Kale chips and kale smoothies might be all the rage, but a simple presentation of the fresh greens, with a bit of dressing and a scattering of complementary ingredients, offers an even simpler way to add vitamin-rich kale into your diet. Unlike spinach or lettuce, kale needs a bit of manipulating to turn the fibrous vegetable into a tender salad green.
The heavy center rib in kale leaves should be removed before you make your salad. The easiest way to do this is to fold the large leaves in half, then slice the leafy parts from the stem. The crinkled texture of the leaves themselves are effective hiding places for dirt and debris. Remove these unwanted bits by swishing them in a large bowl of cold water, then rinse the greens under a stream of cold water. For salads, pat the leaf pieces dry with paper towels or use a salad spinner.
Because kale leaves are so fibrous, slicing the clean and deribbed leaves into bite-sized pieces is the best way to work with their texture. The “Bon Appetit” test kitchen recommends sprinkling an acidic dressing on the kale leaves, then squeezing the bunches of leaves briefly to help break down the dense structure of the leafy greens. Let the leaves rest for five minutes before tossing in additional salad ingredients.
Creamy dressings tend to lack the acid needed to tenderize uncooked kale. Yet that doesn’t mean that your dressing choices are limited. Make a dressing that’s roughly equal parts olive oil and lemon juice, perhaps with a bit of sugar to brighten the flavors. If you like your dressings a bit thicker, add some mustard and honey to an oil-vinegar blend. For an Asian twist, use rice wine vinegar and sesame oil as your base ingredients, with splashes of soy sauce and some grated fresh ginger.
For a combination salad, use about half as much of another leafy vegetable in your salad, such as cabbage, chard, baby spinach or iceberg lettuce. Shredded vegetables like radishes and carrots add color, while special ingredients such as sunflower or pumpkin seeds, chopped nuts, and fresh or dried fruits add unexpected flavor and texture notes. To turn a side salad into a main course, add additional proteins, such as garbanzo beans, shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, cooked shrimp or chopped chicken breast.
References and ResourcesHarvest to Table: Kitchen Basics -- Kale
Cooking Light: Kale Salad
Bon Appetit: 6 Kale Salad Mistakes to Avoid