Kale is one of the most nutritious winter vegetables and is also the most dependable in our garden. With a thin layer of row-cover fabric over the plants, the leaves stay green all winter in our zone 6 climate unless we have extended periods near 0 degrees Fahrenheit. Granted, kale leaves don't grow when the day length is very short, so we have to stockpile our kale, letting large areas reach full size during the fall and then slowly eating our way through the patch throughout the winter months. But despite lack of growth during December and January, we still end up eating quite a lot of kale.
Early in the winter, I usually steam our kale, or sometimes sauté the greens in oil and balsamic vinegar if the leaves are tender and young. But once lettuce begins to give out and we start craving uncooked greens, I turn to this shredded-kale-salad recipe. Although a bit more labor-intensive than the other methods of preparing leafy greens, the results are delicious, and you get the bonus of fresh, raw vegetables deep into the winter months.
• 5 ounces of kale (about half a gallon, loosely packed)
• 1/8 tsp of salt
• 1 small carrot (about a quarter the size of a store-bought carrot)
• 1 tsp of poppy seeds
• 4 tsp of honey
• 1 tbsp of lemon juice
• 1 tbsp of olive oil
• a dash of pepper
• 1 avocado or half of a pear, chopped
1. Start by cutting the big midribs out of the kale leaves, then slice the de-ribbed leaves into small strips about 1/4-inch wide.
2. Next, wash your hands well, sprinkle the salt onto your kale strips, and massage the leaf-and-salt mixture for about a minute. The kale should begin to look damp as its juices are released, and the volume of the leaves will reduce drastically. This step should take anywhere from 45 seconds to two minutes (which feels like a long time as you squeeze the leaves between your fingers over and over again).
3. Next, grate a small carrot into the kale-and-salt mixture. I like to use a peeler for this step so I end up with long, thin strips. Add the poppy seeds, then set the mixture aside.
4. In a small, microwaveable bowl, mix the honey, lemon juice, and olive oil.
5. In the winter, these ingredients will usually need to be heated for about 20 seconds in the microwave to make the honey more liquid so it dissolves into the salad dressing. As an alternative, you can make a similar dressing using jams that didn't quite jell — peach syrup, lemon juice, and olive oil made a top-notch dressing for us one year.
6. After mixing the ingredients together, pour your dressing over the salad, sprinkle on a little bit of pepper to taste, and (if you're feeling decadent), add cubes of avocado or pear on top. This salad serves two and can be made almost entirely from homegrown ingredients if you leave out the avocado and provide a sunny spot for a dwarf Meyer lemon tree in your home. On our farm, we grow the kale, carrots, and poppy seeds as a matter of course.
For more delicious, in-season recipes made with homegrown ingredients, check out Farmstead Feast: Winter.
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