A massage releases stiffness and loosens muscles, making you feel more flexible.
And when you massage kale, something similar happens. A little massage — rubbing the leaves (minus any heavy ribs) lightly between your hands, sometimes with a little added salt or olive oil — relaxes the thick kale leaves, making them more pliable and less bitter.
It does work. Last week I had a caesar salad made with massaged kale, and while the texture differed from that of crunchy romaine lettuce, it was tasty and tender. It was an easy salad to prepare, containing — besides the massaged kale leaves — reduced-calorie commercial caesar dressing, crisp bacon bits, homemade croutons made by drying cubes of stale bread in a slow oven and a sprinkle of grated Pecorino cheese.
Another way of preparing kale is to cut it in chiffonade. This French term means to roll leaves tightly together, a few at a time, and cut the rolls into thin slices, thereby making narrow ribbons of green leaves.
Here is a recipe for a salad made with kale leaves, which are cut in chiffonade, and then massaged. The “alligator pears” in the recipe title references an old name for avocados.
Lightly Massaged Kale with Alligator Pear
From Hanna, Sharon: The Book of Kale: the easy-to-grow superfood
2 L (8 cups) Tuscan kale leaves in chiffonade
2.5 mL (1/2 tsp) salt
1 large sweet red bell pepper
45 mL (3 tbsp) currants
1 perfectly ripe large avocado, or 2 small ones, diced
60 mL (1/4 cup) pine nuts, lightly toasted
15 mL (1 tbsp) lime juice
15 mL (1 tbsp) white wine vinegar
60 mL (1/4 cup) olive oil
10 mL (2 tsp) finely minced shallots
Place kale chiffonade in a serving bowl. Rub the salt into the kale with your hands, massaging it lightly for a few minutes or until you can feel it relax a little. Quarter the red pepper, removing the white parts, and slice thinly. Add the red pepper slices and currants to the kale.
Prepare the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk the lime juice, vinegar, olive oil and shallots with a little pepper. Pour over the salad and add the diced avocado, tossing gently. Sprinkle with pine nuts, then dive in.
Makes 4 servings.
The preceding recipe calls for Tuscan kale leaves. Tuscan kale has long dark green leaves, and goes by several other aliases, including dinosaur, black and palm kale.
No longer limited to the ornamental heads that turn pink in the fall and were, in the past, used more often for their decorative value than their food value, eaters are now able to purchase the above-mentioned Tuscan kale. We also can get curly kale, Russian kale with reddish, blue or bright green leaves and kale microgreens, baby kale leaves snipped off while still young and used on sandwiches, burgers and salads.
Why the sudden popularity of kale? Like some entertainers, kale is an overnight sensation that was years in the making. We knew that kale was packed, as are other dark green vegetables, with beta-carotene, from which our bodies produce Vitamin A. We also knew that it contained calcium.
Nutrition professionals started recommending that people consume plant-based meals several times a week, and more North Americans began eating vegetarian diets all or part of the time. Some started touting kale as a super food as they learned more about other vitamins and minerals it contained, and its abundance of health promoting phytonutrients.
As this previously little-known vegetable took on a new prominence, people wanted to try it. The larger grocery stores, as well as farmers’ market vendors, responded to this demand by supplying more types for people to buy.
Chopped kale leaves — any kind you like — with heavy stems removed, are added to this nourishing soup for the last five minutes of cooking time and so retain their fresh flavour and colour.
Soup with Lentils, Fresh Herbs and Kale
From Topp, Ellie, and Marilyn Booth: “Fresh & Healthy Cooking for two: easy meals for everyday life.” Formac Publishing Company Limited, Halifax, 2011.
15 mL (1 tbsp) olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
125 mL (1/2 cup) dried brown lentils, rinsed
75 mL (1/3 cup) brown rice
2 large tomatoes, peeled and diced, about 500 mL (2 cups)
1 L (4 cups) low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
7 mL (1 1/2 tsp) chopped fresh oregano OR 2 mL (½ tsp) dried
7 mL (1 1/2 tsp) chopped fresh basil OR 2 mL (½ tsp) dried
500 mL (2 cups) chopped kale, fibrous stems removed
salt and ground black pepper
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and sweet potato. Cook for 8 minutes or until soft, stirring frequently.
Add lentils, rice, tomatoes, broth, oregano and basil. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour or until lentils are tender.
Stir in kale. Return to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until kale is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 4 servings, about 425 mL (1 3/4 cups) each.
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email