I often find myself thinking of different versions of kale preparations. There is no question that kale has been on people's minds for the past years. Actually, some sort of kale fanaticism has been going on, and it doesn’t seem to be going away. So why is kale so f’ing awesome? It contains a decent amount of vitamin A, tons of vitamin K, loads of trace minerals and phytonutrients, and high levels of antioxidants. It’s an anti-inflammatory, contains lutein for our eyes and is enzymatically active and living. But why are people practically fanatics about it. I may have the answer: kale gives me that awesome eating experience that makes me feel alive and vibrant in a way that few other things do.
In the last few years kale dishes outsold other menu items by far in our restaurants, so it makes perfect sense to keep inventing new dishes. By now, kale is very much footed in the average salad menu category--most likely you'll find cobb, Caesar, and, ta–da!, kale salad. Whether partially boiled, sautéed, steamed, poached, braised, brined, pickled, blanched, grilled, fried, dehydrated, pressure-cooked, flash-frozen or dried, kale is tasty and goes with the flow. Year-round it’s there for us and its texture changes from tough and sturdy in late fall to fluffy and light in spring.
Here are some kale preparation tricks that will let us live life happily from here on out.
Generally, kale’s stubborn leafy green texture and somewhat cabbage-y taste requires an acidic dressing environment. I recommend being generous with either lemon juice or vinegar, or a combination of both.
In order to coat the kale leaves properly and to make a tasty salad, don't be afraid of using a generous amount of dressing. Think Caesar–salad levels of dressing.
Contrary to gently tossing tender salad greens, kale needs to be massaged, so don't be afraid to “knead” your kale salad--similar to bread dough. It will break the rugged kale texture down and soften it.
Tender greens will wilt rather quickly. However, with kale time is not of the essence, so let your dressed kale salad rest in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before serving. It will tenderize the leaves and make it easier to digest.
Kale has a cabbage texture and hence benefits from the addition of rich crunchy textures. Add toasted nuts, lightly fried potato straw or chips, multigrain chips, baked corn chips or crunchy rice chips. The crunch will make for a more pleasurable eating experience.
Kale used to be the go-to leafy green for buffet platter garnishing. Nobody would even think of touching it for consumption. This makes total sense! Have you ever tried an undressed kale leaf? It's nothing exciting, for sure! These days a buffet is not complete without a kale salad in the center of the line up. Kale requires big, bold flavor and mingles harmoniously with bacon, ginger, blue cheese, miso or anchovies.
I’ve just come back from a trip of the local farmers market, so here’s my kale salad inspiration of the moment….
Summer Kale Salad
(recipe makes 4 portions)
2 bunches of kale or 12 oz cleaned
1 large peach
1 pinky-finger-sized piece of ginger
2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
Black pepper from the mill, to taste
Sea salt, to taste
1) With a knife cut the thick stem out of the kale leaves. Chop kale leaves to a 1/4-inch thick knife cut. Rinse kale with water and dry in a salad spinner or on a kitchen paper towel.
2) Rinse peach with water, cut in half, remove pit and cut into 1/4-inch cubes.
3) Peel ginger and chop into tiny cubes.
4) In a large bowl combine peach, ginger, lemon juice, olive oil and feta cheese. With a table fork vigorously stir the ingredients.
5) Toss kale and peach mixture together and "knead" the ingredients gently. Let mixture rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes; it will marry the flavors and tenderize the kale.
6) Just before serving season the kale salad with salt and pepper to taste.