Kumquats: those tiny, tangy treats that I look forward to every winter, and rarely know how to use to their full potential. I committed to making salad for dinner with a friend yesterday, and decided to let kumquats be the inspiration. The rest of it came together after a quick wander around the market. Bright hues of citrus and pepper with warm figgy dressing make an ideal dish for a cool, foggy evening. —Karianna Johnson
good olive oil
good balsamic vinegar
fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Salt to taste
laciento kale, de-ribbed and sliced into thin strips
kumquats, thinly sliced
hot sweet piquante peppers, roughly chopped
Make the dressing. In a small container, whisk together olive oil, balsamic, fig preserves, and garlic. Stir in the cilantro. Add the first two teaspoons of hot sauce, whisk and taste. Too light? Add the second teaspoon, whisk and taste again. After that, you're on your own.
Pile the de-ribbed and sliced kale into a bowl. Now we're going to get a little messy for a minute or two... Pour on a generous amount of dressing and then use both hands to massage the dressing into the kale for at least a full minute, adding dressing as needed. If you're skeptical about whether or not the kale massage is worth it, trust me, it is. Massaging breaks down the cell walls of the kale, allowing it to release its flavors and become more tender. This is one of those extra steps that makes a simple salad special.
Transfer the kale to your serving dish, and generously sprinkle the sliced kumquats and peppers over the salad. Shave the manchego over the top, and garnish with one or two of your extra cilantro sprigs.