I find that one of my biggest challenges with keeping my food-related resolutions is that it’s so darn cold outside. Who wants to eat a salad when there’s snow on the ground? My mind is saying steamed vegetables and tofu, but my body wants chili con carne.
I always tell people that listening to your cravings is important. If I cut out some of my food vices entirely, in a moment of weakness, I’d probably end up on my couch at 11pm watching reruns of Sex and the City with a bucket of Buffalo wings.
This month I’ll be focusing on healthier versions of my favorite comfort foods. As far as I’m concerned, being healthy is not about calorie counting. I still preach the gospel of cheese and chicken wings. But I’m trying to add more vegetables to my diet and not be egregious with naughty things. I’m trying to find better ways to have my cake and eat it too. And by cake, I mean rice pudding.
Let’s take Caesar Salad for instance. Most comfort foods don’t include lettuce, so I guess it has that going for it. But if you top lettuce with creamy dressing and about a pound of Parmesan, you’re likely to crave it as much as fried chicken and delude yourself into thinking it’s better for you. On the other hand, there’s a time for arugula and lemon juice, and that time does not involve the luxury of bulky knitted sweaters.
There’s nothing novel about switching out romaine for kale. You will probably find kale Caesar salad on half the restaurant menus in Williamsburg. But it is a healthier choice, one that let’s you get away with at least a ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese to counteract the nutritional value.
What makes this Caesar salad healthier than most is the dressing. There’s no egg , no cheese, and no anchovies, which makes it vegetarian. (If you eliminated the Parmesan sprinkled over the top of the salad itself, you could make the whole dish vegan.) What gives the dressing its creamy Caesar-like quality is the roasted garlic, which acts as an emulsifier, a thickener, and a general yumminess inducer.
I’ll be joining the folks over at Better TV this Thursday to show them how to make this salad and my Five Spice Winter Squash Soup. Stay tuned for the segment – I’ll share it with you as soon as it airs!
In the meantime, chill out with some kale. It will make the other naughty resolution-breaking things you do to your body all the more acceptable.
Vegetarian Kale Caesar Salad with Roasted Garlic Dressing
For the Dressing:
For the Salad:
- 1 bunch Dinosaur or Lacinato kale
- 1/4 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Remove the outer layers from the head of garlic so the individual cloves are exposed. Chop off the top ¼ inch of the head so you can see the raw cloves within their skins.
Place on a 9×13 sheet of foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap up so the packet is tightly sealed. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the cloves are soft to the touch. Remove from the foil packet and allow to cool.
When cool enough to touch, squeeze the cloves out of their skins and add to a food processor. Puree the garlic clove along with the lemon juice, mustard, salt, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Taste and add more olive oil as necessary to reach the consistency you like. This should be a thick dressing – much like Caesar.
While the garlic roasts, remove the thick stalks from the center of the kale. Pile the leaves on top of one another and roll together into a cigar. Cut the kale into thin ribbons (much like julienning basil).
Toss the breadcrumbs together with the olive oil in a small mixing bowl and spread in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toast in the oven until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the kale together with the vinaigrette. Add 2 tablespoons parmesan and toss again. Divide among 4 plates and top with the breadcrumbs and remaining parmesan.