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In my experience, when you get a group of expats together the conversation almost inevitably turns to food: mainly, the things can’t get in your new country of residence. One my my biggest beefs with Sweden, other than the devastating lack of a Whole Foods or anything comparable, is the kale situation.

I don’t get it. Sweden is a cold country. Kale is a cold weather crop. You’d think it would be a match made in heaven, but other than during the two month long farmer’s market season, and, inexplicably, for about two weeks around Christmas time, there is nary a leaf of kale to be found.

We’re in the midst of the farmer’s market season now, so kale is in my life in a big way. I’m considering stockpiling it; blanching and freezing fistfuls of the stuff, filling our teeny Euro freezer to the brim to get me through the upcoming kale desert. Paul would freak out.

For now, let’s celebrate fresh kale in all it’s glory with this garlicky kale salad. Are you familiar with this whole kale massaging business? Massaging the dressing into the leaves helps soften and tenderize them into a delicate salad. Toss in some freshly made multigrain mustardy croutons. Try topping the whole situation with a soft poached egg, and you’ve got yourself a mighty fine meal.

One year ago: I started a new job and daily Swedish classes! 
Two years ago: Haloumi Sandwich for Jenn P.

Garlicky Kale Salad with Mustard Croutons Recipe:

I used curly kale here because I frankly didn’t have it in me to stand in line for dinosaur (Lacinato or Tuscan) kale. The latter would have been my preference as it is a little sweeter and slightly less bitter, but curly kale worked just fine too.

Serves 2, quite generously, for a main meal. More for a side salad.

Kale salad and dressing adapted from 101 Cookbooks. Croutons adapted from Super Natural Every Day.

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For the croutons:

2 slices of nice multigrain bread, torn into bite sized pieces (about 2 C torn bread)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
a pinch of salt

For the salad:

1 bunch kale, washed, dried, de-stemmed, and torn into pieces (about 5 C torn leaves)
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (this was one lemon)
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Preheat your oven to 350 F / 180C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, mustard, and salt. Add the torn bread, and give everything a good toss until bread is well coated. Spread the bread out in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 – 15 min, turning once part way through, until croutons are golden and crispy. Set them aside to cool.

Crush the garlic clove with a garlic crusher (I am lazy, and have an exceptionally good garlic crusher), or, using a pinch of salt and the flat side of a knife, mince it into a fine paste. In the same bowl as you used for the croutons (don’t bother cleaning it in between), whisk together garlic, salt, parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, pepper flakes, and black pepper. Place the torn kale leaves over top of the dressing, and use your clean hands to toss and lightly massage the dressing into the leaves, until everything is well coated. Let the dressed salad sit for at least 5 minutes, preferably a little longer.

Serve kale salad topped with mustard croutons, and a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan. A poached egg would be a beautiful companion too.

Kale is a nutritional powerhouse! It is extraordinarily rich in micronutrients, dietary fiber, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients, and cancer fighting glucosinolates. Kale is a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese, and contains nearly twice the vitamin K (essential for blood clotting and also an important anti-inflammatory agent) than any other cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, cabbage, etc).  Iron, magnesium, vitamin E, folate, and phosphorous are among the complement of vital minerals found in kale. The dietary fiber in kale is known to reduce blood cholesterol levels. One recent study showed that this benefit may be improved by lightly steaming kale for about 5 minutes before consuming.

While this kale salad is super healthy, we’ve also got a moderation situation going on. The dressing contains heart healthy olive oil, but also a fair amount of fatty, salty Parmesan cheese. The croutons are made from multigrain bread, and are saturated in olive oil and mustard before baking. Go easy on both the dressing and the croutons and you’ve got a perfectly balanced meal.

Do ahead: Kale salads are one of the few times that greens are actually improved by being dressed in advanced and left to sit. The dressing helps soften the tough greens and make them more palatable. I left a good portion of this salad, with dressing, in the fridge overnight, and it was still perfectly good the next day. If you plan in advance, you can make the croutons and keep them sealed in an airtight container in the cupboard for up to a week. The dressing can also be made in advance, and the kale leaves washed, dried, and torn ahead of time.

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2012

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