Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Designing salads as a feast for the eye and for the mouth: kale salad!

Plate full of summer
I know it sounds like such a cliche: feast for the eyes. But I've been playing with this theme for the past several months, and designing meals for beauty on the plate is really fun, and super healthy. As a visual designer, I love the challenge of hitting different notes of the color wheel, and where I've embraced this the most is in salad creation.

Who knew that I'd come to love kale as much as I do? Sometimes I even crave it. I know: crazy. What can I say? If anyone has an I Heart Kale bumpersticker, you know who to send it to. Wait. Of course there's an online generator for that. Here you go:But a big part of what I love about kale is its ability to hold up in a salad, and to even get better the second day. Combine that deep green with other colors from the rainbow and you are guaranteed to have a plate full of vibrancy and health. I like having an acidic dressing because it helps to break it down a bit, and if you chop chop chop the kale, you have really palatable bits to chow down on.

I don't have a strict recipe to share with you, but instead a technique to follow, allowing for creativity and working with what you have or what's in season.

Let's start with the kale. Lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale, is usually my kale of choice. (Good kale reading here!) Start with a big healthy bunch or two, rinse it thoroughly, then using two fingers, strip the center stem, leaving long strips of kale from either side to work with next. Pile all of the strips up, and chiffonade or chop it up. I like to sing the Choppin' Broccoli song while doing so. Don't ask why, I just do. Also, if you want to save some time, Trader Joe's sells big bags of washed and prepped kale, leaving you with only the chopping to do: sweet!

Chop chop choppin' kale

Next up, build your salad ingredients based on beauty of the color wheel, what's in your fridge or garden, or what's in season. Ideas:
  • Red-cherry tomatoes (halved), red bell pepper, roasted bell pepper from a jar
  • Orange-orange cherry tomatoes, orange bell pepper, orange slices chopped into bitesize pieces, shredded carrot
  • Purple-purple onion thinly sliced, chopped purple cabbage, chopped purple kale
  • Cream-slices of apple, thin slices of fennel bulb

Use a few or a lot of the ingredients listed above. I always include shredded carrot in mine, but everything else is up for grabs.

Finally? The dressing. Here's how I do it:
In a mixing bowl, throw in a big dollop of dijon or flavored mustard. Add to that a big squeeze of honey if you want some sweetness, the juice of an orange (fresh makes a big difference in the brightness of flavor), and a good splash and a half of vinegar. I like balsamic, but have experimented with apple cider, champagne, or flavored vinegars (like blood orange). Grind enough black pepper into the bowl until your arm tires, season with sea salt, an mix it all up. You don't need oil in this, but if you want to, you can always whisk in some good olive oil. Taste for flavor, then toss toss toss with your salad. Toasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds can add some texture to finish off your salad.

Enjoy the salad fresh, taking in the beauty of your plate. Seriously, look how gorgeous this is:
Feast for the eyes: eating color and flavor

Then keep in the fridge a big container of this salad and enjoy on day 2 and day 3. The acid of the orange juice helps break down the kale, softening it a bit but never leaving it mushy.

The more you experiment, the more you'll get comfortable changing ingredients up and trying new things in your mix. But following the practice of creating a bowl of beauty is always a winner in my book.


small town dyke said...

Awhile ago you posted about kale chips. I would love the recipe!

small town dyke said...

ok I'm a dork I see it on the side now :)

Best Wishes, Marie said...

kale is also great, cuz it holds up in a soup.

LeLo said...

Marie, you're so right about kale holding up. It's one of the things I like so much about it.