Sunday, December 2, 2012

Massaged Kale Salad with Daikon, Carrots, & Sunflower Sprouts

When I ask people about their Thanksgivings, the usual responses are: "It was great!" and "I ate way  too much," often in the same breath.   In fact, many people at the restaurant who normally would order potato chips with their ciabatta sandwiches and have dessert without fail are ordering entree salads [gasp] and declining dessert with that "I really want it but I know I shouldn't please don't ask me again" look on their face.  You know the one.  You see it a lot during December and January.  

So as I always strive to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, I will refrain from posting a dessert recipe today and post a salad one instead.  One of my favorites, in fact.

Behold: Local, organic superfood royalty.

Massaged kale salad?  I've had more than one person raise their eyebrows at the prospect.  What did the salad do that was so great to deserve a massage?  But it is an absolutely wonderful and extremely nutritious way to enjoy kale, both for those who love it and those who could do without it.  In spite of its comfy seat atop the superfood standings, a popular reason that many people take a detour from kale at the salad bar is its fibrousness and characteristic bitter undertones.  But by massaging it, you begin to break down the cell walls that are responsible for kale's sturdiness, and you also encourage a natural sweetness to emerge.  In effect, you are manually wilting the kale, and while definitely making it more palatable, it also makes the mother lode of nutrition more readily available since your digestive system doesn't have to work so hard anymore to get at all those antioxidants and vitamins.  And a bonus?  A great workout for your hands and forearms.

So, for kale lovers, those curious about kale, or those turning over a new leaf (even if it's begrudgingly), this salad recipe is for you.

Massaged Kale Salad with Daikon, Carrots, & Sunflower Sprouts
Gluten-Free, Vegan, & Raw

Active Prep Time: 10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: up to 8 hours
Cooking Time: None
Yield: 2 large salads or 4 side salads

2 heaping tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons filtered water
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon coconut aminos
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
1 tablespoon raw agave
1 tablespoon filtered water
1 clove garlic

Salad components:
1 bunch Lacinato/Dino kale, well-rinsed and spun dry
1/2 c julienned carrot
1 c julienned daikon radish
2 c sunflower sprouts
1/2 c cilantro leaves
1 shallot, sliced

sea salt, to garnish/taste

1.  Add filtered water and lemon juice to pumpkin seeds and allow to soak.  Any amount of soaking will help in terms of promoting a smoother final texture, but in terms of aiding digestibility of the seeds, it is said that soaking at least 7 hours disables enzyme inhibitors and helps to eliminate toxins that naturally occur in raw seeds and nuts.  Win-win. 
2.  After soaking, drain and rinse the pumpkin seeds and combine them with the remaining dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Blend until desired smoothness has been reached.
3.  To prepare the salad, begin with destemming the kale leaves and tearing them into bite sized pieces in a large, non-reactive bowl.
4.  Pour dressing over kale and begin to work the dressing into leaves by grabbing large bunches with one or both hands and emphatically squeezing.  This is no Swedish massage - think therapeutic, hurts so good deep tissue.  Imagine your hands are chewing the kale - it worked for me.  Do this for roughly 5 minutes or until you notice both the texture and color change, from stiff to smooth and silky, and from a deep muted green to a brighter emerald.
5.  Incorporate remaining salad ingredients and massage for about 1 more minute.  You can serve it immediately or you can refrigerate it in a tightly lidded container for up to 3 days.  The salad will marinate and only become more delicious.  Before serving, I like to add a pinch or two of sea salt on top.

Let's go for a whirl.

Feel free to make it smoother, but I like a little texture.

Getting my hands dirty.  Really work the dressing into the leaves.

To plate or marinate?  That is the question.

Served alongside roasted purple yams - an awesome lunch.

The dressing alone is completely worth it for its versatility.  Dress a cold pasta salad, use it as a marinade, coat root vegetables in it and roast them, or serve it as a dip for vegetables - so many ways.  Its flavor is quite umame, in my opinion: rich, pleasantly sweet, creamy, and pointedly tangy with earthy undertones.  Honestly, the first thing that came to mind when tasting it alone was "coconutty bleu cheese," which confused and delighted me at the same time.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  Perhaps bring it to your next Holiday gathering for all those trying so hard to be good.  Because when good for you tastes this good, making changes to honor your body and honor the life you've been given can be thrilling and invigorating.  And who knows, those changes might even last well into next year, and perhaps the years to come.

You only live once.  Make it the best life possible.


  1. This is a feast =) Masarap! Hopefully next time we're in the Pinas, we'll get to share more food with the cousins and our kabillion other family members. =)

    1. Kabillion is right! It really is masarap, ading - I hope to make something similar for you and Mom & Dad next time I come to visit. :)

  2. "hurts so good deep tissue" I'm rolling! I can't wait to try this one myself. :D


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