Appetizers, Recipes, Salads, Vegetarian

Greek Kale Salad

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July is the time of year when I go in for my yearly physical. This year, the results came back fine and dandy as usual, except for one tiny thing — I have a slight iron deficiency. Of course, that's very minor in the spectrum of problems a doctor can phone you about, but it's also a little crushing to not get the same  "everything looks great! keep doing what you're doing!" remark from years past.

"Eat more lean red meat," I was told. "Or more dark leafy greens."

It's great to have a legitimate excuse to go find out and find a nice juicy steak or burger, stat! But really, I definitely would not be able to keep doing that every day to meet my iron requirement. This is where the kale comes in.

I've always been a huge fan of kale. If pressed to name my favorite vegetable (there are so many!), I'd probably say kale, with brussels sprouts as a close second. Kale won't wilt in a day in your crisper bin like spinach might. It's sturdy enough that you can braise it or roast it, but tender enough that you can eat it raw in a salad. Heck, it can even be stir-fried or stuffed into dumplings.

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For lunch the day of the phone call, I decided to go with a Greek salad using kale instead of romaine lettuce or cucumbers. It took only a bit longer to put together than a regular Greek salad, as you need to quickly boil the kale to soften it a bit. The dressing is a standard lemon dressing with a pinch of cayenne pepper. So simple, so good.

Another good thing about the sturdiness of kale is that you can boil a bunch at once, drain and squeeze out the excess water, then keep it in the fridge for up to 2 days. Which is great if you're cooking for one and can't eat a pound of kale in a single sitting. Keep all the other leftover ingredients separate until the next lunch or dinner, then toss everything together.

Sure, it's a little more work to get your iron intake than snacking on store-bought kale chips (which I have also done, because they are so tempting on the shelves and so salty yet so addictive). But it's also slightly easier on the wallet and definitely better for you. I'm guessing my doctor would agree.

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Greek Kale Salad

Serves 4

  • 2 pounds kale (large stems discarded, about 3/4 to 1 pound kale leaves)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup good extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup grape, cherry, or plum tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2 to 3 ounces feta cheese
  • Pita bread for serving (optional)
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the kale leaves and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the leaves are just tender. Drain,  rinse under cold water, and squeeze dry. Fluff up the leaves, then chop them into bite-sized pieces.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, honey, and the cayenne/crushed red pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a large serving bowl, toss together the kale, tomatoes, olives, and feta. Add the lemon dressing and toss again. Serve the salad alone or with sliced pita bread.

Adapted from Food and Wine, June 2005

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More kale salad recipes to try: