This will make almost double the crispy stuff you need for this salad, but I think you’ll be glad for leftovers. An an 8-10 ounce bundle of curly or lacinato/Tuscan/dinosaur kale with the woody stems and rib removed will yield the 5 ounces of leaves used here. I usually cut the apple right before serving, just in case it’s prone to browning (but not all are). The crispy nuts are adapted from the ones on the kale salad at Beauty & Essex in the Lower East Side.
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 3 tablespoons (45 grams) apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon smooth dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) mayonnaise or Greek-style plain yogurt
- 6 tablespoons (80 grams) olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup (115 grams or 4 ounces) sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
- 1 cup (85 grams) sliced almonds
- 2 tablespoons (15 grams) powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 5 ounces (140 grams) kale leaves, any variety, cut into thin ribbons [see Note]
- 1 large crisp apple, halved, cored, and cut thin
Start the dressing room: In a medium bowl, combine shallot and apple cider vinegar and set aside while you make the crispy stuff.
Make cheddar crisps and sugared almonds: Line a large (half-sheet size) rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter cheddar evenly over half the parchment, in about a 8×12-inch, 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Sprinkle with a little cayenne or black pepper, if you wish.
In a colander, rinse almonds under cold water (yes, really!) and shake off excess liquid. In a bowl, toss wet almonds with powdered sugar, salt, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne until evenly coated. Spread on second half of parchment-covered baking sheet in a thin, even layer, leaving an inch around it bare so it can spread.
Bake almonds and cheddar together for 4 to 9 minutes, until the cheese is melted into a lacy, evenly deep golden brown crisp and the almonds are dark at the edges and lightly golden throughout. Please hear me on this: Watch it closely. Both the cheddar and the almonds will go from not-yet-golden to perfectly bronzed to burnt in what feels like a one-minute period. Check it at 4 minutes, then every minute or two thereafter until the pan is just right. Remove and let cool while you finish the salad.
Finish the dressing: To the shallots and vinegar in the bowl, whisk in dijon, mayo or yogurt, then drizzle in olive oil, whisking the whole time. Season dressing with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
Assemble: In a large wide bowl or salad plate, toss greens with 2/3 the dressing to start, then tasting and adding the rest if you wish. Arrange the apple over the greens, fanning out slices. Break off clustered of almonds from the baking sheet and scatter them over the salad. If the cheddar crisp seems very oily, you can blot it with a paper towel, before tearing or cutting it into large bite-size pieces and scattering them over the salad. Season the salad with additional salt and pepper and serve right away.
Do ahead: The nuts can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a week. The cheese crisps are best kept in the fridge, lightly covered. The dressing will keep for several days in the fridge. Washed and blotted dry kale keeps in a large zipped bag in the fridge for several days, provided you keep it out of the spots that are prone to freezing produce (or maybe this is just my terrible fridge).