A Recipe for Kale Salad and Massage

As popular as kale has become, I think many people still don’t know what to do with it or how to eat it so it actually tastes good to them. I mean how many of you know that when using kale in salads you should actually massage it with a little bit of oil first? That’s right, massage your kale. With oil. Low sultry music is optional.

Turns out it makes a world of difference! Though I can’t speak to the music piece. I used to try making kale salad for my family by just dumping a bag of kale mix in a bowl and serving it as you typically would serve a salad – that never went over well. Kale is crunchy, chewy and tough. Which is cool if you have hooves.

Finally I came across some advice somewhere (if my mom-brain could remember where, I’d definitely give a shout-out) that pointed out how when you give kale a hearty rubdown it breaks down the fibrous cellulose structure and actually makes it wilt a bit, which makes it perfect for using in salads. Since I started massaging my kale (this is beginning to sound like an infomercial gone terribly wrong) my family looks forward to our almost-weekly fix. I assume Luke looks forward to it, we never really know whether he looks forward to food or if he’s just worried he might not gain a pound.

So how do we make this kale salad? Well if you can handle my stellar photography, I’ll show you how. Or if you trust you can figure it out without the frilly photo nonsense, scroll down for the recipe!

First, you start by toasting some sliced or slivered almonds. It has taken me about 1,562 times to do this without burning them. The secret is to not leave them unattended for longer than about 30 seconds because you need to turn them constantly once they start to toast. I put them in a pan on a burner set at medium heat. Turn away long enough to pour yourself a glass of wine to keep you company while you attempt to not burn the almonds.

Stick to one glass of wine, you don't want to mess this up.
Stick to one glass of wine, you don’t want to mess this up.

Once the almonds are browned nicely (and you’re buzzed – this should only take about 5 to 10 minutes for both to happen if you’re a light weight like me) remove them from the heat and let them cool.

Next, you need a lemon and a microplane or other zesting contraption. Zest away and put that citrusy goodness into a big bowl.

In case there's any question about what a lemon looks like.
In case there’s any question about what a lemon looks like.

Then juice the said lemon and place that in the bowl as well. Sorry, no photos of me juicing a lemon. I’m not that patient and my family morphs into wolves if I take too long making dinner.

Add extra-virgin olive oil and mix it up with the lemon juice and zest, I use a wire whisk for this.

Now, you need some fibrous kale – store bought or fresh from a market, it doesn’t matter. Put it all in the bowl with the oil and lemon stuff.

Get to massaging. You can put a little Marvin Gaye on if you’re so inclined.

"I feel good..."

The experts say to do this for 5 minutes. They do not have small children yelling at them. Since I do, I massage it well for 1 minute, maybe 2 minutes if I really need to squeeze the crap out of something.

Anger management meets the Food Network
Anger management meets the Food Network

Once your kale is nice and massaged and the oil and lemon are absorbed, top with some shaved parmesan cheese. Or shredded or grated or, if you’re lazy like me, thinly sliced.

I'm so glad I captured this before the Lila Cheese Snatcher showed up.
I’m so glad I captured this before the Lila Cheese Snatcher showed up.

Now top with the toasted almonds and a little ground pepper.



I know what you’re thinking, “She’s a trainer, of course her family eats that stuff.” First of all just because something is healthy does not mean any of us will eat it. Secondly, my husband would just as soon have bacon for dinner and he still can’t get enough of this stuff. Lila will actually eat it when it’s on her plate, unlike any other green substance, and refers to it as her yummy “salid.” And, well, we already know how Luke feels.

So now that you’ve witnessed the amazing photo gallery above, here’s the recipe plain and simple.

Lemony Kale Salad

(Adapted from Martha Stewart, who uses hazelnuts and does not talk about massage. Shame on you, Martha.)


  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice of one lemon
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bag of kale salad or 8 cups of coarsely chopped kale, major ribs removed if there are any (you’ll be fine with a bagged mix from the store)
  • ½ cup shaved, shredded, or thinly sliced parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup (or more) toasted slivered or sliced almonds (we buy them in bulk but you can otherwise find them in baking aisles usually)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste


Toast the almonds in a pan on the stove on medium heat. Pay close attention, as once they start browning you’ll want to rotate them frequently and catch them before they start to burn. Once they’re nicely browned, remove them from heat and let them cool.

In a large bowl, whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil together until well combined. Add kale and massage with your hands until the dressing is well absorbed and the kale starts to wilt. You’ll notice it starts to take up less space in the bowl as the fibers break down.

Top with the cheese and almonds, then add freshly ground pepper. Toss before serving.

Best wine to pair this with? One you can drink.

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