Can I tell you what arrived from Amazon today? A box containing a tea pot, an electric toothbrush and not-so-cute sandals with arch support for walking the dog. Yes, I ordered all of these things for myself, and apparently, I am twenty-six going on seventy. If I continue at this rate, I’ll be plodding through the neighborhood in orthopedic shoes in no time. I can see myself getting dragged along by a gaggle of adopted black and white mutts. Cupcake, Crumpet, slow down! C’mon, Cookie!
In my mind, if there’s one meal that can slow aging, it’s the kale salad. Poor Ponce de León traveled to the Americas in search of the fountain of youth and it was growing right under his feet in Europe all along. Kale is an exceptional source of vitamins A and C, chlorophyll and betacarotene (according to The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia), so it’s no surprise that kale salads make my belly happy and my skin glow.
Today’s salad is not the first kale salad I’ve posted on this little blog, and it definitely won’t be my last. I won’t stop until every visitor knows how to make a great kale salad!
I’ve been devouring kale salads ever since I experienced my first kale salad last summer while I was waitressing at Matthew Kenney’s raw, vegan restaurant in Oklahoma City. Today’s recipe is my most recent favorite variation, but I want to point out that kale salads don’t have to look fancy. I love this basic balsamic raw kale salad with chopped apple in the fall, and pomegranate and toasted pistachios in the winter. Bold dressings and diced avocado go particularly well with kale salads, as seen in this raw kale salad with roasted red pepper dressing.
Tips for making great raw kale salads:
- First, remove the tough kale stems from the leaves. The stems are the most bitter part of the leaves. I simply use my hands to rip the stems from the leaves, but you can cut them out with a chef’s knife if you prefer.
- Working on a cutting board, tear or cut the leaves into very small, bite-sized pieces.
- Use your hands to massage the kale. Sprinkle the bite-sized kale with a little pinch of ground sea salt, then scrunch handfuls of kale in your hands, release and repeat until the kale becomes darker in color and more fragrant (see the difference in the photos below). Don’t worry, kale isn’t fragile, so you’re not damaging it! This step helps break down the kale and improves the taste of raw kale.
- Third, thoroughly toss the kale with the dressing. If possible, let the salad rest for 5 to 15 minutes so the dressing can further break down the kale. Eat up!
Now then, before we get to the recipe, I want to talk a little bit about this creamy, vegan tahini dressing. Tahini dressing tastes almost as indulgent as ranch dressing, and it’s the kind of dressing/sauce/dip that everyone should know how to whip up. It’s great drizzled over roasted vegetables, brown rice and steamed vegetables, lentils or beans and obviously, salads.
Here are a few suggestions for potential variations. For a rich and creamy dressing, use less water, or for a thinner sauce, whisk in more. For a zesty, lemony variation on the recipe below, add some lemon zest and minced garlic, trade lemon juice for the rice vinegar and skip the sesame oil and soy sauce. For a dressing that makes a great ranch substitute for Southwestern-style salads, sub some lime juice and zest for the lemon in the preceding variation. Try trading parsley, basil or dill for the cilantro or combining a mix of herbs. Break out the food processor or blender to blend the chopped herbs into the dressing for a green goddess look.
Whatever you do, though, don’t skip the miso. Through trial and error, I’ve realized that miso is the magical ingredient here. Miso is an inexpensive ingredient with Asian origins, look for it in the refrigerated section in grocery stores. It lasts for months in the fridge, so it’s a fun ingredient to have around for experimentation.
- 1 bunch of curly kale (green or red)
- Sea salt
- 1 avocado
- 4 to 6 carrots (rainbow carrots are pretty but standard orange carrots are great, too)
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds (preferably black sesame seeds, regular white are fine)
- ¼ cup tahini
- 1 tablespoon white miso
- 1½ tablespoons brown rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- big pinch red pepper flakes
- small handful chopped cilantro
- ⅓ cup water
- dash of tamari or soy sauce (optional)
- Pull the kale leaves off from the tough stem and discard the stems. Use a chef's knife or your hands to chop or tear the kale into small, bite sized pieces. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves for a couple of minutes (see notes above).
- In a small bowl or 8-ounce mason jar, whisk together the salad dressing ingredients. Divide the kale into two bowls, drizzle in the salad dressing (don’t skimp), and toss thoroughly. If possible, let the salads rest for ten minutes before eating.
- Peel and slice the carrots into ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, score the flesh with a knife and scoop it out with a big spoon. Top the salad with carrot ribbons, diced avocado and some chopped carrot greens, if available/desired. Sprinkle the salad with sesame seeds and serve.
- Tahini dressing recipe roughly adapted from Good Things Grow.
- This amounts given above yield two salads, but are easily divided by two if you are eating alone. If you have leftover dressing, it should keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.