At UMass, there’s a cute little vegan/vegetarian cafe called “Earthfoods”. It’s a student-run organization and they serve up fresh, healthy meals daily. Prior to eating there, I knew I enjoyed a lot of vegetarian food, but knew little about vegan food. The first time I ate there was at the beginning of my junior year with my friend Nik. He told me to get the steamed kale as a side choice, so I did. I had never eaten kale before but I knew it was somewhat similar to spinach. After a few bites, I wasn’t really into it, so I gave my kale to Nik, who happily devoured it. Then I looked around and realized just about everybody surrounding us was also eating a huge plate of kale. What is with these people and their kale? I thought to myself.
Fast forward to a few months later: I was one of those people also enjoying a big plate of kale. I guess it just grows on you.
Their kale is cooked perfectly and always ripe and sweet. My favorite part is the tahini dressing that many people pour over the kale. It’s nutty and tangy and complements the kale perfectly. Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds. If you’re a hummus-eater, you’ve probably eaten tahini at some point or another. Tahini is one of the main ingredients in most types of hummus. It adds that tangy, slightly bitter taste. It’s often used as a substitute for cream in vegan meals because it has a very smooth, thick consistency. Trader Joe’s sells small tubs of it (already mixed with lemon juice and garlic) that you can find in their hummus section, or in the natural foods section of your local grocery store.
The tahini dressing at Earthfoods contains oil, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley and is super tasty. For this particular salad, I decided I wanted a slightly sweeter dressing so I added some honey. Pour that on top of your kale and add some toasted almonds, dried cranberries, and shallots and you’ve got one delicious, healthy salad! If you’re not a fan of kale, feel free to substitute your favorite greens. This salad would be great with baby spinach.
Instead of steaming the kale for this method, I used the “massaging” technique to soften it. It’s exactly what it sounds like – gently massaging oil or dressing into the kale leaves (using your hands) until they become softer and turn bright green. This helps break down the toughness of the leaves and bring out some of the natural moisture.
Kale Salad with Honey-Tahini Dressing
- For the dressing:
- 2 Tbsp tahini
- 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 5 stalks kale, rinsed and torn into pieces
- 1/4 cup sliced roasted almonds (or to toast your own, see directions below)
- 2 Tbsp dried cranberries
- 1 small shallot, sliced thinly (or 1/4 cup sliced red onion)
- To prepare the dressing, simply combine the first 5 ingredients into a small bowl and whisk until combined.
- Pour the dressing over the kale leaves and using your hands, gently massage the leaves until they soften and turn bright green. Set aside.
- To toast the almonds, add 1 tsp olive oil to a small frying pan and heat over a low flame. Add the almonds (and a sprinkle of salt, if desired) and stir constantly for 30-45 seconds. The almonds toast very quickly so you have to keep and eye on them. They’ll be done within 1 minute.
- Toss the kale with the almonds, dried cranberries and sliced shallot and enjoy.
One nice thing about kale is that it holds up well to moisture. You could prepare this salad in the morning, dressing and everything, and it will barely have wilted by lunch time.
I really love the toasted almonds in this salad because they are nice and crisp and almost taste like pumpkin seeds!