Have you ever eaten at a restaurant, taken a bite of something relatively simple looking, and erupted with a, "What the... how do they do that?!" That's what happened the first time I tasted the kale salad at Barbuto in New York City.
As a self-proclaimed kale lover, I've approached this leafy green from numerous angles, always trying to find the best way to get it to that perfect balance of tender and crisp. While massaging it with a fat—whether it be oil, a dressing, or an avocado—works very well, the kale salad at Barbuto had an airy, almost light texture that I have not been able to recreate at home.
Thinking that there must be some sort of fantastical and innovative approach to achieving this magnificent end, I contacted a friend who worked at the restaurant. Turns out the answer is quite simple: Just chop it very finely.
That's it? Yes it is, and it totally works.
Most of the prep work in this dish is in chopping the kale, which is easy to do if you approach it like you're finely chopping herbs and do it with a sharp knife, using a rocking motion to thinly slice it. The recipe itself might be somewhat unusual, but I got the idea from a recent dinner at a Japanese restaurant: A serving of cold udon noodles with red and green lettuces, bonito flakes, and sesame dressing. My twist on that dish calls instead for buckwheat noodles that are cooked with wakame (a Japanese seaweed), before they're drained, rinsed thoroughly with cold water (so they don't stick together), and served on top of the kale with creamy avocado bits, crunchy bean sprouts, and cilantro.
The fresh ginger in the dressing combines well with the wakame to give the dish more depth of flavor than is typically possible in a such a quick-cooking meal. Served cold and refreshing, it's a light and easy meal perfect for a lazy weeknight.