Flash in the Pan: The Art of Kale Massage
 Alibi V.23 No.47 • Nov 20-26, 2014 

Flash in the Pan

The Art of Kale Massage

How to reconnect with the veggie you love

Ari LeVaux

There are many who purport to be sick of kale—its popularity as much as the vegetable itself. If you search the web for negative phrases that include kale, such as "kale" in conjunction with "the F-word," you'll find an astounding array of websites devoted to complaining about this leafy green, as well as numerous opportunities to purchase anti-kale t-shirts.

But even those who love kale can find themselves running low on ways to prepare it. Stir-fries, smoothies and kale chips can only get you so far. And if they're not careful, even diehard kale-philes might find themselves cursing it under their breath. If that's you, I have some suggestions that will help bring the magic back to your relationship with delicious kale.

The first recipe is more of a technique, a method of softening kale and unlocking its sweetness without cooking it. Any kale will work, and there are many varieties to choose from these days. Curly green kale is my go-to variety, but black kale, aka dino, aka Tuscan, aka Lacinato kale, will work as well. Wash the kale and shake it dry, or use a spinner. Pull the leafy material off of each stalk, and put the spineless leaves in a big mixing bowl.

But even those who love kale can find themselves running low on ways to prepare it.

Add a ¼ teaspoon salt and half a lime's worth of juice per bunch. The salt and acid will further tenderize the leaves as you massage them. Squeeze, twist, pull, rip and otherwise traumatize the kale; it will wilt down to a fraction of its former size.

My favorite way to prepare massaged kale is to add ¼ cup olive oil per bunch and grated or pressed garlic (a clove or so per bunch). Toss the salad with olives and cheese—either grated Parmesan or crumbled feta. Top with a handful of toasted pumpkin seeds. If you want to get extra fancy, toss in thin slices of blood orange, peel and all. The bitterness of the peel bridges the flavors of the bittersweet orange and the bitter kale, while providing a juicy, colorful contrast. Some toasted pumpkin seeds go well on top.

The next recipe is the ubiquitous golden beet and kale salad, which can be found in various forms at a co-op or natural food grocer near you.

If using fresh kale, massage as above. If using frozen kale, allow some time to thaw. Chop the kale as coarsely or thinly as you like (most versions of the recipe call for chiffonade, or thin ribbons). For each bunch of kale, make a dressing of 2 tablespoons each of tahini, soy sauce and cider vinegar. Stir it all together, adding two tablespoons of hot water if necessary to soften the tahini.

Grate 1-2 medium golden beets per bunch of kale and a medium carrot. Press or mince 1-2 cloves of garlic. A tablespoon of oregano, optional, adds an herbal contrast that works surprisingly well.

Toss it all together, and marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Thus prepared, the kale is drenched in a nutty, soy saucy flavor that is tough to get sick of.