Now that we’ve settled into winter, Minnesota-style, the cold, green salad starts to lose some of its appeal. Even when you jazz up your mixed greens with lots of toppings, it can be hard to get excited about crisp lettuce on a frigid day.
That’s when the warm salad comes to the rescue. You need a hearty Warm Wilted Kale Salad With Crispy Chickpeas.
Salads don’t have to be cold. It’s good to eat some raw vegetables every day, just to keep in balance. But if the mercury dips, it’s comforting to make a warm, slightly cooked salad. All it takes is a few turns in a pan of warm dressing to soften your greens a little bit.
The first wilted salad most of us encounter is the bacon and spinach version. Bacon is fried, then the fat is used to make a hot vinaigrette.
For today’s salad, we won’t need any bacon. Instead, we can sauté some shallots and garlic in healthful olive oil. Bright, fresh lemon juice and enough tahini to give it some body will make a creamy, warm dressing. I added a dash of dark, toasted sesame oil for more sesame flavor.
Kale is perfect for wilting, and softening it up a bit is a good thing. People who don’t ask for seconds with a raw kale salad might fall in love with this one. Turning the leaves in the warm dressing for a minute or so is all that is needed; it’s up to you how soft you want the kale to be. It will turn deep green and shrink a bit. If you think your family will balk at kale, you can sub tender salad spinach. It will wilt more quickly, so remove it from the pan as soon as it softens.
The crowning glories of this dish are the crispy chickpeas. Deep-fried chickpeas are crunchy and delicious, but you don’t have to heat up all that oil to make these. A hot oven and a drizzle of oil will produce a leaner version that is quite crunchy, hot out of the oven. Baked chickpeas soften as they cool, and only stay crunchy for a few hours, not days, so toss with the spices and pile them on the salad while warm.
This salad may just become your wintertime favorite.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan” and “Plant-Based Meats.” Find her at robinasbell.com.