I have had kale five times in my life. At least, that’s what I think. Who knows if I’ve ever had a chocolate cake that some sneaky sucker mixed kale into (you know who you are…). Or maybe it’s been tossed in a smoothie I’ve tried or a larger mixed salad. What I do know is that I’ve very, very rarely actively sought it out. I made a kale, artichoke and cheese dip for a dinner party once and that was the only other time I’ve bought the hearty, vitamin-rich leaves.
Part of the reason is that it’s actually really hard to find here. If I’m looking for hearty greens I prefer to get Swiss chard (when in Rome…) and I can stir spinach into nearly anything. So part of the issue was that it wasn’t really available. The other reason is all the hype. I can hardly see my way to the vegetable through the haze of mania surrounding it. I don’t want to it because everyone else is. But, I recently found it in plenty at the grocery store, so here we are.
What’s so special about this fitness food anyway? It’s packed in nutrients, yes. And it has, like, no calories. And it’s kinda funky looking. And…you can make chips out of it? It’s just a cruciferous-y, cabbage that happens to play really well when you’ve eaten lasagna the past five days and need a breather.
My friend Hayley made almost this exact same kale salad when I went over to her house once a week while we were in Wichita this winter. She had just moved there and it felt like unbelievably fortuitous timing. I would go over for laundry and Girls and a home-cooked meal. I looked forward to her company and cozy apartment every week and I’m so grateful for her hospitality. I miss going over there! But, she did leave me with inspiration for a terrifically healthy salad so there’s always that.
Here’s the scoop: what I have made here is the beginning of infinite possibilities. I used balsamic vinegar for the acidity but you could very easily swap in lemon juice, which is actually what my sweet friend Hayley does. Also, I really like shallots (the sweetness is my favorite part!) but what if you did Vidalias this spring? Perfect! Pine nuts instead of chopped walnuts? Do this.
And toppings? I could and would go so many directions: a poached egg, parmesan cheese, garbanzo beans, bacon, etc. This truly is a beginner’s salad with so many options to tweak it to your liking. Prepare yourself for a vitamin C, vitamin K, beta carotene, and calcium explosion!
Kale Salad (serves 2)
1 bunch kale leaves, washed, stems removed and chopped into bite-size pieces
1 small shallot
2 cloves garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (depending on preference)
1 handful chopped walnuts
salt and pepper to taste
- Slice the shallots and mince garlic. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Once warmed through add shallots and garlic and cook until softened 4-5 minutes.
- Pour balsamic vinegar into a mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Slowly drizzle in oil, shallots, and garlic while whisking with gusto until fully combined.
- Add in kale leaves and massage the dressing into the leaves. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Note: massaging is optional but I’ve read that it helps break down the leaves a bit and makes them less bitter.
- Add walnuts and stir to combine. Serve with a side of crusty bread and soft, stinky cheese.