Though kale is something of a hot new food trend, I happen to be one of those lucky souls who has been eating it for years. My parents are avid vegetable gardeners and both kale and its buddy Swiss chard were always prominent players in the spring and fall plantings.
To us, kale was simply a sturdy cooking green, best for use in soups or wilted with olive oil and garlic. On weekend mornings, I’d sauté ribbons of kale with zucchini and green onions and scramble a couple beaten eggs around the veggies. Topped with fresh tomato, it’s still my favorite breakfast.
The one thing we didn’t do back in those days was eat raw kale. It wasn’t that anyone was against it, it just didn’t occur to either my parents or me (and though my sister is one of the biggest kale eaters around now, she wouldn’t touch it in any form back then). It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, when I started seeing mentions of raw kale salads in magazines and on blogs, that I tried it.
These days, I’m something of a kale salad evangelist. I have two versions that are in my regular dinner rotation. The first is a garlicky version inspired by a recipe posted to 101 Cookbooks and the other is a Grated Carrot and Kale Salad, dressed with walnut oil and rice wine vinegar.
Armed with two fresh bundles of kale (my favorite farmers’ market opened for the season last weekend and I overbought) and looking to add a third option to my kale salad routine, I decided to try Guy Fieri’s recipe for Kale Salad With Marcona Almonds and Sherry Vinaigrette. It includes segments of fresh orange and a sprinkle of dried cranberries, both of which lend pleasant sweetness to the finished salad.
Before you start chopping kale, here are a few things you should know:
– The recipe doesn’t specify the kind of kale to use. In my initial batch, I used curly purple and green kale. Next time I might use Tuscan kale. All varieties of kale work well in salads, so pick your favorite.
– One of the nice things about kale salad is that it can be dressed an hour or more before serving. It makes it great for potlucks and other events where it will sit for a while.
– If you’re struggling with the texture of kale, drizzle it with a little olive oil and salt before the full dressing is added. Massage the salt and oil in and let it sit for 30 minutes. The salt and oil will help tenderize the leaves.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, called Food in Jars: Canning in Small Batches Year Round, has just been published.