Kale is not something that we eat often in our house despite the fact that it has such an impressive nutrient profile. While I do like to put it into stews and soups, because it holds up well, we had never enjoyed it in salads. It has a tough texture and a bitter taste that overwhelms the flavour of other ingredients and dressings.
But, after a conversation with my co-workers, I found out why. In order to use kale in lighter recipes like salads you need to treat it properly. That treatment comes in the form of a massage. I know this seems odd but you will be amazed at the difference a quick five minute massage can make to kale. It transforms this tough bitter green into something silky and sweet that becomes a perfect base for your favourite summer salads.
Massaging the kale breaks down the tough cellulose structure so that it shrinks in size and becomes a bright green colour. It’s very easy to massage kale. Remove the fibrous ribs and tear it into bite-sized pieces. Grab a bunch in both hands and rub them together and repeat. You will know the kale is done when the leaves darken. If you’re still not sure, taste it. If it’s still bitter it needs a little more massaging. Some recipes suggest adding a bit of olive oil and salt while you are massaging it. One recipe I found massages an avocado into the kale. These techniques not only add flavour but eliminate the need for dressing. I tried the massage both ways…plain and then with olive oil, lemon and salt.
My son happened to stroll into the kitchen on his way to the fridge and observed the process. He was totally amazed at not only the difference in the appearance of the kale after a massage, but in the taste. Even the plain kale was appealing and he put some in a sandwich. Encouraged by his reaction, I made a plain vegetable salad using the kale that I massaged with lemon, olive oil and salt as a base. It was a hit! This was surprising as my son is the type that usually has a little salad with his dressing. Any dressing would go well on this salad.
If your family finds the taste of kale too strong, just let it marinate in the dressing overnight. Although the kale won’t be as crunchy, it will have a milder flavour which will appeal to most palates.
Do you have a favourite kale salad recipe?