Cast Iron

Caesar-Style Kale Salad with Roasted Onions and Ricotta Salata

January 28, 2014
10 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 2 to 3 as a dinner side or lunch main
Author Notes

I came relatively late to kale salads, but now they're my favorite way to eat kale. At Spinnaker's, a gastro-pub in Victoria, my favorite dish on their menu is their kale salad. They do a Caear spin on it and garnish it with bacon and focaccia croutons. I wanted to recreate the salad at home, but along the way I deviated a bit from the Spinnaker's salad.

Some people I have served kale salads to do not like the raw texture, but I found that if some hot ingredients were added to the raw kale, it wilts just enough to tone down the grassy chewiness. I kept the capers in the dressing, but upped the umami quotient with a good dose of lemon and anchovy. I have been a fan of roasted onions ever since Merrill posted her recipe for Tomao Salad with Corn, Summer Squash and Roasted Onions. Now I am never without them in my refrigerator. I have adapted her recipe slightly, lowering the heat to prevent burning and adding a flavor boost from fresh thyme and rosemary. Despite a few steps (making croutons, and roasting onions), this dish comes together fairly quickly. —cookinginvictoria

Test Kitchen Notes

This is an amazingly flavorful spin on kale! I love the contrast of the salty anchovies with the tangy lemon juice in the dressing; the flavors are balanced, and they soften the kale nicely. The herb-infused onions add a different texture and slight sweetness to the mix; when juxtaposed with the umami flavor of the bacon, they round out the salad perfectly. The crunch of the croutons and softness of the cheese made the texture interesting, ensuring that each bite is different. —Elle Bran

What You'll Need
  • Salad Dressing
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 12 capers, roughly chopped (if salt-packed, rinse before chopping)
  • 1 to 2 large anchovies, roughly chopped (if salt-packed, remove tail, fins, and bones before chopping)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • The rest of the salad
  • 2 sweet onions, preferably Vidalia or Walla-Walla
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, about 1 inch long
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 to 3 slices day-old, best-quality bread (I like ciabatta or sourdough boule)
  • 1 small bunch Lacinato kale
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon
  • 1/2 cup grated ricotta salata cheese (or you can substitute feta)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. MAKE SALAD DRESSING: Add lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, capers, anchovy, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce to bowl of blender and whir until thoroughly mixed and smooth. (If you’d rather not deal with the hassle getting your blender out, you can make this dressing with a hand blender.) With motor of blender or hand blender running, add olive oil in a thin stream until thoroughly emulsified. Taste -- the dressing should taste vibrant and lemony. Add a pinch or two of salt, a grind of pepper, and more lemon if needed. Put dressing aside until needed. (Note: Dressing can be made a few days ahead. Keep in a glass jar in the refrigerator and let sit out for about 15 minutes before dressing the salad.)
  2. ROAST ONIONS: Heat oven to 350° F. Cut onions in half, then slice in half moons about 1/4-inch thick. Place onions, thyme, and rosemary on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and mix with your hands until herbs and onion slices are coated. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Mix with your hands again. Place pan in oven and roast for about 40 to 50 minutes or until onion slices have turned golden and soft and are caramelized. Start checking after about 30 minutes and remove onions before they begin to char. Burnt onions are not delicious!
  3. MAKE CROUTONS: Cut bread into large bite-sized cubes. Keep crusts on for more rustic croutons. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in large heavy pan. (I use a cast iron pan.) Add bread cubes and cook over low heat, turning occasionally, until all surfaces of bread cubes are toasted and golden. Remove and set on a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with salt while still warm and set aside. (Croutons can be made a few days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)
  4. PREPARE KALE: Wash kale in cold water. Several rinses may be needed to remove dirt and grit. Dry kale with a few layers of kitchen towels. Working carefully, remove thick stems from kale and roll kale leaves into long cigarette-style rolls. Cut kale into very thin strips. Add kale to salad bowl or serving plate. Pour 3/4 of the salad dressing over kale and toss with tongs or your hands until all leaves are coated.
  5. COOK BACON: When onions are just starting to turn golden at the tips, slice bacon lengthwise and then cut into 1-inch pieces. Sauté bacon in small skillet over medium low heat until cooked and crunchy. Pour bacon onto kale. If there is any rendered bacon fat in the skillet, add a spoonful of this to the kale, if you like. Remove onions from the oven and add half of them and any juices to kale. (Save rest of onions for another use -- as a salad ingredient, sandwich topping, or to fill omelets or burritos.) Mix thoroughly with your hands or tongs -- the hot onions and bacon will slightly wilt the kale.
  6. FINISHING THE SALAD: Add croutons and ricotta salata to salad. Pour in reserved salad dressing if salad looks a little dry. Toss again. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed, adding a pinch or two of salt, a grind of pepper, or additional lemon. We enjoy this salad for dinner with a hearty vegetarian soup or fresh fish, simply prepared. Enjoy!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Allie
  • Hailey
  • Sarah Lacewell
    Sarah Lacewell
  • Debby Bissell
    Debby Bissell
  • Melissa Beazer
    Melissa Beazer
In 2009, after living more than twenty years in NYC, my husband, young daughter and I packed up our lives and embarked on a grand adventure, moving to Victoria, B.C. There are many things that we miss about New York (among them ripe, vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh ravioli and New York bagels), but, I have to admit, that living in the Pacific Northwest has been pretty amazing food-wise. Now we have a yard with plum and apple trees, a raspberry and strawberry patch and a Concord grape arbor. I have a vegetable and herb garden, so I can grow at least some of our food. And we have an amazing farmer's market a block from our house. I love cooking (and eating) seasonally and locally. And it's been very rewarding introducing my daughter to cooking and eating, and teaching her where our food comes from.

32 Reviews

Rene March 23, 2023
Made this last night and it was amazing!!! I added all the onions. Will make this again!
Allie April 10, 2022
I look forward to having this often. Even with what I had in the pantry which was your basic cottage cheese, and no bacon, it was amazing.
Mary M. March 1, 2020
Everybody loved this salad! I am a recipe follower pretty much to the letter and used feta cheese instead of ricotta salata. Agree 100% this is a keeper!
Nikki January 22, 2020
Delicious! I did add 1/2 Tablespoon of honey to the dressing. I used anchovy paste 1/2 t and it worked fine. Also used Asiago cheese as that’s what we had on hand. This recipe is a keeper!
Melissa January 20, 2020
Would anchovy paste work as a substitute for the roughly chopped anchovies? Curious with a recipe such as caesar dressing if paste would be overpowering. I'll admit, trying to eliminate chopping the anchovy.
Amanda H. January 20, 2020
Yes it should -- I'd start with a half teaspoon and taste from there.
Lauren March 25, 2019
I think that this salad looks very appetizing, and seems very healthy.
Amanda H. March 25, 2019
It's a great one -- and I've used the dressing for many other salads, too!
Hailey December 12, 2018
This salad is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. I make it for Christmas every year and people always ask for the recipe. I don't do the bread because we have a few gluten-frees in our midst, but it's still great. If I'm making ahead, I'll massage the kale with some EVOO to make the dressing go on a bit easier when setting up (and so people that don't know aren't weirded out by someone massaging a salad.)

I also found this ingenious tool that makes stripping the spine of the kale a DREAM. Highly suggest as a stocking stuffer! Now if only Food52 could make a chic-looking one...
Sarah L. November 7, 2018
This was incredible. It was hard not to eat it all in one sitting. Will be making it again soon.
Paige K. March 29, 2018
I could eat this salad every day. I sub'd feta for the ricotta salata, and sauteed jumbo shrimp to add additional protein. My husband, who is not much of a kale lover, LOVED this salad. This is being added to my regular rotation. :)
jstew52 March 21, 2018
Only made the dressing subbing mayo for evoo. This is the bomb and reminds me of the house dressing used in the UKs Pizza Express chain. So happy I found this!
Sarah A. February 12, 2018
Maybe my over runs a bit too hot but 60 to 75 minutes at 350 is way too long to roast onions. Mine were burnt at 50 minutes.
Amanda H. February 12, 2018
Sorry to hear your onions burned! I'll adjust the recipe and reduce the roasting time because while it could be that your oven runs hot, other cooks making this recipe could be affected by how thinly the onions are sliced -- and why not remove potential challenges?
cookinginvictoria February 12, 2018
Sarah, oh no -- I'm so sorry that your onions burnt! Hope that you will try the recipe again. I would just make sure that you are slicing the onions thickly -- 1/2 to 1/4 inch and I would check on the onions after about the 35-40 minute mark. The other thing that you could do is to add a spoonful of liquid if it looks like they are cooking unevenly. Thank you, Amanda, for revising the recipe for others who want to make this!
Debby B. April 30, 2017
What is ricotta salata? And is there a substitute if I can't find or afford? Thanx!
Amanda H. April 30, 2017
Yes, you could easily substitute any hard grating cheese you like -- parmesan would be delicious here.
Thanks Amanda for your comment! Yes, any hard cheese with a bit of saltiness will work well in this salad. In addition to Parmesan, I would recommend a briny feta (be sure to drain it before crumbling). Ricotta Salata is a whey cheese, most often made from sheep's milk, that is salted and aged, which gives it a firm texture. It is worth seeking out!
Connie April 23, 2017
What a great hearty delicious salad! Have made it numerous times and love it every single time I have it! The roasted sweet onions are magic.
Thank you so much, Connie! So glad that you have enjoyed this salad. Yes, the onions are my favorite part too. I make them frequently and use them in a variety of different dishes.
Barb December 2, 2016
I've read that kale doesn't wilt when dressed, like regular salad greens do. Could I prepare a single serving of this to take as a lunch and have it keep for a few hours? Or add the onions and bacon, but carry the dressing separately, like I do for standard salads?
cookinginvictoria December 2, 2016
Hi Barb, yes, I find that shredded kale is much sturdier than lettuce. You could prepare the various components of the salad in advance and then dress the salad either in the morning before you go to work or around mid-morning an hour or so before you eat lunch. Either way should work fine. Kale has a tendency to absorb dressing, so keep a few spoonfuls aside to top the salad with, if needed. Hope that you like it!
Melissa B. December 1, 2016
This salad is everything! I added thinly sliced thyme chicken breast (bake it at the same time as the onions.) I also doubled the bacon and omitted the cheese. I can't have dairy but love caesar salads so this recipe made me really happy!
cookinginvictoria December 2, 2016
Your additions sound fabulous. So glad that you enjoyed it!
Tracy December 3, 2014
This salad looks fantastic but I'm really interested in the salad bowl. Would anyone be able to tell me where to find this? Many thanks!
cookinginvictoria December 4, 2014
Hi Tracy, thanks so much. I could have sworn that that salad bowl was available at Provisions, but I am not seeing that exact bowl there now. This bowl is pretty similar, but it has a more oval shape. I would maybe email the editors ([email protected]) to see if they can provide any more info.
CookOnTheFly September 30, 2014
Michelle, I think the idea of miso is great! I think I would use about a tsp of red miso to get the umami/strong flavor that the anchovies imparted. If Worchestershire is a problem for your sister, use soy sauce or coconut aminos. Hope it works, this is a great find.
Michelle D. September 29, 2014
This looks great and I can't wait to make it as written, but I'm also wondering about a vegetarian version to serve my sister. Any suggestions to up the umami without anchovies? Shitakes? Miso?
Barb September 4, 2014
So good, thank you. I'm trying to eat more kale and other greens, this makes it easy!
Amanda H. March 30, 2014
Delicious -- we had this last week and we're having it again this week!