When it comes to kale, I always seem to be lagging behind the cool kids. Though I’m crazy about kale in soups and casseroles and skillet dinners, I haven’t loved the more trendy ways of eating it. I was one of the last food bloggers to try kale chips, and when I did, I was unimpressed. And though for the last few years people all over the planet have been rubbing their kale like deranged massage therapists, every time I tried a massaged kale salad, I wound up wanting to put the whole thing into a steamer. But this week I became a massaged kale convert when I finally realized what I was doing wrong.
Basically, I wasn’t massaging the kale hard enough or long enough. [Insert husband joke here.] You might think that’s because I’m one of those selfish people who prefer getting massages to giving them (don’t we all?), but the real reason I’ve treated my kale too gently is that I’m always thinking ahead to the photo. Massaging takes the perkiness right out of kale leaves, leaving them limp and less attractive to the camera lens. But the harder you rub, the more the cell walls break down, making the kale more tender and less bitter. So don’t be afraid to rub kale the wrong way; you can’t, unless you just don’t try hard enough.
Contrary to popular opinion, you don’t need oil to massage kale. Any salad dressing will do, whether it contains fat or not, and, as Nava Atlas points out in Wild About Greens, you can even use salt, though you have to be very careful not to add a salty dressing on top of it. In this recipe, I made a dressing from pepitas, shelled pumpkin seeds, and used it both as my “massage oil” and as a final salad dressing. I liked the contrast of the tangy lime and jalapeno flavor of the dressing with the sweetness of grilled sweet potatoes, and I added pinto beans to make this a main dish salad. Both the dressing and the salad were a hit with my husband, who was probably wondering what he’d have to do to get the kale treatment.
Speaking of erotic treatments of kale, my friend Julia at SnarkyVegan is doing a “50 Shades of Kale” theme for VeganMoFo; check out her Massaged Kale Salad with Avocado and Marinated Beans, which is hilarious to read and, I’m sure, delicious to eat. It’s the fourth in a series of posts, so be sure to start at the beginning to follow the story.
Massaged Kale Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin Seed Dressing
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bunch kale , washed, stems removed and leaves chopped
- 2 tablespoons Pumpkin Seed Dressing (recipe below)
- 1 cup pinto beans , cooked or canned (drained and rinsed well)
- additional pumpkin seeds and chopped hot pepper for garnish
- additional dressing for drizzling
- Preheat a large grill, George Foreman grill, grill pan, or oven (to 425 degrees).
- Slice the sweet potato into 1/2-inch thick rounds (you can peel it beforehand if you like). Place the slices on the grill, grill pan, or non-stick baking sheet, brush the tops with soy sauce, and grate a little black pepper over them. Grill or bake until tender, turning after 5 minutes in a grill pan or 10 minutes in the oven. (They took about 10 minutes in my Foreman grill, but will probably take longer using the other methods.) Remove from oven, transfer to a cutting board, and cut into cubes or wedges.
- While the sweet potato is cooking, Place the chopped kale in a very large bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the Pumpkin Seed Dressing. Using clean hands, massage the dressing into the kale, squeezing the kale in your hands until it is softened and reduced in volume by about two-thirds. Do not be gentle! This massage should take 2 to 4 minutes.
- Put the kale on a serving plate or bowl and top with the sweet potatoes and pinto beans. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and chopped hot peppers and drizzle with more dressing.
This makes 2 large, “complete meal” salads or 4 small side salads. The nutritional info below assumes two large salads and does not include garnishes or additional dressing.
Pumpkin Seed Dressing
This creamy salad dressing is a little on the spicy side, thanks to jalapeño pepper. If you want a milder version use less pepper.
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup water
- Juice of one lime
- 2 tablespoons Tofu-Cashew Mayo , silken tofu, or vegan mayo of choice
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic , peeled
- 1 small jalapeno pepper , seeds removed (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon mellow white (shiro) miso (or salt to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- Place all ingredients into blender and process until smooth, stopping blender a couple of times and scraping down the inside to make sure that everything blends evenly. Refrigerate until chilled
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