For the past few years, fresh kale has been on a run showing up on restaurant menus all over America. Even here at my Acadiana Table, I’ve tossed it into soups, braised it in stews and served it pan sautéed as a side dish. So, this weekend I stumbled on a neat trick while making a simple Caesar salad for a dinner party. The result was a light and healthy Kale Caesar with Grilled Shrimp salad.
I was running low on Romaine lettuce and decided to add some fresh kale I had on hand. It was about a 50/50 blend of the two, and with my anchovy-infused dressing, it turned out tasty. I liked how the kale contrasts the blander lettuce and provides a bitter counterpunch. Actually, I found myself (and my guests) eating just the kale and leaving behind the Romaine. And the story gets better.
You see, I always make a mountain of Caesar when I have a hungry crowd to feed and inevitably wind up with a big bowl of already-dressed, leftover salad. Romaine lettuce tossed with dressing loses its crispness overnight and turns into a limp and soggy mess. But this salad was different – the kale part anyway. Kale is a tough, fibrous green that takes time to soften (that’s why it is so good pan sautéed) and its overnight marinade in my Caesar dressing did just the trick to turn this into my Kale Caesar with Grilled Shrimp – an enchanting salad.
Well, as is frequently the case, I’m not the first to make this connection. A quick online search revealed a bevy of Caesar recipes featuring kale. So, while I can’t lay claim to the discovery, I can proclaim my new Kale Caesar with Grilled Shrimp salad featuring kale instead of Romaine rules when it comes to convenience: It can be made well ahead and refrigerated (even overnight). And to gild the lily, I crown this Caesar with a scepter of Cajun-spiced, grilled Louisiana shrimp.
- 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced into chunks
- 16 extra jumbo Louisiana shrimp, peeled with tails on
- 8 chunks of fresh pineapple
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeds removed and sliced into chunks
- 1 cup red cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes
- 4 small whole sweet peppers
- 1 lemon quartered
- 1 tablespoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cups fresh kale, chopped
- 4 large eggs
- Water, for boiling
- 1 tin of canned flat anchovies
- 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons Creole mustard
- 2 teaspoons Tabasco hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 large fresh lemon, halved
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
- 1½ cups extra virgin olive oil, plus more
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups freshly made croutons
- On a skewer (if wooden, pre-soak) add a chunk of red onion and a piece of pineapple. Then add a shrimp and alternate with the rest of the fruit and vegetables until you have 4 shrimp on the skewer. Repeat with all 4 skewers and sprinkle lightly with Cajun seasoning.
- In a container, make a basting sauce by adding garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and olive oil. Whisk together.
- On the well-oiled (with tongs, rub paper towel soaked in cooking oil) grates of a hot gas grill (or charcoal), add the skewers directly over the flames. Brush on the sauce, close the top of the grill and cook for 3 minutes. Open the top and flip over the skewers and brush with sauce. Close the lid and cook for another 3 minutes. Repeat until the shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Move to a platter and brush on any remaining sauce. Keep warm.
- Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut the kale into bite-sized pieces, removing any woody stems. Place in a mixing bowl and refrigerate.
- To coddle the eggs, put the eggs in a small pot filled half way with water and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and let the eggs cook for no more than 1 minute. Remove the eggs and rinse under cold water. Crack the eggs and scoop out the cooked whites and the runny yolk into the container of a blender.
- Add all of the anchovies along with their liquid into the same container of the blender. Add the Worcestershire, garlic, mustard, Tabasco, cream, and squeeze in the lemon juice, removing any seeds. Add 2 tablespoons of cheese. Turn the blender on LOW.
- While the blender runs, drizzle the olive oil until an emulsion forms and all the ingredients are incorporated. Taste the dressing for balance and flavor. Add more olive oil to round out the flavors and thin out the dressing.
- For assembling the salad, remove the kale from the refrigerator, and with paper towels dry up any moisture that has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl. Add the croutons. Pour over just enough of the dressing to coat the leaves and add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Add half of the remaining cheese. With two large spoons, toss the lettuce and the croutons with the dressing. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese.
- On individual cold dinner plates, mound the salad in the middle and place the skewered shrimp alongside.
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