I’ve always been a fan of kale, but never ate it raw. That is, until a friend of ours took us to Echo Park’s Elf Café and we ordered the spicy kale salad. Crunchy and piquant, it’s like no other salad I’ve tasted, and the good news is—it’s pretty easy to make yourself.

Spicy Kale Salad (inspired by Elf Café, adapted by me)


1 bunch curly kale
Feta cheese
Harissa (hot red pep­per paste, I bought mine at one of the Per­sian mar­kets nearby, but I’ve seen it at Whole Foods and spe­cialty mar­kets)
Cher­moula (ingre­di­ents below)

For cher­moula:
4 or 5 gar­lic cloves
one bunch cilantro
one bunch pars­ley
1 1/2 tea­spoons sweet paprika
1/2 tea­spoon ground cumin
1/8 tea­spoon cayenne
1/4 cup extra vir­gin olive oil
juice from 2 or 3 lemons (to taste)

My usual kale rou­tine is to put it in a sink full of water, swish it around, rinse, drain the sink and repeat. This gets all the dirt off the leaves. Remove ribs and chop the leaves, then spin dry in a salad spinner.

I’d describe cher­moula as Moroc­can pesto. It’s incred­i­bly easy to make and no mat­ter how much I tweak amounts, I still love the taste. I use Deb­o­rah Madison’s recipe from Veg­e­tar­ian Cook­ing for Every­one. She rec­om­mends mak­ing it in a mor­tar and pes­tle, but I am lazy and use my Vita­mix, though a food proces­sor would work too. The orig­i­nal recipe calls for 2/3 cup of cilantro, and 1/3 cup of pars­ley, but I gen­er­ally just make sure I have more cilantro than pars­ley and call it a day. I throw every­thing in the blender, taste and adjust the sea­son­ings, often adding more lemon juice or salt.

Cut up an avo­cado, slice some feta cheese, and assem­ble your salad: a pile of kale, a dol­lop of cher­moula, a blob of harissa and as much feta and avo­cado as you’d like. Stir every­thing together and the ingre­di­ents will coat the kale, result­ing in awesomeness.

And, yes, there isn’t any avo­cado in that photo. I was so excited I’d remem­bered to take a photo before eat­ing with an actual cam­era that I for­got to add the avo­cado after I’d stirred it all up. Don’t worry, I added it before eat­ing. And, because he’s cute…Ari!