Posted by: A Part of the Solution | June 15, 2013

Massaged Kale

From zone five on down, there’s a weird gap in the availability of locally grown lettuce. Lettuce hates the heat, and takes a break from June or July right through until September. Which leaves a locavore wondering what’s to eat for the green part of the meal. Sure there’s spinach and chard, and anything with a green cabbage in it, and beans of course. But there’s just no lettuce. Not local lettuce, unless someone’s got a serious shade-bed going–and they’re probably keeping their precious lettuces to themselves.

And then there’s kale. Kale is a trooper in the garden. Kale grows in zone 5B on down year round. We used to pull the old year’s kale only when the new seed starts were ready to go into the ground. Kale comes in flavor and textural varieties, too. There’s rich, dark Lacinato (sometimes called dinosaur kale). You can find Red Russian Cut-leaf kale, green curly kale, regular green kale, baby kale. You name it, and kale does something amusing with it. I grew rainbow kale one year. It wasn’t as bright as the Rainbow Chard, but the variations did make for a tastier pot of greens.

And therein lies the rub. Most of us cook our kale respectfully, for hours. In the summertime, though, you can’t dare me to turn the oven on, nor use the stove top for a long cooking process. It’s not a bet I’ll take. Still, the kale comes in right through the season, albeit a little slower during the hottest and the coldest months. Which brings me to massaged kale.

It’s tender and digestible. It’s as yummy as it is nutritious. It’s easy-peasy to make. And there’s no heat involved in the process at all. Be prepared to get up close and personal with your salad, or use the ‘enclosed’ massage method for a tidier experience, though no less tasty.

Massaged Kale

2 bunches kale, any kind, stripped of stems, washed well and torn into pieces

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons tamari or Bragg’s Aminos

6 garlic scapes, seared in a dry pan (super-seasonal, but worth tracking them down in mid June through mid July)


4 cloves garlic mashed with 1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

salt and pepper to taste

(hot sauce to taste, optional)

(2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, optional)

4 oz, 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, or fresh nut oil

While the kale drains and dries, make the dressing. In the jar of a blender or bowl of a food processor, put everything except the oil for dressing. Give the business a good whirl, at least 30 seconds to a minute. With the motor running, add the oil drop by drop for a minute. Increase the oil to a thin stream. After 30 seconds, a steady stream. Let the machine continue running for a half a minute after you finish adding all the oil. Taste to correct the seasoning. It should be on the acidic side to compliment the richness of the kale.

In a very big bowl, or a large plastic bag, put all the kale. Add the dressing. Roll your sleeves well up, say past the elbow. Work the dressing into all the kale with your hands. Once the dressing covers each piece of kale entirely, you can get down to squeezing and massaging the dressing into the kale. Work the kale up from the bottom of your bag or bowl where the dressing goes. Do this for a couple of minutes. Set the kale aside at room temperature for an hour to let it complete its fatiguing.

If this sounds messier than you like to get in the kitchen, and your household is deficient of eight year olds, you may put the kale and dressing into a large plastic bag with a seal or a tight twist tie. Massage it through the plastic, if you must. Let it rest as does the kale above.

Serve plenty to acclaim.



  1. The plastic bag method is no-mess, no fuss. And if there are kids around, it’s not hard to press them into squishing arond the contents of the bag. We use one-gallon zip lock bags. And then it makes its own storage container.

    But lordy lordy, it never lasts long, because everyone eats it. I swear, it’s so far from chopped raw kale, that the process might as well turn it into an entirely different plant.

    • People have to eat it before they believe in it. Yet there it is, quick and delicious.

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