Looking for a fresh approach to dressing the classic kale salad— something robust and flavorful enough to hold its own against the hearty green—we found our inspiration in the Middle East, albeit via California and London.
Our first clue came from Heidi Swanson, the writer behind the food blog 101 Cookbooks. She tosses finely shredded kale and Brussels sprouts with a simple dressing of nutty tahini blended with olive oil, lemon juice and a bit of honey.
Variations of such dressings abound in the Middle East, added liberally as often to raw salads as to cooked vegetables, such as grilled eggplant and roasted cauliflower. We knew the pleasantly bitter-savory flavor of tahini was the perfect match for kale, so we turned to a source intimately familiar with all manner of tahini dressings.
Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich run Honey & Co., a London restaurant where the couple offers inventive takes on traditional Middle Eastern fare. We wanted a tahini dressing that was equally bold and fresh. Srulovich had a simple answer: green tahini.
Srulovich says they serve a version of green tahini he learned from his Yemeni grandmother, a recipe that includes plenty of zehug, a relish made from cilantro and parsley.
“Balance is the appeal of green tahini sauce,” notes Srulovich, who slathers it over almost anything. “We serve it with so many things—as part of a meze selection or as a sauce for anything from the grill—and it always complements.”
Sure enough, we found that green tahini easily converted into a simple salad dressing. We simply blended the parsley and cilantro with tahini, olive oil, honey, garlic, lime juice, and salt and pepper.
To keep our salad bright and balanced, we included additional points of contrast—soft, sweet chopped dates, crunchy pistachios and red onion mellowed in lime juice. A dressing and salad perfectly matched.
Raw greens like kale can be off-puttingly tough. One way to soften kale is to thinly slice it, toss it with an acidic dressing—such as this lime juice-spiked tahini dressing— then let it stand for a few minutes. The acid acts as a tenderizer.