salads

kale caesar salad with grilled fennel pollen-rubbed chicken

kale caesar salad with grilled fennel pollen-rubbed chicken

kale caesar salad with grilled fennel pollen-rubbed chicken

I am OBSESSED with a new spice blend from my favorite foodie shop, Savory Spice.  I just picked up a jar this week and have used more than half (on chicken, pork,  eggs...).  It's a blend of aji chiles, coriander, orange peel, fennel and fennel pollen which I find to be a really interesting combination of flavors.  It also has a bit of sweetness which makes it ideal to use as a rub on meats with little to no fat, like chicken breast or pork tenderloin.  If you can't get your hands on this actual blend, simply make your own.  Toss together a few of your favorite dried herbs, ground spices, salt, a small amount of sugar...and there you have it. Rubs are the ultimate flavor booster and tenderizer around.

The slight bitterness of the kale and the garlicy, creaminess of the dressing work exceptionally well with the sweet-citrusy bite of the grilled chicken.  I'm a big fan of raw egg and anchovies in Caesar dressing.  You can most certainly leave out the anchovies but it won't be the same without the egg.

kale caesar salad with grilled fennel pollen-rubbed chicken

kale caesar salad with grilled fennel pollen-rubbed chicken

With the exception of the dressing, this recipe has no real hard measurements as you will see.  This is, generally speaking, the way I cook.  If you are a newer cook, please just go for it.  It's the only way you are going to learn anyway.  Cook to your palette.  You can't go wrong.

The other important thing to point out about this meal is that many of the flavors can be elevated by the components in your pantry.  I always have garlic confit (garlic poached in oil) on hand.

kale-caesar-salad-with-grilled-fennel-pollen-rubbed chicken

kale-caesar-salad-with-grilled-fennel-pollen-rubbed chicken

I rub it on bread to make quick croutons, use it in marinades, dressings...anywhere garlic goes but with mellower, nuttier flavor. I also use a balsamic reduction to drizzle over the chicken.  You can whip up a batch by draining a bottle of inexpensive balsamic into a saucepan and reducing it over low heat until it is syrupy.  Store it in a glass jar in your pantry and you will find yourself reaching for it every time you want to add a little sweet and tangy note to a dish.

Want a healthier diet? This is the way to do it. Layering flavors and textures is the key. Besides, then you can have extra dessert.

kale caesar salad with grilled fennel pollen-rubbed chicken

two bunches of Tuscan kale, hard stem removed, leaves sliced into ribbons

cherry tomatoes, halved

parmesan cheese, shaved into thin ribbons with a Y-peeler

for the dressing:

egg yolk

4 cloves of garlic or garlic confit

1 c olive oil

juice of two meyer lemons

3-6 anchovy fillets

salt and pepper to taste

for the croutons:

butter

olive oil

1 loaf of country-style bread, crusts removed and cut into large cubes

a few cloves of garlic, peeled or garlic confit

oregano

crushed red pepper

salt and pepper to taste

for the chicken:

1-2 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breasts

coastal california fennel pollen rub or your own blend

balsamic reduction

Coat the chicken breast with the spice rub and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours.

Whiz together all of the ingredients for the dressing in a blender.  Add salt and pepper to taste. You can make this dressing up to a week ahead and keep refrigerated until you are ready to use it.

Heat a large saute pan to medium and coat with olive oil.  Add a couple of tablespoons of butter, stirring until it is melted.  Add in the bread cubes, garlic and spices.  Toss everything around until evenly coated.  Continue to cook, stirring often, until the bread is toasty, about 10 minutes or so, but go slow.  Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more oil or butter as needed, salt , spices etc.  When the croutons are golden brown and tasty, remove the pan from the heat.  These are best eaten immediately.

Grill the chicken until well-marked and done.  Let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

kale-caesar-salad-with-grilled-fennel-pollen-rubbed-chicken

kale-caesar-salad-with-grilled-fennel-pollen-rubbed-chicken

In the meantime, dress the salad and shave the Parmesan cheese generously over the kale.  Toss in the croutons.

kale caesar salad with grilled fennel pollen-rubbed chicken

kale caesar salad with grilled fennel pollen-rubbed chicken

Slice the chicken, drizzle with balsamic reduction and serve.

kale caesar salad with grilled fennel pollen-rubbed chicken

kale caesar salad with grilled fennel pollen-rubbed chicken