raw kale, carrot, and cranberry salad

kale salad at windowsill

This raw kale salad is my new favorite thing, a recreation of a friend's made-up salad I had about a month ago, which I've already made twice this week. (Thanks, Monica!) Poking around on the Internet, I found many similar versions, the key ingredients being raw kale massaged with lemon juice, dried fruit, nuts, olive oil, a little sugar or honey for balance, and a sharp hard cheese. One could make a vegan version, but, like those who say everything tastes better with bacon, I'd say the same about cheese!

Though I'd known about raw kale salads for years, I was skeptical. Would I be chewing my cud forever on tough leathery leaves as on a hunk of meat? But no. My fears have vanished.

Massaging the torn leaves with the lemon juice alone works well, though some cooks suggest massaging all the dressing into the leaves at once. Lemon juice by itself, though, rinses off hands easily. And the massage isn't as kooky as it sounds, the action more like kneading dough but only for a couple of minutes, the whole point being to soften the leaves a bit. But kale's one tough green: it can take a good rubdown and still stay firm. An extra bonus is the lemon juice turns the leaves from dull to bright green.

And while I don't normally add sweeteners to savory dishes, at least for this salad, it's needed to balance out all the bitter, sour, and salty tastes—just a teaspoon or so.

Now, I'm the only one of my siblings who ever liked vegetables, even before I became a vegetarian. My meat-and-cheese-eating bachelor brothers never eat vegetables, no joke, not even a leaf of iceberg lettuce on a sandwich. One of them was even diagnosed with gout several years back. Yikes! And though my sister's not as extreme as my brothers, even she was told by her doctor that she must eat more vegetables, even if she had to drown them in ranch dressing—in other words, Eat vegetables or die!

Hating dry, flavorless salads, I use that prescription for my own salads but with extra-virgin olive oil. So the oil amount is entirely up to you. I'd pretty much guarantee your glugs of olive oil will be fewer than mine. I'm not saying this salad will turn veggie-haters into veggie-lovers, but it's a darn tasty, colorful salad for those of us who already enjoy stuffing our bellies with leafy greens like good little bunnies.

Raw Kale Salad with Carrot and Cranberry

1 large bunch of kale (I used basic curly kale from the farmers market), washed, spun, and torn
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 c. dried cranberries 
1/4 c. roasted sunflower seeds
1/4 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. shredded baby carrot
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1-2 tsp. raw sugar or honey to taste
extra-virgin olive oil to taste
salt and fresh pepper to taste

Massage the lemon juice into the kale for two or three minutes with bare hands. Then toss the leaves with the rest of the ingredients, dressing it to taste. This makes about four cups and keeps for days in the fridge.

kale salad in thrifted Heath Ceramics serving bowl

This salad also makes for excellent packed lunches, stuffed into pint Kerr jars, all ready to go for the rest of the work week. In time, I'll experiment with other raw kale salads, but it's good to know kale is so flexible—not just a healthy, hardy winter green for soups.

packed lunches: kale salad in Kerr canning jars

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