Massaged Kale “Caprese-ish” Salad

Kale. The “super food”. It’s everywhere: kale salads, kale chips, kale and rice bowls, kale extracts, kale and spinach green tea hyaluronic acid age prevention cream (whatever that is)! If you grew up Italian, this wonderfully versatile vegetable is not new. We all ate it growing up in soups and stews, sautéed with garlic, mixed with cannellini beans and countless other ways. Also, Tuscan or dinosaur or Lacinato kale was just “kale”. That’s all Italians had to work with.

My biggest surprise this year was how easy it is to grow kale in your Southern California garden. Kale start plants are everywhere for purchase (I prefer the ones from local garden stores as they seem to have traveled the most direct route from farm to the shelf). The only issue I’ve had in the garden are tiny green worms that can eat the leaves at a pretty rapid pace. There are plenty of 100% organic pesticides available to treat this.

The biggest surprise about growing kale is that if you live in a non-frost area of California, you can just harvest a brunch leaves by cutting the thick stem and removing the bunch. And seemingly by magic, in about 2-3 weeks, the plant will begin to leaf out again. In a few months, the plant will be ready to harvest again.

Cooking kale is pretty easy. For long-cooking soups and stews, slicing the leaves widthwise and adding them to the pot works great. This includes the thick stems. For sautés, some people prefer to strip the two sides of the kale from the thick rib of the leaf and then slice the leaves.

Uncooked kale, though, is a little too tough to eat without some work. That’s where a California technique comes in: massaging the kale! Can you think of anything that screams California more than this?!

Here’s a simple recipe to use massaged kale in a salad. Once you get the hang of this, the possibilities are endless.

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Massaged Kale “Caprese-ish” Salad

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  • One bunch of Tuscan kale
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Ten or so fresh small tomatoes
  • 1 container Mozzarella cheese – ciliegine-sized (cherry sized) or larger
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Sprig of basil


  1. Strip away the two sides of each kale leaf from the rib and place in a separate bowl. Discard the ribs and stems, or save for vegetable stock.
  2. Add 2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil to the kale, and a pinch of salt.
  3. Now get in there with one clean hand and message the heck out of the kale. It will begin to soften as you break it down. You need to apply some strength to make this work. Taste a piece. If its texture is to your liking, you’re done, otherwise keep massaging!
  4. Prepare the Caprese-ish salad. I use this term because a true Caprese salad is overlapping layers of tomatoes and mozzarella dressed in olive oil and salt. Dice fresh salad tomatoes and cut the mozzarella balls in half. Dress with a little olive oil, salt pepper and the lemon juice.
  5. Divide the massaged kale on plates, then pile the tomato-mozzarella salad in the center of the kale on each plate.
  6. Top each plate with a basil sprig and serve.


  • Serving Size: This recipe makes a salad course for 4 people.

Join the Conversation

  1. Interesting about the massaging – good to know.

  2. Al DolceAmore says:

    My wife and I are Italian/vegitarians, a true oxymoron. We’re constantly looking for unique recipes that offer the flavors of the regions of Italy that we live, thank you for sharing yours. I will pass along this site to family and friends. Ciao.

    1. Al: Thanks for your comment. I’m glad you enjoyed this recipe. I have three cousins in Italy that are all vegetarians so you’re not alone!! Thanks. Joe

    2. Thanks for the comment, Al!! Great to see you following the blog – hope you are well! Michele

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