The endlessly hip kale salad seems to appear everywhere these days, from our mom’s Sunday dinner table to every restaurant in town.
It’s a healthy choice—kale is great roughage, after all!—but sometimes, it’s punishingly healthy-tasting (you know, like the bad kind of healthy-tasting). The hearty green is different from lettuce or spinach, so you shouldn’t treat it the same way.
We asked the ladies of the test kitchen—senior food editor Dawn Perry, senior associate food editor Alison Roman, assistant editor Claire Saffitz, and test kitchen contributor Alfia Muzio—to dish on the mistakes people make when tossing together one of these salads.
1. Don't: Tear Your Kale Like Lettuce
Kale is super fibrous—one of the sources of its many health benefits—so it’s a bit more difficult to chew than your average green. Slicing it thinly will help make it easier to eat. If you’re the kind of person that loves to chew and chew and chew, then, by all means, keep tearing that kale! But whatever you do: Remove those ribs.
2. Don't: When It Comes to Dressing, Creamy Is Best
Even if you slice kale thinly, it will still be a little…rough. Hence the term, “roughage.” Choosing a creamy dressing like ranch or blue cheese might seem like a good idea. But it’s not. What you need is a dressing with a lot of acid like lemon juice or vinegar (or both). That acid will help break down the fibers in the kale, making it a lot more tender and easier to chew. Go with a shallot vinaigrette or, if you want something a little heftier, a miso vinaigrette.
3. Don't: Just Toss and Serve!
Hear us out, here. You have to massage your kale. No, we’re not talking about dimming the lights and squirting on the scented oils—you should massage your kale with either your dressing, or some lemon juice and salt. This further breaks down all those cell walls and fibers so your kale will be loosened up, so to speak. Get a wide bowl, sprinkle on your dressing or whatever you choose to use, and take a bunch of leaves in your hands. Squeeze them with moderate pressure, then pick up another bunch and squeeze again. It sounds weird, but trust us: it’s necessary.
4. Don't: Okay, Then—Just Massage and Serve!
After you massage and dress it, let that salad sit for at least 5 minutes and up to a day (depending on what’s in the salad, of course). Again, it will get a bit softer so you won’t feel like a cow chewing cud at the dinner table. But like any other salad, don’t over-dress—we’d rather have kale on the tougher side than on the soggier side.
Read on for more kale salad mistakes.
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