Yes, kale is the ‘it’ health food everyone is blabbing about these days and even though I love it and have been eating kale for the past few years I still sometimes feel like a hipster bandwagoner when I talk about it. However, those health nuts have good reason for euphoria. Kale is low in calories (33 in one cup), low in carbohydrates, it gives you fiber and well-rounded protein as well as tons of vitamins and nutrients. It’s packed with calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, B6, C, and K.
Ignoring all the health aspects of this leafy green kale has shown to be highly filling per calorie, according to Nutrition Data. This means that you can eat a large salad and actually feel full; it’s cost effective and helps with weight loss since you’ll be full for a longer period of time on fewer calories/carbohydrates.
I used to shy away from kale because the first few times I tried it the leaves were rather tough. It can be an intimidating vegetable to try; however, with the right approach anyone can easily incorporate kale into their meal and actually enjoy it. One easy way to enjoy kale is to cook it in a saute, soup or with pasta. Cooking kale helps break down some of the cell walls so it’s no longer tough but resembles steamed spinach. Kale also takes on flavor really well; seasoning your food right before it’s done cooking then letting it sit for a minute or two amplifies the taste.
Eating raw kale is my favorite method; the cool thing about making a kale salad is that you can and should toss the dressing when you make the salad rather than waiting until the very last second. Most salad greens turn limp and slimy if you let the dressing sit; however, leaving the dressing on kale helps make the leaves more pliable and flavorful. The important factor you can’t forget in your dressing for this to work is an acid, usually lemon juice or vinegar. Whatever acid you choose will be the component that covers the leaves and will beat the toughness out of them.
I have a few standby dressings that I often use depending on what flavors I’m craving at the moment. The one I’m going to show you is my Mexican dressing. It’s a very simple recipe; a little cumin, lemon juice, and olive oil is all it takes to bring out a spicy and earthy flavored salad. I love this salad recipe because it doesn’t take much effort, there are endless topping combinations, and it’s quite filling. In the summer I pile on fresh tomatoes and avocados and in cooler months I rely on pantry staples like quinoa and black beans. Anything goes with this salad; assess what you have on hand or what produce is in season and go nuts!
Santa Fe Kale Salad
Makes 2-4 servings
4 cups chopped kale
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup soy chorizo (I use the Trader Joe’s version)
1 avocado, diced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 medium lemon usually yields this amount)
1 tablespoon cumin
6 tablespoons olive oil
pepper to taste
To make the dressing: combine the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, and pepper (I usually use just a pinch) in a bowl and whisk.
Toss the kale with the dressing so that the leaves are well coated. For best results, place dressed kale in the fridge for an hour or overnight (I make my lunch the night before and this works wonderfully); however, no wait time is necessary if you’re really hungry. Add the quinoa and soy chorizo. Be sure to add the avocado just before you’re about to eat or it will turn brown.