This recipe is inspired by a salad I had at Imperial on a recent trip to Portland. Before this, the only way I’d really had kale was in the all-popular chip variety – tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasted under the broiler until crisp. But I had heard about kale salads, and I was curious, so that’s what I ordered for lunch. It was the best salad I’d ever had. Every bite was perfection – ribbons of kale evenly dressed with a creamy vinaigrette, thinly sliced carrots for color and crunch, and sunflower brittle in place of the croutons. Brittle! In a salad! The epitome of savory and sweet. For the brittle in my make-at-home version, I decided to use almonds, and I played with various sugar/corn syrup/water ratios to arrive at this one. —Kellie Phelan
6 as a side, 4 as a main
For the brittle
blanched whole almonds
flaked sea salt (such as Maldon)
For the salad
lacinato kale (also called Tuscan kale), stems and center ribs discarded (it’s okay to substitute regular kale if that’s all you can find!)
carrots, outside skins peeled or washed with bottoms chopped off
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place almonds on a rimmed backing sheet and toast for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once cool, coarsely chop.
Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment.
Combine sugar, water, and salt in heavy large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
Increase heat to medium-high and bring to boil. Boil without stirring until mixture turns caramel-colored, about 10 minutes. (If you have a candy thermometer it should register 325°F.)
Remove from heat; immediately stir in almonds, then butter and baking soda.
Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Using a wooden spoon, quickly spread to an even thickness, covering about half of the baking sheet (it doesn’t have to be perfect!).
Sprinkle sea salt evenly over brittle.
Cool brittle completely at room temperature until firm, about 2 hours.
This is the fun part! Lift the baking sheet about a foot over your kitchen counter and let it drop. Repeat this a few times until the brittle has broken into irregular pieces – some big and some small.
For the salad
Working in batches, cut kale crosswise into very thin slices.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the down the length of each carrot to create ribbons.
Whisk together shallot, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, then add oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Next, add goat cheese and whisk until well-combined and creamy.
Toss kale and carrots in a large bowl with enough dressing to coat well, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add brittle pieces as you would croutons, and enjoy!