Of all the vegetables we grow and eat here at the farm, brussels sprouts are one of the most challenging. Our attempts to grow them fail (and they attract a massive amount of aphids) and the only brussels sprouts recipes we like usually have tons of bacon and bacon fat to enhance the flavor. While we do love our bacon, we would like brussels sprouts to taste good on their own. After multiple failures, we usually avoid brussels sprouts, but every once in a while we try a new brussels sprouts dish in a restaurant or see a recipe that sounds promising. Usually, we are disappointed. But not this time. Carolyn tried this salad at a restaurant (Bar Bocce in Sausalito) and we adapted it for home cooking, and it’s very good- we didn’t even have to add any bacon.
And, oddly enough, what we needed to enjoy the brussels sprouts was some different technique and the addition of another veggie. For the technique, we use finely shaved raw brussels sprouts, and for the extra veggie we added kale. One might not expect two earthly vegetables to compliment each other, but the sweeter sprouts play well with the “briny” notes of the kale. Add some roasted almonds for crunch and nutty flavor, shave on some romano cheese for salt and umami and finish with a bright, acidic dressing and you have a delightful salad.
Simple enough, but there is one extra step that makes this salad really sing, the “massage”. And no, there is nothing creepy about massaging your kale. What’s really going on is that you add some of the lemon juice from the dressing to the kale and sprouts, mix or “massage” the juice with the greens and then let them sit for 5 to 20 minutes. The acid will actually start to “cook” or soften the kale and sprouts. It makes a big difference in texture of the salad. Usually dressing a salad too early makes it wilt, but for a tough green like kale, this is a good thing. (This approach will work for most kale-based salads).
A few other notes about this salad. Firstly, the kale and sprouts are very hearty, so you can store the salad, dressed, in the fridge for a few days- so go ahead and make a big batch, if you like. Secondly, if you want to make a vegan version of the salad simply substitute the cheese with caramelized shallots. It won’t be exactly the same, but it will still be very good. And finally, it is best to shave the brussels sprouts with a small hand slicer or mandolin, but if you don’t have these tools use a very, very sharp knife and take your time. Brussels sprouts can be slippery little suckers, be careful…and then enjoy a very healthy and tasty salad.
Massaged Kale And Brussels Sprouts Salad:
(Adapted from Bar Bocce)
Notes Before You Start:
- We use lacinato kale for this dish but most types of kale will work in this recipe. Just be sure to remove the tough ribs from the middle of the kale.
What You Get: A good recipe for brussels sprouts that doesn’t hide them behind bacon or fat.
What You Need: No special equipment required. But a small hand slicer or mandolin would be a big help.
How Long? About 30 minutes with 10 minutes of active time. Anytime dish.
- 4 cups kale (we use lacinato), washed and roughly chopped
- 8 large raw brussels sprouts, washed and thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Pecorino romano cheese (sub parmesan, if you like)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper