When I was a kid, I was all about Christmas traditions. And I made a tradition out of everything. It got so bad that for a few years my family’s Christmas was nothing short of choreographed. Any alteration would be met with tears – talk about holding your nearest and dearest emotionally hostage.🙄 Thankfully, I got over this obsessive preservation of some long forgotten “perfect” Christmas and embraced flexibility. And today’s Lacinato Kale Salad with Sake Poached Shiitakes and Clementines is a monument to that flexibility.
Don’t get me wrong, I still value a lot of my family’s treasure holiday rituals. We still have croissants on Christmas morning, we still have roast duck at some point during Christmas and we still make a stir fry with the leftovers from said duck. But now we don’t have to make the same sides year after year and the meals can be shuffled and remixed based on who is coming for dinner and when.
As a food enthusiast, I recognize that this culinary flexibility is a very good thing, especially during Christmas. When you think about it, the holidays present a very rare opportunity to the home cook. During the holidays, the amateur chef can make any and all of the large-scale recipes they’ve had their eye on all year long. Why waste such a gift by making the same mashed potatoes year after year?
Today’s Lacinato Kale Salad is for those who dare to shake things up this holiday season. It is a turkey dinner curveball; the unexpected hit of the holiday table… or at least I think so. This hearty green salad boasts a miso dressing, booze-infused mushrooms and THE citrus of the holiday season: the clementine. Sure, it’s Christmas friendly but it still bends expectation in the most wonderful way.
For those of you who are scratching your head at “lacinato kale”, you may know it by another name. Black kale, dino kale, Tuscan kale, cavolo nero (black cabbage), or palm tree kale are just a few of the names associated with this stunning piece of vegetation. It has a slightly more tender leaf than the more ubiquitous green kale and a less astringent taste, which makes it ideal for salads. Personally, I also think it’s a heck of a lot prettier than other kale varieties. If you’ve never picked up lacinato kale, I do believe you’re in for quite the treat. You can throw it into the salad or you can abide by Tuscan tradition and cook it into a big pot of minestrone or ribollita.
I know we’re pretty close to game day, so you may think it risky to adjust your menu at this point. But I urge you to find a place for this Lacinato Kale Salad at your holiday table. It’s surprisingly versatile in spite of its decidedly Japanese flavor profile. Bitter greens pair beautifully with pretty much any roast, particularly red meat. And the miso dressing will give the meal a pleasant hit of umami, which, in my opinion, elevates the flavors of everything on one’s plate. Then, of course, there are the palette cleansing hits of citrus courtesy of the clementines. You really can’t lose with this salad.
So that’s my sales pitch. Maybe you’ll make this Lacinato Kale Salad apart of your holiday plans and maybe you won’t. It doesn’t really matter when you make it. All that matters is you make it. 😋
- 60g (2oz) dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup sake
- 1 (1 1/2 inch) knob ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 head Lacinato kale, stalks removed
- 3 clementines, peeled and broken into segments
- 1 tablespoon white miso
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Place mushrooms, water, sake, ginger and soy sauce in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and cover. Let steep for 15 minutes.
- Take the mushrooms out of the steeping mixture. Give them a quick squeeze to remove excess moisture, transfer them to a plate, and let cool completely. Reserve a 1/4 cup of the poaching liquid as well as the ginger and discard the rest or store for future use.
- Wash and drain the kale and tear into bite-size pieces. Transfer the kale to a large bowl and add the cooled mushrooms and clementine segments. Set aside.
- Mince the reserved ginger from the poaching liquid and whisk it and the miso, garlic, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and honey together in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the kale mixture and toss to coat.
- Serve immediately or cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.