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Meatless Monday: Massaged Kale Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

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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
1 lemon
Cold-pressed olive oil
Sea salt

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.

Head here for more meatless recipe ideas.

Sarah Britton is a holistic nutritionist, vegetarian chef, and the creator of the award-winning blog My New Roots. Sarah is currently a chef at three organic restaurants in Copenhagen, Denmark, where she has earned praise for her creative and adventurous recipes. A Certified Nutritional Practitioner, she is also the founder of New Roots Holistic Nutrition, where she educates others to be active participants in their own health and healing.

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Comments (17)

  • Tried it without the poppy seeds (just because I didn't have them on hand), this is delicious!!!

  • Looks awesome...on the menu before the end of the week

  • [...] it as a salad, it always leaves me wondering (should I do it again?). But here I found a great recipe which calls for some kale and some rubbing. I know it sounds kind off odd, but think about it. [...]

  • [...] Massaged kale salad with poppy seed dressing – Vitamin boosting and a great way to use some of our spring greens from wholeliving.com [...]

  • [...] lemon juice.  I also tried the massaged kale approach for the first time (you can read about it here) and am pretty impressed with the results.  Kale often is a bit too coarse for most people to eat [...]

  • [...] Melbourne tourism video 1989 on The Island Continent. | Kale is £1 a bunch at the corner shop. Massaged kale salad, one pot kale and quinoa pilaf. | More recipes: Shakshuka; I’m a brussels sprout convert [...]

  • I never knew about the "massaged kale"....omg it is soooo much more enjoyable now as a salad!!

    I kinda improvised on the ingredients since I was out of grapes (so I added apples) and sunflower seeds instead of the pine nuts but still delicious..
    Thanks for sharing this!

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  • I never knew kale could be this delicious, until I tried it massaged. Thanks for sharing and enlightening more veggie lovers.

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