Kale. Is it a frequent flyer in your grocery cart? Do you like it? Or do you wish you liked it, knowing that it's one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, being loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber? It helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart attack and cancer. A super food, that's what they call it.
We love kale in soups, curries, even a bit thrown into a traditional beef stew is delicious. Oh, and then there's kale chips, have you tried them? Just drizzle torn kale leaves with a bit of olive oil and scatter with a generous pinch of sea salt. Toss the leaves on a sheet pan and roast in a piping hot oven till shatteringly crisp and honestly, quite addictive. Fantastic. But kale in salads? .............. um, not so much ............. well, let me rephrase that; not so much in the past UNTIL I learned the SECRET. Kale has a secret? ............... A big one but it's really quite simple.
Knowing the healthy benefits and the fact that kale's readily available year round, I really wanted to serve more kale salads. I tried combining it with different seasonal ingredients but the response was always the same from my husband, as he pushed most of it away. "it's too chewy". " It is not!", I would say, not wanting to waste the healthy green leaves. But he was right, it was kind of quite chewy and a bit too sturdy for a salad green. I was about to give up when I started hearing about "massaged kale salads". It sounded crazy but I did bit of research and realized I was missing an important little step.
- 2 cups diced butternut squash* about ½ inch dice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt to taste
- 4 strips applewood bacon cut into ½ inch pieces
- ¼ cup finely diced red onion
- 5 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ cup apple cider apple juice will also work
- sea salt a generous pinch
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 bunches kale** any type of kale will work, I usually use Tuscan kale
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
- 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup pomegranate arils or seeds see tutorial on How to Deseed a Pomegranate in less than a Minute!!
- ⅓ cup roasted salted pepitas
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a sheet pan with foil.
Toss butternut squash, olive oil and sea salt on prepared pan and roast until tender, approximately 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While squash is roasting, prepare dressing; cook bacon pieces until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and discard all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat..
Sauté onion in bacon fat for 1 minute. Add cider vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, cider, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and and continue cooking for 5 minutes or until reduced and slightly syrupy. Remove from heat.
For the kale, strip; leaves from the stems. You can either cut the stems up and use them in your salad or discard them. I usually discard them but some people like the extra crunch.. Wash and dry the kale (I use a salad spinner), then tear the leaves into small pieces and place in a large bowl.
Sprinkle kale with salt, and drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Massage with your fingers (just like you would for a back massage!) until it begins to wilt, darken in color and the volume is reduced to about half, around 4-5 minutes.
If dressing has cooled off, rewarm for a minute or so. Toss massaged kale with a few tablespoons of the dressing. Transfer to individual serving plates, if desired. Sprinkle with the roasted butternut squash, bacon, pomegranate arils and pepitas. Pass extra warm dressing at the table.
* ~ Lots of stores sell butternut squash these days, already peeled and cut into cubes. Check the produce section at your local market.
** ~ Sometimes you'll find bags of kale already washed and torn. 2 10-ounce bags will work for 6 servings. (Trader Joe's carries both regular and organic Tuscan kale, pre-washed and ready to go!)
*** ~ Intimidated by pomegranates? Check out this Post; tutorial on How to Deseed a Pomegranate in less than a Minute!! (click) for a super simple (not messy) way to remove the seeds.