Cleansing Foods

Roasted kabocha squash and massaged kale salad

I don’t know how you are feeling these days, but I’m kind of overwhelmed by the rich foods and desserts from the Thanksgiving holidays. And I know the season of holiday savories and sweets will continue. I love these foods but sometimes my palate need something cleansing. At the risk of repeating myself, I’m going to wax philosophically about massaged kale salad. 

Kale Salad

Kale is in its prime right now and I bought a large bunch at the outdoor market last week. I blanched half of it to keep in the refrigerator to toss into soups and my favorite, stir-fried rice and black beans. I chopped the other half into small pieces and massaged it into a large salad I can dip into when I need the taste of something crisp and clean. 

I like to massage the kale because it breaks down the tough fibers, making it so much more palatable than simply chopped raw kale. Mature kale leaves are pretty woody and this method takes away not only the fibrous texture but also some of the bitterness. I do take out the ribs and toss them in my bag of veggies for stock. Baby kale doesn’t have the woodiness so is preferable if you use it without massaging.

Kabocha winter squash

My favorite companion to massaged kale salad is roasted kabocha squash drizzled with chile-garlic oil. Kobochas used to be hard to find, but they are becoming popular with growers. Their small size makes them easy to use, and the buttery bright orange flesh is delicious by itself or in many different dishes. They are usually only about two pounds and come with green, gray-green or orange rinds. Many grocery stores are even carrying them now.

My favorite way to cook kabocha is to slice in half-inch-thick slices and then peel the slices. I toss them with olive oil in a roasting pan and roast at 375 for about 20-30 minutes, until quite soft. For the last 10 minutes, I drizzle with sambal oelek (garlic chile oil – found in the Asian aisle at the grocery) or sriracha for a hint of sweetness. This caramelizes the squash beautifully, blends nicely with the buttery squash flavor, and gives my taste buds a spicy kick. The squash needs absolutely nothing else but a sprinkling of salt to give you melt-in-your-mouth savory goodness. 

Massaged Kale Salad

One large bunch kale (laciniato preferred, but any kind will work)

1 t. salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1 T. olive oil

Juice of one half a lemon

Parmesan cheese to garnish

Remove the ribs from the kale. This can be done by grasping the end of the rib and stripping off the leaves. Discard the ribs. Roll the leaves into a “cigar” and slice into ribbons. 

In a large bowl, douse the kale with the olive oil, add the garlic and salt and begin to massage or crush the kale with your hands. This can only be done well with the hands, so get into it and enjoy it. Your hands will thank you for the olive oil massage. 

Once the kale is dark green and reduced considerably in bulk, squeeze the lemon juice over it. Adjust the salt, add pepper if you desire, and garnish with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese. You will find this irresistible!

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