Addictive Kale Caesar Salad with Brioche Croutons

kale caesar salad with brioche croutons

I have a question for all of you mortar and pestle users out there: Do you find us knife-wielding, blender-pulsing, whisk-twirling folk offensive? You probably do. I suspect Tartine’s Chad Robertson would not approve of my adaptation of his caesar dressing recipe. I used a knife first, and then a whisk. I’m not going to lie. I didn’t even reach for the mortar and pestle.

I suppose I shouldn’t be so skeptical of a technique before trying it, but the idea of using a pestle to work olive oil into a stable emulsion scared me. I’m just not that hard core. And as I read the recipe over and over again, I couldn’t help but think about who I was dealing with — did you know that Robertson doesn’t even own a toaster? It’s true. He and his wife, Liz Prueitt, toast their bread in a black steel omelet pan instead. That’s hard core. I’m just not there. I reached for an old standby: Whisk. He did not fail me. This dressing, made without mayonnaise or cheese, is lemony and lighter than most caesar dressings and is a wonderful complement to kale, an unsuspecting substitute in a classic dish.

I find this salad addictive. I’ve always loved kale wilted in soups or sautéed with garlic and tossed into pastas. And I love it in the form of chips. But I never imagined enjoying it raw until I dined at True Food Kitchen, where they serve a Tuscan kale salad made with bread crumbs, grated Pecorino and crushed red pepper flakes. It’s a delicious combination. Since discovering Robertson’s kale caesar last week, I’ve made it twice more, and I suspect it will be a mainstay on the dinner table this fall and winter. I’m already looking forward to it.

Kale from our Olin-Fox Farm CSA:
caesar dressing ingredients

kale caesar salad with brioche croutons

I finally got around to making the brioche recipe in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It is delicious. I made several loaves of bread as well as a batch of the Sticky Pecan Caramel Rolls with the dough, and will report back on that shortly. I also used leftover brioche to make the croutons, which were delicious, but an unnecessary treat — any good bakery-style bread will suffice for these croutons.

homemade brioche

The Tartine Bread crouton recipe calls for an optional pinch of herbes de provence, which added a surprisingly nice flavor to the croutons.

brioche croutons, unbaked

brioche croutons, baked

Kale Caesar Salad
Adapted from Tartine Bread
Serves: 4 to 6

Note: The measurements below are those that are given in the book. Obviously, adjust quantities as needed. I tossed enough kale for two people with dressing to taste. I also added the croutons and Parmigiano Reggiano to taste.

2 lbs. black, Tuscan or dinosaur kale, center stems removed, and torn
croutons (recipe below)
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Caesar dressing (recipe below)

In a large bowl, combine the kale and croutons. Pour the dressing to taste over top and toss to coat. Add the Parmesan, toss again, and serve.

Caesar Dressing

Note: I made a half-batch of this recipe. I did not use a mortar and pestle, but if you are an adept m&p user, feel free. Also, if you have a caesar dressing that you love, feel free to substitute that in. In essence, this recipe is no more than a traditional caesar salad with kale swapped in for romaine. That said, I do really like this dressing — made without mayonnaise or cheese, it’s lemony and lighter than most caesar dressings I’ve come across.

2 lemons or 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar*
3 cloves garlic
6 olive oil-packed anchovy fillets
1 large egg yolk
kosher salt
2 cups olive oil

*Update: I have been making this dressing a lot — all winter and spring in fact — and I actually prefer making it with white balsamic vinegar than with lemon juice. It is so easy and delicious. This is what I do: Finely mince 3 cloves garlic with 3 anchovy fillets — I add a pinch of salt while I’m mincing and drag my knife across the mash to help make a paste. Whisk in the egg yolk and the 1/4 cup white balsamic. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly until a thick dressing forms. I never measure the olive oil, so I can’t say exactly how much, but it’s probably about a cup or less.

1. To make the dressing, grate the zest from 1 lemon. Cut both lemons in half. Place the garlic, anchovies and lemon zest in a mortar and pound with a pestle to make a thick paste. (Alternatively, mince the garlic, anchovies and zest together on a cutting board. Add a pinch of salt, and mince further. Every so often, using the side of your knife, drag the mixture against the cutting board to create a paste. Transfer to a bowl.)

2. Add the egg yolk, a pinch of salt, and a squeeze of lemon juice and stir thoroughly to combine. Continuing to stir, begin adding the oil drop by drop. (Note: If you’re not using a m&p, whisk in the oil drop by drop.) The mixture should look smooth and creamy, a sign that you are building a stable emulsion. Continuing to stir (or whisk), begin adding the oil in a slow steady stream. The dressing should thicken. Periodically, stop pouring in the oil and add a squeeze of lemon. Taste the dressing and add more salt and lemon juice to taste. Add water, a small spoonful at a time, stirring to thin dressing to the consistency of heavy cream.


3 slices day-old bread*, each 1-inch thick, torn into 1 1/2-inch chunks
2 T. olive oil
kosher salt
1/2 tsp. herbes de provence** (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a bowl, toss the torn bread with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the herbes if using. Spread the bread evenly on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Midway through baking, redistribute the croutons if they are coloring unevenly.

* I used day-old brioche (recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which I have yet to post), which was totally delicious but also unnecessary — any good (non-enriched) bread will do.
** This is normally an ingredient I would just as soon leave out, but I was surprised at what a nice subtle flavor the herbes added. I did not add 1/2 tsp. — a pinch was enough.

kale caesar salad with brioche croutons


  1. says

    really, fresh kale? i trust you so i’ll try it. and i agree about the mortar and pestle but i can relate to the no toaster. i didn’t want to buy one for the year when I lived apart from E in DC, so I just used a pan and didn’t miss the toaster at all.

  2. says

    Exceptional photos! I need to try this recipe, what great food adventure and all with raw kale! I don’t have a mortar and pestle either, but it is on my kitchen “want” list. (And I really like my toaster!)

    • says

      Hi Christina — You are so nice to say so. I use a Canon Rebel xt. It’s going on 4 years now, and it has been very good to me. I never use the flash — the built-in flash in the camera is not very good — so I shoot mostly in the middle of the day. Let me know if you have any other camera questions.

  3. Becca says

    The next day, I sauteed the kale in the leftover caesar dressing and put parmesan crisps and oven dried tomatoes on top!

  4. Bekah says

    The raw egg yolk in the dressing is scaring me. I know that garlic possesses powerful anti-bacterial and microbial properties, but I’m still nervous. Any thoughts?

    • says

      Bekah — If you have a source (farmers’ market, CSA, etc.) for eggs, that’s your best bet for using a raw egg. If you want to quickly cook it to kill off bacteria, do this: Bring a pot of boiling water to boil, add egg (still in its shell) and cook for 45 seconds. Remove the egg from the water and let it cool. Then proceed with separating the yolk from the white and making the dressing. Hope that helps!

  5. says

    hi Alexandra!

    i came upon this site and i was immediately impressed. mostly because i’m starting to get into food blogging and i love how beautiful your photos are. not to mention the delicious food you make. is there any advice you can give me in regards to shooting food photography? how do you get such a nice top view? what kind of lens do you use? any info would be greatly appreciated! thanks for your time and keep up the great site!

    • says

      Elmar — thank you for your kind words about my blog. I wish I had some professional advice to offer you regarding my photography, but the truth is that I mostly just wing it. That said here are a few tips that I have passed along to other readers:

      I always shoot during the daylight — between 10:00 am and 4pm on average. My kitchen window gets a lot of nice light, so I’m lucky, but every so often I move to a different room if I feel the sunlight is coming in better. I set up my cutting board or plates right next to the window letting in the most sunlight. Sorry if I am stating the obvious, but you don’t ever want direct sunlight. You want your food to be in the shadow but as close to the light as possible if that makes sense. If the day happens to be really overcast and you have access to an outdoor space, you might be able to get the best shots outside, but play around. Take a few shots with your camera in various spots and see how they look on your camera’s screen.

      I use a Canon rebel xt and the same lens that came with it when I bought it. It’s about five years old. I shoot everything on automatic — I seriously don’t know a thing about fstop or aperture. There was a period when I was using a tripod, but I’ve stopped — if you have one, a tripod will make your photos a little crisper, but it gives you less flexibility with angles.

      I do edit in Photoshop, but I basically just do a “levels” move (not sure if you know Photoshop or not) to help with the contrast and then I sharpen the photos, too.

      Finally, sometimes I prop a big piece of white cardstock against a chair or stool opposite the light source to bounce more light on the subject, which sometimes work and sometimes doesn’t.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if there is anything else!

      • says

        hi Alexandra!, it’s been 8 months since i asked you a camera question and i just now read your reply, even though i’ve been on your site numerous times since then. so you can imagine my excitement! hahaha. i just wanted to say thank you for your reply and i do know a lot about photoshop and photography and it’s probably why i’m so impressed with your shots. to know that you’re doing this with an entry level camera makes me happy because i own an entry level camera as well. OH THE POTENTIAL! anyway, cheers to you and thanks again!

  6. Amanda says

    This ceasar salad is fantastic. I was so nervous to use anchovies for the first time, but they add a really bright compliment to the lemon and garlic. I was also nervous that this dressing would be too lemon-y. Not at all! All the flavors were perfect together. I loved the fresh croutons, added chicken, and ate it for a couple of meals. My BF loved it and requested that I make it 2ce/week! This is ~10th recipe I’ve made of yours – every one is better than the last. Thank you!!

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