The challenge with kale is making it taste good. Look, everybody knows kale is super healthy, but if you don’t prepare it in just the right way, it can be bitter and unpalatable to the average eater. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare it that cut the bitterness, leaving you with a delicious vegetable that can’t be topped when it comes to nutritional power. So, if you haven’t enjoyed kale up until now, get ready for a surprise.
When I talked with Chef Jeannette about this salad recipe, she told me that most home chefs find making raw kale challenging. One way to conquer the “kale objection” is with a really amazing salad dressing. And this salad has the best dressing you’ve ever had on kale. No kidding. Also, pay attention to this month’s “Notes from the Clean Food Coach,” because she tells you the game-changing trick to defeating the bitterness problem when preparing raw kale.
If you’re like me, by the time February rolls around you just might be feeling a little … blah. After all, we’ve just come off the holiday season, we’ve spent most of the winter eating heavier, warmer foods, and in most parts of the country it’s still bitterly cold. These are not ideal conditions for lighter, greener fare. But the dense chewy nature of the kale—and the tasty fats of the avocado and the dressing—are satisfyingly fresh without making you feel cold inside. Enjoy!
Featured Ingredient: Kale
Once upon a time there was a testing procedure used by the USDA to determine the antioxidant capacity of fruits and vegetables. It was called the ORAC test. Researchers would look at all the different antioxidants and phytochemicals that are found in a plant food and determine how well they worked together as a team to fight cell-damaging free radicals. The foods were given what’s called an ORAC rating. Kale consistently scored as number one among the vegetables. (The ORAC test has since been retired, but kale continues to score high rankings on virtually all the tests that have replaced it.)
Kale is actually a type of cabbage, which means that it has even more health benefits than its antioxidant power alone. Like others in the brassica family, it contains powerful phytochemicals such as cancer-fighting indoles. It’s also high in sulfur, and contains a compound known as sulforaphane, which helps give a boost to the body’s detoxification enzymes and may help fight cancer as well. Sulforaphane is formed when the vegetables containing it are chopped or chewed, and it triggers the liver to remove free radicals and other chemicals that may cause DNA damage. Several studies—including one in the prestigious Journal of Nutrition—have demonstrated that sulforaphane helps stop breast cancer proliferation.
Kale is also loaded with calcium, iron, and vitamins A, C, and bone-building K. It contains seven times the beta-carotene of broccoli and 10 times as much lutein and zeaxanthin, eye-protecting carotenoids known to help protect against macular degeneration. And 2 cups of the stuff contain about 4g of protein and 3g of fiber, making it an all-around nutritional powerhouse vegetable.
Notes from the Clean Food Coach:
To prepare curly kale for a raw salad, strip the greens from the stems with your fingers. The stems can be chopped and sautéed or stir-fried for another use later. Chop the leafy part of the kale into small pieces—large pieces make the salad harder to eat. Sprinkle the chopped kale lightly with salt and massage it well with clean hands for about 30 seconds. Don’t be afraid to squeeze it hard all over to help break down the fibers. Raw kale is tough and can have a bitter edge—lightly salting and massaging it will mellow the flavor and soften the texture without cooking.
- Cover sundried tomatoes in boiling water in a small bowl for a few minutes to rehydrate and soften. Remove from the water and transfer to high-speed blender, reserving soak water. Let water cool until it’s warm, but not overly hot.
- Combine ¼ cup cooled soak water, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, honey, and salt and pepper, and blend until smooth. Stir in red pepper flakes.
- To make salad, combine prepared kale and dressing, and toss until thoroughly coated. Gently fold in the avocado and top with Parmesan, if using.