Printable recipe: FreeTheMom-Kale-Salad-Recipe
Being raised mostly vegetarian, I can honestly say salad is my favorite food. Totally not lying.
Watching my dad whisk together a hundred varieties of vinaigrette using whatever happened to be in the fridge also served me well because, to be honest, most of the reason I eat salad is to get the dressing into my body. This means that I am also a salad snob. I don’t do bottled dressings, and get super moody when restaurant dressing isn’t homemade. The good news is that using a very basic vinaigrette recipe a whole world of variations can be thrown together in no time. Once you learn how you’ll never turn back, promise. If you don’t believe me come on over and we’ll have a salad buffet to prove it. Mmmmmmm.
This particular recipe is one that I came up with a couple years ago, and have shared with dozens of friends who have successfully turned it into their own. The dressing is tart and sweet and adjustable to your personal palette. The kale, which is marinated overnight to soften it, is super hardy yet tender. I call kale the meat of the lettuce family, which is a pretty awesome analogy if I do say so myself. Do not attempt to eat either meat OR kale without first marinating and/or cooking it. You’ll feel like a cow chewing on a weed.
This salad also makes an ideal party or potluck dish because 1) you can assemble it ahead and free yourself up for party time, and 2) it holds really well, and will be just as yummy at the start of the party as it will be 6 hours later, or even as leftovers the next day.
As if all that weren’t enough awesome, I’ve also gotta’ put in the plug that kale is a super-mega-superfood. It’s loaded with fiber, iron, vitamins A, C, & K, antioxidants, and calcium. It is anti-inflammatory (great for those of us with allergies), and detoxifying (great for those of us who drink wine every night). I just googled kale to be sure I had all this right, and found that the world is now referring to kale as “the new beef”. They must have overheard my genius in the last paragraph.
Are you sold yet? Great, now let’s get choppin’!
First, the salad ingredients. Really, anything goes here. My favorite combination is crumbled feta, slivered almonds, and dried cranberries. I was out of cranberries today, so I used mandarin oranges instead, which go really well with the citrus in the vinaigrette. I’ve been known to throw in tomatoes, strawberries, candied pecans, the kitchen sink. You get the idea.
There are two main types of kale. Lacinato kale has a more delicate, sweeter tasting leaf than traditional curly kale. For this reason, Lacinato is often referred to as “salad kale”. Curly kale is a bit more hardy, and is usually eaten steamed or roasted. With the overnight marinating technique used in this recipe, however, you will find that both types of leaves turn tender and delicious, so feel free to use whichever leaf your grocery store carries.
I get my kale from our weekly Tanaka Farms CSA Box, which is delivered right to the doorstep of my kiddos’ school. We receive fresh, seasonal ingredients weekly and the boys love looking for caterpillars in the box every Tuesday. So far we’ve found 3 – one of which I inadvertently sent to school on a snap pea. I started washing our veggies more thoroughly after that…
Here are the ingredients for the dressing. Not pictured here is a clove of garlic had to run to the bathroom at the last minute.
Okay, so the first step in prepping the salad is to cut the tough center rib out of each kale stalk.
Next step is to line up your de-ribbed leaves and slice them into a pile of bite-sized pieces. About 1-2″ squares is ideal. Any smaller and they’ll get a bit too soggy in the overnight marinade, and larger and your guests will curse you.
Oh look, garlic has returned! Just in time for some pressing action. I love running garlic through a press or microplane for salad dressing. If you don’t love garlic as much as I do then omit this ingredient, or maybe try half a clove first and see how you like it. It’s zesty, it’s tangy, it’s sure to keep the vampires at bay. Press some garlic. Then juice either a half or whole lemon, according to your taste. I live for lemons, so don’t follow my lead if sour isn’t your thing.
Next add about a tablespoon of whole grain dijon mustard for texture, and about a teaspoon of regular dijon mustard. If this is too complicated then just add about a tablespoon of one or the other. Don’t be fussy!
Pour in about 1/2 cup of Orange Muscat Vinegar. I have only found this vinegar at Trader Joe’s, so if you don’t have one locally you can use some red wine vinegar mixed with fresh orange juice, or just substitute red wine, white wine, or champagne vinegar for this. Again, no need for fuss!
Now for the olive oil. I don’t add much because (surprise, did ‘ya know?!) I love vinegar. But if you are a more normal-ish human being then 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil is probably to your taste.
Now here’s a secret I learned from my dad – in a dressing with vinegar, always add a bit of sugar. I use 1 tablespoon of agave syrup in this dressing becaue the orange muscat vinegar already has a lot of sweetness. Go ahead and try it out for yourself until you strike a balance that works for you. If you don’t have agave on hand, you can use sugar. Honey works too, but will flavor the dressing a bit so use it sparingly.
Then dig in and mix! This is one part of the process that is actually really important. Think of yourself as massaging the kale, not just stirring it around. You want the acidity from the lemon and vinegar to reach each and every curly crevice of each and every leaf. So take your rings off and get slimy.
You can see here that I have dressing pooled in the bottom of the bowl, and this is exactly what you are going for. As you hand-mix, you will notice that some of this dressing gets absorbed. That’s good. If you think you need more dressing to get the kale well covered, go ahead and pour it in, remembering that the idea is for the leaves to “marinate” for a while. Then cover the bowl, pop it in the fridge, and let the kale soften for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
When you take the salad out of the fridge, give it another good toss to mix the leaves up since the ones sitting in the bottom of the bowl will be softer than the ones on the top. You may also notice that the rest of the dressing has been soaked up. Kale is thirsty, and that’s a good thing, so if you want more liquid then feel free to pur on additional dressing. Right before serving you can add your toppings. Here I have feta, almonds, and mandarin oranges, but I’d recommend also throwing in some dried cranberries as well!
Now serve to your friends and family and wait for the oohs and aahs. Or you can be like me and keep it all to yourself. Either way, this recipe is surefire. Now try it out and lemme know what you think!
Here’s the printable recipe: FreeTheMom-Kale-Salad-Recipe
Free The Mom Kale Salad:
Lacinato or curly kale
Toppings: crumbled feta, slivered almonds, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries (anything goes!)
Kale salad dressing ingredients:
1/2c. Trader Joe’s orange muscat vinegar (if you don’t have this then just use white wine, red wine, or champagne vinegar)
1/3c. red wine vinegar
1/4c. olive oil
juice of half or whole lemon
1 clove of garlic, passed through garlic press or grated on a microplane
1T Dijon mustard
1T Agave nectar
fresh ground pepper