Kitchen Classics: Kale Salad, Fully Loaded
[The photo that started it all. . .. ]
It’s been a crazy couple of weeks here in the DDD household, what with mega-marking for my classes at the college, a whirlwind trip to Montreal (more on that anon), the regular array of doctor’s appointments, a quick visit for a dental emergency (my molar is fine now), evening visits to the Vet emergency clinic (Chaser is fine now), weekday visits from the emergency plumber (the toilet is fine now), and long-deferred evenings with the HH (our relationship will be fine now). So thank you all for your patience in waiting for this next recipe!
Before I get to the recipe, though, I’m going to make you wait just a wee bit longer (am I terrible, or what?) so I can share a little from our trip to Montreal last weekend.
After spending time with my dad to wish him both both a Happy Father’s Day and a Happy 91st Birthday (yes, you read that right!), I knew exactly where I wanted to dine: Aux Vivres, one of the most popular, hippest vegan spots in that city.
Despite driving over an hour before we found the place (which was quite the feat, considering we were only 15 minutes away when we started), we were thrilled to finally ease into a parking spot and run across Boulevard St.-Laurent into the bright, bustling and (thankfully) bilingual café.
After a heavy (if yummy) brunch that morning, the one thing I really craved was a green juice. I started with the Popeye, while the HH went for a Mango Lassi:
[The HH's Mango lassi on the left, my green juice on the right.]
For dinner, the HH (of course) chose the closest thing to meat on the menu and ordered the Portobello Burger, about which he raved.
[Manly Portobello Burger. Look at the size of those fries!]
I sank my teeth into a Buddha Bowl with grilled tempeh (which reminded me that I also need to make these types of bowls at home more often!):
[Vegan Happy Meal--apologies for the blurred photo!]
All in all, a wonderful meal, as always. We had hoped to get to Crudessence as well, but ran out of time!
Once back in Toronto, I decided to get serious about cooking up some healthy fare. I don’t know about you, but after the Chai Ice Cream, Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Filled Cupcakes, Raw Fudge-Topped Brownies and Lemon-Kissed Blueberry Ice Cream in quick succession, I think I am all “desserted-out” now.
Naw, kidding! (I honestly can’t imagine such a thing. . . ).
[Vibrant with additions of grape tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, spring mix and cucumber.]
So, despite the fact that I *could* continue sharing an indefinite number of desserts until, oh, 2042 or so (to me, nothing is ever as interesting as dessert, so I tend to lean–heavily–in that direction), I have chosen to take a break from the sweet stuff and begin to share all the other stuff I eat on a daily basis.
When I posted what I considered to be a fairly basic kale salad the other day on Facebook and got a resounding response from readers (in fact, that little update got more comments/likes than anything else I’ve ever posted on the page), I realized that regular food deserves its moment in the sun, too! (Well, not really “in the sun,” of course, since we all know that would be bad for its health and increase its chances of skin cancer–but you know what I mean).
[A blend with purple cabbage, green apple, and pumpkin seeds]
In a way, I think of this salad as the culinary counterpart to The HH. (What? The salad is going a little bald at the top?).
Let me explain.
Like so many other couples who’ve been together for some time, the HH and I have established routines in our lives. He’s the one who gets up in the morning to walk The Girls; I’m the one who feeds them their dinner. In the evenings, we walk them together. When we prepare our own dinner, I’m the kitchen director and the HH is my sous-chef (well, chopper, at any rate). He’s in charge of the lawn mower and I’m in charge of the food processor. Et cetera.
As a teenager, I remember glancing at my parents sitting across from each other at the dinner table and thinking that their lives were unbearably dull and routine, devoid of amy spark or novelty. They just seemed so. . . . blasé with each other.
[With cherry tomatoes, green cabbage, sunflower seeds and chopped pecans]
These days, though, I’ve come to appreciate that there is comfort and security in familiarity. It’s like sliding into the car seat each morning with everything already adjusted, so there’s no need to fix the rear-view mirror or move the chair forward; or that beloved blouse you’ve worn so many times you recognize the faint aroma of your favorite perfume when you withdraw it from your drawer. Or like that old wooden spoon you got as a gift when you moved into your first apartment, the one that’s stained and glossy with the nuance of oils and sugar and cookie dough batter that have worked their way into the wood grain over the years, the handle having shaped itself to your grip over time with so many uses.
Life with a long-term partner is like that, too: the steady, repeated drum of your daily life like the constant flow of water from a stream, engraving its pattern into the rock; eventually, the rough edges are all smoothed out, the water’s groove etched permanently.
It’s the daily, quotidien habits that provide a sense of harmony and contentment, even when we begin to take them for granted. Sometimes, it takes an outsider’s comment–”Wow, that HH is so funny!” a friend might remark after we’ve all had dinner together, or “I can’t believe that the HH knew who Robert Bussard was!” or “Seriously? The HH painted that??”–to startle us back into appreciation. And at times like that, I remember exactly why I was so smitten to begin with, and what it is I still love.
[A perfect summer lunch plate.]
So, okay, maybe it’s a stretch, but I think we go through the same dulling of appreciation with familiar foods, too. Anything that you eat regularly–part of the “routine”–can be taken for granted, and you may lose sight of how remarkably great that food seems to someone who doesn’t consume it on a regular basis.*
That’s why I was so taken aback by your response to this salad on Facebook. Ever since I first encountered a similar recipe in Kim’s recipe calendar, we’ve eaten a variation on this dish at least once a week in our house; to me, it’s as familiar as my fingerprints. At the same time, the fact that it is so common offers a sense of regularity (and–ahem–I mean that in both senses of the word). Your reaction made me wonder if perhaps there was more here than I realized–had I been taking my quotidien Kale Salad for granted?
Well, thanks to all of you for recasting my perception of this salad. To me, it had become a pair of comfy PJs, a favorite hairbrush that’s softened with years of use, a constant, steady and familiar companion whose presence was so ubiquitous it almost receded into the background.
But now, looking at it with new eyes, my heart jumps again when I gaze in that direction. And I appreciate
him it more than ever.
*I’d say this principle is true of every food except chocolate, of course. I am still just as besotted today as I was the first day I encountered it.
What’s your kitchen staple–a dish that’s common in your kitchen, but might seem new and tantalizing to someone else?
[With added hemp seeds, sprouts, radish, apple and chopped pecans]
Kale Salad, Fully Loaded
This is really less of a recipe and more of a guideline. Essential ingredients, in my opinion, are “The Base;” (it IS a kale salad, after all!); “Crunchy Veggies” (especially carrot and beet); “Fresh Herbs,” which I feel really “make” this salad; and “Nuts and Seeds” (at least one choice). All the other categories can be omitted if desired and you’ll still end up with a yummy salad. Switching up the ingredients in each category allows for infinite possibilities. Take your pick and enjoy salad all year!
1 bunch (6-9 leaves) curly kale or Swiss chard (red or white), or a combination
1 cup (240 ml) mixed baby salad greens, bite-sized romaine lettuce, bite-sized butter lettuce, arugula (rocket) or a combination
1 medium carrot, grated
1 medium beet, grated
1 rib celery, diced
1/2 red, yellow or orange pepper, diced
1/2 cup (120 ml) of at least 2 types of coarsely chopped fresh herbs (my favorites are dill, basil, mint, flat leaf parsley and cilantro)
1/2 cup total of any combination of fresh nut pieces and seeds (my favorite combinations are walnuts or pecans and hemp seeds; walnuts or pecans and sunflower seeds; almonds and pumpkin seeds)
2 cups (480 ml) total of any of the following (or any combination):
- finely shredded white or purple cabbage
1 apple or pear, cored and diced; or 1 cup fresh blueberries or strawberries; or 1 avocado, peeled, cored and diced; or 1/4 cup goji berries or golden berries; or 1 cup diced fresh pineapple
Other Add-Ins (all of these are optional):
1/2 fennel bulb, sliced thin
4-6 radishes, sliced in half-moons
1/3 cucumber, sliced in half moons
handful of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
handful of sprouts (my favorites are sunflower, pea, or alfalfa sprouts)
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt
2 Tbsp -1/4 cup (30-60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
juice of 1/2 large lemon, to your taste
Soften the kale: Remove the kale leaves from the ribs; discard ribs, then wash and dry the leaves. Stack the leaves, roll tightly (jelly-roll style), then cut thinly crosswise to create long thin shreds. Chop the shreds into smaller pieces and place in a large salad bowl.
Sprinkle the kale with salt and drizzle with about 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil. Using your clean hands, “massage” the kale, squeezing it and squishing it between your fingers, until it begins to darken and soften a bit (this breaks down the fibers in the leaves and renders them more easily digestible–but they will still retain a nice crunch). Wash and chop the chard using the same method and add to the bowl (it doesn’t need to be massaged).
Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss with the lemon juice and more salt and/or olive oil, if desired. I like this salad fairly dry, so that the leaves are just barely coated with dressing but not in the least wet, with no excess dressing pooling at the bottom of the bowl. The HH prefers his more saturated; it is entirely up to you. Makes 3-5 meal-sized servings or 6-8 side servings. Will keep, covered in the refrigerator, up to 3 days (and will still remain crunchy!).
I’m also thrilled that for once, I haven’t missed the deadline to participate in the monthly Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free event! This month, the event is hosted by Danielle of Against All Grain, and the theme is “Seasonal Salads.” There’s still time for you to enter, too (up until June 30th), so head over to Danielle’s blog to read the guidelines and submit your own salad recipe! I’m also sharing this at Slightly Indulgent Tuesday , Allergy Free Wednesdays and Fresh Foods blog hop.
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