Terribly trendy, but oh so good. I love kale salads. Especially a good raw kale salad with a fantastic dressing. This is one of my absolute favorite dressings (or shall I say vinaigrette?) for kale. One that appears on our table a lot! It’s bursting with Asian flavors — roasted sesame oil, Japanese rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger and a couple other delicious flavorings. Really, what’s not to love?
Actually, this should actually be a recipe for sesame-ginger dressing, since it is one of my favorite dressings and versatile enough to be used with any robust green – it’s terrific with pointed cabbage (red pointed cabbage if you can get your hands on it), savoy (Chinese) cabbage, curly kale (actually kale of any kind) and a wonderful assortment of other vegetables that may accompany your salad — think sweet red peppers, cool and crunchy carrots, tender snow peas, even edamame. I have made this countless times, every time a little differently than the last, but the essence stay the same — the dressing — and this time a simple version with lacinato kale and sweet red pointed pepper. The perfect mix for a detoxifying and vitamin rich kale salad.
I may be a bit of an anomaly, but I’d figure for many of us, it’s hard enough to convince ourselves to eat our greens, let alone to try something like kale — raw. But trust me, it can taste REALLY amazing. If you are a little skeptical, let me tell a little trick to making it taste great. First of all, you want to transform those sturdy leaves into something soft and tender. I do that by massaging the leaves with a little olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice until they are all well coated. This little massage breaks down the cell walls of the kale, allowing it to wilt and absorb all the incredible flavors — all of which makes it insanely good. You don’t even have to go for the full 5 or 10 minute massage. Once you dress it up with the rest of the dressing you can let it sit a while and let the dressing do the rest of the magic. With time, it also tenderizes the leaves. Sweet.
When you make the dressing for this salad, you may think it’s not enough for all that kale, but since it is an intense and deeply flavored dressing that is being tossed with already pre-dressed kale, it works out to be, what I think, the perfect amount. If I am not eating a massive bowl of this to myself, then I serve this kale salad as a tasty side with simple grilled chicken or fish. Enjoy!
NOTE: I prefer Japanese rice vinegar since it is not as strong as the Chinese produced vinegars. Look for it in your local Asian supermarket.
Asian Kale Salad with Sesame-Ginger Dressing
Serves 4, as a side
For the salad:
1 bunch lacinato kale (also called Tuscan/dinosaur kale), or regular curly kale, tough ribs removed and cut into bite-sized pieces (about 450 g / 6 handfuls)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
freshly squeezed juice from half a lemon
1-2 pointed sweet red peppers, cut lengthwise and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, to garnish (optional)
For the dressing:
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar (Japanese)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
NOTE: if making this dressing for a salad that doesn’t require “a massage” beforehand (meaning anything other then kale), then I would add the 1 tablespoon olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice to the dressing ingredients. I’ll leave it up to you whether you want to add extra salt.
1. In a large bowl, toss kale with the olive oil, salt and lemon juice and rub into kale to soften.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, olive oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger until well combined.
3. Add the red peppers to the salad. Pour the dressing over the salad, sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using), and toss well. Serve and enjoy!
NOTE: this salad is great prepared in advance, so go ahead and let it sit while you prepare the rest of your meal.