Genius Recipes

A New Genius Salad From the Chef Who Started the Kale Salad Craze

May 17, 2017

Before I convince you to make this hot-off-the-presses genius salad, I need you to remember that we used to think kale salad was weird.

Now you can buy bags of Sweet Kale salad pre-mixed with broccoli and dried cranberries at Costco, and even fast food restaurants have gotten in on the game.

But back in October 2007, Melissa Clark was introducing the concept to many for the first time in The New York Times: “If a chef dares to offer something as unappealing as, say, a raw kale salad, chances are it’s fantastic,” she wrote in an article titled If It Sounds Bad, It’s Got to Be Good. This article was all about the curious, addictive raw kale salad at Franny’s in Brooklyn (also published in Saveur the same month), which seems to mark the launch point for kale salad to catapult into the food trend hall of fame.

And now Joshua McFadden—the chef who created that recipe, simply because he was fed up with the sad salad greens available in winter months—has a brilliant, vegetable-charged cookbook out called Six Seasons. And wouldn’t you know it: There’s another salad in the book that sounds like it just should not be. I didn’t even want to try it, but knew I had to. And it’s incredibly delicious. I’d even call it addictive.

It’s a tossed salad, with a layer of cheese melted right on top like nachos. Sounds dicey, right?

Shop the Story

Here’s why it works so well: The greens are radicchio and arugula, a hardy mix of bitter and crisp, and are only broiled for a minute, just long enough to melt the cheese. So the pile just warms through and softens a bit but still tastes fresh and resilient, the wine vinegar and oil dressing subtly concentrating. (Even if the only arugula you can find is a box of the baby leaves, instead of the full-grown kind shown here, the radicchio more than holds up its end, structurally speaking.)

You end up with a wild interplay of textures—slick curling leaves, some relaxed and some still-springy, topped with a modest layer of softly melted cheese, then cracked toasted hazelnuts and streaks of sticky saba (or balsamic). The flavors are wild, too: Every forkful has swings of bitter on tangy on funky on salty on nutty on sweet.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Six Seasons IS brilliant! I can't wait to try this salad (with rosé, just like in the shot above!) : )”
— EmilyC

The tension between all these forces is what keeps you diving back in, just like in McFadden's first, fateful kale salad. I can't wait to see where this hot little number takes us.

Photos by Bobbi Lin

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps a genius dessert? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thanks to our Books Editor & Stylist Ali Slagle for this one!

Listen & Subscribe

From our new podcast network, The Genius Recipe Tapes is lifelong Genius hunter Kristen Miglore’s 10-year-strong column in audio form, featuring all the uncut gems from the weekly column and video series. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss out.

Listen & Subscribe

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • BocaCindi
  • Lauren Ruben
    Lauren Ruben
  • AM1
  • Joyce weatherly
    Joyce weatherly
  • daisybrain
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


BocaCindi December 24, 2017
This salad looks incredible. Will be making ASAP. Thanks, Kristen.
Lauren R. May 22, 2017
I just made this using mixed greens from my garden and finished with toasted walnuts instead of hazelnuts. OMG so good!!! I could eat this everyday.
AM1 May 21, 2017
I absolutely love crucolo from DiPalo's in NYC. But now that I live in LA, I have no idea on how to get my hands on this cheese!
Joyce W. May 21, 2017
I still think that the kale salad is , well, not weird, but not edible.
daisybrain May 21, 2017
I think it sounds yummy and would eat it with any combination of greens, cheese and nuts available.
arlenesarver May 21, 2017
I find escarole holds up flavor and structure wise wise better to Radicchio without or with less Arugula though if I have any chicory..... Hoorah for the bitter lettuces, May 21, 2017
It's genius because the majority of folks here haven't tried it. That's the beauty of coming from or going to another country. Kudos to the Chef for introducing it on his menu!
Darci M. May 21, 2017
Don't really see the Genius in this salad...nothing new here really. A version of this salad has been offered in many places like Italy for years. Also, a warmed or grilled salad green with cheese that melts has been done by grill kings like Steve Raichlin and Bobby Flay for years. Further, as one commenter suggested--too much radicchio, it's not a great ingredient.
evina May 21, 2017
since when can you grate taleggio? too soft!
PMJ May 21, 2017
This is not unlike the Tri-color salad offerings at Italian restaurants, that I love! It leaves out the Belgian endive and adds melted cheese. No real innovation here. Bitter greens in salad are a staple in Italian homes. Dandelion greens are also an option. Dressing is always red wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.....period! NEVER what is called Italian Dressing!
FS May 20, 2017
Nah, I'm gonna let this one go, I just can't take the bitter greens. When I get a salad mix that contains radicchio I end up pulling out every little nasty shred. It's a shame though, the melted cheese topping does sound good.
Lisa May 17, 2017
Oh I want that platter. Where can get one?
Charlotte M. May 17, 2017
It's great, right? I'm wondering where I could possibly find one.
Kristen M. May 17, 2017
It's actually a cast-iron griddle! We picked it up at a flea market and it comes in handy for nachos and, now, this nacho-like salad.
Charlotte M. May 18, 2017
Sweet, thanks!
Adam T. May 17, 2017
Are we eating this as a main or a side?
Kristen M. May 17, 2017
It's probably not quite hefty enough as a main, unless you eat a whole lot of it, but it would go nicely with all sorts of mains or collections of other sides.
Amanda S. May 17, 2017
You had me at "salad with melted cheese" !!!!!!
Kristen M. May 17, 2017
Me too!!
EmilyC May 17, 2017
Six Seasons IS brilliant! I can't wait to try this salad (with rosé, just like in the shot above!) : )
Kristen M. May 17, 2017
Oh good! Glad you approve of my random wine choice. (Everything goes with rosé, right?)