Kale caesar with white beans, spelt, capers and sunflower seeds

This week, we blinked and suddenly, it turned into Spring in New York City. With ice, snow and slush still melting on the sidewalks, Spring fever has hit Brooklyn in a big way, as we swing open our doors and embrace the outdoors again.

As the weeks pass in my new home, I am relishing the opportunity to meet the many colourful people, from all walks of life, who settle in New York City. There is no ‘type’ in New York. There are people here from all over the world, from all over the United States, involved in wide ranging pursuits. I guess this is what makes this city one of the most exciting places in the world. Come as you are. It’s New York City and you can be anybody and anything you want.

When I meet new people in NYC, I often try to feed them an Arthur Street Kitchen salad. Compulsive behavior, I know. Not long ago, food blogger Maria Midões, of the lovely blog nossamesa, asked to meet me and find out more about Arthur Street Kitchen. I decided to show her instead. So she came to my place, we drank tea, we chatted, we laughed and we exchanged stories of food, travel and life. Maria talked about growing up in Portugal and we quickly discovered that we share such an affinity when it comes to food stories and histories - particularly the power of food to bind us to another person and connect us with memories (for those of us that don't speak Portuguese, nossamessa translates to 'our table'). At the end, we shared a salad (or two). Such a wonderful way to spend a Brooklyn afternoon.

This is the recipe for one of the salads I cooked today for Maria - my kale caesar salad, a dish I cook all the time for my kids.

 

Kale caesar with white beans, spelt, capers and sunflower seeds

I love the full-bodied lightness of this kale salad. If you can’t find spelt grains, substitute with something similar like freekeh, farro, pearl barley or even quinoa.

Serves 4-6

  • 250g stale bread
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed
  • ½ clove garlic, crushed
  • 500g cannellini beans (about 2 cans), drained
  • 1 cup of spelt grain
  • ¼ red onion, finely sliced
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds, toasted
  • ¼ cup parsley (tightly packed), chopped
  • ¼ cup basil leaves (tightly packed), roughly torn
  • 50g Parmesan cheese, shaved (optional)
  • Sea salt and black pepper

Caesar dressing

  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup whole egg mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp sour cream
  • 1 tbsp capers, chopped
  • Juice of ¼ lemon

Start by making the croutons. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Roughly dice the stale bread into 1cm pieces, place on a baking tray, coat in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in the oven until golden, about 15-20 minutes, turning every now and then to make sure the croutons are evenly browned and crisp on all sides. Cool.

To make the Caesar dressing, while the croutons are baking, add the garlic cloves to the tray with the croutons and cook for about 20-25 minutes until they are very soft. Remove from the oven and skin them. Mash the garlic with the back of a fork and then add to the mayonnaise, sour cream, capers and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning – if you like it more garlicky, mince ½ clove of fresh garlic and add this to the dressing.

In a saucepan, add the spelt grain to about 3 cups of water (or liquid vegetable stock, which I prefer) and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until tender. Drain.

Break up the kale leaves. In a frypan, add the olive oil, garlic, and the kale leaves and pan-fry until wilted and just starting to crisp.

Combine the kale with the borlotti beans, spelt, red onion, herbs and half the sunflower seeds. Add the Caesar dressing and stir through, mixing well to make sure the ingredients are well coated. To serve, sprinkle over the Parmesan shavings and remaining sunflower seeds.