It all started in September. First there was Rosh Hashanah, then the Yom Kippur break fast, then Sukkot, then Simchat Torah. Now, we’re in that early autumn period where so many other food celebrations loom before us… Thanksgiving, NFL parties, Christmas, Hanukkah… oh, good lordy, latkes. Wouldn’t now be the perfect time to take a break from the crazy calorie madness, cleanse our bodies, and press the reset button? I’m thinking YES. And kale is just the thing the doctor ordered.
In case you haven’t heard the news, kale is one of the healthiest foods on the planet. It’s a cruciferous leafy green packed with Vitamins A, B6, C, and K along with magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese and phosphorus. It also contains strong phytonutrients and cancer-fighting antioxidants. The fiber in kale helps to lower blood cholesterol levels. Eating kale regularly can lower your risk of cancer and heart disease. In a nutshell, it’s really, really good stuff.
Though kale seems to be getting a lot of attention lately, it’s been around for centuries. Kale is the predecessor to cabbage, and was the common “green” eaten by Europeans through the end of the Middle Ages (though, truthfully, greens weren’t super popular back then). In Medieval England, it was known as cole or colewort. In Scotland, where it was widely grown and cultivated, it first became known as kale. In fact, a group of Scottish fiction writers from the 1890’s was nicknamed the “Kailyard School”– they were known for their overly sentimental descriptions of rural life in Scotland (J.M. Barrie of Peter Pan fame was a member). Kale hasn’t changed much genetically over the centuries; the kale we eat today is the same as the kale people ate over a thousand years ago. Only recently cooks have started to rediscover kale, mainly because it packs a nutritional punch. There are few other foods that can match the health benefits of kale.
Up until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t into kale. Like, really wasn’t into it. Everybody told me I should be eating kale… because, you know, it’s the greatest thing ever. It’s the superfood of the century. But I’m not a big salad eater, and every time I tried it, I felt like I couldn’t get over the naturally bitter taste of the kale leaves. In short, I felt like a goat. Fortunately, that all changed when I discovered the kale massage. You heard me right! Believe it or not, massaging the kale leaves for a couple of minutes has a miraculous effect. It removes most of the bitterness of the leaves and gives them a mild, almost sweet flavor.
So go on. Give your kale a rubdown. And while you’re at it, throw in some ripe autumn pears, dried cranberries and toasted pine nuts. This Kale, Pear and Cranberry Salad makes healthy eating a pleasure, not an obligation. You’re welcome.
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- 1/3 cup raw pine nuts or unsalted raw sunflower seeds
- 1 bunch (about 10 oz.) kale
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1 red bartlett pear diced into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
- 1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
- Toast the pine nuts or seeds in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, till golden brown. Watch them carefully, they can easily go from brown to burned if you're not careful. As soon as they're toasted, remove them from the hot skillet to keep them from browning further.
- If your dried cranberries are super dry and not very soft, you can soak them in hot water for 5 minutes to plump and revive them. Drain the cranberries and pat dry before assembling the salad.
- Cut the thick stalk ends off of the kale, then chop the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces. You should end up with around 8-10 cups of kale leaves.
- Place the kale leaves into a salad bowl and pour the olive oil over them. Massage the olive oil into the kale with clean fingers for 2-3 minutes till the kale is softened and slightly wilted. This will help remove bitterness from the kale.
- Add the lemon juice, diced pear, cranberries, and toasted pine nuts to the bowl and sprinkle the salt evenly across the top. Toss the salad till well mixed.
- Let the salad sit for at least 5 minutes at room temperature. Toss again, then serve. Refrigerate leftovers in a sealed Tupperware dish for up to 2 days.
Davidson, Alan (1999). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press, USA.