When I revisit a restaurant, I typically do a good job of not ordering something I’ve already had or, at the very least, not what I had the last time I was there. But I think I may be physically incapable of sitting down at Northern Spy Food Co. in the East Village for brunch and not ordering the kale salad with baked eggs.
Yeah, I know, big fucking deal, it’s just a kale salad, and kale salads are pretty fucking ubiquitous at this point, but Northern Spy’s is an exemplary expression of the form. It’s a modest number, with just a few simple ingredients that work incredibly well together. The kale is well tenderized but nowhere near limp, the hunks of squash are soft and yielding. The roasted almonds provide some crunch while the cheddar, with a great sharpness, keeps things interesting. Pecorino finely grated atop the whole mess adds some salinity, and once pricked, the yolks of those eggs coat everything in their radness.
The day after my last visit to the restaurant, I found myself craving that damned salad. So instead of going back there like a loser, I made one for myself. And then I made it again the next day. And I have eaten some variation of it nearly every day since. What precisely I throw in there depends on what I have in my fridge, what I might have found at the farmer’s market that day and generally how lazy I am feeling.
Though I started out just making the salads as I ate them, it didn’t take me long to realize that I’d be doing myself a favor by just making one big-ass salad in the beginning of the week and portioning it out to eat as I pleased without having to bother with all the chopping each time. That’s the lovely thing about kale, which I’ve expounded upon before: unlike other salad greens, kale won’t turn into a disgusting, soggy mess if it sits dressed in the fridge for a couple of days. Its hardiness means that it actually benefits from that time, and keeping it raw preserves all those good dark leafy green things that made people assume that kale was gross for so long.
My most recent composition was quite similar to Northern Spy’s. I managed to actually turn on the oven on a weeknight and roasted up some parsnips and a sweet potato, and used the same Cabot clothbound cheddar that they use over on East 12th street. The similarities ended after the cheese and roasted root vegetables, though. For one, I am not sure what they use to dress their salad over at Northern Spy; I am typically too busy enjoying the shit out of it to try and figure that out (maybe next time), and I didn’t have any non-Tamari almonds, so I toasted up some walnuts. And instead of baking the eggs, I opted to baste mine to ensure that as much of the yolk as possible was left free to run all over my salad. Suffice it to say, I ate this salad four fucking times this week.
Winter Kale Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing
Makes 4 Servings
I don't know why I'm calling this a winter salad. I guess because there's root vegetables and walnuts and shit in there. Anyway, I like lacinato (also known as dinosaur or black) kale for this salad. It’s tenderer than green kale, and I love the characteristic bumps in the leaves.
When basting eggs, you can add either more fat (oil, lard, butter) to the pan, but I opt for water to keep it healthier. I prefer basting to sunny-side up, as I like the top of my eggs to be a little bit cooked, but want my yolks to be perfectly runny. That said, cook your eggs however you please, but know that the runny yolk adds a great deal to the finished product.
1 head lacinato kale, washed, spun and thinly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 sweet potato, cut into ½” dice
1 large or two medium parsnips, cut into ½” dice
¼ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
4 ounces good-quality cheddar (I used Cabot clothbound), crumbled / chopped into small pieces
Pecorino Romano cheese, to taste
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 garlic clove, minced and smashed into a paste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the diced sweet potato and parsnip with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, checking every little while to make sure they’re not burning and tossing them around as necessary. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
While the vegetables are in the oven, prep the kale. Remove the leaves from the ribs (this can be easily done by pinching the base of the rib and moving your fingers up the rib, removing the leaves as you go). Wash and dry the leaves (I do this in my salad spinner and then prep the salad in the bowl of the spinner so as not to dirty another dish). Stack the leaves, roll into tight cigars and slice into ½” ribbons. Place the ribbons of kale in large bowl and add the tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt, massaging the oil into the greens with your hands to help tenderize them. Set kale aside.
Make the dressing. Combine the tahini, lemon juice and garlic. While whisking the mixture, slowly add in the olive oil. Thin the dressing out with water, adding it one tablespoon at a time to ensure you don’t thin it out too much. Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning and oil levels to taste.
Once the sweet potato and parsnip have cooled, add them to the kale, along with the cheddar and chopped walnuts. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine (using your hands may be easiest, so don’t be afraid to get them a little dirty). Divide the salad among four plates.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom of the skillet with non-stick spray, oil or butter. Crack the eggs into the pan and allow the whites to set a bit. Add a good glug of water and put a lid on the pan to help cook the tops of the eggs. Once the yolks are cooked to your desired doneness, remove the eggs, blot the bottom with paper towels and place one egg atop each of the four salads.
Finish the salad with a healthy shower of grated pecorino, a drizzle of good olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Now go enjoy the shit out of it.