Kale Caesar with Roasted Summer Corn and Cornbread Croutons

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Do you like Caesar salads? Do you like corn on the cob? Do you enjoy the taste of raw kale masked by a delicious, creamy dressing? If so, this salad is for you. Side salads on summer buffets are usually an afterthought- after all, how can a bowl of lettuce hold a candle to baked beans, buttery corn on the cob and big stacks of tomatoes and mozzarella? But this salad earns its spot on the table.

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Local corn at Balsam Farms in East Hampton…even the corn in the Hamptons is famous.

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The kale is cut into thin ribbons so it’s easy to eat and the dressing gets well distributed. Tangled throughout the salad are crunchy corn kernels and chunks of cornbread that soak up all that Caesar dressing as they sit, making this a great recipe to put together in advance.  There’s just something about the lemony  dressing and toasted cornbread  that makes this difficult to stop eating, which is not something I usually say about kale salads.

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Caesar dressing is traditionally made with Parmesan cheese, but I used Pecorino in this recipe because I think the sharper, saltier flavor goes really well with the slightly sweet cornbread and roasted corn. If you’re worried about using raw eggs, you can substitute mayo or Greek yogurt. And if you don’t like anchovies, you could leave them out, but I wouldn’t recommend it (unless you want to make the dish vegetarian.) A very experienced cook recently told me, “Never underestimate the power of an anchovy.” You won’t know it’s there but it gives the dressing its fundamental Caesar-ness.

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This salad is a serious crowd pleaser and an ideal dish for a big summer dinner. The recipe serves 6-8 generously, but you could cut in half if you’re cooking for a smaller group.

Kale Caesar Salad with Roasted Summer Corn and Cornbread Croutons

Ingredients

  1. 3 cups diced cornbread or corn muffins
  2. kernels cut from 4 large ears of fresh corn
  3. 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  4. 3 bunches Tuscan kale
  5. Caesar Dressing, recipe follows
  6. ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  7. kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and arrange two evenly spaced oven racks.
  2. Spread the cornbread and the corn onto two separate sheet pans. Drizzle the corn with the olive oil and toss to combine. Sprinkle each sheet pan lightly with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes, tossing the cornbread and corn halfway through. Set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, chiffonade the kale: cut along each side of the rib to remove the leaves on each side. You should end up with two long strips from each rib. Roll the leaves lengthwise into “cigars” and slice them thinly crosswise to cut the kale into ribbons. Wash the kale and dry it using a salad spinner.
  4. To assemble the salad, pour the dressing over the kale and toss well. Add the corn and croutons, and the Pecorino, and toss again. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to several hours, bringing the salad back to room temperature before serving.


Caesar Dressing

  • Servings: Makes about 1 1/3 cups
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Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard, such as Grey Poupon
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 anchovy, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature (optional)*
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, lightly packed

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, anchovy, egg yolk, salt and pepper. Pulse until combined. With the processor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Add the Pecorino, and pulse until just combined. Refrigerate in a sealed container until ready to use.
  2. *If not using the egg yolk, substitute 1 1/2 tbs mayonnaise or whole-milk Greek yogurt

Balsamic Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

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If you ask me, cherries are an underutilized fruit. True, they have a short season, but so do lots of other fruits and vegetables that get a lot more love. (Rhubarb…peas..fiddlehead ferns. Really, fiddleheads?)  Ripe summer cherries are bright red, plump and juicy, sweet and just a little bit tart. Like strawberries, figs and plums, they can go both the sweet and savory route, and a combination of the two is especially good.

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These Balsamic Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini are a really easy summer appetizer, and a surprising one, too, when people are expecting the classic tomato-basil-balsamic combo. (They’re also BEAUTIFUL, which doesn’t count for nothing.) Creamy goat cheese is the perfect base for the juicy cherries, and basil adds a nice fresh herbal note.  This is the time to use a high-quality balsamic vinegar- the sweeter and more syrupy, the better. A really acidic or sour vinegar will overpower the the cherries and basil.

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The recipe itself couldn’t be easier. All you have to do is heat the cherries with a little bit of honey, the balsamic vinegar and basil, toast some bread, and assemble the crostini. Total time, 20 minutes. While a cherry pitter is not absolutely necessary here, it will make your life a lot easier, and your fingers a lot less red. I’ll leave that up to you.

Balsamic Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

  • Servings: makes 20 crostini
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb fresh cherries, pitted and roughly chopped
  • one French baguette, cut into 1/2 inch diagonal slices
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbs fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons, divided
  • 8 oz plain, creamy goat cheese
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine the cherries, honey, vinegar, 2 tbs basil and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cherries are just starting to release their juice. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
  3. Meanwhile, arrange bread slices on a sheet pan. Brush lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.
  4. To assemble the crostini, spread a layer of goat cheese onto each slice, then top with a spoonful of cherries. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tbs of  basil over the crostini and serve immediately.
  5. Note: While you can make the cherry mixture in advance, the longer it sits, the more the cherries lose their bright red color. I would recommend making them right before serving.