I have to be honest here, I made this salad a year ago when I was obsessing over a Houston restaurant Local Foods’ kale salad and wanted to invent a spin-off recipe. At that time, I had experimented over and over again with the perfect dressing and ingredients until I finally tasted success. But…all that was over a year ago, when all I did to record it was taking a picture and posting it to facebook. No recipe, no nothing else. Medical school has since overtaken my brain with biochemistry, diabetes treatment, strep throat diagnosis…you name it. So as I stared long and hard at this kale salad picture today, I had to rack my brains to remember the exact ingredients. Another reason why every foodie should start a food blog to keep an external brain on the web for recipes!
The key to making this kale salad is to slice the kale leaves thinly and to include as many sweet ingredients as possible like raisins and honey. Kale by itself tastes horrible, it’s rough and bitter, like a crumpled ball of paper towel cutting the inside of your mouth. So in order to take advantage of the myriad health benefits of kale, you have to learn how to get rid of that rough texture. And one way for kale salads is to massage the dressing into the salad with your gloved hands repeatedly to soften the fiber in the leaves. I know…massaging a salad, imagine saying that outloud. But truly that does the trick!
Another one of my secrets to this recipe is to plump the raisins beforehand. Dry raisins you buy at the grocery tastes….dry. Tossed in a salad, it adds little other than chewiness. In order to fully bring out the natural sweetness of raisins, you have to plump them, in other words soaking them in water mixed with honey and lemon juice, and microwave it for 10 seconds. I know this might sound silly, all that effort just for a few puny raisins. But trust me, the smallest details make a world of difference. No laziness allowed in cooking!
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Kale salad with Plumped Raisins
- kale (fresh or from an already mixed salad bag)
- carrots, sliced thinly into short strips
- bread crumbs for topping (optional)
- olive oil, 1/8 cup
- balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon
- honey, 1 tablespoon or more
- freshly squeezed lemon juice
To make dressing: mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and a bit of lemon juice together. Mix well so that olive oil is fully emulsified with vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. The dressing should taste sweeter than you want the salad to taste eventually.
Plump the raisins: Put the raisins in a bowl, add enough water to almost submerge raisins, honey, a dash of lemon juice and mix well. Microwave for 10 seconds. Then leave the raisins in the bowl for another 30 minutes. Plumped raisins should look more full and less wrinkly, should taste sweeter.
Assemble the salad: Thinly slice the kale leaves, and mix in carrot strips, raisins, and dressing. With a glove on, massage the kale for 5-10 minutes. Taste test if kale is softened and sweet enough. When serving the salad, top it off with some breadcrumbs to add additional texture.