I’m growing tired of seeing my restaurant bill and groaning, consistently perplexed at the current prices of restaurant food. On a college student budget, it’s hard to eat out in Santa Barbara without thinking about how my $29 could have been spent on a small grocery haul instead of an admittedly mediocre pasta dish plus tip at a buzzy restaurant downtown.
I spent some time this summer exploring Japan with my sister, eating everything and marveling at the low cost of food (the yen is quite weak now, so most of our meals were under $10). At the same time, I was shocked by the lack of fruit and vegetables present on most restaurants’ menus (most of the produce consumed in Japan must be imported). Thus, I returned to the States craving a big salad after subsisting on udon and sushi and not cooking once for two weeks. And I was deterred by the aforementioned restaurant prices back home in the Bay Area.
This is all a long-winded excuse to share the salad recipe I’ve been making recently as summer transitions into fall. My salad philosophy goes as follows: a significant amount of crunch, a touch of nuttiness, something creamy and something slightly sweet. Salads have a reputation for being boring and unsatisfying, but this variation, packed with a variety of fresh and cooked ingredients, challenges that assumption.
Yields: 5 servings
Time: 30 minutes
For the salad:
- 4 cups kale, shredded
- 6 figs, sliced thinly
- 1 cup farro, cooked
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the roasted cauliflower and beans:
- ½ head of cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon za’atar seasoning (I buy mine at Trader Joe’s)
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing:
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Chop the cauliflower into florets. Line a pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Add the cauliflower and cannellini beans to the pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and za’atar seasoning. Roast for 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is golden brown and the beans are slightly crispy. If you’re not a fan of beans, you can omit them or substitute them for another protein, such as roasted salmon or shredded chicken.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, massage your kale, which will be the base of your salad. If you’re new to massaging kale (I know it sounds oddly sensual, but trust me on this one), this step will change your life. Add your kale to a large bowl, add the teaspoon of olive oil and slowly work in the olive oil with your hands. Massaging your kale softens the vegetable’s cruciferous nature that tends to turn people away from this common salad base. Massage the kale for a few minutes until the leaves have softened slightly and are evenly coated in a thin layer of olive oil. Season the kale with a touch of salt and pepper and let it sit for 15 minutes.
- Next, cook the farro. I love farro’s hearty texture and versatility. Plus, it never gets soggy like rice or pasta might when added to a salad. To save time, pick a quick cooking farro like the 10-minute farro from Trader Joe’s, which boils in a pot of water on the stove in — you guessed it — just 10 minutes. Drain the farro once it’s done cooking.
- Make the dressing by chopping a few sprigs of fresh dill and combining it with the juice of a lemon, red wine vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl.
- Prepare the other components of the salad by slicing the figs thinly and chopping the walnuts.
- Take the roasted cauliflower and beans out of the oven. I suggest letting things cool for at least 20 minutes before adding to the salad bowl to avoid a weird, warm salad situation.
- Add the figs, walnuts, feta cheese and farro to the large bowl with the kale and mix gently. Drizzle the dressing over top, mix gently again and serve.
I’m convinced that Sweetgreen would charge $15 for this exact salad combination. I’m also convinced that this salad might just make eating salads enjoyable for the very first time. Your window to make this recipe is slowly closing as the California fig season ends in November. So, head to your local grocery store or, preferably, a farmers market to pick up the freshest figs and give this early autumn salad a try!