Kale falls into the category of things my husband would say tastes "dirty". He cares much less than I do about being on trend in the food department, which in turn makes him inherently cooler than me. To be liberated enough to declare This tastes like branches! when I insist he try my new matcha experiment is a quality I admire and respect. Though my inner sadist, who lives quite close to the surface, really enjoys the faces he makes (often accompanied by the tiniest of retches) when tasting one of my hippie concoctions. Needless to say, I ask him to try a lot of things. Don't judge. (To be fair, sometimes the mere thought of something can cause him to gag. Like when he's unsure if the milk has turned and a sniff test is required. He'll retch before the lid even comes off. I've always felt he should have pursued The Stage; nothing short of Juilliard could have harnessed his extraordinary raw talent.)
Despite his innate aversion to certain cruciferous vegetables (unless it's pickled into sauerkraut and piled on a dog), these days he's cautiously open-minded when it comes kale. Which is good considering it's all the rage. Have you heard? (Though I hear cauliflower is vying for its spot as Vegetable Supreme.)
I'll admit, kale is tough if not approached properly. If eaten raw, it must be exposed to an acid, massaged, and nurtured into a more palatable texture. But when done right, it can make for an existential experience. I like the more substantial texture than regular lettuce, and let's not forget the vitamins and minerals it sends coursing through your veins! (Mario's not the only dramatist in this house.)
The following three recipes have made the cut 'round these parts. Which means they've been prepared multiple times, perfected, and are enjoyed by both the adults in this family (and occasionally The Kid). I have served them as side dishes or a light lunch for myself, but throw on a protein and vuala! you have a complete meal.
I first fell in love with this salad via our local co-op in New Hampshire. They called it Emerald Salad, and it was featured in their deli case every few days. It was good, and seemed simple enough, so I set out to make it at home for a fraction of the cost. It is all those things and more: savory, satisfying, and super simple.
Emerald Kale Salad
2 heads purple kale, stems removed and leaves cut into bite-sized pieces
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil (or regular sesame oil, if it's whatcha got)
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
5 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp sesame seeds
Place kale in a large lidded container. Add the oils and shake it like a Polaroid picture (vigorously) to distribute the oils and "bruise" the kale. Add the soy sauce, garlic and sesame seeds and shake some more. Taste, and add a tad more soy sauce, if needed. Let rest for about 15 minutes and serve. [Adapted from Gone Raw.]
Remember when you were a kid and you'd ask each other If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?. I'm not sure I've narrowed it down to just one, but I have a solid Top Five. Caesar salad is definitely on that list. When done right, it's darn near the perfect meal, says me. (Anchovies? Yes, please!) So when I set out to make one using all the kale I'd picked up at the farmer's market last summer, I spent some time choosing the perfect recipe. With very little tweaking, this one became a fast favorite.
Kale Caesar Salad
1-2 heads kale, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, smashed
zest + juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
4 anchovy fillets (more or less to taste, though I prefer 4-5)
2 dashes Worstershire sauce
coarse sea salt
croutons (store bought or homemade)
Place the kale in a large bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil and dash of lemon juice. Massage kale until it begins to soften slightly and set aside. Combine Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, Dijon and anchovies in a food processor and pulse until smooth. With the food processor running, stream in 1/3 cup olive oil until combined, then run for an additional 10-15 seconds. Taste and add salt and/or more Dijon, anchovy, garlic, or lemon juice, if desired. (Note: I also frequently substitute anchovy paste for fillets. A couple healthy squirts will do.)
Pour 2/3 of the dressing over the kale, add croutons, and toss with tongs. Let rest for 5 minutes, taste, and add more dressing if needed. Plate and top with additional Parmesan shavings if you're fancy like me. Shrimp, chicken, and salmon all work well with this recipe. [Adapted from Anne Burrell's Kale Caesar Salad recipe.]
Massaged Kale Salad // When I go to the Portland Farmer's Market, I darn near lose my mind. Fifty bunches of kale, staggeringly large stalks of Brussels sprouts, and fifteen pounds of fresh ginger later, I walk away with nary an idea what to do with all that fresh foliage. On one such occasion my in-laws were visiting and I thought, Let's hope they like kale. We had two mangoes sitting on the counter a few days from funky, so I did what any warm-blooded American does and googled mango + kale. And would you know it, there's a recipe for that. I didn't alter this recipe at all, except to double it, and it was totally on-point. Since then I've substituted slivered almonds for the pepitas, since they aren't something I normally have on hand. Equally delicious. It was a huge hit (Kiddo and the in-laws ate it all up) (!!!), and has henceforth found a place in my trusty recipe binder. The End.