Looking at the kale salad, I thought the greens must have been blanched or something. They still looked curly but had gone from that ashy green of fresh kale to the forest green of flash cooked kale. Ah, but in actuality, there was no cooking involved whatsoever, unless you count toasting the nuts in the oven, which I didn't bother with myself, and I don’t know if the nuts used at the market had been toasted at home and brought with or just chopped up on the spot. The kale itself had gone from raw to looking cooked by being massaged with salt until the point that the salt wilted the kale enough to eliminate its raw toughness.
There's also something inherently pleasurable for me in using my bare hands in the kitchen, whether it's kneading bread, making meatballs, or fluting a pie crust. Now I can add massaging kale to that mix of tactile kitchen pleasures and learning through the sense of touch when a certain food becomes "ready." The original recipe recommended a five minute massage, so I set my timer and got in there with my hands. Truthfully, the kale had reduced to one half to one third its original volume in about 2 minutes, but I kept going another thirty seconds because I couldn’t believe that raw kale had changed so dramatically in so little time. The salt really did its magic! I used two teaspoons of salt, which may have been too much and the reason the greens transformed so quickly. Perhaps with just a teaspoon of salt the massage would have taken longer, but I’ll find out next time.
With great thanks to A Bikeable Feast and Ibti for making this salad at the market and opening up a whole new world of cruciferous salads/slaws to me! Here is my heavily annotated recipe, written thusly to encourage you to make this salad with whatever you may have on hand that you might enjoy as part of this salad.
- a handful or two of nuts or seeds, toasted (optionally) and chopped if necessary (I used almonds and didn't toast; pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds would not need to be chopped obviously; flax seeds are too minuscule to use here)
- kale, tough stems removed, leaves chopped, rinsed, and dried somewhat (it's hard to say how much kale to use here. I usually buy kale and other greens tied and bunched together and I know that two bunches make 4 cooked servings. However, I started with one bunch for this recipe which filled my salad bowl before I started the massage. So the best measure might be "a decent sized salad bowl full of raw chopped kale.")
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, a bit more if needed (two teaspoons was too much because a bit too much saltiness got into the kale, although the massage time was cut in half from Ibti's 5 minute recommendation. Then again that could have been because of my man hands.)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 -2 tablespoons vinegar of your choice (I used plum wine vinegar, but again, use what you like/have on hand. Apple cider or balsamic is recommended in the source recipe, but sherry or another wine vinegar, etc. would work just fine.
- half a medium red onion, diced or sliced thin (to take the sharpeness out of raw onion, cover the sliced onion for ten minutes with vinegar or with water and a teaspoon of sugar; rinse, then pat dry lightly. Onion flavor, yes, onion breath, no! Or just use a sweet onion like a vidalia.)
- One medium apple, cored and diced or cored, quartered and thinly sliced crosswise into quarter circles (kohlrabi or pear would make an apt substitution here, or go exotic and try a fall fruit like persimmon)
- a handful of dried cranberries (any dried fruit will do here: chopped apricots, raisins, dried cherries, etc.; I happened to use fresh pomegranate seeds actually)
- a few turns of fresh cracked pepper (you probably won't need any more salt)
- a few pieces of goat cheese (or chunks of feta or shavings of a hard cheese like parmagianno or manchego) to garnish
- (Optional) Toast the nuts or seeds of your choice on a cookie sheet or in an oven proof skillet in a 350 degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes, longer if they're large pieces like walnuts. Set a timer but let your nose be your guide. If you can smell them, they're a minute or two from ready. I prefer toasting in the oven to the stovetop because they require less attention and you don't have to keep moving them around in the pan. Once when toasting pumpkin seeds they went past toasted and I thought I smelled bacon cooking before I realized the seeds were in the oven. They were still edible even on the dark side of toasted.
- Sprinkle the teaspoon of salt over your kale and toss lightly to distribute. Again set your timer for 5 minutes and then get in there and massage the kale by squeezing the cut pieces to soften and allow the salt to wilt the kale. ( I wonder if the same effect could be achieved by drizzling the salt over the kale and then just let it sit on the counter for a few hours to macerate. Hmmm...) Very quickly the kale's color will change to a forest green, the pieces will soften, and the volume will reduce by more than half. Your salad bowl that was once heaping with greens will be reduced to a few large handfuls of greens. For me this transformation took about two minutes. But if you're reluctant to manhandle your greens or better yet, if you've got the kids helping you, let it go the for the full five!
- Optional step: Rinse the wilted kale. Taste the wilted kale and if you think it's a tad salty, give the wilted greens a rinse in cold water and spin dry in your salad spinner. You do have one don't you? You really should if you want to dress any salad properly and shaking in a kitchen towel is far less effective. Because I used the two teaspoons of salt, there were two tablespoons of very salty liquid that I poured out of my salad bowl after the massage, so the rinse would have been a good idea had I not been so hungry and impatient.
- Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the greens, add the remaining ingredients except for the cheese, and toss to combine and thoroughly dress every leaf of kale.
- Serve on individual plates and garnish with the cheese of your choice, or leave the cheese out to make it vegan.
- Devour with the full knowledge that not only are you eating something delicious, it's also damn good for you!