Kale and I are not the best of friends. I know it’s good for you and yes, I am aware of its versatility but most of the time it’s just too fibrous for my taste. That’s why you’re far more likely to see Tuscan or Lacinato kale on this blog rather than the green or red variety. But even the more tender members of the kale family can require a lot of chewing. That’s where this Marinated Kale Salad comes in. This fully loaded bowl of green goodness features bite-sized pieces of kale marinated in a pickled shallot rice wine vinaigrette. The bowl is rounded out with soy braised tofu pieces, heirloom carrots, blood orange segments, and tamari almonds. Trust me, this is far from a sad desk salad.
Beyond the knockout taste and the improved texture, this kale salad is a meal prep dream. Like bean salads or tomato cucumber numbers, this Marinated Kale Salad can and should be made in advance. The idea is you slice some shallots and place them in a bowl. Add a little ginger and garlic and pour in some rice wine vinegar. Add a little salt, sugar, and neutral oil, and give everything a stir.
Set the mixture aside while you get to work tearing the kale into bite-sized pieces. Wash the kale and drain it. Wait a stupid amount of time for it to dry and then give up and pat it dry the rest of the way. Pile the kale into a bowl and add the now lightly pickled shallots and vinaigrette. Toss to coat and pop the kale into the fridge. Let sit for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
By the time you retrieve the kale from the fridge, the greens will have decreased in volume significantly and the leaves may be semi-transparent. They will also be insanely flavourful and wildly tender. And the best part is this magical transformation is it has nothing to do with you, which I love because who has time to massage kale? I don’t want members of my crisper drawer leading a more opulant lifestyle than me.
When your marinated kale is marinated to your liking, it’s time to tackle your toppings. As with most toppings, these are all optional. We will start by julienning a couple of heirloom carrots before segmenting a blood orange or three. If you’re not about the fancy knife work, you can simply shred the carrots and peel and slice the oranges. It will look different but taste the same.
And a quick option with the carrots, you can marinate them alongside the kale if you want. They take on the flavor of the dressing beautifully and, like the kale, they soften in texture. I quite like the crunch of raw carrots, but you have options if that’s not something you’re into. Just note if you use a purple heirloom carrot as I did, the color will bleed significantly when marinating, so it may throw off the color of the overall salad. This is probably far more important to a food photographer than a person just trying to eat a delicious salad. But I thought I’d mention it anyway.
Okay, with the veggies and fruit prepped, let’s move on to the tofu. I used extra firm tofu because I’m about to introduce it to a lot of heat and I don’t want it to fall apart in the process. First things first, pat your tofu dry with some pressure, so you can squeeze out any excess moisture. This will help you get a good sear on your tofu, which is the next step.
Introduce a healthy amount of oil to a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and sear until golden. Shake the pan and let sear once again. Make sure you don’t disturb the tofu cubes until they are ready to release from the pan. Once the tofu has built a nice sear, it should release easily. Trying to flip the tofu before that happens will cause it to snag and tear. This is less of a problem if you use a non-stick skillet but if you’re using a wok or a more traditional skillet, you will want to be hyperaware of this.
Once the tofu is golden, pour a mixture of soy, sake, mirin, blood orange juice, minced garlic, and grated ginger over the tofu. Leave the tofu to simmer in this concoction until the liquid is reduced to a syrup, and the tofu appears lacquered. Make sure you turn the tofu once or twice while simmering to ensure even coverage.
Divide the kale mixture across four bowls and top with the carrots, orange segments, and glazed tofu. Finish the salad off with a smattering of coarsely crushed tamari almonds and that’s your Marinated Kale Salad done. While it may seem cliche to serve up a kale salad in January, this Marinated Kale Salad is far from expected. Bursting with refreshing citrus notes, pleasing textures, and layers of umami, this kale salad is far from joyless.
Marinated Kale Salad with Braised Tofu
- 1 non-stick skillet
- 3 shallots sliced in half moons
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp fresh ginger shredded
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ cup neutral oil I used canola
- 1 head green kale torn into bite-sized pieces
- 1 lime juiced
- 3 blood oranges segmented
- 1 purple heirloom carrot peeled and julienned
- 1 yellow heirloom carrot peeled and julienned
- 1 batch Soy Braised Tofu see below
- ½ cup tamari almonds coarsely crushed
- black sesame seeds for sprinkling
Soy Braised Tofu
- 1 brick extra firm tofu cut into cubes
- 2 tbsp neutral oil I used canola
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp fresh ginger shredded
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup sake
- ¼ cup mirin
- ¼ cup blood orange juice
For the Kale
- Place the shallots, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, and oil. Stir to combine. Let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.3 shallots, 2 cloves garlic, 2 tsp fresh ginger, ¼ cup rice wine vinegar, 2 tsp granulated sugar, 1 tsp salt, ¼ cup neutral oil
- Place the kale in a large bowl. Add the shallot mixture and lime juice, and toss to coat. Cover and let marinate in the fridge for at least an hour or for up to 24. **1 head green kale, 1 lime juiced
For the Braised Tofu
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering add the tofu. Sear the tofu until golden on all sides. This should take about 5-7 minutes.2 tbsp neutral oil, 1 brick extra firm tofu
- While the tofu is searing, place the soy sauce, sake, mirin, blood orange juice, garlic, and ginger in a bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour the mixture over the seared tofu and simmer. Braise, flipping the tofu frequently, until the liquid turns into a syrup and the tofu is nice and lacquered. Keep warm until ready to serve.2 cloves garlic, 2 tsp fresh ginger, ¼ cup soy sauce, ¼ cup sake, ¼ cup mirin, ¼ cup blood orange juice
- Divide the kale across four bowls and top with the heirloom carrots, the blood orange segments, the Soy Braised Tofu, and the tamari almonds. Finish the salad with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds and serve immediately.3 blood oranges, 1 purple heirloom carrot, 1 yellow heirloom carrot, 1 batch Soy Braised Tofu, ½ cup tamari almonds, black sesame seeds