My love affair with kale began when I discovered how to make this simple salad. It takes 10 minutes to make and it makes eating raw kale so delicious, even picky eaters ask for more. Kale has an abundance of calcium, lutein (an antioxidant), iron, and is rich in vitamins A, C, and K. Most people are surprised to hear that it has seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and ten times more lutein.
The secret to this salad is in the massage – when you squeeze the kale with lime or lemon juice, the acidity “cooks” it, making it softer and shrinking the greens down to a fraction of their original state. I like to add a combination of lemon, salt, sugar, and healthy fat to my kale salad — these four essential elements create a dish with a delicious, balanced flavor. Added bonus: This salad will stay fresh in your fridge for a few days, so make a big batch and then toss in whatever extras you like when you serve it.
There are several types of kale–red, green, curled, savoy, and fringed–and they will all work for this recipe. Try Lacinato (an heirloom variety that is also known as Dinosaur kale) with the Asian Kale Salad below and green curly kale with the Italian version you see in the photo.
Basic Massaged Kale Salad
4-6 cups (one bunch) kale
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
¼ cup olive oil or 1 chopped avocado
1. Wash, dry, and remove the thick center stems from your kale. Tear the leaves into pieces and toss it in a roomy bowl.
2. Add your acid of choice, salt, sweetener, and healthy fat.
3. Now it’s time for the “cook” the kale by massaging: With clean hands, toss the whole lot together, then take big handfuls and squeeze the dressed greens. Keep tossing and squeezing for about one to three minutes. You’ll know the kale is ready when it has significantly shrunk in volume and looks cooked.
4. Let the kale sit and absorb the dressing while you chop your other veggies and add the other elements of your salad.
Fall Harvest Kale Salad
¼ cup chopped, toasted walnuts
1 diced apple
1/3 cup goat cheese
Italian Kale Salad
Massage in 1 clove of minced garlic then toss in:
1 cup chopped tomatoes
¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons of raw pine nuts or chopped pistachios
Asian Kale Salad
Instead of salt, substitute 1 tablespoon tamari. Massage in 1 inch of fresh minced ginger, then toss in:
1 cup seeded and chopped cucumber
½ cup diced red or yellow bell pepper
¼ cup chopped scallion
¼ cup grated carrot
1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds
Experiment with seasonal fruits and vegetables. Add nuts and seeds and let us know — what’s your favorite version of kale salad?
Brigitte Center of Brigitte’s Naturally Alive is certified in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University. She teaches ‘Raw Food for Real Life’ un-cooking classes, helps people jump-start healthy eating habits with a green smoothie delivery service, and writes the blog Raw Food Living Diet.