My husband and I have a long standing love affair with Aspen. We got married there thirteen years ago (I was a surprise bride…yup, my husband planned a wedding unbeknownst to me….Yes, I was surprised….No, I didn’t wear a wedding gown, I wore a black suit….Yes, this will be a future blog post if I can somehow relate it back to food, or even if I can’t because it really is the best wedding story EVER), we have spent many summers in Aspen, we renewed our vows there three years ago and we are lucky to have many friends that live there. I have never skied Aspen. I repeat. Never. Skied. There. Why? I HATE skiing. Deeply. Passionately. Irreparably. But I LOVE going UP the mountain any time of year. WIth yak traks in the winter and trail running shoes in the summer. That I love. I also love Aspen’s restaurants, the shopping, the way it smells, the fact that my hair always looks awesome, its SOUL, the light, the clouds, the sky, the trails, the occasional Goldie and Kurt sighting and did I mention the food??
There are a handful of restaurants in Aspen that John and I never tire of and always make a point to dine in repeatedly. Craig and Sam Cordts-Pearce are very successful restauranteurs in Aspen and we pretty much only dine at their establishments when we’re in town. Why? Because they hit it out of the park every time. We like unpretentious and delicious food, a well stocked bar (preferably with some fine tequilas and mezcals) a welcoming atmosphere and our loyalty is really sealed when the owners and the staff love what they do and treat you with such care. This couple succeeds in doing this and they are both very easy on the eye which doesn’t hurt.
Several years ago, before Kale was everywhere, and in everything, before we knew we could make a chip out of it that would blow our minds, before we would pulverize it in a Vitamix, before we willingly paid $15 for a green juice that we all pretend fills us up but doesn’t, and before we were dehydrating it and smoking it, there was the Kale salad that forever changed the way I look at the salad category. I first had it in Craig and Sam’s restaurant called Lulu Wilson (now Steakhouse No. 316) and loved it. That I would fall in luuurrrrv with a kale salad is not that surprising, but that both my husband and son would order it again and again was a revelation. Of course I had to replicate it at home so I googled “Lulu Wilson Kale Salad” and there it was! (I think the world wide web is going to be big. You heard it here first folks).
The recipe is simple and has few ingredients: large leaf Kale, pine nuts, currants, parmesan cheese, olive oil and lemon juice.
The secret to this recipe is how the kale is prepared. According to the recipe (and Craig himself when I asked him to share the recipe) the kale should be sliced in to a thin chiffonade (a knife technique used for cutting herbs and leaf vegetables such as kale into thin strips or ribbons). I know, I know. You’re saying “Chiffowhat??? WTF???” Who has time for that?? Remain calm. I believe that life is just too busy and too damn short to take large leaf kale, remove the tough middle stem, pile the leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar and then slice into ribbons. So, I don’t do it. I’m a pragmatist in the kitchen. And a rebel. A pragmatic rebel.
Here’s my recipe:
1 package of pre washed BABY kale
1/3 cup *toasted (or not, your choice) pine nuts
1/3 cup zante currants
1/3 cup grated (or shredded) parmesan cheese – or more – your call
juice of one lemon
extra virgin olive oil – enough to coat the leaves well
freshly ground pepper
*(heat a pan and using a swirl action to toast pine nuts taking care not to burn them…and go from golden to burnt very fast)
Mix all together in a cold bowl and serve. Ideally, prepare half an hour to an hour before serving. Why? The kale softens up and soaks up all those amazing flavors. Warning: Prepare yourself for the next morning’s water weight bloat from the salty parm but who cares. Go for a run and sweat it out; it is so worth it
This salad is all about the sweet salty cheesy lemony flavor combo. If you don’t have pine nuts, use roasted cashews. If you don’t have currants use dried cranberries or cherries. If you don’t have grated parmesan use shredded. Be a pragmatic rebel.
Happy cooking and always let your taste buds soar!