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It’s a little annoying when I go to the Farmer’s Market and there are seven thousand and three varieties of kale, and they’re all very pretty but they all look a little like something greenspeople plant by the thousands at Disneyland in Autumn rather than something I want to put on my plate, and you ask the farmer, “How do I eat this?” and he replies, “Like any kind of kale!”  Yeah, thanks.

But I guess that’s why I started this blog in the first place.  I don’t have cookbooks full of kale recipes, and even if I did it’s unlikely I’d have tried enough of them to be able to speak nonchalantly about them, like, “oh, of course, I’ll just whip up my Kale a la Bligadibong.”

This guy:

is technically called Redbor Kale, I think, but I like to call it Frilly Purple Kale, for obvious reasons.  He’s not red, for starters.  But he was pretty, and I need more iron in my diet and it’s a little hot for Kale Chips (what are Kale Chips you say?  Glad you asked Post on them coming up shortly…  Posted!) so I figured, why not?  Let’s try something new.

I thought a kale slaw of some kind might be nice, since kale is related to cabbage after all, but I couldn’t decide whether to go traditional mayo-type, or interesting peanut dressing, or something else entirely.  Finally, I settled on modifying this one for the main reason that it contained no red peppers which I’m not a big fan of.  In addition to being a lovely little side salad, I very much like that it’s vegan, which makes no difference to a bacon-lover like myself, really, except that bacon is always my go-to for bitter greens, and probably isn’t the healthiest counterpart.  More importantly, though, since it’s vegan that means no dairy, which means it can sit outside at a barbecue most of the afternoon and not poison my friends.  Score!

Kale Slaw with Toasted Walnuts

My changes:  I used 1 bunch Frilly Purple Kale and then at the last minute threw in 1/3-1/2 bunch of Curly Kale because it was in the fridge about to go bad and I didn’t think I had enough salad.  As an added bonus, however, the salad turned out much prettier with a little more variety of color, so I think I’ll do this in the future as well.  The recipe calls for just one large carrot, but I had 3-5 medium (again, about to go bad – end of the week fridge clean-out here) so I went with those instead.  And again, I recommend a little heavier on the carrot – it gives it a nice crunch.  I also wasn’t about to take the time to mince walnuts, so I took my good ol’ trusty bag of Walnut Halves and Pieces and just sort of crumbled them into more uniform sizes with my hands.  I probably ended up using more than the 1/4 c called for, but I also liked that I could actually taste them.  Minced seems…picayune.  But do take the time to toast them – toasting nuts brings out the flavor so you can use less, and the bit of warmth when they’re fresh out helps wilt the kale a bit.

  • 1 1/2 bunches Kale, preferably Frilly types because they’re prettier
  • 3-4 medium carrots – I like  to use multi-colored instead of just orange, again, for looks
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, separated into 2 tbs + what’s left
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, separated into 1 tbs + leftover
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 c crumbled walnuts (toasted)

First thing after washing, you’re going to want to get rid of this guy:That’s the center rib of each leaf.  I often skip this step when I’m cooking kale, but for raw kale salads, it’s just too fibrous and unappetizing.

The easiest way to remove that rib from Frilly Kale is to fold the leaf in half and just run the knife down the side of the stem.

Please don’t mock my knife skills.  I have none.  I’m amazed I haven’t lost a thumb yet.

Pull all the lovely leafy parts away and toss the ribs into the compost pile.

Line up your leaves and slice them into thin strips.  This will make a giant mess that will severely disappoint your dog when she races over to see what you are spilling all over the floor.

Now comes the kinky part.  Put your shredded greens (purples?) into a bowl, add 2 tbs red wine vinegar, 1 tbs olive oil, and some salt, and give it a massage.

That’s right, a massage.  Don’t just toss it people, rub it in.  That’s the key to eating raw kale.  Raw kale is a tough, somewhat bitter little bugger, and as a tough, somewhat bitter little bugger myself, I can tell you, the only thing that makes it palatable is softening it up through a good massage.  And doing dishes for it.  Oh wait, that’s just for me.

Give it a good 3 minutes of rubdown, working the dressing and salt in, and then let it sit.  Turn on some ocean sounds for it so it can really relax.

Meanwhile, start toasting walnuts on aluminum foil in toaster oven at 325 for 8-10 minutes.

Peel your carrots and remove the tough stem end and maybe a bit of the tip if your peeling skills stink and it’s got dirt on it still.  If you have a food processor, I recommend attempting to put your carrots through the grater because if it works it’s super-fast, looks much nicer, and gives you just a wee bit of crunch without making the salad all about the carrots.  But since my carrots were getting a little wiggly, it only worked on 2 of them, so I had to chop the last one into shredded carrot size by hand.  Pain in the patootie.  Lazy lazy people might just want to buy pre-shredded carrots from the grocery store and I wouldn’t blame you.

Toss the carrots with the now-placid kale.  With a whisk or blender, combine the remaining oil and vinegar, honey, ginger, S &P, and garlic – do use a fresh clove if you’ve got it instead of garlic powder; it makes a difference.  Toss the dressing into the salad.Take the toasty walnuts out of the oven and dump them into the salad – toss quickly and carefully – they will be hot.  You will accidentally burn your hands and may suck on your fingers on instinct and then have to remind yourself to wash your hands again before continuing to toss.  Not that I did that….  You may choose to let them cool first, like intelligent people probably do, but I actually like that the hot walnuts help the kale wilt just a little bit more – if you’re making this salad right before eating, that’s a good thing.  If it’s going in the fridge until tomorrow, it probably doesn’t matter.

I honestly love this salad – it’s good cold, it’s good room temp, it keeps well, and it’s a lot healthier than cole slaw or potato salad for summer barbecues.  Also, it’s pretty.  I like pretty.

Some General Kale Facts:

Trim? Not necessary if you’re cooking it, though often preferred – for this recipe, lose the center rib.
Edible when raw? Yes – it needs to be massaged or wilted slightly to reduce the toughness, but it’s lovely.
Worth the price of organic? Yes – greens are on most “Must Buy Organic” lists, kale in particular, frilly kales especially in particular because pesticides get trapped in the curves and frills.  Organic all the way.
Best with:  Kale in general is good with bacon, goat cheese, vinegars – strong flavors to help counteract the slightly bitter taste of the leaf.  I also like soy sauce, peanuts/peanut oil, teriyaki, and other Asian flavorings for the sweet/sour interplay.
In Season:  It likes a frost, so technically fall, winter and spring, but I’ve never NOT seen it for sale unless it’s been 100 degrees for a straight month.  If one variety of kale is gone, you can usually swap in another.
How to Store: A trick I learned from an Internet stranger on a forum for all greens – as soon as you get home, fill your sink with warmish water.  Soak your greens as you scrub them with your fingers to get the dirt off the stems.  Drain the sink, then refill with cold water – the warm water opens the plant pores so they’ll absorb more water; the cold closes them to prevent wilting.  Pat dry with paper towels or spin in a spinner and put in the fridge.  Kale is a nice hearty green that we’ve been able to keep around for as long as 2 weeks, but I wouldn’t count on longer than a week if you want to be able to use the whole thing without yellowing bits.