Perfect Kale Salad

A nutritionist friend once told me that perfect food had to combine four flavors: sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. “Take, for example, simple kale,” she said… and her phone rang. She had to leave urgently, to consult someone who, apparently, haven’t learned all the principles of perfect food yet.

“So Irit, wait, what do I do with that simple kale?” – I tried to catch up with her as she was running to her car.

“Oh I don’t know, stir fry or something…”

That was coming, and I knew it. While not exactly a raw food enthusiast, she strongly believed in less, rather than more, cooking, i.e. exposing fresh ingredients bursting with nutrients to heat that kills most of them.

Kale 1.jpg

I got my simple kale, tore it into pieces – that’s another one of my friend’s lessons, to avoid bruising greens with a knife – washed and dried it, and tossed it into a very hot barely misted with oil dutch oven. I covered it, to preserve natural moisture.

Kale 2.jpg

Then I got my four perfect flavors: blue agave for sweetness, lemon juice for sour taste, soy sauce for saltiness, and grated ginger for spice.  Because I wasn’t told anything otherwise – in fact, I wasn’t told anything at all! – I did exactly as one of my favorite writers described: I didn’t think; I experimented (Anthony Burgess, in The Devil Mode,I believe).  A splash of this, and a tablespoon of that, and hope for the best!

Kale 3.jpg

The whole process took about two minutes, and as soon as kale started losing color and going soft, I turned off the heat. I adjusted proportions of the flavors several times, ultimately deciding that it needed a touch of sesame oil – don’t ask me why!  I looked at it, and it really looked perfect. So perfect, that it called for some perfect music. Listen to Placido Domingo and Itzhak Perlman perform Elegie by Massenet, while I look for a perfect salad bowl.

Meanwhile, another thought occurred to me: we only discussed flavors, but never had a chance to talk about textures when she had to run. Calling her was not an option, as she was on a consult. So I consulted Anthony Burgess instead, and experimented again.

Kale 4.jpg

I decided that the subtle crunchiness of roasted sesame seeds will provide a nice contrast to soft , yet springy kale. And while I was at it, I also made a decision in favor of white, rather than black sesame seeds, since combination of colors was yet another topic we never got to discuss. I thought that a white accent would bring out the lively green brightness of kale, whereas black would just be depressive. Call me crazy, yes! I am the same girl who spent hours walking from one Monet’s painting to another and standing enraptured in front of each, until my husband declared that if he saw one more water lily, he’d retreat to a different museum.

Kale 5

I have to tell you that my friend Irit was right; what eventually came out as a result of this mad experiment was simply heavenly. You can ask my husband, but he won’t answer because he is too busy eating!


  • 4 cups loose fresh green or red kale, torn into pieces, washed, and thoroughly dried
  • 2 tablespoons agave
  • 1 tablespoon  lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated ginger
  • A splash of sesame oil
  • Roasted white sesame seeds to garnish


  • Preheat deep frying pan or dutch oven to maximum heat, lightly mist with oil.
  • Toss kale into the pan, cover.
  • Add agave, lemon juice, soy sauce, ginger, toss.  Cover.
  • As soon as kale changes color and becomes bright green, and also softens, turn off heat. It shouldn’t take more than 2 – 3 minutes. Do not overcook!
  • Add sesame oil, toss. Transfer into clear bowl, to bring out the color.
  • Garnish with sesame seeds.
  • Serve hot, warm, or cold, as an appetizer, salad, or side dish.



14 Comments Add yours

  1. lilyandardbeg says:

    Kale seems to be one of the few things that thrive in my (pet infested) garden, so I always have loads of it. Fortunately I love it (it makes great crisps, seriously). It goes well with marmite but I don’t think it’s something you’d use (it’s yeast extract, very popular in Britain, very ‘umami’). I think for anyone outside Britain it’s an acquired taste…I’ll try your salad (minus the agave syrup, I can’t make myself like it, I’ll swap it for cashew nuts added at the end).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have never seen kosher marmite, and maybe it exists but I haven’t looked because I’ve heard that it tastes not just like yeast, but like beer yeast – not my thing, sorry. In Russia, beer yeast was used to treat anemia caused by great blood loss. More than 40 years later, I still have the taste in my mouth, together with memories. Cashew nuts is a great idea, though! Raw or roasted?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. lilyandardbeg says:

        There’s kosher marmite, I’ve checked 🙂 It does taste like beer yeast and veg extract (celeriac and salsify type of taste). It tastes of vitamin B. It’s this quirky thing you know you shouldn’t like but you do (if you do). And it was used in the UK for the same reason as in Russia (well, after the war). My husband loves it on toast, I use it in cooking but wouldn’t want too much of it-it’s overpowering and everything tastes of marmite for hours later 🙂 I made the salad yesterday. With raw cashews (because I couldn’t be bothered to roast them). And tomatoes because when I went to get the kale I’ve noticed 2 of my tomatoes were ready to pick up. I grilled the tomatoes and it was really nice (but as I said I do like kale). Well, the final salad was not really what you had in mind, but thank you for inspiration 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t always know what I have in mind, and in this case I certainly didn’t. I just sort of went along, and I am happy that you went along with me and amended it to please your palate. I can visualize the dramatic effect of grilled tomatoes and white cashews on bright green kale – a veritable Italian flag! You are so lucky to have your own garden where you can grow things!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. lilyandardbeg says:

        hmm, it’s a small garden, and the pets sabotage my efforts, but I love eating fruit and veg grown there (and they really are tasty!) I’d love to have a proper garden/orchard but I wouldn’t have time to work there, so I’m happy with the small one 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Most definitely, locally grown, farm-sourced fruit and veggies taste totally different, more intense. And when they are produced by your own effort – they are the best!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sumith Babu says:

    Sweet, sour, salty and spicy. The perfect harmony of food!!! Would love to try this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jessica says:

    Sounds like a really yummy salad! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. msw blog says:

    What a great way to use kale. 😊 You and your readers may enjoy these kale recipes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much – I am glad you like it!


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