I don’t know about you, but I’m sometimes intimidated by kale. After all, it scores a perfect 1000 on the ANDI scale, is packed with vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, and C, has lots of iron, calcium, zinc, iodine, and magnesium, and according to a new advertising campaign, is more pretentious than broccoli. I rarely prepare kale because cooked greens are often limp and soggy and eating raw kale is akin to chewing on a large piece of green plastic. Still, I refused to give up on kale because it has so many of the nutrients that are crucial for vegetarians.
After some research, I kept seeing recipes for massaged kale salad pop up. The idea behind massaged kale salads it that you simply take a large pile of raw kale and rub a flavorful dressing into it until the kale reduces in volume and becomes tender enough to eat.
I wanted the salad to have some substance to it, so while the massaged kale was marinating in its dressing, I roasted some chickpeas and sliced red onion in a cast iron skillet with olive oil and paprika. In a hot oven, the chickpeas crisp up and have a toothsome texture that nicely offsets the now-tender kale leaves. A little bit of diced feta cheese added a salty contrast to the salad.
This is an excellent salad for lunch, especially since it can be dressed a few hours before it needs to be served. With all of the holiday parties approaching, it is an excellent dish to bring to offset some of the more indulgent dishes. It converted me to raw kale, something which I thought couldn’t be done. I will say, though, that this will make a kale-lover out of anyone who already generally likes vegetables—if the sight of greenery is frightening to you, I would suggest starting your vegetable journey with something a little milder, like a loaf of carrot-cake bread or zucchini waffles. For all of the salad lovers out there, bust out of your romaine and spinach rut and give this one a try.
Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas and Feta
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ of a small red onion, thinly sliced
1, 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry with a paper towel
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon salt
8 oz. raw kale, ribs removed and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 oz. feta cheese, diced into small cubes
4 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450F and heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and chickpeas and sauté for 2 minutes, until the onion has started to soften. Add the paprika and the salt, and toss to combine. Spread the chickpeas into an even layer, and place the pan in the preheated oven and let the chickpeas roast for 20 minutes, until golden brown.
- While the chickpeas roast, place the kale in a large bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients, then pour them over the kale. Using your hands, massage the dressing into the kale until the kale begins to break down and soften. It should decrease in volume by about 1/3. Let the kale sit at room temperature to soften while the chickpeas finish roasting.
- Once the chickpeas are finished, remove them from the pan and place them on top of the kale along with the diced feta. Toss to combine thoroughly, then serve.
Note: Interested in making this vegan? Omit the feta, but add some other salad topping to add a salty, textural contrast to the kale. Try ½ cup of kalamata olives, or ½ cup of salted, roasted pecans.