If you stay on top of food trends, you know what a big deal kale has been over the last few years. Everyone’s mad for greens these days, and it’s no wonder. Greens are recognized as the most nutrient-rich group of veggies, with a multitude of benefits. The hardier greens, like kale, chard, and collards are superb sources of highly absorbable calcium, a perk that’s especially valuable in plant-based diets.
Greens are one of the best sources of Vitamin K, essential to bone health, and are abundant in vitamins A, B (especially folic acid), and C.
Greens also provide a wealth of antioxidants and chlorophyll, are protective against cancers, and are anti-inflammatory. All of these are great reasons to eat more greens, aside from the fact that they’re delicious, versatile, and add interest to all manner of preparations.
If you’re already a kale fan, step it up a notch by discovering how to massage kale for making delicious raw kale salads.
When we say massaged kale, we mean that literally. While massaging this hardy green, you’ll see it soften, become brighter green, and more tender right in your (lightly oiled) hands. Most importantly, it will have a more pleasant mouth feel and flavor, making it a fantastic ingredient for a wide variety of salads.
My favorite kind of kale for raw salads are the common curly green kale is the best to use for raw salads. Lacinato works well too, so long as it isn’t too large and tough to begin with. Here are the steps:
1. Strip the kale leaves from the stems. If you want to use the stems, slice them very thinly and set aside, and if not, discard them.
2. Cut the kale into ribbons or bite-sized pieces and give it a good rinse, then dry it thoroughly. You can let it air-dry on a clean kitchen towel; blot between layers of paper towel; or use a salad spinner.
3. Transfer to a serving bowl. Rub a small amount of olive oil onto your palms and massage the kale leaves for 30 to 60 seconds, until they turn bright green and soften. Really get in there and don’t be afraid to use some muscle! The leaves won’t fall apart.
You can also use a bottled or homemade vinaigrette salad dressing to massage the kale instead of olive oil; some people enjoy massaging kale with mashed avocado. Any of these work.
Now you know how to massage kale, and how easy it is! Once kale prepared in this way, you can create an amazing array of salads. Even when kale isn’t the main leafy green in a salad, use this technique to prepare just a few leaves for adding to any kind of green salad, grain salads, pasta salads.
Try the easy ideas below. You really don’t need a formal recipe once you get the basic technique — use your creativity to create your own. For each of the ideas below, assume you’ll need a medium bunch of kale (about 8 ounces), though you can use more or less, as you’d like. Finish each salad with salt and freshly ground pepper if you’d like, though this is optional.
Southwestern-Flavored Kale Salad (shown in the photo above): Add 2 or 3 medium ripe tomatoes, a diced avocado, 1 to 2 cups cooked or raw fresh corn kernels, some strips of red bell pepper, and if you’d like, some chopped green or black olives. Flavor with lime juice and a little olive oil and some chopped cilantro. For extra protein, and to make this a main dish salad, add some black or pinto beans and sprinkle some pumpkin seeds over the top.
Mediterranean Kale Salad: Add 2 or 3 medium ripe tomatoes, strips of dried tomato, plenty of bell pepper strips, and cured black olives. If you’re looking to bolster the protein content of a meal, add a cup or two of cooked or canned (drained and rinsed) chickpeas. Top the salad with thinly sliced basil leaves.
Kale, Apple and Avocado Salad: See the photo, below.Add a peeled, diced avocado and a diced apple (any crisp variety). Add a little more olive oil, in addition to what you used for massaging, some lemon juice, and a splash of maple syrup or agave. Toss in some toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds.
Asian-Flavored Kale Salad: Massage with dark sesame oil instead of olive oil, if you’d like, though this isn’t mandatory! Add a medium red bell pepper, cut into narrow slices, 3 stalks bok choy with leaves, sliced, or 1 sliced baby bok choy, and 1 or 2 thinly sliced scallions. Dress with bottled or homemade sesame-ginger dressing. Optional additions (any or all): some crushed toasted peanuts or cashews, a can of drained baby corn; 4 ounces or so of baked tofu, cut into narrow strips.
Adapted from Plant Power by Nava Atlas
Photo Credits: Top and bottom, iMarzi; kale on rustic wood, Olopeshinka; remaining photos by Hannah Kaminsky.