Everyone enjoys a good massage now and again. As it turns out, so does kale.
I first heard about massaged kale at Cru, a restaurant in Los Angeles. The menu described the kale as “rubbed,” and having no idea what that referred to, I ordered the salad out of curiosity. Once the dish arrived, I noticed something right away: the kale was nearly a different color and texture. The soft and delicate, tender and deep dark green leaves were a far cry from the thick and rubbery, silvery-green kale I knew. Instead of eating it because I knew how good it was for me, the kale was, dare I say it? Enjoyable.
I began experimenting with massaged kale at home and yielded amazing results. The stiff, bitter leaves relax into buttery-soft ribbons that keep in the fridge for days. It was a revelation, all from just a little rub-down.
When kale is massaged, its cellulose structure breaks down and wilts, so the leaves that were once tough and fibrous become silky. The kale reduces in volume by over half and the leaves take on a subtle sweetness.
The massage itself is simple. Once you wash and stem the kale, dress it and start rubbing the leaves together. Vigorously. Think of yourself as Sven the Swedish deep-tissue masseur and go to town on those leaves. After a couple minutes the kale should have submitted to your brutal, bone-breaking power and will have turned into delicate, dark green and tender foliage.
Massaged kale obviously makes a great base for salad, but you can also add some to sandwiches, stir-fries, even pesto.
Massaged Kale Salad and Grapes with Poppy Seed Dressing
For the massaged kale:
1 bunch kale, stemmed and sliced into ribbons
Cold-pressed olive oil
1. In a large bowl, dress kale with lemon juice and olive oil onto kale leaves and add a pinch or two of sea salt. Roll up your sleeves and massage kale until it’s deep dark green, soft, and tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add anything you like: fruits, veggies, cooked or sprouted grains and legumes, nuts and seeds. Get creative. Once you’ve massaged your kale, store it in a tightly sealed container for up to 4 days in the fridge.
Here’s what I added to my massaged kale:
A couple handfuls each red and green grapes
1 ripe avocado
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
Poppy Seed Dressing
¼ cup cold-pressed olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ shallot, diced
1 tablespoon poppyseeds
Pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon honey
Whisk all ingredients together. Store leftovers in a glass jar for up to one week.