Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summertime Grilled Kale Salad with Plums and Ricotta



Okay before you say “ohh that sounds horrible,” hear me out. This is my new favorite salad. When the grill is already hot and the meat has been pulled off and is resting, you can prepare this salad in a matter of minutes and it is wonderful. I based it on a recipe from Bon Appetit http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/quick-recipes/2012/07/grilled-kale-salad-with-ricotta-and-plums that caught my eye. The only extra touch I added for this salad is I made fresh ricotta.
If you have never had fresh ricotta before, it is a totally different beast from the container you buy next to the sour cream once a year when you make lasagna. It tastes like…it has the texture of… Hmm, it’s tiny white clumps. You actually make it by adding lemon juice to whole milk and then you have ricotta. It is that easy. You scoop out the little white bits that normally would scare you if you peered into a container of milk. You would hand the container to your spouse and say “taste this and let me know if it’s okay.” And they would give you that “I wasn’t born yesterday” look and you would toss it. But in this instance it is okay. You want these little white grains of dairy lusciousness.  You scoop them out and put them in some paper towels to drain in a strainer and you are done. Fresh Ricotta. You could go ahead and layer it between noodles and make some lasagna but it’s worth so much more than that.
I first tasted fresh ricotta at Zuni Café in San Francisco. My husband is a gnocchi lover; if it is on the menu he always goes for it. At Zuni their gnocchi, normally made with flour in our experience, is made from ricotta. A few tablespoon sized pillows comes floating to your table. The waitress has to keep the dish from floating away they are so light. They come sauced with just butter and sage. Kill me now. I know what heaven tastes like.
Which of course led me to search out fresh ricotta at Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building in SF and make my own ricotta gnocchi. Became my latest new best thing for awhile and introduced me to fresh ricotta.
I moved away. No longer easy access to fresh ricotta, but when I saw this recipe I knew it would not be the same without it. Don’t do it with store bought tubs. By it fresh, make it fresh or just don’t do it.
But I digress. Back to the salad. Cut some plums into slices, working around the pit. They usually don’t come out nice like a peach. Throw them in a bowl. Spray some really dry, curly kale with canola oil or olive oil or rub it all over with oil, but it is easier with spray. Sprinkle it with salt, put it on the grill and watch it. As soon as the leaves start to blacken on the edge flip it over. Cook another minute, pull it off, throw it in a bowl and continue until all the leaves are cooked. Make a dressing of olive oil and balsamic with a drizzle of honey. BA has you add fresh thyme but not using it is not a deal killer. Grab the cooked kale and cut out the big rib in the middle. I just used my hands and pulled the leaves off the rib. Grilling them makes them crispy and softer at the same time. Kale can be tough but just these few minutes of heat on the grill softens the leaves and crisps the edges like a kale chip. Toss the plums and kale with the dressing. Pile on a plate, taking some of the plums that sunk to the bottom of the bowl and arrange on top of the greens. Add a little dollop of ricotta, a few grinds of pepper and some kosher salt. That is it. You are done.
You have the perfect summer salad. The juicy plums and the slightly sweet dressing pair with the crispy yet tender kale. The creamy ricotta pulls it all together and you have a moment of awakening. You find out you like kale. You find out making ricotta is easier than you think. Your teenage daughter could make it with little instruction (thanks Grace). You haven’t spent hours chopping and dicing. And you have the perfect summer salad. Takes no time but wows the taste buds and surprises your dinner guests!
And I found these instructions helpful and took a little of the fear out of making ricotta. But skip the first part and jump to the recipe at the bottom. All that trial and error and science can scare you. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/02/how-to-make-fresh-ricotta-fast-easy-homemade-cheese-the-food-lab-recipe.html

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