You know that moment when you try a dish at a restaurant and realize that you will henceforth be compelled to return to that restaurant simply to eat that menu item, and that you will order it every single time you dine there? The kale salad from Found Kitchen and Social House is that dish for us. It’s somehow light yet also hearty, with the perfect balance of flavors and textures from the kale, swiss chard, dried fruit, nuts, seeds and (a recent addition) blueberries, all dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. Every time we order it, Dan wonders (out loud, usually to our server): “How do they make KALE taste so good?” Although our homemade version of Found’s kale salad can never be as delicious as the original, we discovered a trick to making kale taste good, for a salad that comes pretty darn close to restaurant-quality. The key is massaging the kale with a little olive oil, salt and lemon juice. I discovered the secret while looking for vegan recipes in the book “My Beef with Meat” by former firefighter Rip Esselstyn, who explains why massaging kale softens its texture and improves its flavor: “Massaging [kale] salad drives the lemon juice and salt into the cell membrane of the kale and lightly ‘cooks’ it, making it much more tame and less ‘angry.'” (He had recently read a reference to kale as “angry lettuce,” which makes a lot of sense if you’ve ever taken a bite of plain, raw kale.) We will still crave Found’s kale salad (and order it whenever we go there), but it’s also nice to be able to satisfy our craving with a quick and easy homemade version, and to know we have a backup plan if they’re ever crazy enough to take it off their menu!
The dressing for the kale salad is simple: start with about a teaspoon of lemon zest…
…then add the lemon juice; olive oil; honey; minced garlic; and salt & pepper to taste, and whisk all the ingredients together.
Found’s menu states that the salad includes “nuts and seeds.” You can include whatever kinds of nuts and seeds you like. We happen to enjoy walnuts and sunflower seeds in our kale salad, so that’s what we use. To boost the flavor of the walnuts, toast them for a few minutes over medium heat.
To prepare the kale, wash it thoroughly, then cut the leaves away from the tough stems (and discard the stems).
Place the kale leaves in a large bowl and drizzle them with lemon juice, salt and olive oil, then massage the leaves until they begin to soften and wilt a bit — about 3-5 minutes.
Stack the leaves and cut them into thin strips, then cut across the strips to get small pieces of kale.
Add the remaining salad ingredients—we use dried fruit (this berry blend is great and doesn’t require chopping), toasted walnuts and dry roasted sunflower kernels—then toss with the lemon vinaigrette. I almost added some chopped hearts of palm (a sharp eye might have spotted them in the ingredient photo above), but ours had taken a turn toward mushy, so, nope. We’ll probably experiment with other salad ingredients in the future—lots of fresh fruits would work well, including strawberries, apples or mandarin oranges, and crumbled goat cheese could take things to a whole new level—but the Found original version with dried fruit, nuts and seeds is classic and will likely always be our favorite.
“Found” Kale Salad
For the dressing-
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- juice from ½ lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- salt & pepper
For the salad-
- 1 bunch kale, leaves cut away from stems, then massaged & chopped
- drizzles of olive oil & lemon juice, dash of salt
- toasted walnuts (or other nut of choice)
- dry roasted sunflower kernels (or seeds of choice)
- dried fruit berry blend (or fruit of choice)
- Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, whisk together and set aside.
- In a large bowl, drizzle the kale leaves with olive oil and lemon juice, add a dash of salt and massage the leaves until they soften and begin to wilt — about 3-5 minutes. Stack the kale leaves on a cutting board and thinly slice them, then chop cross-wise to get small pieces of kale.
- Combine the chopped kale with the remaining salad ingredients, toss with the dressing and serve.