Kale and Caesar Salad: One of These Things Does Not Belong
As a 20-something food enthusiast living in America, it’s hard to avoid the ever-changing rise and fall of food trends that monopolize the food scene. Every era has one — or 20. From the fondue pots of the 1970s to the bite-sized frosted confections of the early 2000s, it’s plain to see that certain dining delights have had more than 15 minutes of fame.
For the most part, I’m perfectly fine with this. And I’m not one to turn up my nose when it comes to another person’s brand of delicious — except when it comes to a particular leafy green.
Kale has always been lingering around the salad sidelines, but when Bon Appétit decreed 2012 as “the year of kale,” it was the wallflower no longer. This rough green suddenly found itself the star of smoothies, salads, and side dishes. It was even transformed into a crunchy snack food. And everyone was singing its praises — except for me.
Call me the odd gal out, but despite the consistent touting of kale as “healthy” and a “superfood that’s loaded with antioxidants,” I cannot bring myself to find this coarse leafy green to be anything but unappetizing. Give me a plate of sweet baby spinach, a side dish of my Southern aunt’s collard greens, or some romaine lettuce from my parents’ garden paired with tomato and bacon on a nice summery BLT. I will make short work of those greens in a heartbeat.
But kale, I’m sorry: It’s not me. It’s definitely you.
I maintain a cordial relationship with kale by simply not being seen with it as much as possible. When we find ourselves unavoidably sharing space at a table, be it at a friend’s dinner party or while out to dinner with my husband, we exchange few words and make as short work of our time together as possible.
However, I can no longer stay quiet when it comes to the mingling of kale with one of my greatest green loves: the classic Caesar salad. Truly, I could write an ode, nay, a sonnet, on the glories of the Caesar salad.
Now, I am not a stickler for keeping to the letter of the law when it comes to classics. To me, experimenting and expanding classics and turning them into modern interpretations is nothing short of an art form. However, there are some things you just don’t do; some things that just seem to counteract the purpose of the dish as a whole.
When I order a Caesar salad, I have expectations. I expect crisp, crunchy lettuce that leaves my mouth feeling refreshed as I eat. I look forward to a liberal portion of slightly salty Parmesan cheese playing with the faint hints of garlic, mustard, and pungent anchovies. I wait in eager anticipation for the perfectly golden crumble of a crouton.
Kale definitely doesn’t belong here — and not just because I personally despise kale. Here are three reasons kale and Caesar salad should not share the same bowl.
1. Kale is chewy.
The texture of kale does not play nicely with the other ingredients. Frankly, I struggle with the taste and mouth-feel of kale when it’s the star player in its own salad. But to pair it with creamy dressing and sharply flavored Parmesan seems almost criminal.
The whole premise of the Caesar salad is to be crisp and refreshing, and that is the last thing that comes to mind when kale is in the picture. Kale is chewy and filling, which turns dining into an unpleasant marathon.
2. Kale is healthy.
That’s what they say, at least. And Caesar salad is not. I don’t order a Caesar salad when I’m on a diet or when I’m wanting to eat light. This is a decadent salad.
3. Kale is tedious.
For kale to be even remotely palatable, it must be massaged and tenderized. And to borrow the words of one of my favorite and possibly overused memes, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
All of this to say, I am not friends with kale. And while others might find it to be a solid dining companion, I will never take it out for a couple drinks and a nice salad. Put it in your smoothie, marry it with pine nuts and apples in your dinner bowl, or crisp it up in your oven like a chip. You do you when it comes to this particular superfood.
Me? I’ll be over here with my romaine and Parmesan.