Citrus-massaged kale salad

This salad works great as a main course for a light summer dinner, or a side next to some chicken or a pork chop. Massaging the kale with lemon juice makes it a little softer and easier to chew.

Garden of Eating
Toss kale with dried fruit, toasted nuts, and top with shredded Parmesan cheese for a unique summer salad.

Since I always hate the next "hot, new thing!" on principle, it took me a while to start liking kale (ditto quinoa). But ever since I silenced my inner Scrooge, I've been making up for lost time with this splendid leafy green.

What was I thinking?! This citrus-massaged kale salad is so good! I even love the way it smells. Have you ever leaned over the cutting board and given some freshly-cut kale a good sniff? Kale's got a really unique smell – it's rich and earthy and fresh and mineral-like and just makes me think "green."

Although I enjoy kale prepared in many ways, this is by far my favorite at the moment. I actually find myself thinking about it at random moments and craving it. I haven't felt this way about a salad since I was introduced to this one a few years ago. I didn't think I could ever love like that again. I was wrong.

The recipe was inspired by a similar salad my friend, Kali, made a couple months back when she and her husband invited us to their gorgeous home for dinner. I loved it then and I love it even more now that it's kale season again.

The main idea here is to "massage" thinly cut kale with lemon juice and olive oil. Rubbing it with the acid and the oil makes it softer and easier to chew and just generally helps it to relax.

I add a little maple syrup to counter all the sourness of the lemon, some dried cherries, cranberries or currants to provide some pops of sweetness, toasted nuts for crunch and substance and fresh Parmesan cheese provides the salty goodness that ties the whole thing together.

It's pretty incredible. And probably pretty good for you, too, though I have to admit that health always takes a back seat to taste in my cooking.

The recipe below is not hard and fast in its proportions – it's all open to interpretation based on your taste buds – the main thing is to soften the kale up using some acid – you can use lemon juice or vinegar, any kind of dried fruit, any kind of nuts (or omit them if you prefer), etc., etc. No need to feel boxed in here. 

Massaged kale salad with toasted nuts, dried cherries & Parmesan
Serves 4

2 bunches of kale (about 1 lb), rinsed and dried, center ribs and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced crosswise

Juice of 2-3 lemons

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts or almonds

1/4 cup dried cherries, cranberries or currants

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheeses plus some bigger shavings to top the salad with

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place the thinly sliced kale in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice and olive oil (add more of either thing if you feel like there's not enough to cover everything.) Massage the mixture with your fingers until all of the kale is well-coated and looks a bit darker in color. Let sit for a half hour (or not, if you're in a hurry!)

2. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to coat. Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Top with the shaved cheese and serve.

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