If you're working with kale for the first time, this post on how to cook kale is a good place to start. As you read on here, I'll elaborate, if not begrudgingly, on the baloney of massaging kale. Why people do it, and why it's unnecessary. But better yet below is my favorite kale salad recipe with a sweet, creamy easy apple vinaigrette (dressing). I truly hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
First kale first: my favorite salad
While living in Rhinebeck, New York and attending the CIA (culinary, not covert operations), the Husband and I loved eating at the enchanting, historic and never-disappointing restaurant Terrapin. One of the most memorable dishes (aside from truffle Parmesan fries) was the chef's kale salad. I know, I know. SALAD? SERIOUSLY? Just give me thirty more seconds.
The elements of a great kale salad, or any salad, really
Among the creamy blue cheese, toasted pine nuts and sweet dried cranberries, what's not to like? In terms of salad, that is. We all know we'd rather be eating macarons, but let's be grown ups here and stay focused.
The best way to create a salad you actually want to eat, is to hit all the high notes. Sweet, salty, sour and bitter.
So let's put my Terrapin salad to the test:
Success! Here's another I love to make on a Sunday that keeps well for a busy week.
This approach applies to any dish, but is more important with salads because the main ingredient - lettuces and greens - are rather bland and/or bitter alone. Even if you can find three out of four in your kitchen, you'll enjoy obligatory, nutrient-packed roughage better than without.
The low down on the rub down
Speaking of roughage. Kale is a seriously stubborn, fibrous vegetable. It's a cold winter crop, so go figure. But unless you are attempting to eat whole kale leaves without so much as salt on them, massaging them is a waste of time and sanity.
Some chefs and bloggers swear by the practice. My 7-year-old would say, "come on!"
How to tenderize kale, the sensical way
If you've set out to make any kale salad, you most likely own a kitchen knife. And a knife is WAY better at softening tough greens than your hands. I'm pretty sure that's one reason why we humans invented knives in the first place.
Remove the leaves from the stalks and chop or slice them as thinly as possible. You see, as you push the kale around the cutting board slicing and dicing, essentially you're "massaging" it. And trust me, after you chop a literal bunch of kale, giving a massage will be the last thing you want to do.
Also, as you dress and mix your salad ingredients, your "massaging" them. Any more rough-housing and you risk a limp, wilted kale leaves. Slicing kale into thin, small pieces also aids digestion.
The fastest, easiest way to cut kale
To make quick work of a mindless task, stack and roll up several leaves at a time and slice cross-wise to create chiffonade. I know, I know, I'm always bringing the French into everything.
The true beauty of kale
If you find the thought of eating raw kale abhorrent, you're not alone. In that case, you may find you like it better after the mixed salad marinates in the fridge a day or so.
Even tossed with dressing, kale is sturdy enough to hold texture longer than most greens. It keeps well in the fridge, and will soften slightly after day two and three.
Kale as a vehicle for cheese
Since I'm being brutally honest and snarky, I will confess I won't eat many a salad without cheese. Kale, especially. For paleo and dairy-free diets, perhaps switch in a creamy, salty nut like cashews.
This kale salad recipe calls for a creamy blue cheese like Dansk (from Murray's Cheese). I love Roquefort or Point Reyes Blue, too, and plenty of pre-crumbled blue cheese brands bring the yum. Fresh goat cheese is also salty, tangy and packed with flavor.
I really can eat this salad by the bowlful. And you can believe me because I'm keeper of the keys to the cookie jar. I also highly value a real massage that involves my aching muscles, not my dinner. But hey, if massaging your kale makes you happy, by all means do it.
Yours in kale,
This salad falls well within the parameters of GAPS, Paleo and even keto diets. For strict keto, leave the honey out of it.
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil, avocado oil or combination of both
- 2 medium or 3 small apples, Gala recommended
- ¾ cup of unsweetened apple sauce
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 bunch of kale, chopped into thin strips
- 1 apple, cored & diced, Honeycrisp recommended
- Tree nut of your choice, lightly toasted (pine nuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, etc)
- 2 ounces Roquefort, or any blue cheese crumbles (omit for dairy-free diets)
- kosher salt + black pepper
In a food processor or blender, combine dressing ingredients and blend until smooth.
- In a medium bowl, whisk apple sauce, lemon juice, honey, cinnamon and vinegar.
- Slowly drizzle in oils until fully combined (order doesn't matter).
Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate for up to two weeks. You may need to whisk vigorously to recombine.
Add that crunch
To toast nuts, toss lightly in a pan over medium-high heat until just fragrant, and beginning to turn color.
Dress + Serve
Combine salad ingredients, add as much dressing as you like, and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Store chilled for up three to four days.
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