Stacey's (Feel Your) BEST Kale Salad!

 
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You may be thinking, ANOTHER kale salad?  That’s so dated!  Well, all I can say is I am still a huge lover of kale.  I literally LOVE kale.  You can do so many things with kale but my 2 most favorite ways to eat kale are raw, or thrown in to some sort of yummy, brothy dish – a soup or a pot of beans or even a tomato sauce.  I definitely like kale LESS as a juice or smoothie ingredient but I think that’s because I only really like it when my intention is to really enjoy the taste of kale.  I admittedly have a smoothie issue – as hard as try I am not yet able to go full on grassy green flavor.  I like my banana and berries and stick with a whopping handful of baby spinach which does the trick.

So, back to the kale salad.  This is the BEST salad (I really think it is).  It is so good that I sometimes make it 3 times in one week.  And for reason I never get sick or tired of it.  It’s that delicious.  And it makes me FEEL so good.  It’s an interesting thing when you start noticing when you love something not only because of how it TASTES but also because of how it makes you FEEL.  To me, something that tastes delicious and makes me feel good is basically a huge home run.  What does it mean when a food makes you feel good?  Well, it GIVES you energy.  And it’s the kind of energy that lasts – not a quick jolt of (sugar) energy that gives you the ILLUSION of energy and then you crash.  And there are definitely some foods that are so nutrient packed that you can literally feel your cells getting nourished and totally psyched!  Kale is PACKED with vitamins A, K, B & C as well as numerous anti-oxidants and fiber.

This particular salad also has tomatoes (lycopene), bell pepper (carotenoid) and almonds (protein, fiber and more vtamins!) so it’s basically a powerhouse of goodness!

I will admit a huge part of what makes this salad so amazing is the dressing.  Even the dressing has nutritious benefits because it contains miso and tahini.  Miso is a fermented food and acts as a probiotic helping to maintain gut health, and tahini is rich in minerals such as magnesium, potassium and iron.  I consider miso and tahini to be standard pantry/fridge items – I always have them on hand as they are versatile ingredients that enhance the flavors of many dressings, sauces, and dishes.  So don’t think it is a waste to buy these things just for this one recipe because I promise I will tell you more ways to use them (one of my latest obsessions is miso siracha devilled eggs!  Are you curious?).  

I also have made this salad with a variety of different add-ins like chickpeas or some quinoa when I need a heartier protein packed lunch but what I am sharing with you is what has become my definitive and most simple best kale salad.  You can totally experiment (it’s salad so you really can’t make a mistake) but I encourage you to try my perfect combo at some point!

Salad Ingredients:

Kale – I like curly kale for this.  I think it works better than lacinto kale which is the flat, much darker kind.  Lacinto works great in the soups and stews but for salad I think the curly (green or purple) work better!

Olive Oil

Bell Pepper – I always buy a tri-color package of bell peppers and have them on hand.

Grape or Cherry Tomatoes

Almonds – I recently started soaking and then slow roasting my own almonds and chop a few up for my salads!  But if you are not feeling the whole homesteading vibe you can definitely use sliced or slivered almonds!

Dressing Ingredients:

Tahini – I buy Whole Foods 365 Organic Tahini.

Sweet White Miso – Right now I have a delicious jar of SOUTH RIVER CERTIFIED ORGANIC sweet white miso in my fridge.   

Mirin Cooking Rice Wine – I use a brand called EDEN ORGANICS.  They carry it at Whole Foods.  Mirin is similar to Sake – it has a sweetness to it. 

Shoyu – I love the flavor of Shoyu but if you need a gluten-free option this is interchangeable with Tamari

Lemon Juice – I always buy organic lemon juice in the little plastic lemons and have 2 of them in the fridge at all times!  I squeeze lemon juice onto and into almost everything.

Toasted Sesame Oil (optional)

Putting it all together:

I like to have my kale prepped in plastic baggies so that it’s easy to throw together a salad.  Whole Foods actually sells a GREAT prewashed organic kale in a bag that I buy when it’s available.  Otherwise I always buy a big green and a big purple head of kale and when I come home I tear the leaves off of the center ribs and wash them in my salad spinner, dry really well and put into baggies with a paper towel to absorb any excess water and this keeps in my refrigerator for up to a week!

Now, I didn’t put exact amounts for the salad ingredients because it really depends on if you’re making this for yourself, or two people or if it is a side salad or a main dish.  And also, we all like different proportions of vegetables to greens.  Christopher and I can eat a LOT of this salad.  I think a good ratio for a 2 person accompaniment salad at dinner is one head of kale to a half a bell pepper and about 10 cherry tomatoes halved and ¼ cup of almonds.  So you can figure it out from there!

1.  Make your dressing.  This is going to be a great test for you to not be afraid to use your tastebuds and intuition!  You are going to use equal parts miso and tahini as the base.  For the 1 head of kale salad I start with ¼ cup of each into the bowl.   Start by adding 1 tbsp each of shoyu/tamari/soy, mirin and lemon juice.  Using a whisk, start mixing everything together adding tiny amounts of cold water as you go to start thinning it out to a creamy consistency (don’t add too much water!  Use the whisk to soften everything up).  Once you have a creamy consistency, start tasting and adjusting.  You can add a little more soy if you want a little more smoky saltiness, and a little more mirin for sweetness and little more lemon juice for the acidity balance.  Add a drizzle of sesame oil and mix in – this just adds a little more depth and nutty toastiness!

2.  When you’re ready to make your salad, throw your kale into a nice big bowl with a tablespoon or two of olive oil and MASSAGE YOUR KALE.  Yup!  You need to massage your raw kale with olive oil so that it softens and becomes tender and more delicious!  You may have had the experience of ordering a kale salad in a restaurant (or making one yourself) and then feel like you’re trying to eat a TREE, right?  And you have to chew, and chew just to break down the kale to swallow it.  Do not skip this step and I PROMISE you will be changed forever!  Massaging your kale until it’s nicely coated with oil and getting soft is a GAME CHANGER.

3.  Are you ready for this really complicated next step?  Throw in your sliced bell pepper, halved tomatoes and sliced or chopped almonds.

4.  Add half of your dressing and toss to coat with your hands to really integrate the dressing.  Taste, and then add more dressing and toss to coat until you get the flavor you want.  (Umm, I use a lot of this dressing because it is SO good).  Save any leftover dressing (if you have any!) even if it is a tablespoon and then use it in your next batch!

5.  If you want to be super fancy garnish with black and/or white sesame seeds.

                                                                    ENJOY!

I’d love to hear how you liked this recipe and if you made any creative changes that worked out really well!  You can leave your questions or comments below.  Here’s to Feeling Your Best!