Kale has been an illusive treat on The Big Trip. Amazingly, the kale craze that has taken over the US has not made an appearance in Europe (yet!). It is impossible to find at grocery stores and only very occasionally available at markets. Because of this, I was absolutely delighted to find hefty bunches of Tuscan Kale, also called Lucinato Kale, at the Mercado Centrale in Florence. My mom was visiting, so we bought as much as we could carry and headed home to start cooking together. Bliss.
Kale is usually cooked before eaten, both to make the leaves more tender and to make the vitamins more bio-available. This recipe uses another kale technique – marinate and massage. By marinating the kale in acid (usually lemon juice or vinegar), and mixing again and again and again, the tough fibers break-down just like when they’re cooked. The result is a fresh tasting and flavorful kale salad made with love and lots of elbow grease.
Tuscan Kale Salad Ingredients (serves 4):
1 large bunch of Tuscan Kale, torn off stem and chopped into bite size pieces (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, raisins, or currants
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Optional – toasted pine nuts, slivered almonds, toasted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons of honey
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and start mixing. The salad needs at least an hour to marinate and should be mixed regularly during that time. The more mixing, the sooner it will be ready to eat. Keep tasting every 15 minutes-ish so you become familiar with the changes in texture and taste as the kale marinates. It’s quite astonishing to see how much it changes.
The salad is delicious served at room temperature after an hour of marinating, or it can be refrigerated and eaten cold. It keeps well, so make a big batch and enjoy it all week.
Kale is enjoying its moment in the sun of food-stardom, a completely justified position when you consider its nutritional properties. Kale is a powerhouse cruciferous vegetable with significant anticancer properties. It has a particularly high calcium content, as well as beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and lutein. I love adding kale to salads, putting it in my green smoothies, and making my old standby of vinegary sausage and kale. It’s also great when swapped into recipes in place of spinach or collard greens. It packs quite a nutritional punch, so look for ways to add it to your diet that are appealing to you. I have a feeling this salad might be one of them…