Steak and Kale Caesar Salad

Often, when summer rolls around and we're looking to avoid cooking, we turn to salads as our main course. And, of course, that's an excellent idea, but if that's the only time you opt for salad in the starring role, you are missing out. When you invest the time and energy you would to kebabs or pasta into a main dish salad, the results can be nothing less than stellar.

This Caesar-esque salad says goodbye to romaine, hello to anchovy paste, and gives you everything from homemade croutons and dressing to seared steak and asparagus. Your tastebuds will fall in love and thank you for making this. By the way, the anchovy paste called for here is preferable in my house because I don't use anchovies very often and this paste caters to the only way I do use them - mashed into the most amazing umami flavoring element ever! Plus, you can store it on the door of your refrigerator and have it on hand for adding extra flavor to everything from pasta sauce to salad dressings. Hooray!

Now you can opt to tweak things a bit here, but do me a favor and either make it once exactly as is, or keep the substitutions minimal (e.g. different dried white beans or a different kind of bread for the croutons). Once you've made it once, you'll either want to keep making it that way or will have a very clear idea about which changes you'd really like to make. Either way, enjoy the process of transforming some amazing ingredients into a fantastic looking, tasting, and filling salad!

Steak and Kale Caesar Salad

For the Beans:
  • 8 oz. dried pinto beans
  • 4 c. cold water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • ¼ c. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Fresh ground pepper
For the Dressing:
  • 1 T. anchovy paste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • ¼ c. grapeseed oil (or another neutral oil)
  • 2 T. finely grated parmesan cheese
For the Salad:
  • ½ French baguette, torn into coarse pieces
  • 4 T. olive oil, divided
  • 8 oz. steak - choose a cut that's lean and boneless
  • 1 bunch asparagus ends trimmed, cut into 1" pieces
  • ½ tsp. salt, divided
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 10 oz. kale, torn
  • 2-3 French radishes, sliced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • ½ c. parmesan cheese, thinly sliced in strips

To make the beans, place them, the water, salt, and 2 cloves of garlic (chopped) in a pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. Allow the beans to naturally release the pressure before draining and adding the remaining ingredients - including the remaining 2 cloves of garlic, minced. Stir to combine. Taste and season with additional salt if desired. Cover and transfer the beans to the refrigerator. Let marinate for at least 1 hour while you prepare the rest of the salad.

While the beans are marinating, make the dressing. Add the the anchovy paste and to a large bowl. Toss in a pinch of salt and stir the salt, anchovy paste, and garlic together to form a rough paste. Add the egg yolk, mustard, and half of the lemon juice to the bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk the olive oil into the egg yolk mixture in small increments, whisking briskly to fully integrate each addition before adding more. Repeat this process with the grapeseed oil. At the end of this process, you should have a glossy, thick emulsion. You can also use an immersion blender for this step. Fold in the cheese and the remaining lemon juice, if desired. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Pour a tablespoon of the olive oil onto a large baking sheet. Use a pastry brush to evenly distribute the oil. Arrange the bread on top. Drizzle the bread with another tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake the croutons on the middle rack for 15 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Take the croutons out of the oven and set aside to cool.

Rub the steak with one tablespoon of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until smoking. Add the steak and cook for 3-5 minutes per side to each your desired level of doneness. Remove the steak to a cutting board and allow it to rest while you cook the asparagus.

Place the asparagus, the remaining olive oil, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Toss to coat. Add the asparagus and turn off the heat. Cook the asparagus until it's tender and nicely charred, about 3-5 minutes. Return the asparagus to its bowl and add the crushed red pepper flakes, pepper, and lemon juice. Toss to coat.

Slice the steak into small, bite-sized strips.

Place the kale in a large salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Add the steak strips, marinated beans, asparagus, radishes, green onions, and homemade croutons. Toss well and serve immediately.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: About 90 minutes