Monica’s Famous Kale Salad Serves 4 Difficulty Level: Easy Notes: This salad keeps well in the fridge, and Monica suggests using the leftovers to make a veggie-packed frittata the next day. I am not normally a fan of raw mushrooms, but soaked in dressing, they are no longer mushrooms, they are flavor bombs.
I met Monica LoCascio at a dinner by organized by our mutual friend, Leif Haendel. The dinner was held at Art in General, a non-profit gallery in Soho, and all the dinner guests met for the first time that evening. Each person was more engaging than the next. Monica and I hit it off, and somehow ended up drinking whiskey into the night (not something I often do on a weeknight).
At that point, Monica was the executive producer at SCOPE Art Fair. I try, but I just don’t enjoy art fairs. My friend Mia once summed it up for me, “taking an artist to an art fair is like taking a cow to see the slaughterhouse.” Turns out, Monica didn’t like art fairs either. The next time I checked in with her, she had begun to work as a consultant full-time, working with publications such as Lucky Peach, and as editor at large for a beautiful new art magazine, Secret Behavior. Monica recently partnered with Culture Shock, a creative technology firm based in Dumbo that represents artists working at the intersection of art and technology. This is her real passion, and the source of her belief that art can change the world. We need more people like this.
Monica lives in a tiny apartment in the Lower East Side. Photographing this salad was a technical feat – me up on a teetering barstool in the bathroom, shooting down over Monica’s shoulder as she cut vegetables on a 2’ wide surface in the kitchen. But we made it work, and the abundance of color and pattern in her life certainly helped set the scene.
Monica in her own words:
Julia: Tell me about how you grew up? How did that affect the way you live your adult life? Monica: My parents moved to Saudi Arabia in 1980 to teach Music and Biology at the American School. They thought they’d have a two year adventure and then move back to Chicago, but they never did. I was born in Riyadh, in a clinic next to the airport. We soon moved to Malaysia, Morocco, and finally, Austria where my parents still live and teach. If anything, my childhood has made me unusually excited by change, but I am always keen to define and control my surroundings. I’m currently working on reveling in the grey areas. It’s also left me with a serious love for pattern (note all my eclectic dishware from Poland, Morocco etc.). Julia: Where does this salad come from? And how did it become “famous?” Monica: I got the idea for the dressing from a salad at Papa Razzi, the Italian restaurant where I worked for 4 years in college. I never got sick of this salad. I started to make it at home for family and friends. Soon, people began requesting this salad. My friend Jasmine Solano was the one who first called it “famous,” but a few people have suggested I bottle the dressing. A friend’s mom sent the recipe to all of her sisters, so it’s now being made all over the country. Julia: Your apartment is small in the traditional New York City sense of the word. Does it feel really intimate to have people over since no inch of the space that goes unseen? Monica: Yes, totally small and intimate. I’m a big believer in the physical influence of an individual’s energy so I’m particular about who I invite in. But, I invite friends over all the time, I like their residue. Julia: You name your plants, when and why did you start doing that? Monica: A few years ago when I bought my fig tree and I named it after my friend Karie, who shares my love of fig-based scents. Then I read the book The Secret Life of Plants, and it certainly solidified the practice. Now I have a “Friend Garden.” It makes me feel more connected to the plants. Julia: You went from working at PAPER Magazine, to working for an Art Fair, and you are now out on your own. What kind of projects excite you now that you have the chance to pick and choose? Monica: I’m all fired up by creative minds using math, science and engineering. I really do believe that if we’re going to save the planet it’s going to be through the work of the creatives, not the politicians. We need to champion people thinking outside of the box for seemingly stale or “insurmountable” problems – like Boyan Slat, a 19 year old student who invented a solar powered boat to suck up all the plastic floating in the ocean, or the artist Ricardo Cid who created a new way of writing and solving algebra using lines and symbols rather than alphanumeric nomenclature.
- 1 bunch of Kale, the darker and firmer the better - 1 small cucumber, quartered length wise and then sliced thin - 1 handful of grape tomatoes, halved - 1 orange or red bell pepper, sliced into small squares - 1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts - 2 tablespoons capers - 1 can garbanzo beans - 8 big fresh mushrooms, any variety, sliced - 3 lemons - Olive Oil - 1 heaping tablespoon Dijon Mustard - 1 clove fresh garlic - ½ cup sheep’s milk Feta - 1 tsp Red pepper flakes - 1 tsp dried Oregano - pinch of Salt & Pepper
Start with the dressing – Juice the three lemons with a fork so that you get all of the pulp into the bowl, crush the garlic directly into the lemon, add dijon mustard and olive oil then whisk.
Add all of the vegetables to the bowl with the dressing, besides the kale. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving, can actually rest over night. The longer you let it sit the better the dressing tastes.
When ready to serve, wash and spin kale. Remove the center stalk from the leaves, massage with olive oil and a pinch of salt until soft and wilted. Cut the kale into think strips. Add to your bowl of vegetables.
Add a very generous sprinkle of oregano, and more olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste.
Top with crumbled feta.
Growing up, I remember eating a dish with sausage, peppers and onions over rice all the time. It’s an easy “go-to” meal that everybody seems to enjoy. I updated it by adding some spices and garlic but I still can’t seem to make it like mom use too.
*people have been asking for recipes…so I’ve added a recipe tab above!*