Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kale Salad

I'm the worst vegetarian ever.  I don't like tofu (unless it's buried in vegan ice cream), and I'm leery of unusual vegetables.  "Unusual vegetables," in my world, are all vegetables that did not come in small paper boxes in the freezer section of my childhood grocery store.

So I'm as surprised as anyone to find myself posting a recipe for kale salad.  We ate iceberg.  It was a big leap for me to try romaine and spinach in salads, but I've generally shied away from more exotic greens.

But one of my online friends, author Jessica Park, posted a recipe on Facebook, and I took it as a challenge.  I poked around, found a few other recipes out there, cobbled them together to create something my own.  Turns out it was dang good, a hearty, flavorful salad that filled us up and wasn't even a tiny bit "weird."

What I learned in my research:  massaging the kale and allowing it to sit in its dressing are important.  Massaging the kale (literally rubbing it between your fingers for a few minutes) breaks down the cell walls, softening the leaves and essentially "cooking" the kale, without any heat at all.  [NOTE: a lot of the recipes I read suggest adding a little salt to the leaves before you massage them, but I didn't bother.  If you do add salt to the leaves, omit it from the dressing.]  See what a difference the massaging made:

Before Massage
After Massage

Similarly, the acid from the dressing will further this process, removing the bitterness and leaving you with robust but tender greens.

What I learned from making the salad:  One big bunch of kale made enough salad for four big meals (Mr. Wendy and I do not eat dainty portions).  After dinner, I dumped the leftover--already dressed!--salad into a container and stuck it in the fridge.  The next day, the leaves were still just as full and crunchy as the night before.  I think, then, that this would be a great lunch alternative:  make a bunch of salad on Sunday and take it to work throughout the week, and don't worry about toting along messy little containers of dressing.

The spirit of this salad is very much along the lines of a dozen Tuscan kale salads you'll find out there on the web, but I made it on the fly so the proportions and some of the "garnishes" are my own.  Feel free to experiment to make this salad suit the tastes of you and your family. (Click here for a printer-friendly version of the recipe.)

Kale Salad

1 bunch kale


1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. fruity, full-bodied olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
pinch Kosher or sea salt
pinch red pepper flakes

Toppings (choose what sounds good to you!):

shaved parmesan
Kalamata olives, halved
toasted pine nuts
chick peas (rinsed)

Prepare the kale by cutting out the big stems and chiffonade the rest of the leaves (cut them into thin strips).  Put the kale in a big ol' bowl and massage for 2-4 minutes.  Literally dig in with your hands and rub the leaves between your fingers, until the leaves turn dark and start to smell like they're cooking.

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together.  Pour the dressing through a fine mesh sieve (to remove the chunks of garlic) onto the salad.  Toss well.

Allow the salad to sit for five minutes or so while you prepare the rest of the salad items (toast the pine nuts, chop the olives, dice the tomatoes, etc.).  Serve with a mild crusty bread.


Congratulations to Lynn Sitzes, winner of the Parfait Giveaway!  And a huge thank you to all who entered.


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook.


  1. Thanks for sharing the recipe, Wendy. I'm a huge fan of Kale. My husband teases me that I must own stock in it ;) I added it to sauces and soups all winter long and have been looking for ways to eat it this summer so I'll try your salad.

  2. I never knew about massaging Kale. I'm going to try this one.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Maybe we need to have a new day. Yesterday was Eat Your Veggies Day, today could be "Massage Your Veggies Day"!
    Love it. I had no idea about massaging kale. I'm going to try this!

  4. Massaging the kale...who woulda thunk it? I'll have to pass this on to my daughter, who is much into kale these days--we even have some in the fridge.

  5. It's weird, right? But it absolutely works. And now I want to play with adding kale to pasta - with shallots, parm, good olvie oil, and maybe some little tomatoes? Don't know, but I'm hooked!

  6. I'm so glad that you were the tester for this recipe, LOL! It sounded so good...and weird... to me, but I loved the idea of doing something with raw kale. I have always loved kale cooked into stews but have been hesitant to try it raw. Plus, who doesn't love a massage? The kale could only be happy about this. I will definitely try this one now!

  7. I have never heard of eating raw kale, much less massaging any vegetable. I cooked kale just last night in the old conventional way. I cannot wait to try this. What a hoot!

    ~ Krista

  8. You know, that would make a cool cookbook title, Wendy--"The Worst Vegetarian Ever!" :0

    I'll admit that I don't do a lot with kale (anything with kale?) so I'm glad to get some direction here. And your picture of the kale salad looks delish!!

  9. Brilliant! This is a must-try and will, no doubt, become a house favorite. Thank you, Wendy!!

    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  10. Kale has become a staple here at Chez Phillipe in the last year and this is the first time I have head about "massaging" it!! I can't wait to do this!!! I make Kale chips on a regular basis in a feeble attempt to be a healthier eater...they are quite wonderful!!
    Bravo to you for being brave and trying something new!!!

  11. If you experiment with the massaged kale, do post back and let me know how it went. And, again, a big thanks to Jessica for prodding me into trying this.

  12. You ARE a pretty bad vegetarian! But you've made me curious about the salad. ;)