Friday July 5, 2013

To me, it deserves a chuckle, no matter what. Massaged kale? Really? But that is what it is and honestly, when I try to think of a better name I can’t come up with one.

I first had massaged kale salad at a get-together of organizations that were looking for ways to forward community nutrition and related services collaboratively. I have always liked kale, but had never been a big fan of it raw. This salad changed my mind forever. It wasn’t tough, chewy or too, well, raw kale-y, just full of flavour and with a lovely texture. It had lots of body, something that lettuce salads can lack, and the kale’s distinct flavor held up to a variety of strong flavours and textures. I was hooked on this new and exciting way to use kale!

Apparently I am not as up-to date as I thought I was, though. When I began my trusty Internet search for ‘massaged kale salad’ one the the first entries I found declared ‘massaged kale salad is nothing new... .’ Wow, had I ever missed the boat.

Massaging the kale with the dressing ingredients accomplishes two things; the acid and salt help break down the walls of the kale, making it tender and a bit sweeter. The physical act of rubbing the leaves bruises them and helps to incorporate the dressing so the kale becomes full of flavour. The basic process is the same and very simple and with a long list of possible add-ins, the delicious results are many. You just need kale (any kind will do), an acid and some salt. Olive oil tahini, avocado are all good additions for creaminess and a satisfying ‘mouth-feel.’

The following recipe is adapted from Eating Well and reminds me very much of a Caesar salad (they even suggested adding anchovy, but I left that out). Homemade croutons are a delicious addition.

Garlicky Massaged Kale Salad

1 large bunch of kale

One quarter cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated is best

Juice of half a lemon

One half teaspoon sea salt

2 cloves garlic, minced

Olive oil to taste/texture

Fresh black pepper to taste

De-stem kale by folding leaves ‘right sides together’ and slicing along length of stem with your knife. Cut or tear kale into small pieces and place in a bowl that is easy to get both your hands into. Add Parmesan, lemon juice, salt, garlic and a bit of olive oil and massage kale, until dark green, about 5 minutes, until reduced in size and slightly shiny. Taste and correct texture and flavour by adding more olive oil, salt, an extra squeeze of lemon juice and lots of black pepper. Toss with freshly-made croutons and serve immediately.

There are also recipes where you prepare the dressing in the bowl first -- perhaps a favorite vinaigrette or a creamy tahini-based dressing, then add the kale, massage and serve. Do whatever makes you more comfortable.

As I mentioned above, massaged kale holds up to other ingredients very well. I found a great recipe that massaged the kale in a vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar, olive oil (equal parts) with a bit of lime juice and honey to taste, then mixed in cooked quinoa, walnuts, chopped apple and dried cranberries. Lettuce would have a hard time competing with that!

Funny or not, kale isn’t the only green that people are massaging. Mustard greens, broccoli rabe and bitter greens can all be found massaged in salads. Experiment with any hardy green and find the combination of textures and flavor that you like. Go ahead, give your kale a little extra love!