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Northern Spy's Kale Salad

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Every week, Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: The perfect salad to make ahead for tonight's company (or tomorrow's lunch).

kale salad

- Kristen

To some, kale salad will seem old news. Oh, you've been eating raw kale forever. You know all about massaging it to make it relax (aside: what other foods are we regularly told to massage?). Your college co-op invented it, maybe.

Yet every time I start to make a kale salad, someone squints at it and asks, "Wait ... you're not going to cook that?" So here I am, telling you to tell all your friends to go eat a kale salad.

lacinato kale

I get it. I remember my first kale salad, scooped up bravely from the raw bar at a health food store near NYU. It didn't seem like a very good idea, like eating trees or paper, but it looked so pretty. Emerald confetti, tousled and twisted with who knows what -- probably sesame seeds and flax. I feared I might turn up dead.

But kale is just like any other green you've ever put to dressing, just a little more resilient. And that's a very helpful trait, making it an ideal salad to make ahead for company, or tomorrow's lunch.

Even the hardiest arugula and curls of bibb lettuce, stiff as saucers, will go flimsy and wilted before kale even begins to let down its guard. (And don't get me started on scrawny spring mixes, collapsing on themselves before even getting out of the bag. For shame!)

roasting squash  kale salad  kale salad

This particular kale salad is one of the best any of us have tasted, at once substantial and spry. It's dressed with just lemon and olive oil, making it a bit like the raw, healthy version -- but with roasted squash, almonds, and two kinds of cheese. Two! One of which is Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, which I would marry if I could. It's aged and crumbly like a stately parmesan, but with the spunk of a sharp cheddar.

With this dream team of ingredients, this salad is the hottest ticket at the hottest little restaurant in the East Village: Northern Spy Food Co. (The tables are made from reclaimed bowling lanes. Hot, I tell you.)

northern spy food co  northern spy food co

Northern Spy's menu changes often, but this salad has been a mainstay since they opened in 2009. The kabocha gets traded out with the seasons for things like fresh apricots, kohlrabi, or patty pan squash. When I don't feel like waiting for squash to roast, I go with slices of apple or persimmon. It's amenable.

And guess what? No massaging. Unless you have to settle for the huskiest looking curly kale in the produce section, Northern Spy prefers that you toss without getting quite so handsy -- leaving you with still-bouncy wisps of green, sweet pockets of squash, pops of almond, and all that cheese. Go tell it to your co-op.

kale salad

Northern Spy's Kale Salad

Serves 2

Adapted slightly from Northern Spy Food Co.

1/2 cup cubed kabocha, butternut, or other winter squash
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 bunch kale (preferably lacinato or dinosaur kale), ribs removed and finely sliced (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup almonds, cut roughly in half
1/4 cup crumbled or finely chopped Cabot clothbound cheddar (or any good, aged cheddar -- if you can't find aged cheddar, use parmesan)
Fresh lemon juice
Pecorino or other hard cheese, for shaving (optional)

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Want more genius? TryShirley Corriher's Touch-of-Grace Biscuits

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].


Photos by James Ransom


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Comments (47)


10 months ago Benjamin Abbott-Scott

This is a perfectly wonderful dish. Had a delicata needing cooking. Substituted its seeds roasted for the almonds and it was a smash hit, even with the picky kid.

Many thanks.


almost 2 years ago Janet Freitag

MAde it tonight, just had 1 cheese, cheddar and added a bit of minced shallot and red pepper.Very good- a keeper!


almost 2 years ago Sandra chen

I'd like to post it on the Facebook but I can't because the right column articles block the answer and I can't hit the 'share' button.


almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Hi Sandra -- sorry about that, and thanks for letting us know. If you try scrolling around the page, or zooming out in your browser, does it make the button more accessible?


almost 2 years ago Amanda

I enjoy the way you write, it feels like a well-written book. I haven't tried Kale salads a whole lot myself but after this I must make a plan to do this soon. Thanks.


almost 2 years ago Sandra chen

No, it doesn't. The ads. won't move. It only happened on iPad.


almost 2 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

Thanks Sandra -- we're looking into this!


over 3 years ago Madame Fromage

I just discovered this salad--what revelation! I like to top it with bread crumbs made from leftover baguettes. It adds an extra layer of crispiness. A little minced red pepper is nice, too.


over 3 years ago tbrozman

It ain't easy bein' green...


over 3 years ago ubs2007

Excellent! Made this tonight for a dinner party and everyone loved it. Combination of flavors and textures were perfect! Thanks so much for sharing this fantastic recipe!


over 3 years ago geh

Fantastic! I made this exactly as printed, and it was excellent! I loved the combination of flavors, and I loved the combination of textures even more. This definitely goes in the "make again" file!


over 3 years ago geh

Fantastic! I made this exactly as printed, and it was excellent! I loved the combination of flavors, and I loved the combination of textures even more. This definitely goes in the "make again" file!


over 3 years ago Yossy Arefi

Yum, I love roasted squash and sweet potatoes in kale salad, but I never though to add cheddar cheese. I definitely need to give this a try.


over 3 years ago 1natalplum

We grow lots of kale every year, and lancinato is by far the easiest and most prolific. This looks wonderful, especially since it has my other fav, winter squash. Can't wait to try it!


over 3 years ago mcs3000

Sounds marvelous. Love kale. Btw: Had wanted to go to Northern Spy on my last visit but ran out of time, so now I'll get a little taste of it.


over 3 years ago Sonali aka the Foodie Physician

I love lacinato kale! What a great recipe- congrats!


over 3 years ago transferofhealth

This recipe looks so amazing - I can't wait to try it! I love this site - "Genius Recipes" fits well.

Tiffany Youngren

Transfer of Health - Healthy Living and Recipes
LifeFoodStore.com - Health Food and Supplements


over 3 years ago Rupal P

Made this tonight for guests with slight modifications based on what we had - American instead of Lacinato Kale and a tad bit of sherry vinegar in addition to the lemon juice since I was short on lemons. The salad was truly fantastic and we really enjoyed the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. I served this with a Spaghetti Bolognese and everyone at the table kept coming back to the Kale salad for more. A big hit with bold flavors, and SO easy! Thank you!


over 3 years ago Trillinchick

Kale was never on our family table when I was growing up, and for most of my life I was not very adventurous with food. I don't think I have ever tasted kale. Since moving to the SF Bay area, my inner improvisational cook has broken free, and I have been exploring amazing dishes, seasonings, and herbs - preferably pure/fresh/natural ("organic"? What does that mean these days?). I wonder if Trader Joe's yummy country white cheddar cheese would work in this recipe, since I've never heard of the cheese praised here. ;-)


over 3 years ago Savorykitchen

We have something similar on the menu at our restaurant. It's very popular, and especially exciting when we convert kale-haters! Our version uses pistachios instead of almonds, no cheese, and butter-milk-onion-parsley dressing. I love how pretty the finished salad is: all those bright orange cubes tossed in with that rich green kale.


over 3 years ago arielleclementine

this was wonderful! even my kale-averse husband loved it. thanks so much for sharing the recipe :)


over 3 years ago wssmom

Walked into Brooklyn Kitchen yesterday and lo and behold in the dairy case there was some Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, of which I had never heard. Making the salad was inevitable after that, and it really is genius!! Six of us scarfed down every last morsel.


over 3 years ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

So glad you liked it -- and found the perfect cheese!


over 3 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Another great dressing for kale salads is equal parts of honey and lemon. No oil at all!