I am a little hesitant to get on the kale recipe bandwagon. Especially when I’m hopping onto the back of that wagon. After all, I am a trendsetter! I still have my 1980 Birkenstocks. 1980 was before anyone else wore them, and they’ve been popular at least twice for five minutes since! I don’t like to be at the back end of a trend; and I’m not sold on kale…
So, I’m still not a huge kale fan. I kind of think it belongs in that hearty Portuguese soup in Provincetown; I’m not convinced it should creep into other culinary territories. But…I keep reading and hearing about it. And seeing it looking so lovely in markets. It’s all over the internet and tv, and in restaurants. And we’ve already established that I am competitive. So, I have to embrace kale enough to do it at least as well as everybody else. I may not be comfortable at the back of the wagon, but I don’t want to get left behind, either.
I went through a very brief kale chip phase by request of my “other son,” Sam. I am a total sucker for this sort of request, let’s not forget the ice cream post. Try me, you’ll see. But, I really don’t like a kale chip once it’s been out of the oven for more than a half hour.
I can throw some kale into a stew with the best of ’em. My stews are good, and greens are a nice addition to many, especially if there’s some sausage or bacon in there. The kale is cooked enough to get soft. But I think cooking it that long is supposed to destroy some of the nutrients in the leaves.
But raw kale? That’s been a challenge. I had a kale salad in a DC restaurant. This salad was famous; the yelpers yelped about it. I was very hopeful. I’m a hippie, I’m supposed to like chewing and chewing raw green leaves. It was ok…meh…Not something to yelp about.
I tried to develop my own. My reading lead me to do something so ridiculous, I am still embarrassed: massaging my food! It might have become a regular thing, except the kale didn’t want a massage. It kept trying to escape, jumping off the counter, kale overboard! What a disaster!
This is the sort of thing that keeps me up at night: how to subdue kale with neither violence nor intimacy? I got it! Here comes the surprise! Read on.
Surprising Kale Salad
Surprising Kale Salad
This salad is surprising for two reasons: 1. The way it is prepared. 2. The fact that it is truly good, not just good for you.
I love Cara Cara oranges in this salad, but feel free to use any seedless orange you like. Blood oranges would be lovely, too.
Vegan or Paleo? Simply leave out the cheese or substitute your favorite non-dairy cheese.
5 oz. kale, I used baby here, but any works, cleaned and trimmed
1 orange, peeled with a knife and cut into rounds*
1/3 cup toasted walnuts**
3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled or torn (I use imported gorgonzola) (optional)
2 tbs. balsamic syrup
2 tbs. best quality olive oil
drizzle of honey or agave
salt and pepper to taste
*Cut off the ends, and then cut off the skin and pith in ribbons (see my pictures), make sure there is no white left and then cut into slim rounds. Save the peels until I tell you what to do with them!
**You can toast them in a dry skillet until fragrant, or in the oven (watch like a hawk, they are no good if burnt). I like to do them in the microwave; with mine on full power, this quantity is perfect in 90 seconds.
Combine the balsamic glaze, olive oil and agave in a cup. Squeeze the peels over the dressing to collect any nice orange juice that you would otherwise waste. Microwave dressing on high for 20 seconds or until bathwater warm. If you are micro-averse, use a tiny saucepan and warm just a bit on the stove.
Cut or tear the kale, if necessary, into bite size pieces. Place in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. With the machine running on low, pour the dressing over the kale. Add some salt and pepper. Let the machine run until you can see that the leaves have wilted. This should take just a minute or two. Don’t pulverize them, just get them to submit to your will.
Put the kale into your lovliest salad bowl, preferably one made by a local potter. Or me. And arrange the walnuts, cheese and orange rounds perfectly over top. This salad can hang out in the fridge for up to a day if you want to eat it cold. Or you can toss and eat it right away and it will be room temp-ish.