Friday, December 28, 2012

One Great . . . silky kale salad

Ah, the ubiquitous kale. If you stick close to a local diet, that means lots of kale in the winter.

Since I have a kale-disliking husband, I'm always seeking kale dishes he doesn't find objectionable. So I paid attention when I started seeing a new technique:

Rubbed kale, sometimes called massaged kale. Seriously -- you toss raw kale with olive oil, lemon juice and salt. And then you rub it: Knead it, squeeze it, scrub it between your palms. Do that for at least 2 minutes and the kale breaks down, softens and takes on a silky texture.

Yes, you have to rub it after you add the oil, salt and an acid. If you just rub the bare leaves, it won't get all that soft. But think of all that oil you're massaging into your dry hands in winter. It's like a kale spa treatment.

After you soften the leaves (and wash your hands), you toss the kale with a few more ingredients and end up with a terrific winter salad. You can add almost anything. For this version, the spicy nature of kale led me to think of sweet and hot touches of maple syrup and cayenne, plus some sliced mushrooms because I had them handy. But you can change it up. Swap the lemon juice for a flavored vinegar. Add Parmesan, feta or goat cheese. Try toasted nuts and sliced pear. Toss it with a diced avocado.

The method works with regular kale or black kale (AKA lacinato or dinosaur kale). The salad even keeps a day or so in the refrigerator, so you can take extras for your lunch.

Rubbed Kale Salad

1 head kale (regular or black kale)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (or try a flavored vinegar)
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup sliced fresh mushroom caps (see note)

TRIM away and discard the kale stalks. Stack the leaves and cut into 1/2-inch- to 1-inch-wide ribbons. Place in a large salad bowl.

ADD the oil, lemon juice and salt and toss to miss. Put your hands in the bowl and massage the kale, rubbing and squeezing it for 2 or 3 minutes, until it's soft.

ADD maple syrup, cayenne and garlic and toss well. Add the mushrooms or whatever else you're adding (see note). Serve at room temperature. Refrigerate leftovers for a day or so.

NOTE: Instead of mushrooms, you could add shaved Parmesan or crumbled feta or goat cheese, toasted nuts, sliced fruit or diced vegetables.

YIELD: 2 to 4 servings.