When it comes to leafy green vegetables, kale has been king for a while. It boasts more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk, and more iron per calorie than beef.
It also has been the darling of the restaurant world for several years, popping up on menus all over the place. There’s even been kale backlash, as people said, “Enough kale!” But I can’t get enough. Particularly now, when kale is in its prime (it loves the cold).
So I wanted to find a new way to prepare it. Garlicky kale sauteed in olive oil? Been there. Baked kale chips? Done that. In search of a simple recipe that would be manageable for the Thanksgiving table, I was inspired by a kale salad I ate recently at ABC Kitchen, one of my favorite restaurants in New York. Chef Dan Kluger tosses his version with lemon, serrano chilies and mint.
I decided to give mine the Asian treatment, dressing it with soy, sesame oil and rice vinegar.
Kale is available in curly, ornamental and dinosaur varieties. It was the Italians who gave that last type its name; they thought the bumpy surface of its leaves resembled dinosaur skin. Generally, smaller leaves are milder in flavor. At the supermarket, look for firm, deeply-colored leaves with firm stems. You can store kale in an airtight plastic bag in the fridge for up to five days.
There is one problem with raw kale — it’s tough. You can tenderize it by cutting it into thin shreds or, oddly enough, you can massage it. I was always taught to be gentle with greens because they bruise easily, but not kale. Kale is the punching bag of the greens world. You need to beat it into submission if you’re going to eat it raw.
You also need to remove the thick stems. The easiest way to do this is with a paring knife. One at a time, fold the leaves in half and lay it flat on the cutting surface. Use the knife to slice down along the side of the stem.
You can make the dressing for this salad ahead, then toss and massage the greens at the last moment. If you’d like, you also can dress the kale a few hours ahead of time and keep it chilled with little damage to the flavor and texture. I tried this salad after I’d left it in the fridge for a full day. It still tasted darn good. In all modesty, it’s another reason to be thankful.
SESAME KALE SALAD
Start to finish: 10 minutes
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
10 cups packed chopped kale leaves, thick stems removed
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, sesame oil, vegetable oil, vinegar and soy sauce. Add the kale and massage it with your hands for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it has become shiny and a little translucent and reduced in volume by one third to one half. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, then season with salt and pepper. Toss well.
Nutrition information per serving: 130 calories; 70 calories from fat (54 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (0.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 12 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 5 g protein; 410 mg sodium.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”