ginger, vinegar, yuzu juice, honey, soy sauce, and salt and blend on high for 10 seconds. With the blender running, drizzle in the oil and process until completely smooth. Transfer to a container with a tight lid. This dressing keeps in the fridge for up to 1 week.
To make the salad: Toss the kale with some of the dressing, massaging it to thoroughly coat. Sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds, raisins, and grated carrot, gently toss again. Taste for more dressing, then serve.
🥬 CONFUSED? Check the archive if you lose track of your e-mailed newsletter.
🥬 🥬ALSO, I’M WONDERING: Do you follow me on Instagram? My feed is not a consistent array of uniformly styled photos of perfect food, which I know is what I’m supposed to offer. But I get too bored. So it includes videos of giant pandas loudly eating carrots and personal crap representative of my bad personality. I’d love to have you. Go here: Emily’s Instagram
🥬 🥬🥬 THAT’S IT! WE’RE DONE HERE! Paid subscribers should keep an eye peeled for more salady treats soon. In the meantime, if you feel like sharing the Department of Salad with friends or family who deserve it, please do so with the buttons below. Thanks for reading.