Massaged Kale Salad with Lemon and Parmesan


I first heard of massaged kale from my friend and fellow food eater, Rose Hollander. At market she bought 3 bunches of kale and said that she was going to try the new “back rub method” to which I responded, “What?” She explained it and for the next year it was the only salad I made at home. I wasn’t the only one. For a while on restaurant menus you couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting a kale salad. While this makes some roll their eyes over the modern hubbub over an ancient green, it is extremely delicious.

I like to use the Red Russian variety because the leaves are slightly thinner and breaks down more quickly. The key to massaged kale is the sprinkle of salt. The graininess of the salt and the agitation from your hands breaks the cell walls making it tender. Avoid adding olive oil before massaging because it makes it too slippery to breakdown properly. If the kale is not tender, keep rubbing. Chewing a tough kale salad always makes me feel like a grazing ruminant, which does not enhance the dining experience.

  • 1 bunch Red Russian kale
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 lemon, zested and ½ juiced
  • 4oz parmesan
  • salt and pepper
  1. Strip the kale from the stem, wash and dry completely
  2. Cut the kale into ribbons, sprinkle with salt and give it a back rub until it is dark green and tender
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, lemon zest and juice
  4. Taste and add more salt as desired
  5. Cover the kale with grated parmesan and several good turns of black pepper