Go ahead — rub it in. The best excuse ever to play with your food? Kale salad. Forget kale’s impressive nutrition profile, massaged kale salads are trending. They’re big sellers in the hottest eateries and they’ll be big in your kitchen, too. Massaging kale encourages kids to participate hands-on in the kitchen. It allows you to work out some aggressive tendencies. It does good things for the kale, too.
The technique of massaging — or pressing — vegetables and the philosophy behind it comes from macrobiotics. This all sounds dreadfully earnest — not what you want from dinner. It’s really about choosing food that’s fresh, organic and minimally processed. The only processing here comes from you showing kale some tough love. There’s no special gadgetry, just a knife to chop the kale and your hands to prepare it.
Rub a little sea salt into the leaves (salad, after all, comes from the Latin word for salted). That plus the natural warmth of your hands draws out the moisture in the leaves. A splash of acid — vinegar or citrus — adds flavor and breaks down the cell walls in the kale, softening and relaxing it, the way a good massage relaxes anyone. The leaves become bright green, pliable and happy within a few minutes. You’ll be happy, too. Manhandling a tough bunch of leaves that look like they’ve had a bad perm turns them tender, making them easier to chew and digest. Mush in some avocado or drizzle in a mere slick of oil and you’ve got kale salad at its most elemental. Simple as it is, it tastes greater than the sum of its parts. Dress it up by throwing in your favorite seasonal salad add-ins.
Massaging kale for a salad is perfect as we celebrate spring produce and edge into summer. The technique “cooks” the leaves but lets you stay cool. Even massaged till it’s blissful, kale stays fluffy and fresh for hours at a picnic or party. Covered and refrigerated, it keeps for a day or two.
Everyone benefits by a good massage. Even kale.
Every variety of kale works here, be it sturdy curly kale to frilly Red Russian kale, or elegant dinosaur kale. Find the kale that’s fresh, local and speaks to you.
- 1 bunch kale, washed, woody central stems removed and leaves chopped well (about 6 cups of greens)
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
- juice of 1 fresh lemon
- pinch or two sea salt
- optional adds include:
- chopped tomatoes
- thinly sliced radish
- thinly sliced chive
- chopped roasted almonds
- roasted pumpkin or seeds
- chopped mint or cilantro
- olives, green or black, your choice
- Fill a large salad bowl with the c
- hopped kale leaves.
- Mix in the lemon juice and salt. Use your hands to massage it into the leaves.
- After a few minutes, the color will deepen, the kale will start to surrender and soften at your touch and will reduce in volume by about a fourth.
- Smush in the avocado.
Fill a large salad bowl with the chopped kale leaves. Mix in the lemon juice and salt. Use your hands to massage it into the leaves. After a few minutes, the color will deepen, the kale will start to surrender and soften at your touch and will reduce in volume by about a fourth. Smush in the avocado.
Enjoy at its most elemental or fancy it up by scattering in a handful of your favorite optional add-ins.
Enjoy now or later.