A New Monthly Recipe Column by Rena Basch


kale saladMassaged Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Feta

Want to get more kale into your (or some family members’) diet?  Here’s a technique to win over the doubters, kale-o-phobes and greens-resisters.  Sprinkle the kale with a little salt and then give it a massage.  Seriously.  Hang with me here.

I learned about “massaged kale” salad from Living Zen Organics, the café and organic food nonprofit associated with The Detroit Zen Center.  For a while Living Zen was coming to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market selling raw foods such as dried kale chips and delicious, tender kale salads.  I could not understand how the kale was so tender without being blanched or cooked first, so I asked, and learned you just need to gently massage the kale.

The other secret to crowd-friendly kale salads is really no secret: pair the bitter green with sweet things, fresh or dried fruit and/or a sweet salad dressing.  This recipe below is one of my 3 favorite massaged kale salads (it’s so hard to choose just one), but I’m sharing this one because it’s easy, can be made with local ingredients, and I’ve seen kids actually enjoy eating it.

1 big bunch kale, Lacinato is nice, or a big box of baby kale leaves works too

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or sea salt

1/4 cup finely diced red onion

1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries

3/4 cup small-diced apple

1/3 cup toasted sunflower seeds

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese


If using Lacinato/dinosaur kale: wash leaves and pat it dry. Slice off the stiff stems below the leaves and continue slicing the stem away from the leaf until you have cut a thin v-shape into the kale leaf and removed the tough stem all the way up. Stack the kale leaves two or three at a time, roll them up, and slice the leaves into thin ribbons. If using curly kale, remove the stems and slice it into bite sized pieces.

Place the sliced kale in a large mixing bowl.  (If using baby kale leaves, just toss them into the bowl without de-stemming or slicing.)  Sprinkle the kale with ~ ½ t salt and massage it into the kale with your hands for two minutes.  Set a timer!  Grab big handfuls of kale, squeeze, release, toss, grab big handfuls, squeeze, release, toss, etc, you get the picture.  You’ll notice the kale start to turn a darker green and the texture of the kale will begin to soften a bit. If using baby kale, you’ll need only about 45 seconds. Sometimes if using baby kale leaves, I don’t even bother to massage it at all.

Toss in the red onions, dried fruit, apples, and sunflower seeds.  Combine everything.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and sugar. Pour over the salad and toss. Sprinkle feta cheese over the top and serve.  A few grinds of black pepper over the top are nice too.

Adapted from recipe found on melskitchencafe.com blog.