Ok so I have to be really honest. Salads on a restaurant menu do not particularly get me jumping up and down. I’ve had salads at a lot of nice places but they never wow me really. More often than not, I pick salads just so I can save up on the carbs that come with a cheeseburger on brioche or a chicken Alfredo. But let me tell you how I stumbled upon this Mediterranean salad.
I went to The Sycamore Kitchen in Los Angeles and as usual chose a salad not expecting anything grand to come out of the experience. But wow! That salad changed my life or my salad palate rather (did you notice that? I rhymed). It was the most delicious salad I had ever eaten in my life. Crunchy kale and radicchio were tossed with chicken, hazelnut, dates and blue cheese. It never really occurred to me to put dates in my salads. I always used raisins or cranberries in my homemade salads. But dates add this wonderful moistness that raisins don’t. Everything was so beautiful. The flavors married each other so well! So I went home and made the salad. And can I tell you mine is better? a) I season my chicken and sear it. The Sycamore Kitchen uses boiled/grilled plain chicken.b) I make a better dressing hands down.
A thing about cheese. Fresh blue cheese is a must or any salty briny cheese to cut the sweetness of the dates. The prepackaged crumble kind will not do, so don’t bother with that. You need the fresh wedges. They’re a tad pricey but well worth it. Especially with salads, think quality over quantity. Always. I dare you to try the salad from the place if you’re in the LA area and then make this at home. So delicious. This is my go to salad. And I hope it becomes yours too!
- 3 cups chopped kale
- 1 cup chopped radicchio
- 2 breast tender fillets
- ¼ tsp each of salt, cumin, cayenne pepper (or any seasoning of your choice)
- 4-5 dates, chopped (get the good moist kind like Medjool)
- Handful of Macadamia nuts (or hazelnuts), toasted
- 2 tbsp crumbled blue cheese or as much as you like (don’t get the pre-crumbled blue cheese. Get the block of cheese and crumble yourself).
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar (or plain vinegar)
- ¾ tsp sugar
- good pinch of salt
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp sour cream
- Wash and dry your kale and radicchio and chop them until they are bite sized. Toss them together in a mixing bowl.
- Next drizzle about a tbsp of olive oil and a light pinch of salt onto the veggies and massage the kale and radicchio really well. Kale and radicchio are really bitter and the only way to rid them of the bitter flavor is to rub them with olive oil for a good minute until they soften just slightly and the colors brighten up. Set aside once done.
- Next, season chicken breast tender with salt, cumin and cayenne pepper. Cook 2 minutes on high flame each side and then lower the flame and let the chicken cook all the way through for 7-8 more minutes or until flesh on the inside is white. Breast tenders cook really fast.
- Once cooked, chop up the chicken into bite-sized pieces and keep aside.
- To make the dressing, mix olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt and thyme well.
- Add sour cream and using a spoon, mix until everything is blended together.
- Toast hazelnuts in a pan without oil until they are lightly browned.
- To assemble salad, place your kale and radicchio on a plate, then top with dates, macadamia nuts, blue cheese and the chopped chicken.
- Pour as much or as little dressing as you want. Best salad award!