Cooking is naturally a tactile experience, where hands and fingers get busy touching, transforming, testing and arranging. There’s a lot of chopping and stirring, squeezing and shaking, but it’s quite rare that massaging is involved.
Perhaps when you’re marinating meat you’ll give it a good rub to evenly distribute the marinade. And you could argue that kneading dough calls on masseuse-like skills. Both these processes are designed to ensure the best possible conditions for maximum flavour and the right texture. Which is exactly what massaging kale leaves is all about.
Kale is a robust, wizened-featured leafy vegetable that survives winter, and is proud of it. It is happy to be sautéed, baked or slow-cooked in a soup or stew, all of which break down its bitter, tough exterior. But kale can also be coaxed into a surprisingly delicate salad green, it just needs a little hands-on affection to turn it from sturdy to silky.
It didn’t occur to me to use kale in a salad until I tasted a particularly delicious version with hazelnuts, an anchovy dressing and a crown of shaved gouda at Five Leaves in Brooklyn (recipe here). The leaves were so delicate, and nothing like the raw leaves I diligently washed, de-ribbed and chopped before sautéing.
The transformation happens when clean, chopped leaves are rubbed together for 3-5 minutes. The leaves darken and shrink as the structure of the kale relaxes, taking away its bitterness. By dressing the leaves before you start their massage treatment, you not only soften the kale, but you impart the flavours of the dressing into the leaves, making them extremely tasty. You’re left with a wonderful base to build a salad on top of.
This Kale and Pomegranate Salad is from The Healthy Chef. It’s sharp yet sweet, and every bite makes you feel more vital. The pop of pomegranate seeds and the crunch of walnuts contrast the silky kale that has been lovingly coated in a zesty dressing. A handful or two of fresh herbs (from a posy my friend gave me) hide within the green base, but liven up each mouthful.
Deseeding a pomegranate, or relieving it of its arils, can turn your kitchen pink. The trick is to avoid slicing into an aril, as they’re the culprit with the pink ink. I followed these steps from The Kitchn and it was a revelation! I suggest you do the same.
This is a very easy salad to eat on its own, and would be great to take to a BBQ. Its sharpness would help cut through a rich, juicy steak, sliced and served on top.
Kale and Pomegranate Salad
- 500 g fresh kale (approx 2 large bunches or 17 1/2 oz))
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 generous handful of mint, shredded
- 1 generous handful of parsley, shredded
- 2 tablespoons seeds (I used a mix of pumpkin and sunflower)
- 1 pomegranate (see how to relieve a pomegranate of its seeds)
- 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup walnuts
Wash your kale thoroughly (little bug passengers love kale’s nooks and crannies) and remove the fibrous stems. Finely chop the leaves and place in a large bowl.
In a jar or small bowl, combine garlic, pepper, salt, lemon juice, olive oil and honey. Shake/stir to combine and then pour over the kale.
Massage the leaves gently for 3 or so minutes, until the leaves start to soften and wilt, and no longer tastes bitter when you try it.
Sprinkle the herbs, seeds, pomegranate, cranberries and walnuts over the top of the kale and serve.
The salad can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Every so slightly adapted from the original recipe from the excellent The Healthy Chef. Click through to get all the nutritional info for this salad.