By now, we’ve all heard why we should eat kale: it’s one of the most nutrient dense foods, containing high amounts of Vitamins A, C, K, as well as fiber, magnesium, iron and more calcium per calorie than milk. But a more important question is how we are supposed to eat it! The first time I tried kale, I simply chopped it up and threw it in a salad with an Italian vinaigrette. I must have spent at least a half hour trying to chew my way through the fibrous leaves, determined to enjoy this so-called superfood.
I eventually finished my salad, but I had no desire to try this leafy green again in its raw form. From then on I would steam or sauté any kale I purchased, which made the leaves more edible. This method of preparation served me well for a few months, but I wanted to try new ways of preparing my kale. I tried eating it raw a few more times with no success, until a friend offered to make me his special raw kale salad. To my surprise, I was actually able to enjoy the salad, and finish in under a half hour!
So what was his secret? First, know your kales. There is Red Russian, Curly Leaf, Redbor, Lacinato, and other lesser known varieties. The best for raw salads is Lacinato, due to its softer texture, flat leaves, and sweeter flavor when compared to other kales. Second, de-rib the kale. The spine down the leaf’s center can lead to a lengthy amount of chewing, so you’re best off removing it if you plan on consuming the leaf raw.
Once you have your de-ribbed Lacinato leaves, place them in a bowl with some olive oil and salt and begin the massage. Like a massage relaxes us after a hard day’s work, it also “relaxes” the kale, breaking down fibers and allowing us to spend less time chewing! For the best results, spend at least five minutes with your kale, until it has decreased in size by at least 50% and feels wilted to the touch. Now your kale is ready for any salad! Read further below for a delicious raw kale salad recipe.
Raw Kale Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing
- ½ large head of Lacinato kale (4-6 cups)
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 small carrots, shredded
- 1 small head of broccoli, finely chopped
- 1 small cucumber, diced
- ½ cup sliced almonds
- ½ cup sliced strawberries
- 1/4 cup Tahini
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast or a bit more, to taste
- 2-4 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 3 tbsp water, or as needed
- After preparing, place carrots, broccoli, cucumber, almonds and strawberries aside.
- Blend tahini, garlic cloves, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, olive, salt, pepper, and water in a food processor or blender. Set aside.
- Remove stems from kale, then place the leaves in a large salad bowl and coat with 1-2 tbsp olive oil and ¼ tsp salt. Massage kale leaves together with your hands for about 5 minutes.
- After massaging, slice kale into bite sized pieces.
- Place all salad ingredients in the salad bowl and toss.
- Pour over dressing and toss again.
Serve immediately or let marinate for 30 minutes.
Written by: Ian Schenck, CSULB Nutrition & Dietetics Student and CDA-Orange District Student Liason