Today I am thinking spring. Oh, and what a coincidence. Today marks the vernal equinox! This is the day when day and night are equal, when daylight starts to increase and our agrarian roots start to tingle with the advent of “growing season.” And that should be a cause for celebration.
Also, this day marks the time when we reckon with our willpower. Do those summer wardrobe shorts still fit? I don’t know about you, but I’ve come up “short,” so to speak, with my New Year’s resolution (to weigh what it says on my driver’s license). So it’s time to up my salad game! And I’m going to start with one of the healthiest greens on Earth: kale.
Kale became really popular a few years ago, but according to WebMD, it has been on dinner plates since Roman times and has long been common across much of Europe.
Benefits of Kale
One cup of kale has:
Nearly 3 grams of protein
2.5 grams of fiber
Vitamins A, C and K
Folate, an important B vitamin
Alpha-linolinec acid, and omega-3 fatty acid (but far less than fish)
Lutein and zeaxanthin, the nutrients that give kale its color but also protect against macular degeneration and cataracts
Minerals including phosphorus, potassium, calcium and zinc
The challenge with kale is its texture. Some find it tough. If untreated, it’s kind of bitter. So, if you’ve ever grabbed a bunch of kale and tried to make a salad with it, chances are you were surprised/disappointed with the results.
The solution? Massage that kale!
How to massage kale
Just as a massaging action helps relax your muscles (Looking at you, shoulders!) a brief massage loosens up those tough fibers in kale. Massaging is not necessary if you shred the kale very small and cover it in a dressing containing acid, like lemon juice. The acid, with time, will similarly break down the kale to soften it. But when time is a factor, I go for massaged kale.
To start, remove leafy green from the stems, cutting with a knife or ripping them off by running your fingers along the stem. I usually cut or tear the greens into bite-sized pieces before massaging. Then, I place the pieces into a colander to be rinsed before proceeding.
For the next step, you’ve got some options: Some go ahead and massage the kale as-is, -er- naked (excuse me while I blush) but as an alternative you can add olive oil, salt and/or lemon juice before massaging. I find olive oil does the trick, just add about a tablespoon to the kale in a bowl.
Then, grab a handful of kale and give it a good squeeze.Keep repeating this until the kale darkens and softens. Tear up any really big pieces. Take two handfuls and rub them against each other. This is not the time to be gentle!
Continue to massage the kale for 3-5 minutes. If I have a big bowl, I will massage for a full 5 minutes. When adding a citrus-based dressing and letting it marinate for a while, 3 minutes is probably enough. If in doubt, take a taste. The kale should be softer and less bitter.
It's also noticeably reduced. Look at the before and after of this bowl of massaged kale:
There now, doesn't that look much more relaxed?
Once you finish massaging, add whatever dressing or other salad ingredients you like to make your own massaged kale salad! Give it a try!
- Your hands!
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 TB olive oil
- Remove leafy greens from the stems by cutting or ripping with your hands. Discard stems.
- Place kale leaves in a bowl and add olive oil.
- Begin to squeeze with both hands, rubbing kale leaves together. Continue for at least 3 minutes or up to 5 minutes until kale has softened.
- Add salad ingredients and dressing as preferred.
If you like massaging vegetables, don’t forget my Salt ‘n Squeeze Slaw!