Before I talk about kale, I want to talk about why this kale salad happened in the first place, or why anything I make has ever been made. If you have poked around this site a bit or read it for awhile, you might remember that I owe my love of food and cooking to my mom. What you probably don’t know, unless you know me personally, is that I lost my mom almost 13 years ago to non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It’s something I don’t tell a whole lot of people, actually, at least not early on. It explains why I never talk about my family a lot, or why you don’t often see holiday posts or Mother’s Day posts, because she helped make them special when I was growing up, and it’s often hard for me to embrace them publicly without feeling a little sad. Every October 17th, I make a special effort to bake something, make a special meal, or toast a glass of wine to my mom and think about her on her birthday. She would have been 53 yesterday.
I’m lucky that I have a pretty stellar “stand-in family” because of my girlfriend, with whom I get to celebrate a lot of holidays, and an amazing group of friends that are some of my biggest motivators and supporters. One very important thing I learned from my mom is that just because we didn’t have a traditional family (I grew up with my younger sister and single mom and eventually my stepdad, and most of our blood relatives lived several states or oceans away) didn’t mean we didn’t have the same sense of love or togetherness. We made our own family out of friends and neighbors, and our door was often open at dinnertime; many times we had an extra guest or two at our table. Most of the time we didn’t make anything particularly fancy to eat, but we were always nourished with good, healthful food (thanks in large part, to my mom’s nursing background) and surrounded by good people. To celebrate that memory, I made a simple, nourishing meal for my partner, her visiting mom, and me. I think my mom would be proud of me today, and happy that I was celebrating her by making food to share with people I love.
There was a mix of purposeful ingredients and dishes for this dinner, like portobellas marinated in garlic, dijon, red wine, and tamari, and rutabagas roasted in olive oil and paprika; and then some more thrown together, like a free loaf of rosemary bread from work that I toasted and topped with roasted red pepper hummus and fresh basil, and this simple and tasty little kale salad. I’m a huge fan of kale, so far, in all its forms and I especially love marinated, hand-massaged dinosaur kale. A little salt, olive oil, and your hands is all it takes to soften and “cook” the kale, and I dressed it up with some balsamic, colored it with yellow heirloom tomatoes, sweetened it with raisins, and added flavor and extra nutrition with fresh basil and hempseeds. [I'd also like to mention that kale salad makes great and healthy airplane food - so much better than salty packaged snacks or whatever other usually meager vegan findings there may be at the airport!] This is fairly simple, and a great blueprint for adaptation. I even omitted the onions and garlic for those of you who might not like it raw or still want to approach people with a semi-personal closeness after eating, but they’d made great additions if you like them. Give your kale some lovin’ – it will love you back!
[Oh! And that delectable pear-rhubarb cobbler? It’s based on jae steele’s recipe for Peach Blueberry Cobbler, only I subbed maple syrup and palm sugar for the sweeteners and added some oat bran to the topping. Yum!)
Marinated Kale Salad
makes 2-3 side salad portions
1 bunch kale, stems removed and thinly sliced (I prefer Dinosaur/Lacinato, but any kind will do!)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 ripe tomato, quartered and sliced
1/4 cup raisins
one handful fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
2 tablespoons hempseeds
fresh black pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, massage the salt and olive oil into the sliced kale until it begins to wilt and release its juices, about a minute or two (or more if using a tougher kale like curly). Add the balsamic and toss to distribute. Let sit a few minutes to absorb and soften further. Toss with tomatoes, raisins and basil, and top with hempseeds and fresh black pepper. Serve immediately or refrigerate.