What is it with kale? I think I noticed it first in a grocery store about ten to fifteen years ago, mistaking it at first for a giant head of garnish, something that might come along with a plate of roasted fish if you were serving it to one of those giants from Game of Thrones. Then it nudged into the superfood category, powered by the fact that it is, actually, incredibly good for you. Ounce for ounce (come on, are you really going to eat pounds of kale?) it provides more nutrient density than basically any other food on the planet. Why is it here, on a website about riding hard and drinking coffee? Well, you really need to take care of your body if you want to be abusing it for long periods of time, and this salad can really help. Here's a quick summary of why kale will keep you in saddle longer, since I know you're actually here for the food:
- Huge amounts of Vitamin A, K, and C (like, eat one serving, and you're done for the day on that front)
- Great source of Vitamin B, Calcium, Copper, Manganese, Potassium, and Magnesium (and bioavailable, too, unlike pill format)
- Full of antioxidants and cancer-fighting compounds
- An excellent way to feel full AND to keep your digestive tract, um, moving.
- When paired correctly with other flavors, Kale's bitterness turns into a nice complementary taste and texture.
OK, I know you're actually here for the food, so let's get cooking!
- Two heads of kale from your local farmer's market. I love using Lacinto Kale (sometimes called "Dinosaur Kale") since it's a little less tough, a little less bitter, and has great dressing-holding properties.
- Two heads of broccolini, chopped rough
- Pumpkin seeds, roasted with salt ahead of time
- Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half; wait until July or August or September if you're going to go this route: tomatoes are pretty miserable during other months of the year, but some bright orange cherry tomatoes at the height of summer will give a sweetness to your salad that will be a nice contrast to all of the bigger flavors in here. If you can't get good tomatoes, a nice substitution is something like dried Bing Cherries.
- Half a pound of shredded brussels sprouts (slice them thin with a knife or just use a box grater)
- A handful of feta cheese or goat cheese
- A salad dressing that you made yourself; really, just do it. Beat some salt into some freshly squeezed lemon juice, add a small forkful of mustard, then whisk in good olive oil until the mixture thickens and emulsifies.
- Tear the kale into small bite-sized pieces; don't set up your guest to have to use a knife with their salad, or to leave them with an entire palm frond of kale sticking out of their mouths.
- Toss the kale, chopped broccolini, pumpkin seeds, brussels sprouts, and tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes) in the prettiest bowl you own: something big and flat that will show off the salad and its multifarious colors.
- Add the dressing and toss to coat; the salad should never be wet or wilting under the pressure of the dressing—it should still stand up on its own. Think lightly coated, not dripping wet.
- Top with the cheese and serve immediately, along with toasted bread
Inspired by Heidi's "Go To" picnic salad at The Cyclist's Menu