Joshua McFadden's Kale Salad

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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Servings: 4 to 8

In his cookbook Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, Chef Joshua McFadden explains the genesis of his groundbreaking kale salad: “I was the chef de cuisine at Franny's in Brooklyn back in 2007. I was mad that I couldn't find good salad greens in the middle of winter, and I especially hated (still hate) the ‘mesclun mix’ that lines the shelves of supermarkets—no flavor, no texture. I created this kale salad in rebellion against those miserable greens, having no idea it would take the world by storm. But once it got written up in the New York Times, the world seemed to have an unending hunger for kale salads!” Here we add fresh citrus slices and candied walnuts to make it even more festive for a Thanksgiving or winter celebration.


  • 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) sugar
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (4 oz./125 g) walnut halves, lightly toasted
  • 2 bunches Tuscan kale, thick stems removed
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) finely grated pecorino romano cheese, plus more to finish
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 navel orange
  • 1 Ruby grapefruit
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g) dried bread crumbs


In a heavy 2-quart (2-l) saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar and water. Cook, without stirring, until the mixture turns amber, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until incorporated. Quickly stir in the walnuts until well coated. Spread in an even layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let cool completely, then break apart any large clusters. Set aside.

Stack several kale leaves on top of one another and roll them up into a tight cylinder. With a sharp knife, slice crosswise into very thin ribbons about 1/16 inch (2 mm) wide (this is called a chiffonade). Put the kale in a salad spinner, rinse in cool water and spin until completely dry. Pile the kale into a large bowl.

Put the chopped garlic on a cutting board and mince it even more until you have a paste (you can sort of smash and scrape the garlic with the side of the knife as well). Transfer the garlic to a small bowl, add the cheese, a healthy glug of olive oil, the 3 Tbs. lemon juice, the 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1/2 tsp. salt and plenty of pepper, and whisk to combine.

Pour the dressing over the kale and toss well to thoroughly combine (you can use your clean hands for this). Taste and adjust with more lemon juice, salt, red pepper flakes or black pepper. Let the salad sit for about 5 minutes so the kale softens slightly.

Meanwhile, prepare the citrus. Using a small, sharp knife, slice off the top and bottom of the orange. Cut down the sides of the orange, following its shape, to remove the skin and white pith. Over a small bowl, cut between the membranes to remove the individual segments. Repeat with the grapefruit to cut it into segments.

Sprinkle the citrus segments and half of the walnuts on top of the salad. (Save the remaining walnuts for another salad.) Top with the bread crumbs, shower with more cheese and drizzle with more olive oil. Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 8.

Adapted from Six Seasons: A New Way with Vegetables, by Joshua McFadden with Martha Holmberg (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017.

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