Drafted to come up with a summery, picnic-friendly kale salad, Hot Knives undertook a brutally fibrous campaign of taste tests. With its texture somewhere between a dishwasher scrubby and a garden plant, kale often gets gussied up with winter veg (caramelized squash…) and/or harsh dressings (balsamic reduction…) – the salad equivalent of a scratchy sweater. We were going more for bikini thong.
Our first thought was raw “collard greens,” a sort of imitation of the Southern classic with citrus-rubbed kale, which would wilt as if it was long-braised without losing its color or nutrition, masquerading as collards. This idea morphed into an infinitely cooler format: a kale coleslaw. Softened by a lemon-water massage and sat overnight in a lemon oil, the kale becomes nearly slurpable while staying light and crisp.
The real key is the lemon, not just to soften the kale but to zest the dressing. It feels clean and bright, not harsh and heavy. In truth, we realize now, kale may be the only thing in which we prefer the former to the latter.
1 head of kale
2 large lemons
1 quart filtered water
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup Veganaise
2 tsp. fresh black pepper
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
quarter of a red cabbage (garnish)
1. Prepare the kale for its rub-down: take each leaf and remove the stem by either slicing a “V” shape and separating the two green sides from its spine, or simply pulling off the leafy green in chunks. Discard the stem. Throw the large kale leaves into a strainer. Rinse and let sit.
2. Zest both your lemons into a large mixing bowl, making sure to get every last inch of yellow goodness. Save zest for the dressing. When complete, slice and juice lemons into a separate container. Fill a large bowl with water, and add only half the fresh lemon juice to the water.
3. Submerge kale in lemon-water and let sit for 1-2 minutes. Take a small bunch at a time and massage the kale by scrunching as hard as you can, releasing and taking a new handful of kale. Repeat for several minutes
4. Remove kale and let dry in a colander, or spin dry. On a cutting board, slice each large chunk or leaf like you might chiffonade basil. If the leaves are not big enough to get long, coleslaw like slices don’t fret. Place kale in a container with a lid to store overnight. Combine the rest of the lemon juice (should be close to 2 Tbs., if not juice another lemon) with a Tbs. of olive oil. Let sit in fridge overnight, but before you clean up make dressing for tomorrow.
5. Combine Veganaise with black pepper, sugar, salt and lemon zest and whisk to make dressing. Add a half-teaspoon of lemon juice if needed to whisk, but no more. Save for service.
6. After kale has sat all night, drain liquid and spin dry. Grate carrot and shred cabbage. Toss together with dressing and serve cold.
Beverage: Craftsman Brewing’s Heavenly Hefe
Soundtrack: Talking Heads’ “This Must be the Place”