Kale salad with toasted coconut and sesame oil – this fantastic salad has it all – it’s crunchy, it’s salty, it’s satisfying, and feels like comfort food, yet is a health bomb.
I’ve been really slow in catching up with the world’s obsession with kale. I remember the first kale salad recipe I tried, instructed to massage the kale with your hands, until it gets a cooked-like appearance. Well…that didn’t sound very sexy, and I probably hurried through the massaging part, and ended up with tough grassy tasting kale, that was almost impossible to chew. I think this first bad start was what convinced me that kale is inedible.
That surprised me on many levels. First, I am a person who genuinely loves all things green, and I consume huge quantities on a daily basis. There is nothing that I could think of, from leafy greens to crunchy greens to in-between, that I don’t like. Why in the world, wasn’t I able to stomach the kale? I felt almost offended by it!
I continued to be puzzled, as everybody kept raving about kale, and the web was flooded with suspiciously delicious kale recipes. Now I understand that kale is a king among all greens, as far as healthy benefits, but I thought, unless I cook the devil out of it, kale is not for me. I honestly suspected that people are simply pretending to like it because it was the fad of the day.
But as it turned out it wasn’t just a temporary obsession, and continues to this day with unrelenting power, so I had no choice but to solve this kale issue. My next attempt was kale chips – that sounded more like a winner, and it was. Then I made a salad with baked kale, with lots of lemon, garlic and Parmesan cheese – another winner! Then the first baby kale appeared on the market, and I thought I found my solution to eating raw kale – now I could chew the tender baby leaves and they didn’t taste like coarse grass. Then I had another idea – why not shred the kale super thinly, until it becomes almost confetti-like. That worked too!
So, slowly, and a bit reluctantly at first, I warmed up to kale, and I began to like it. I actually began to love it, after I made this recipe from Heidi Swanson’s cookbook, Super Natural Every Day: Well-Loved Recipes from My Natural Foods Kitchen
At first glance, it may seem quite the unusual combination of ingredients (coconut + kale + soy sauce..?), and I have to admit I was skeptical too when I first read it. I would probably have passed on it, if it wasn’t coming from Heidi Swanson. Her great blog, 101cookbooks.com, is always such an inspiration – both visual and culinary, and so I reasoned, this salad must be quite special, to be selected among all her special recipes, and make the cut.
It turned out fantastic! I suspected I might be the only one eating it, but nevertheless, I served it to all. Within minutes it disappeared, and it left us wanting more. The biggest surprise for me was that the kids were the ones who ate most of it. I am always shocked and thrilled when they like something as sophisticated and grown up (not to mention super healthy) as kale. Needless to say, I think I am over my kale phobia for good!
It’s an easy salad to like actually, because you bake the kale almost to the point of becoming crispy and chip-like. The mix of soy sauce and sesame oil is all too familiar to most people, and the coconut gives it an incredible crunch!
I added a few minor modifications the second time I made it – I threw in some fresh garlic to the dressing, I used less olive oil, and added a good amount of toasted sesame seeds. It’s also great sprinkled with homemade dukkah. In her cookbook, Heidi recommends serving the salad with cooked farro, or other whole grain. I haven’t tried that yet, because for me, the salad is quite filling as is.
If you are a kale lover (or pretend to be one) you must try this salad! Just make a double, or triple batch!
Kale salad with toasted coconut and sesame oil - this fantastic salad has it all - it's crunchy, it's salty, it's satisfying, and feels like comfort food, yet is a health bomb.
- 3 1/2 lightly packed cups / 3.5 oz chopped kale, stems trimmed, large ribs removed (1 bunch)
- 1 1/2 cups / 3 oz unsweetened large-flake coconut
- 2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons shoyu, tamari, or soy sauce
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tbs sesame seeds
- 2 cups cooked farro, quinoa, or whole grain of choice (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C with two racks in the top third of the oven.
Whisk together the olive oil, sesame oil, and soy sauce, add the crushed garlic.
Put the kale and coconut in a large bowl and toss well with about two-thirds of the olive oil mixture, and the sesame seeds.
Spread the kale evenly across two baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 18 minutes, until the coconut is deeply golden brown, tossing once or twice along the way. If the kale mixture on the top baking sheet begins to get too browned, move it to the lower rack.
Remove from the oven and transfer the kale mixture to a medium bowl. Taste. If you feel it needs a bit more dressing, add some and toss.
If using whole grain, cook according to instructions, and serve the salad on top of the cooked grains while it's still warm.