For a long time I was not on the kale salad bandwagon. I didn’t understand what people found so appealing about eating raw, chewy, bitter, hard to digest kale. I much preferred it the way my Mema has been making it for as long as I can remember, cooked in a flavorful broth (that usually included some sort of ham hock or bacon) until super tender.
Then I discovered two things that changed my opinion of kale salad.
1) Massaging the kale in lemon juice, olive oil and kosher or sea salt before eating.
2) Using Tuscan (also known as Lacinato) kale instead of plain curly kale. It’s much more ideal for kale salad thanks to it’s more tender texture and milder flavor profile.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this but kale is a nutritional powerhouse. According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, it’s one of the best vegetables you can eat and includes high amounts of Vitamin K, Vitamin A and Vitamin C in addition to a ton of other nutrients. I now frequently make kale salad at home, serve it when entertaining and take it out to get togethers. I also still love steamed kale and kale chips when it comes to cooking kale!
Last Sunday we had a staff potluck for the yoga studio so I whipped up a kale salad featuring some of my favorite ingredients.
I removed the Tuscan kale from the ribs (it’s an important step to get rid of the tough ribs) and then chopped it. I massaged the kale with a mixture of lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt for about 2-3 minutes. This helps break down the kale and you can see it start to wilt and soften as you massage it. I know it sounds crazy but if you haven’t tried massaging your kale yet, I promise it’s worth it! Another benefit of the massage with lemon, olive oil and salt is that you really don’t need any additional dressing after that.
I tossed in roasted golden beets, pine nuts, dried figs and feta. I served crumbled bacon on the side since I had some vegetarians in the group. Personally, I recommend adding the bacon if you’re on board with meat. It pairs so well with the sweet figs and beets.
The salad was a hit at the potluck and I received several questions on how to get the kale to taste so good. Massage, massage, massage! 😉 This salad holds well so you could easily make it several hours before serving. Actually, the kale tastes even better after sitting for a while in the lemon juice mixture.
Here’s the recipe!
Tuscan Kale Salad with Golden Beets, Figs and Feta
(Recipe created by Jen DeCurtins)
1 large bunch of Tuscan kale (if bunches are small, get two!)
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Kosher or sea salt
2 small to medium golden beets
1/3 cup dried figs
1/4 cup roasted salted pine nuts
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon (optional)
Preheat oven to 400. Wrap beets in foil. Roast for about an hour or until easily pierced with a fork. Unwrap from foil and run under cold water to easily remove the outer skin.
Place dried figs in a bowl and cover with water. Microwave on high for 3 minutes and then let sit for about 10 minutes. This will soften up the figs. Drain and chop.
Remove kale from ribs and stems, wash and dry. Chop the kale into bite sized pieces or shreds.
Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice and drizzle over kale. Sprinkle with salt and massage using your hands for 2-3 minutes or until kale visibly begins to break down and wilt.
Add in diced beets, chopped figs, pine nuts, feta and bacon if including. Taste and season with salt and pepper and another drizzle of olive oil if needed.
Yield: 4 servings