The Edgy Veggie

Massage therapy: Give kale a rub to work in flavor

Massaged kale: This salad features mangoes, cashews and coconut flakes.
Massaged kale: This salad features mangoes, cashews and coconut flakes. RecipeRenovator.com

We wind down National Salad Month with the best excuse ever to play with your food — kale salad.

Forget kale’s impressive nutrition profile, massaged kale salad is trending.

It’s a big seller at Fort Lauderdale’s Green Bar & Kitchen, where it comes dressed with an irresistible, creamy, cashew-truffle dressing. The Standard in South Beach gives it the Sicilian treatment with raisins, pine nuts and goat cheese. And Choices Café in Coral Gables and North Miami massages kale into a robust but dairy-free Caesar.

It’ll be a big seller in your kitchen, too. Massaging kale encourages kids to get hands-on in preparing meals. It allows you to work out some aggressive tendencies. It does good things for the kale, too.

The technique of massaging — or pressing — vegetables and the philosophy behind it come from macrobiotics. This all sounds dreadfully earnest — not what you want from dinner. It’s really about choosing food that’s fresh, organic and minimally processed. The only processing here comes from you showing kale some tough love.

There’s no special gadgetry, just your hands. Sprinkle some sea salt onto the kale (salad, after all, comes from the Latin word for salted) and commence in rubbing gently.

The salt plus the natural warmth of your hands draws out the moisture in the leaves. A splash of acid — vinegar or citrus — adds flavor and helps break down the cell walls in the kale, softening and relaxing them the way a good massage relaxes anyone.

Within a few minutes, you’ll feel the kale become pliable and see it turn bright green with pleasure. The pleasure’s yours, too. With your own bare hands, you’ll have turned a tough bunch of leaves tender, making them easier to chew and digest.

Drizzle in a mere slick of oil or mush in some avocado and you’ve got kale salad at its most elemental. Throw in your seasonal salad faves and you’ve got a kale salad all dressed up and ready to go.

Massaged kale salads are perfect for summer — the technique “cooks” the leaves but lets you stay cool. Even massaged till it’s blissful, kale stays fluffy and fresh for hours at a picnic or party. You will wilt from the summer heat before it does. Covered and refrigerated, it keeps for a day or two.

Everyone loves a good massage. Even kale.

Ellen Kanner is the author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.” On Twitter: @edgyveggie1.

Taste the Tropics Kale Salad (Kale with Mango and Cashews)

Very little fat and effort and a whole lot of fun goes into this massaged kale salad. Every variety of kale works here, from sturdy curly kale to elegant black or dino kale. Seasonal, local mango at its peak adds natural sweetness; cashews (related to mango — who knew?) add some crunch and sass. Serves 6 to 8.

1 bunch kale, washed, woody central stems removed and leaves torn small or chopped well (about 6 cups of greens)

Pinch or two sea salt

2 teaspoons coconut oil, avocado oil or olive oil

Juice of 1 fresh lime (about 4 teaspoons)

1/2 teaspoon curry powder (optional but recommended)

2 fresh Florida mangoes, peeled and diced

1/2 cup roasted cashews, coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon dried coconut flakes (optional)

Fill a large salad bowl with the chopped kale leaves. Sprinkle on a little sea salt and massage it into the leaves with your hands. After a few minutes, the kale will brighten in color and start to surrender and soften at your touch, reducing in volume by about a fourth. Work in the coconut, avocado or olive oil, lime juice and optional curry powder. Add the diced mango, chopped cashews and optional coconut flakes and toss to combine. Enjoy, or cover and keep refrigerated for later.

Source: Ellen Kanner.

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