The Refined Vegan: Kale Panzanella

Head into NYC's East Village for phenomenal vegetarian and vegan cuisine, but stop by newly opened Avant Garden for the best new crunchy food around. The latest outpost from famed NYC restaurateur/cocktail bar mogul Ravi DeRossi (of Death & Co., Mother of Pearl, Bergen Street and Cienfuegos, among others) features beautiful interior design and a menu by executive chef (and Top Chef alum) Andrew D'Ambrosi to match. 

How vegan is it, you ask? Well, the dining room's chandelier is made of actual branches. But this salad is way tastier — certainly not your average bowl of kale. 

"The technique of marinating the kale in order to soften and season keeps it alive and fresh," says D'Ambrosi. "Since the kale has been marinated in a strong vinegar, I make a light dressing from tomato water, which is softer and more floral, to complement it. Softened poached garlic puree adds a layer of savory depth, and this, combined with the salinity of the olive, the crunch of cucumber and the warm crouton makes this salad a delight to eat."

The Refined Vegan: Kale Panzanella
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  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 shallots
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 10 Nicoise olives
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 slice hearty bread
  • 4-5 ounces ricotta salata cheese
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1/2 bunch dill
  • 1/8 red onion
  • salt
  • 1 pint garlic cloves
  • Water as needed
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  1. :::kale:::
  2. Toss kale with red wine vinegar, shallot, olive oil and salt, and reserve in a covered container in the fridge for 24 hours. This will allow for kale to marinate and break down.
  3. Season carefully as you will season again before serving.
  4. :::tomato water:::
  5. Roughly chop all ingredients and place in blender.
  6. Pulse until pureed, then pour into a cheesecloth-lined bowl. Tie the cheesecloth and let it hang above the bowl for 24 hours in the fridge.
  7. Season the resulting water with salt as necessary and reserve.
  8. :::soft garlic:::
  9. Place garlic cloves and cold water in a pot and bring to a boil.
  10. Drain and fill pot with cold water once and bring to boil.
  11. Repeat process one more time, allow the garlic to cool, then puree in blender with a bit of olive oil, salt, and lemon. Reserve.
  12. :::salad:::
  13. Make a swipe of the garlic puree along the bowl.
  14. Place marinated kale in bowl with the tomatoes, olives, cucumber, onion, and freshly toasted croutons.
  15. Season appropriately with salt and pepper, then drizzle on the tomato water to your liking (enough to taste and to gently moisten the croutons). Serve immediately.
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