How to CookSalad

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

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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.

Joshua McFadden's Bitter Greens Salad with Melted Cheese
Joshua McFadden's Bitter Greens Salad with Melted Cheese

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?

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.

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.

Joshua McFadden's Bitter Greens Salad with Melted Cheese

Joshua McFadden's Bitter Greens Salad with Melted Cheese

Genius Recipes Genius Recipes
Serves 6
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large head radicchio (3/4 pound), cored and coarsely shredded
  • 5 ounces arugula
  • 1/4 pound Crucolo, provolone, Taleggio, or Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped lightly toasted hazelnuts
  • Saba or balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
Go to Recipe

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!

Tags: Tips & Techniques, Genius Recipes, Books