Grilled Kale Salad with Goat Cheese Polenta

This is the perfect salad to prepare on the Kalamazoo Gaucho Grill, and kale has never tasted so good! Brushed with garlic oil and grilled over a wood fire, it develops earthy flavors as the leaves turn crispy around the edges. Goat cheese polenta is grilled as well, for a delightfully distinctive flavor. Blistered cherry tomatoes and maple vinaigrette add the perfect touch of sweetness.

Make the polenta a day in advance so that it is easier to grill.

By Russ Faulk, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet
Serves 4
Image of Grilled Kale Salad with Goat Cheese Polenta

  • 6 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 large lacinato kale leaves, thoroughly dried
  • Fine gray sea salt
  • 12 heirloom cherry tomatoes

For the goat cheese polenta

  • 4 ounces goat’s milk brie, we use Wellspring Creamery
  • 1 cup goat’s milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup white corn grits
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut up
  • Extra virgin olive oil

For the maple vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (we use Blis 9)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (we use Blis bourbon barrel aged maple syrup)

Prepare the polenta a day ahead of time so it is thoroughly chilled and set before you need to grill it.

Scrape off the rind of the cheese and discard. Cut the cheese into small pieces and reserve.

Combine the milk, water, and salt in a round-bottomed pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the grits and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thick and the grits have softened, about 20 minutes. Stir in the butter and cheese until thoroughly combined. Remove from heat.

Generously oil a flat-bottomed baking dish that’s about 8 inches square (smaller is better than larger). Spread the polenta into the dish and let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare a wood fire for grilling at medium-high heat. For more information, see our Guide to the Gaucho Grill

Crush 6 cloves of garlic and stir into 1/2 cup of olive oil. Let the flavors combine while the fire is getting ready.

Slice the chilled polenta to about ¾ inch thick. Each slice should be no more than 4 inches long for easier grilling. Lightly brush the slices with plain olive oil.

Once the wood fire has transformed to glowing coals, brush the front side of the kale leaves with the garlic-infused oil. Season with sea salt. Do the same with the tomatoes.

Make the dressing by whisking 3 tablespoons olive oil with the sherry vinegar and maple syrup until emulsified.

Adjust the height of the grill grates and the density of the coal bed for a grill grate temperature of 600°F to 700°F. Your grill grate is at the correct temperature when you can hold your hand 2 – 3 inches above the grate for only 3 – 4 seconds. Adjust the grate up and down to find the sweet spot.

Grill the polenta until warmed through and nicely-marked, turning once, about 4 minutes of total grilling time. This is where Kalamazoo laser-cut stainless-steel grill grates come in extra handy. The flat surface and excellent heat retention make the polenta less likely to stick to the grill. Be patient with the polenta. It will release from the grill when it is ready to, and this cannot be rushed. I recommend grilling a test slice first. I also recommend using tongs to handle the polenta rather than a turner/spatula.

Grilled Goat Cheese Polenta

Remove the grilled polenta from the grill and reserve.

Next, grill the cherry tomatoes. Turn them on the grill until all sides are blistered and the insides are hot, for about 4 minutes of total grilling time. Remove from the grill and reserve.

Grilled Cherry Tomatoes

Place the kale leaves on the grill with the oiled-side down. Grill until brown spots cover nearly 50% of the leaf. Check frequently, and grill on one side only.

Grilled Kale

Roughly chop the grilled kale for serving and assemble the salad. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and serve warm.