Chicago chef Rick Bayless has been sharing his deep knowledge of Mexican food for decades in his restaurants, on television, and through eight cookbooks to date. This recipe is excerpted from his latest book, More Mexican Everyday (W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.).
Photo: Christopher Hirsheimer
“Sturdy Greens” Salad with Mango and Habanero
I know that some of you will roll your eyes at another massaged kale salad recipe, having lived through the few years during which you couldn’t move without bumping into one. The kale fervor, of course, became tiring, as every pop culture craze does, and many of us found ourselves throwing out kale altogether (so last year) rather than remembering what made that salad so mouthwateringly attractive in the first place.
So I stand my ground at including this salad recipe here — made with kale, chard, beet greens or, if you’re feeling particularly bold, spicy mustard greens, which are a great counterpoint to the sweet mangos. I won’t say “It’s good for you,” because you already know that. I’ll just say it’s unexpectedly enticing: sweet, sour, spicy and satisfying. At our restaurant, during mango season we’ll cycle this onto the menu, garnishing it with smoked homemade fresh cheese (queso fresco). Smoked or not, a wonderful creamy fresh cheese offers dimension.
½ fresh habanero chile, stemmed, seeded if you wish
3 garlic cloves, peeled
Zest (colored part only) of ½ orange
¼ cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup agave nectar or honey
1 small white or red onion, thinly sliced
4 cups sliced (about ½ inch is good) sturdy greens (any of those mentioned above; you’ll need to start with about 8 ounces of most greens, then pull off or cut out the stems or stalks before slicing)
2 cups (about 3 ounces) frisée leaves (if your frisée is in a head, cut out the core and tear the leaves into rough 1-inch pieces)
1 large ripe mango (I like the yellow-skin Ataulfo — honey Manila — mangos best for flavor and texture), peeled, flesh cut from the pit and chopped into ¼-inch pieces
2 tablespoons crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as feta or goat cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts or slivered almonds, toasted lightly in a dry skillet over medium heat until golden and aromatic
In a small microwaveable dish, combine the habanero and garlic. Cover with water and microwave at 100% for 1 minute. Drain and transfer to a blender. Add the zest, juices, oil and agave (or honey). Blend into a smooth dressing. Taste and season highly with salt, usually about ½ teaspoon.
Scoop the onion into a small bowl and stir in a little of the dressing.
Place all the sturdy greens in a large bowl; use your fingers to massage them, making them more tender by breaking up the fibers, until the greens darken a little, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion and frisée to the greens. Drizzle on about 3 tablespoons of the dressing (the leftover dressing can be covered and refrigerated for another salad) and toss to coat the greens well. Taste and season with additional salt if you think it’s necessary.
Divide the salad among 4 serving plates and spoon over each about a tablespoon of mango (the mango you don’t use is yours to snack on). Sprinkle the salads with the cheese and nuts and they’re ready to serve.
More Mexican-inspired dishes for Cinco de Mayo: