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Say goodbye to lettuce and hello to kale

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    courtesy mariko jackson Raw kale can be tough and somewhat bitter, but slicing the leaves thin and adding the right seasoning can temper those qualities.

Lettuce, I’m breaking up with you. I’ve been unimpressed with your weak flavor, your soft crunch, your general soggy nature after a quick rinse. You collapse under any suggestion of dressing and are so difficult to spear. You never make good leftovers.

I’ve found a new love. Kale fills my needs oh so much better. It brightens my taste buds and can stand up to exotic ingredients. I crave the strong hearty flavors I get from kale.

Kale’s vitamins, antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering capabilities are present in the uncooked version, even if cooking is the best way to unlock this cabbage’s power. Like most leafy greens, kale is high on the list of pesticide-ridden vegetables, so go organic if you can. There has been a rebirth of kale in the last few years, and I see its deep-green leaves gracing many farmers’ market stands. It is usually the cheapest and freshest option.

A friend first made me kale salad, and I watched her go through her ritual preparations many times. A key here is to cut the leaves so thinly that their tough texture, when raw, will not require long chewing.

I added orzo and a few of my own touches to make this salad a meal instead of an appetizer.

The kale is attractively dressed, and the seeds, dried cherries and orzo temper its bitterness while still complementing its texture.

I have no problem getting my 4-year-old to eat this salad. Just the look makes me feel bright and springy, and in love with cabbages.

Kale and Orzo Salad

5 cups kale leaves, stems removed
4 tablespoons lemon juice
½ red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 carrot, sliced into thin 2-inch matchsticks
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons turmeric
Pinch of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup hemp seeds (optional)
½ cup toasted nuts, such as almonds or macadamia nuts
1 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries
½ cup sun-dried tomato strips
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 cups cooked orzo pasta
½ cup feta cheese
Flaky sea or kosher salt, to taste
Braggs liquid amino acids or soy sauce, to taste
Drizzle of honey (optional)

Slice kale into thin strips, cutting crosswise. The result should be about 2- to 4-inch strips. Place these in a bowl with the lemon juice. Rub the juice into the kale and let sit for 2 to 4 hours in the fridge. Place sliced onions into a bowl with balsamic vinegar and let marinate for at least one hour.

Remove onions from vinegar and discard any liquid left at bottom of bowl. In large serving bowl, toss kale with onions, carrots, celery, oil, cumin, turmeric and pepper.

Add sunflower and hemp seeds, nuts, cherries or cranberries, sun-dried tomatoes, sesame seeds, sesame oil and orzo. Toss again.

Add feta cheese and toss lightly to disperse ingredients throughout the salad rather than leaving them sitting at the bottom of the bowl. Taste and add salt, a quick dash of liquid amino acids, and/or honey if needed, tossing lightly to combine. Serves 6 to 8.

Nutrition information unavailable.


Mariko Jackson of Honolulu blogs about family and food at Her column runs monthly in the Star-Advertiser.

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