There is something about a hearty salad that makes my taste buds swoon! The firework flavors of this fall-inspired massaged kale salad–silky, sweet kale with roasted sweet potatoes, salty pepitas, creamy goat cheese and tart pomegranate seeds–does just that.
Kale is a hearty, nutrient-dense veggie that can withstand cold weather, and it has become one of my go-to greens for fall salads. As with a lot of winter greens, it has a bitter bite, but massaging it imparts a nice slightly sweet flavor.
Now, maybe you are wondering, “Why and how do I go about treating my kale to a massage?” It’s so easy and really makes a world of difference in the flavor and texture of your salad. When you take a few extra minutes to show your kale a little love, it loosens right up and shows you its sweeter side.
Let me show you how!
Remove the tough part of the stem from each kale leaf. The stem at the top is tender, so I leave about 1/4-inch of the rib at the top of the leaf and discard the rest.
Stack leaves on top of each other, then roll them tightly into a bundle.
Slice the roll of kale leaves into ribbons–about 1/2-inch thick is a good size.
Place the shredded kale in a large bowl or pan and add 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Your pile of kale will start off huge, but will shrink by at least half after massaging.
Use your hands to gently massage the lemon juice and salt into the kale. Rub fistfuls of kale together, gently squeeze, then repeat. It can take anywhere between 3 to 5 minutes for the kale leaves to darken and shrink down in size, and for the texture to become silky smooth.
Once the kale has visibly changed and has no bitterness left when you taste it, drizzle in 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.
Massage another 30 seconds or so, just to mix in the oil. Now the tough texture and bitter flavor that makes so many people hate raw kale is gone!
For the salad:
- 2 large sweet potatoes scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
- 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups sliced Lacinato kale about 1-2 bunches, depending on size
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1/4 cup roasted salted pepitas
- 1/4 heaping cup pomegranate arils
For the Pomegranate Vinaigrette:
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup pomegranate vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch of sugar
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss the sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Arrange the seasoned sweet potatoes in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. (If your sweet potatoes are very large you may have to roast them on two separate sheet pans to avoid overcrowding the pan.) Transfer the baking sheets to the oven and bake until tender, 25-30 minutes.
- While the potatoes are roasting, make the dressing. Add all of the vinaigrette ingredients to a jar with an airtight lid. Seal tightly and shake vigorously until emulsified. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl or rimmed sheet pan, combine the shredded kale, 1/2 teaspoon salt and lemon juice. Use your hands to gently massage the kale until it wilts and darkens in color, 3-5 minutes. It should have no bitterness when you take a test bite. Drizzle the kale with remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil and toss to distribute.
- Place the massaged kale on a large platter, arrange the roasted sweet potatoes on top and sprinkle with the goat cheese crumbles, pepitas and pomegranate arils. Serve with the dressing on the side.