At some point between childhood and present day, leafy green vegetables became en vogue. The country’s trendiest restaurants offer Brussels sprouts and kale salads are practically a menu mainstay everywhere from delis to high end eateries. Once hailed as stick-to-your-ribs winter veggies, greens of the cruciferous variety are crave worthy year-round when paired with ingredients that are in season.
Making kale salad at home is easy, but there are still a few things you’ll need to do differently than you would with romaine lettuce, baby spinach or a spring green mix.
Choose the right kind of kale
There are usually two types of kale available at grocery stores: curly kale, which is is fibrous and grassy tasting, and lacinato kale, also called Tuscan kale or Dinosaur kale, which is sweeter, less crunchy and easy to chew.
Slice it properly
While most salad bases, like iceberg lettuce or romaine lettuce, can be eaten at any size, kale is far more palatable when finely chopped. Slice the outer leaves away from the stem and then slice each leaf into thin ribbons (also called a “chiffonade” style).
Massage the kale with salt and oil
Once you’ve sliced the kale, you’ll want to prep the leaves. Rub your kale with a little oil and salt, as if you’re massaging the oil into the kale leaves. Let it sit for about a half an hour before tossing with the rest of your ingredients and dressing. Kale leaves have a natural waxy coating that makes it difficult to better absorb the dressing.
Dress the salad
Kale is a hearty, strong vegetable. Opt for a heavy dressing that will stand up to the kale. If you’re trying to keep things healthy, use a Greek yogurt or avocado base. If you prefer vinaigrette, make sure you use an acid, like orange or lemon juice, that will help break down the fibers in the kale and make it easier to chew and digest.
Make your salad the day before
Because kale is so hearty, it won’t wilt and become soggy the way most salads do when made and dressed ahead of time. The kale will not wilt easily so you can even use more dressing than you normally would so that the leaves can absorb it over time, making for a tastier salad.
Now that we’ve reviewed the kale basics, let’s move onto a simple kale salad that has all of the essentials: sweet, crunchy, salty and tangy. It’s a great side salad if you need to bring a dish to a party but it’s also filling enough that you could eat it for lunch, with added protein like chicken or salmon if desired.
- 4 cups finely chopped Tuscan kale, ribs removed (this is about 4 ounces of kale)
- ⅔ cup dried cranberries, such as Craisins
- ⅓ cup shredded carrots (or buy a bag of matchstick carrots from a grocery)
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
- 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced or crushed
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Add all dressing ingredients to a large salad bowl and whisk until combined. Meanwhile, place cranberries in a bowl of boiling water for about 10 minutes, or until they've plumped.
- In a medium bowl, combine chopped kale, cranberries and carrots. Mince a handful of mint and a handful of basil leaves and toss them in, to taste.
- Combine kale mixture with dressing mixture and toss to combine. Top with sunflower seeds, if desired. Serves two as a meal or four as a side dish.