One of the best restaurants in Harvard Square, Alden & Harlow, has what they call the “ubiquitous kale salad” on their menu. The name is tongue-in-cheek, but the salad itself is phenomenal. The greens themselves are all kale (something that can be hard to pull off), and there’s nothing else garnishing the leaves except a deeply flavored, well-balanced lemony pistachio dressing. I’m lucky enough to live close by, but unfortunately, the restaurant isn’t open for lunch (when I’m in the square, solo, looking for a quick bite and glass of wine).
I started tinkering with a recipe trying to replicate the dressing and reproduce the salad at home. The recipe below is what I came up with. While not an exact replica, I’m happy to have this in my arsenal, and I even made it again for a shot of green on our Thanksgiving table. In some ways, you can’t reproduce the exact experience of a restaurant meal because the atmosphere, the company, and the wine are all different.
My sister, Lena, who joined us at Thanksgiving this year, told me massaging the kale leaves helps relieve their bitterness. If kale is a bit strong for you, squeezing the kale can take a bit of their bite out of the leaves. I think I’m in this camp; my first strategy for reducing the heftiness of kale going solo as the only leafy green in the salad was to cut in some spinach leaves. Now I do both, and I’m quite happy with the results.
There are a few variations I’ve taken on the fruit topping this salad. My favorite right now (in part because it’s almost winter) is to take either dried cranberries or dried cherries and simmer them in 1/4 cup of white wine before adding them to the salad. I’ve also used simple, fresh cherries, and roasted beets.
A Riff on Alden & Harlow’s Ubiquitous Kale Salad
Creamy Pistachio Dressing
1/2 cup shelled pistachios (roasted for ~5 minutes – be careful not to burn)
1 garlic clove
juice of 1 lemon (1/4-1/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup water (as needed, to thin the dressing)
1 bunch curly kale
2 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup shelled pistachios (also roasted)
1/2 cup dried cherries (or substitute raw cherries or roasted beets)
1. Prepare the ingredients. Roast all the shelled pistachios for ~5 minutes at 350 degrees, being careful not to burn the nuts. Juice the lemon. Wash the kale leaves and spinach. Working in bunches, chop the greens and place in a large bowl.
2. Make the dressing. Transfer 1/2 cup of the pistachios along with the garlic, lemon juice, mustard and sugar to a food processor and pulse to chop the nuts and combine the ingredients. Drizzle in the olive oil and pulse to blend. If the dressing is thick, add water as needed to thin it to a spoonable, toss-able consistency.
3. Layer the kale and spinach greens in a salad bowl. Top with roasted pistachio nuts, cherries, and drizzle with dressing.