An amazing kale Caesar recipe from Montreal restaurant Elena

A top-notch recipe for a kale caesar

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Recipe and salad and cookbook cover images provided by Penguin Random House.

It has been well over a decade since the infamous kale Caesar reigned supreme on restaurant menus across North America, but today, only the best variations on the theme have stood the test of time.

Montreal's Elena may not have been around for the salad's initial rise in popularity back then, but it certainly does right by the salad thanks to a unique tahini-based dressing and the addition of radicchio into the mix of greens. This spin on a Caesar can be found in the restaurant's brand-new cookbook Salad Pizza Wine: And Many More Good Things from Elena.

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"This is the salad equivalent of getting catfished. All the ingredients come together to trick your brain into thinking you’re eating a delicious Caesar salad, but there’s no mayonnaise and no anchovies anywhere in the recipe. The only thing it has in common with a Caesar are the croutons and the cheese (which we really couldn’t live without)," reads the introduction to this recipe in the new Elena cookbook.

Garlic croutons

1/2 loaf country or sourdough bread
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 clove garlic

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the bread into 1-inch-thick slices. Place the slices on a baking sheet in a single layer and douse them with the olive oil until both sides are fairly saturated. Sprinkle both sides with the salt.

Bake for 8–10 minutes, until the bread is just starting to brown, turning each slice halfway through. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

Cut the garlic clove in half and rub it on both sides of each slice of bread to impart a bit of flavor.

Cut the slices into 1-inch cubes. The croutons can be made 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container.

Tahini Caesar dressing

12 cloves garlic, divided
3 tbsp + 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup tahini
2 tbsp cold water
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp kosher salt
2/3 cup canola oil
freshly ground black pepper

Roast the garlic

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Create a pouch using foil and nestle inside it 10 garlic cloves and 3 Tbsp of olive oil. Seal up the foil to prevent any oil or steam from escaping.

Place the garlic pouch on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until the garlic turns squishy, about 40 minutes.

Remove the garlic from the oven but leave the oven on. Open the pouch to let the garlic cool down.

Make the dressing

In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini and cold water until smooth.

When the garlic has cooled down a little, add it to a blender along with the tahini mixture, the two remaining raw garlic cloves, vinegar, Dijon and salt. Pulse to combine.

With the motor running, gradually add the canola oil (adding it slowly will help emulsify the dressing). Repeat the process with 1/3 cup olive oil.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Kale and radicchio Caesar salad

3 cups garlic croutons
1 bunch tuscan kale, stemmed removed
1 head radicchio
1 bunch baby kale, stems removed
juice of 1 lemon
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan

Reheat the garlic croutons

Spread the croutons on a baking sheet and put in the oven to warm up while you make the salad.

Mix the salad

In a large bowl, break the kale into bite-size pieces. Add the radicchio and baby kale and mix with your hands.

Add tahini dressing to your liking, lemon juice, a generous glug of olive oil, a pinch of salt and a few twists of pepper. Toss to coat evenly.

Remove the garlic croutons from the oven and add to the salad along with the grated parmesan. Toss again and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6