8 Ingredients | 15 Minutes | The best kale salad, inspired by Il Corvo, Seattle. It has pecorino, toasted pepitas, and a lemon garlic confit dressing (with parsley)
I've been dying to write this for a year now. Il Corvo is one of my all-time favorite restaurants in Seattle. This charming little restaurant is located off Pioneer Square and is only open for lunch. I've never had a pasta dish at Il Corvo that I didn't like. But there are two other showstoppers that deserve their own applause - the focaccia (to die for!) and the star of this post, the best kale salad ever, aka the salad for people who hate salads.
I used to go to Il Corvo just for the salad. Eventually, as one does, I started noticing the ingredients separate from the salad. I figured they used pecorino cheese right off the bat. The nuts threw me for a loop - originally thought they were pine nuts, but had an "aha moment" and realized they were likely pepitas. I could tell that there was parsley and garlic in the dressing. And then, one day, I overheard that they use garlic confit in their salad dressing! Armed with this knowledge, I was ready to develop my version of a delightful green salad dressing and the best kale salad!
Disclaimer: This salad is inspired by Il Corvo. Other than the one tidbit about confit garlic, I have no idea what their actual recipe is. That said, it does taste damn delicious, so here we are. Now, onward and upward!
Squash and pumpkin are in season right now, so if you're using squash for a different recipe (like my Thai butternut squash soup) you can use whatever seeds you have on hand. Or, you can also substitute with store-bought pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or pine nuts or even sunflower seeds. The idea is to add a bit of crunch to the salad. I typically just dry roast them on a pan for 2-3 minutes on a medium flame. Then they're good to go.
? How do you chop and prep kale? How to keep it soft but crunchy?
Kale is actually a type of cabbage so it needs to be chopped pretty finely or shred the kale into small, bite-sized chunks (or buy shredded kale). Then add a tablespoon of olive oil and slowly just massage the kale by rubbing as many pieces as you can to soften it. Then, set the kale aside while you prepare the dressing to get soft yet crunchy kale for your salad.
♨️ What's confit garlic? How do you poach garlic?
This is a play on duck confit (i.e. cooking duck in it's own fat). Garlic + olive oil = garlic confit. It's also a tremendously versatile dish on it's own. When garlic is in season in the summer, I typically make a large batch of this, and then serve it on EVERYTHING. And the great thing is that you can use the oil for roasting or sautéing like you would normally use olive oil and then, you can also mash up the garlic and use it as a spread or dressing.
How do you make green goddess salad dressing?
Once you poach the garlic, as described in the step above, you then take the garlic cloves, along with some of the olive oil, parsley, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and pecorino cheese and pulse it all together in a food processor. The resulting dressing should be fluid, but not entirely soft - some coarseness will remain due to the parsley and cheese. Taste and adjust as you see fit - more parsley to make it extra herbaceous; add some olive oil to make it more fluid; or add more cheese to make it more cheesy!
How do you store kale?
Kale is one of those greens that tends to just wilt up when you put it in the fridge. I know, I hate it too. I follow a three-step process which drastically improves the life of kale.
- Wash the kale thoroughly and then pat it dry with a clean kitchen towel. Lay the towel flat on your counter and dry the kale on that.
- Once it's dry (usually about 30-45 minutes) - wrap a paper towel around the kale, place in an airtight box or bag (like a salad leaf box)
- Squeeze all the air out, seal and then place back in the fridge.
If all else fails, just make some delicious, creamy vegan kale pesto with it. You won't regret it, I promise!
The Best Kale Salad
For the green salad dressing:
- 8 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup olive oil, or enough to cover garlic cloves in pan
- ¼ cup fresh parsley
- ⅓ cup pecorino Romano cheese, grated (divided, set aside 2 tablespoons for garnish)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, or white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
For the salad:
- 10 oz kale, chopped into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, for massaging the kale
- ¼ cup pepitas
- 2 tablespoons pecorino Romano
- Add 8 to 10 peeled cloves of garlic into a saucepan and add enough olive oil to cover the garlic - typically about ¼ cup. Cook on low flame for about 30 minutes until the garlic is soft (but it should not brown!)Alternatively, you can place the garlic in an oven-safe bowl, fill with olive oil so it covers the garlic and then roast at 250°F for 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, shred 10 oz of kale into bite-sized chunks and place in a mixing bowl. Remove a tablespoon of olive oil from the garlic confit to the kale evenly and massage the kale (softly press down on as many pieces as you can) and set aside
- After 30 minutes, using a slotted spoon, remove the garlic pieces and transfer to a small blender or food processor. Add olive oil from garlic confit, along with ¼ cup of fresh parsley, ⅓ cup of grated pecorino Romano cheese, and 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. Pulse together to form a creamy green salad dressing
- Add ¼ cup of pepitas to a small sauce pan and toast them for about 4-5 minutes until they're crunchy. Toss the kale with the salad dressing and add the remaining pecorino and serve fresh!
- Depending on your pan, you might need to use more than the amount of olive oil suggested in this recipe. If so, use just ¼th cup in the dressing and save the rest to use for cooking as you normally do, except it tastes 10x better!
- You can replace the Pecorino Romano with any sharp hard cheese - but I recommend grating the cheese fresh before serving. Please also make sure to pick up a vegetarian version of this cheese since most varieties (if not labeled vegetarian) are made with animal rennet.