For quite some time, if you asked me what the grossest thing I’ve ever eaten was, I would have responded kale chips. This point of distinction has now been taken over by some sort of animal intestines dish my grandfather made me try from a weird buffet in a small Missouri town when I was 16. I’m not sure if this is actual fact or not: I’ve heard that this particular town (Fredricktown) is the meth capital of Missouri. This is a fact: the state of Missouri is the meth capital of the world. Clearly, I make awesome decisions about what to eat and where to live.
But I digress. The kale chips – they were not great either. They were weirdly crispy and way too garlicky and no one in my family could eat them without making a face. So for years, I avoided kale. Not that it was that hard to avoid, but you know.
Then I started seeing all this stuff about how healthy it is. It has lots of fiber, calcium and obscure vitamins like Vitamin K. It’s one of those foods people eat on a cleanse/detox juiced or blended into their smoothies. And listen – if you’re one of those people who do cleanses, I’m happy for you. I am. But three to seven days of eating veggie smoothies and weird waters with cayenne pepper and lemon juice and apple cider vinegar or whatever just sounds like my personal hell. I can’t imagine feeling good enough after that experience to make up for the days of awfulawfulawful. I like regular meals and real food and plain old water. (Actually, I really like strawberry basil water, try it sometime!)
What I’m saying with all of this is that I was quite dubious about kale. But I wanted to like it, so when I happened upon this recipe by Moorea Seal, of all people, I decided to give it a go. And, with a switching of cheeses, I happened to LOVE it. It’s enough for a light lunch by itself, although it’s great as a side as well. And, best of all, you get to eat kale in a healthy-ish way without being on a cleanse that makes you hate your life. (I would assume.)
Confession: one time, I blatantly brought this salad to lunch in a Tupperware container with a friend at a local Italian restaurant, Cupini’s, because wanted to eat there but I also wanted to eat this salad. I sat outside, so that makes it a slightly better, right? It was fantastic, the perfect accompaniment to my favorite gnocchi with pesto. I only feel a little guilty.
Spicy Kale Salad
Adapted from Moorea Seal
Note: I’ve bought kale both whole and already chopped and packaged. The ready-to-go stuff makes life easier, but the bag I got from Trader Joe’s was already starting to go slightly bad. It was salvageable, but I had to pick out some pieces. I haven’t had the freshness problem when I’ve bought it whole, and I chopped it up right when I got home from the store and kept it in an airtight container in the fridge. I’d recommend this – the taste is better, and you can pre-chop it if you want a quick lunch.
2 cups (or whereabouts) kale, chopped into manageable pieces
1 tsp. olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp + more to taste crushed red pepper flakes
1 small garlic clove, minced
Handful of feta cheese
Toss all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Note on the red pepper flakes: I prefer about ½ tsp, but that’s spicy enough to make my mouth burn a little. Start with very little and build from there.
Your turn: Do you have any awesome recipes for kale I should know about? What’s the grossest thing you’ve ever eaten?