Creamy Kale Caesar with Chickpea Croutons
On a recent trip to San Francisco, my aunt and uncle and I were enjoying some beers on a sunny patio one afternoon when we decided to order food. Both my uncle and I decided on a small Caesar salad, something simple but reliable to hold us over until dinner. Truthfully, the salads were incredibly sad, even though they had all the criteria of a Caesar – croutons, Parmesan and even anchovies. So why did it seem so watery and lackluster? It got me thinking how most restaurant Caesar salads disappoint in the same way – with limp lettuce and wimpy dressing. Restaurants seem to feel obligated to include this classic on their menus, but not obligated to make it taste memorable, leaving us with more of a “meh” version of something that should be great.
Well, meh no more! With ingredients like garlic, lemon juice and anchovies, a proper Caesar salad should always be robust and full of flavor! After that lunch, I was inspired to create a seriously craveable Caesar salad!
One thing you will learn about me as we continue to hang out, is that I absolutely love kale. It started about 8 years ago and I’ve never looked back. Kale is worth loving because of how good it is for us. Wanna know how good? Check out these 26 reasons kale is good for us! Beyond health, it also tastes great and lends hearty texture and sustenance to any meal. To give you an idea how much I truly love the stuff, I’ll keep a large bunch of kale in the fridge for a few weeks and simply tear leaves off the stems as needed to add to salads, sauté with garlic, toss with hot pasta, or use on a sandwich. Didn’t know how versatile kale could be? Stick with me! Since I’m already obsessed with kale salads, I knew this was the perfect start.
Next on my most craveable Caesar ingredient list is, of course, the anchovy! If you don’t love anchovy, may I ask, then why eat a Caesar salad? Let’s not punish a Caesar for all the anchovy-haters out there, after all they can make something else. For those of us who LOVE anchovy, we absolutely LOVE the opportunity (rare at best) to enjoy a dish with anchovy in it. To celebrate all that flavor, I’m going to use it in both the dressing and as a final garnish. #SorryNotSorry
Speaking of dressing, my other beef with Caesars is that the dressing oftentimes seems watery and bland. Most likely the “wateriness” comes from the dressing being tossed with watery lettuce, and as a result, the flavor is diluted. Sad! Since creamy dressings are my fave, I decided to make an egg, anchovy, Dijon, garlic, lemon juice and oil emulsion. Basically, an anchovy aioli. OMGosh! How great does that sound? I’m craving this salad already!
Finally, every good Caesar needs something crunchy, almost always croutons. I love croutons as much as the next person, but my uncle tries to live gluten-free which made me sad to think that he had to order his salad crouton-free. How depressing is that? Which is why I decided to come up with a crouton alternative. How ’bout crispy, Parmesan chickpeas? Perfect! Not only will it be gluten-free, but the little legumes will add more nutrition to our salad, making it a more well-balanced dish. I love that!
PSA: crispy Parmesan chickpeas are also great for snacking, so consider making a double batch. Just sayin’!)
So there we have it – a most craveable Caesar salad. Hearty, flavorful greens tossed with a creamy, tangy, salty, umami-bomb dressing, cheesy Parmesan and crispy chickpea “croutons”. All the favorite tastes of a Caesar done boldly so there is no denying the taste and crave-ability of this timeless classic. I hope you enjoy!
Creamy Kale Caesar with Chickpea Croutons
Classic gets an upgrade with my recipe for kale Caesar salad with crispy chickpeas and creamy anchovy dressing. All your favorite flavors of the original taken to the next level!
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes (includes roasting chickpeas)
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 4
- Category: Salad
- 1 14-ounce can of chickpeas, strained and rinsed
- 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 2 egg yolks, large
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, about 2 lemons
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 4-6 anchovies, or to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 cup extra light tasting olive oil*
- 8-10 cups of kale leaves, about 1 large bunch or 2 medium
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Additional anchovies filets for garnishing each salad, if desired
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Strain and rinse the chickpeas. Arrange them in a single layer on a plate lined with paper towels. Place more towels on top and gently rub to dry. Pick away any of the skins that come loose.
- In a small mixing bowl, stir together the Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Transfer the chickpeas to the prepared sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with spiced cheese mixture and toss to coat evenly.
- Place chickpeas in the preheated oven and bake until golden and crisp. This should take about 30-40 minutes, but begin checking after about 25 minutes and keep a close watch. Remove from oven and let cool before adding to the salad.
- For the dressing, place the egg yolks, garlic, anchovy, Dijon, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a blender. Turn blender on high to mince the garlic and anchovy filets. With the motor running, begin adding the oil drop by drop. You need to add the oil slowly at first to start building the emulsion. So, drop….drop….drop.drop.drop…it will probably feel tedious, unless you are a patient person (unlike myself!). After the emulsion begins to take hold start to drizzle in a thin stream. Then, eventually, pour more quickly. Once all the oil is combined, you should have a thick, airy, mayo-like sauce. Basically, an aioli. Give it a taste and check seasoning. Add more salt and pepper, lemon juice or mustard if you want a more pronounced flavor, or feel free to add more anchovy. Blend quickly to incorporate any additional ingredients.
- To prep the salad, tear the kale leaves off the stems and roughly chop. I like bite size lettuce! Toss with some of the anchovy aioli dressing. If dressing is really thick, you can thin it out with a little water or more lemon juice. Once leaves are well coated, toss with Parmesan cheese and scatter the crispy chickpeas over the top. Finish with a few anchovy filets, if desired.
*I enjoy light tasting olive oil for making mayonnaise type sauces because of it’s very mild taste, however, in this case because we are making a dressing for salad, extra virgin olive oil also works well.