Has kale made it to your kitchen? Kale’s popularity has surged in recent years, as has its reputation as the ultimate Superfood. If you haven’t tried this healthy green, the easiest way to get your kale on is to throw it in a salad. But butter lettuce it is not, and there are some things you can do to take your kale salads from ho-hummm to hip-hip-hooray!
First, what’s the big deal about kale, anyways? Kale is a leafy green that is part of the brassica family. Other brassica vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, arugula, bok choy, brusselsprouts, turnips and radishes. All of these veggies pack a pretty punch big of nutrition, and are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds.
Kale provides more nutritional value for less calories than almost any other food around. A single (36 calorie) cup of kale delivers more than one thousand percent of your daily recommended amount of vitamin K, 98% vitamin A, and 71% vitamin C. In addition, kale offers a number of B-complex vitamins, fiber, and important minerals like iron, calcium, manganese, copper, and potassium. A cup of kale is kind of like a leafy green multi-vitamin!
Kale comes in different varieties, each of which has a different flavor and texture. Curly kale is more fibrous, with a peppery-bitter flavor. Dinosaur kale, also known as Tuscan kale, has a sweeter flavor than curly and blue-green leaves. Ornamental kale, sometimes called salad savoy, has a more mellow, tender texture and flavor. Whatever the variety, smaller leaves will be more tender than larger.
Ready to start enjoying all of that leafy green goodness? Here are some tips for making kale salads even better.
1. Massage It With Lemon Juice
That’s right, give your kale a massage. Kale leaves can be tougher than softer salad lettuces, and the extra fiber can be tough to chew, but you can soften your kale leaves up and make them more tender by massaging them. Thinly cut your kale leaves into ribbons (also known as a chiffonade) and put them in a large bowl along with a squeeze of lemon and a splash of olive oil. Reach in and start rubbing the kale until it has begun to shrink down and tenderize. Then, add the rest of your salad ingredients and an acid-based (lemon or vinegar) vinaigrette.
Avoid heavy creamy dressings on your kale salad. A light vinaigrette made with citrus juice or vinegar will help break down the tough fiber in kale, making it more tender and easier to chew. Go ahead and let your salad sit for a few minutes up to a few hours after adding a bit of vinaigrette to make the leaves even more tender.
2. Add Fruit
The peppery, slightly bitter flavor of kale is complemented nicely by some bright and vibrant fruit flavors. Bring some summer sunshine into your salad and pair it with fresh or dried fruits. Strawberries, mango, and avocado (c’mon, you know that avocados are technically fruits, right?) are all great additions to your kale salad.
3. Add Nuts
Walnuts, cashews, pine nuts, pecans and almonds will add more than a bit of crunch to your kale salad. The buttery-smooth flavor of these nuts complement, instead of competing against kale’s distinctive flavor.
4. Go Citrus Crazy
Lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus fruits will always pair well with kale. Citrus fruits are sweet and a bit sour, and kale can be slightly sweet and bitter. The brightness of citrus works to counter the earthiness of kale, and a squeeze of lemon can actually enhance kale’s concentration of beneficial phytonutrients. The acid in lemon juice also helps to break down the tough fibers in kale, which will help it be more tender.
5. Say Cheese
Strong flavored cheese, like blue cheese, goat’s cheese, Gruyere, and Asiago can stand up well to kale’s texture and flavor. You don’t have to go cheese crazy; a little bit of Gorgonzola will go a long way in your kale salad.
6. No Wimpy Sidekicks
Combine kale with other bold, robust vegetables in your salad. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets are all great additions to a kale salad. You can never go wrong pairing kale with other members of the brassica family, so go ahead and roast up some broccoli, cauliflower, or brusselsprouts to add to your salad.
Get creative with your kale salad pairings. Try one of these delicious combinations:
- Kale + walnuts + goat cheese + dried cranberries
- Kale + almonds + parmesan cheese + dried dates
- Kale + mango + honey + lemon
- Kale + sundried tomatoes + olives + feta cheese
- Kale + brusselsprouts + almonds + pecorino cheese
- Kale + pine nuts + parmesan cheese + dried currants
- Kale + strawberries + avocado + sunflower seeds
Experiment to find your favorite combination of ingredients to make the perfect kale salad. This leafy green may be trending, but thanks to its massive health benefits, kale will be around for a long time to come.