Raw Silverbeet Salad, inspired by City Bakery

I worked at City Bakery in New York for a brief stint. They’re known for their hot chocolate (they allocate a different type of hot chocolate to each day of February! Insane!), handmade marshmallows, divinely buttery cookies and the invention of the pretzel croissant (oh dear lord, the pretzel croissant is perfection.)

I gained a few L.B.s that autumn. No big deal.

Oddly enough, my favorite part of working there was their lunch buffet, which we were given full access to on our breaks. Chef Ilene Rosen is responsible for this impressive savory spread that never failed to beautifully highlight seasonal vegetables. A mainstay of her salad bar is the raw kale salad. People love this dish. Rave about it. How does she make kale taste SO good?

I know that I have a strong affinity for all edible plants, but if ever a vegetable dish could be likened to crack – this would be it.

It’s so simple, but so perfect. Salty aged cheese with the fragrant crunch of hazelnuts, the sweetness and bite of a little red onion amidst a bed of dark emerald ribbons of kale.

Very romantic right?

I felt that a home made version was in order this week. Unfortunately, I cannot find kale in Sydney so I used silverbeet – that’s Swiss chard to my fellow Americans. I love kale, but this works just as well here. And truth be told, I think the good quality cheese and olive oil play a big roll in the crack-ishness of the dish.

Another thing I love about this salad is that it can be dressed hours before serving it. Because the silverbeet and kale leaves are much stronger than spinach or lettuce, they take on the olive oil gracefully – like they’re being marinated. You can of course eat it right away too – but I think it gets a little better after sitting in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Raw Silverbeet Salad, City Bakery Style
(Serves 4 as a side)

- 6 cups-ish of silverbeet (or kale) leaves, center stems cut out and finely shredded*
– 1 small red onion or shallot, very thinly sliced
– 2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts
– 1 tablespoon of dried cranberries
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 2 teaspoons white vinegar
– 1/4 cup good quality Parmesan or aged Gouda cheese, finely grated.
– salt&pepper
– pinch of red chilli flakes (optional)

Toast hazelnuts in a dry skillet on a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes until golden and fragrant. Set aside.

Put silverbeet and sliced onion in a large mixing bowl, pour olive oil in and mix well (this coats the leaves so the cheese can stick to them). Add vinegar, chilli flakes, a little bit of salt* and a healthy grinding of black pepper. Toss again.

Add cheese in batches and toss, making sure it’s evenly distributed. Finally, add hazelnuts and dried cranberries. Serve within a few hours.

While the salad is perfect on its own, it also welcomes many different additions.
Some options:
– Toasted sesame seeds
– Granny Smith apple
– Red pepper, thinly sliced
– Avocado
– White beans

*Notes:
I would really recommend spending an extra minute making sure your silverbeet leaves are very finely shredded. Because the leaves are on the tougher side, the texture of the salad is much more enjoyable with thin ribbons of the bubbly leaves.

Only add a little salt, if any, of your own. The cheese will bring the saltiness.

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