Kale is an improbably nutritious food, high in just about everything the human body requires: fiber, anticarcinogens, detoxificants, antioxidants, and a pleathora of vitamins. One cup of boiled kale contains over a thousand percent of the daily requirement of Vitamin K! Unfortunately, the most common ways of preparing kale – steaming and boiling – can become tiresome, even with the addition of flavor enhancers like onions, garlic and red pepper (and if you haven’t already tried preparing kale this way, stop reading and get to it now: heat one or two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a skillet, toss in a good handful of chopped onions and/or garlic, sprinkle with red pepper flakes, and after it has sizzled for a minute or two, toss in a head freshly washed kale torn into manageable peaces. Cook until somewhat darker, limper, and more aromatic).
Often, however, the intense texture and flavor of cooked kale can be a bit off-putting, especially if the leafy green crucifer is a regular guest on the dinner table. This is why kale salad in lemon dressing is such a gift. This recipe first came to my attention through Emily Gould’s excellent (now defunct) blog Heartbreak Soup. When I first read about it, it sounded like an unusual idea for a salad, but in the intervening two years the kale salad has begun to appear everywhere. The 101 Coffee Shop, my neighborhood diner, serves a Greek version, and I’ve seen it served elsewhere in LA with candied nuts, apples, and bleu cheese. Over the past few years I have adapted it into a dinner staple. The combination of bright tastes and fresh ingredients make it perfect regardless of the season or occasion. This recipe makes enough to serve four, but I include it unchanged because the salad keeps well over night, another gift of kale’s hearty texture. The day after it makes a nice lunch tucked into a warmed pita or corn tortilla, or tossed with brown rice or couscous.
1 head of curly or lacinato kale
Juice of one lemon
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2 or 3 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin coins
1 avocado, diced
1 small tomato, diced or a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
3 or 4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced red cabbage
1/3 cup chopped feta or bleu cheese
1 apple, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red onions, thinly sliced
Tear the kale from its center ribs in bite-sized pieces and wash under cold water in a colander. Combine lemon juice and olive oil in the bottom of a salad bowl; add garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. Beat with fork until golden and a bit cloudy. Taste; it should be tart but smooth. Add kale pieces to dressing and, to use Gould’s word, “massage” the dressing into the kale, working for a bit longer than seems necessary. You should be able to feel the rough leaves begin to soften in the acidic dressing. Allow to sit as you prepare the other ingredients. I am partial to the combination of the massaged kale, carrots, and avocado; sometimes the scallions are helpful, as well. Use what you have: tomatoes, red onions and feta will give the salad a Mediterranean feel, while apples and bleu cheese make it a bit more Alsatian. This is a great salad to make for lunch or dinner after a morning at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market.