For most of us in the northern hemisphere, it’s still pretty darn cold outside, right? Maybe where you are, there’s been a day or two of a warm up, or as Michiganders like to say, a “thaw”. Maybe this gave you hope, that spring is around the corner, or maybe it was just a tease. Because you know, deep down, that there’s at least 4 more weeks of consistently cold weather ahead of us.
Regardless of whether you’ve gotten your flip-flops out, ready for that first 50 degree day, or if you’re still hunkered down with a fire in the fireplace, it’s getting to that point in the winter where you’re probably sick (SO SICK!!) and tired of eating soup all day, every day.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a soup lover from way back. My grandma taught me that it can be a “soup-day” in the middle of summer if it’s overcast and only 70 degrees out. Back then she lived in Hawaii for 8 months of the year… so 70 degrees was a cold-snap! But even I start to crave summer grilling, salads, and fresh, no-cooking-needed meals after months of soup and other hot, comforting foods.
That’s where this delicious kale caesar salad comes in to save the day. It’s a great transition salad that is still hearty and stick-to-your-ribs enough for a cold winter day, but incorporates raw greens and fresh, lemony dressing to suggest summer is on the way. It also shines with just-barely crisped chickpeas (not the so-crunchy they disintegrate when you bite into them kind) and homemade croutons.
And, it takes only 20 minutes to prepare. Literally. Not a minute more. OK, OK….in my recipe instructions below I do suggest “marinating” the kale in the dressing for a half hour before eating, but this part is completely optional. The recipe takes only 20 minutes without this step. Marinating the kale in the dressing helps to soften it and makes it a little less chewy. If you choose to do this, make the dressing first and dress the kale immediately, then move on to prepare the chickpeas and croutons. All-in-all you’ve still got a meal on the table in 35 minutes.
Let’s pause for a moment and concentrate on this dressing. It’s garlicky, creamy, lemony, tangy, rich, and absolutely fabulous. My husband, Aaron, who is a caesar salad junkie of sorts, loves this dressing and says it’s often better than the real thing. Can you believe that? No? It’s the truth, I tell ya.
The dressing comes together quickly and is able to be stored in the fridge for several days. So don’t be shy, make a double batch and put it on salads, quinoa or rice bowls, and sandwiches all week. You won’t be sorry!
Alright. The last thing I’ll say is that I know there’s a lot of kale caesar salads out there. But I couldn’t find one that combined a slightly crispy chickpea, homemade whole grain croutons, creamy avocado, and a delicious dairy and egg-free dressing… all things I was looking for in my next salad.
So, I created one, and here it is. I’m quite happy with it and know it will be a staple in our household for a long time. It’s also hearty enough to be a meal and is full of protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Please try it out and let me know what you think!
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 3 large slices rustic whole grain bread, cut into ½-1” cubes
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- A pinch of salt
- 1 bunch kale, washed and torn into small, bite-sized pieces
- ½ of a large avocado
- ¼ cup tahini
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon capers
- ¼ - ⅓ cup lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons water, or enough to thin to desired consistency
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Thoroughly dry the rinsed chickpeas and scatter them on a baking sheet. Add the bread cubes, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Stir to evenly coat the chickpeas and bread with oil. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and stir gently, then return to oven and roast for 5-7 more minutes or until the chickpeas and bread are browned and slightly crispy. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing. Finely mince the garlic and capers. Then, use the side of a large chef's knife to "smear" them against the cutting board into a paste-like consistency. Mix the garlic-caper paste into the other ingredients, whisking well to combine. Add water until the dressing reaches your desired consistency. Alternatively, you can combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to thoroughly combine.
- In a large bowl, combine the kale and dressing. Start with ½ to ¾’s of the dressing and toss well to combine. You really want to toss this salad and ensure all of the kale leaves are coated with dressing. If time permits, place the dressed kale in the fridge and let marinate for 30 minutes before serving (obviously the 20-minute designation no longer applies if you choose to do this!). Once you're ready to serve, add the chickpeas, croutons, avocado, and a little more dressing. Toss gently to combine. Serve immediately.