Saturday, August 23, 2014

Massaged Kale Salad with Watermelon and Feta

Every year at Christmas, my sister gives me a can of anchovies. It's always prettily wrapped, although it used to be just stuffed in my stocking. After several years, I have a pretty respectable stack of the tins accumulated in my pantry.

I use the anchovies -- I do -- but I have to admit, as much as I like them, only occasionally, as I'm certainly the only one in this household who does. Eating a whole tin myself seems a little too much of a good thing.

And the people I cook for aren't likely anchovy candidates. I have not told them how I slipped anchovies into the filling for the cannelloni they all like. And I haven't told them that anchovies are a key ingredient in the Worcestershire sauce so liberally sprinkled on their burgers.

What is it about anchovies that turns so many people off? I know they're salty, a little bit fishy, and -- sometimes -- they do have little hairy spokes, but I think they're just great. (Which is why, of course, I get my annual pantry contribution.)

All this is a roundabout way of telling you how I put together this kale salad.

I've made kale salad a number of times and I use kale whenever I can instead of spinach in dishes I cook. But the combination of a great abundance of kale in our garden and the growing stack of anchovy tins taking up valuable real estate in my little pantry led me to a little exploring.

The first time I made massaged kale salad I used a recipe from Aarti Sequeria. I substituted the available nectarines for the mangoes she recommended and loved the dressing.

But always searching for another way of making something, I found an article from Eating Well, that described a dressing for kale salad using -- ta-da! -- anchovies! Perfect!

The pungency of the garlic and the subtle (really!) flavor of the anchovies was the ticket to solving my overabundance problems. The addition of the watermelon chunks was a refreshing balance to those flavors.

I like mixing things with my hands. Meatballs. Meatloaf. Pizza dough. Probably why I like this salad. It's a pleasurable feeling to massage the greens until they soften. Like my husband's shoulders.

If you really can't stand anchovies, you can leave them out, but if you haven't tried massaging kale into a fresh salad, I think you'll be surprised.

I write a monthly food column, "Good Food Matters," for a local newspaper and my most recent article I titled "Let Them Eat Kale!", a title I copied from a new cookbook by Julia Mueller. I'll have to get that book because I can't just eat massaged salad, kale chips or a kaled version of my spinach rice.  It may not be a hit with a lot of my small town readers, but I hope I can convince a few more people about this great way to get a lot of good in your body.

I bet you're wondering what I did with the rest of the anchovies, aren't you?

Massaged Kale Salad with Watermelon and Feta
inspired by Eating Well and Aarti Sequeria
Serves 6

2 bunches kale
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 minced anchovy fillet or 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional, maybe)
2 cups watermelon cut in 1/2 to 1 inch chunks
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Strip leaves from the stems and discard the stems. Wash and dry the leaves. Tear the leaves into small pieces and place in a large bowl. Add oil, lemon juice, garlic, soy sauce, anchovy (if using), pepper and salt. With clean hands, firmly massage and crush the greens to work in the flavoring. Stop when the volume of greens is reduced by about half. The greens should look a little darker and somewhat shiny. Taste and adjust seasoning with more lemon juice, garlic, soy sauce if you want. Add the watermelon chunks and the feta and enjoy.