That’s a direct quote from my 4 year old last week at dinner. Well, I’m glad she asked.
Honestly, a year ago I wouldn’t have known what to do with kale. I don’t know exactly what prompted it … but it had something to do with a combination of hearing this story on Chicago Public Radio over my lunch break, trying to incorporate some recipes from the Mediterranean Diet book (<-affiliate link) I had downloaded on my Kindle, and a new babysitter who likes to cook for us sometimes and made me a kale salad one night (I’m spoiled). Whatever it was, all of a sudden it became important to me to eat kale.
I quickly noticed I wasn’t the only one who discovered kale this year … I might actually be kind of late to the bandwagon. See this article in Well+Good NYC, or one of the roughly 19 bazillion Pinterest pins dedicated to this leafy green (including some beautiful looking recipes, like this or this from a few food bloggers who could definitely teach me a thing or two).
It’s surprisingly versatile. Plus, if you want your efforts in the kitchen to last beyond one meal, it’s such a durable green that you can keep the leftovers for the next meal (with the dressing on) and it doesn’t turn into mush. Oh, and p.s. it’s a “superfood.”
So here’s where most kale salad recipes seem to start.
In a large mixing bowl, add the above ingredients. I measure kale as 4 cups after I press it down a bit (equates to almost a full bunch the way mine comes packaged). Massage well with your hands for several minutes. Let sit for awhile. The more you massage, the softer the kale.
If you think standard kale is too tough, turns out Red Russian kale is thinner and sweeter. I (sort of) grew some in my little mini garden this year (direct result of hearing that Ecomyths story on the radio about what you can actually grow in Chicago through November), not because I knew any better … just because it was the only type of kale plant they had at the only nursery I set foot in this year.
Unfortunately the aphids and caterpillars also really liked it so I have not exactly ended up with much. But on the bright side, I discovered I am very good at farming caterpillars. Maybe the kale plants will flourish this fall (wishful thinking?).
So, for most of my salads I’m working with an approximate ratio of 2 leaves of my delicious sweet Red Russian kale to roughly 3.5 cups of standard grocery store kale. Today it’s all grocery store kale.
From this point you can go almost any direction with your kale salad (so I imagine). I, to this point, have kept it to approximately two variations (which, come to think of it, may be why my 4 year old is complaining). Here is one of them, originally inspired by this but then substantially modified to be more Thai like. It reminds me of a lettuce wrap appetizer at the little Thai restaurant back in Bloomington.
- Laura's Kale Base (see above)
- 2 TB orange juice
- 1 TB lemon juice or lime juice
- 1 TB balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 4 shredded carrots
- 3 TB minced red onion
- ¾ cup sunflower seeds (we have PN/TN allergy)
- ½ tsp cumin
- Pinch nutmeg
- ⅔ cup raisins
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 TB soy sauce (optional for soy free)
- Massage kale with salt and olive oil, toss all other ingredients in. Best (but not necessary) if prepared a few hours in advance to let the flavors soak in.
Peanuts would give its more authentic flavor if your house isn’t peanut free like ours. You could add dried pineapple, shrimp, or any other Thai inspired element as well.
The picture above shows the entire recipe, it serves 2 generous entree sized salads or a perfect size side for a larger group.
The best part is that there is not a bunch of chopping involved. And carrots, raisins, sunflower seeds … well, actually almost everything in the recipe has a long shelf life so it is not something you have to remember to shop for. Just leave the cilantro out if you don’t have it. It is still quite good. And that, my friends, is precisely why I keep coming back to this same recipe. Almost. Every. Week.
I hope my coworker likes it, because she may also get to eat it once a week for the next two months.
So, drum roll please … how much did I save by bringing my lunch? I did the math based on my grocery store’s prices with no fancy shopping, price comparing, coupons, or buying in bulk (I am rarely very diligent about this with small-ticket grocery items), and the entire salad costs $7.30 (all organic ingredients) or $5.93 (conventional). Interestingly, the largest price difference for organic vs. non organic was the raisins (37% more for organic). Raisin pricing is actually quite interesting, so who knows what other dynamics are at play. But I digress. Bottom line, it appears I fed two of us an organic kale salad for the price of one (very reasonable, non-organic) restaurant salad. That’s good in my book.
Here it is, ready for the coworker lunch share:
Are you already on the kale bandwagon? I’m going to be up to my waist in kale once my mini-garden takes off in October (right?), so in the meantime, send any good recipes my way. Just no kale chip recipes, because that is soooo 2012.