Green Goddess Dressing Fancies Up the Kale Salad at Grand Lake Kitchen

While kale is available all year, it’s best in late winter and early spring, so pick some up and use Grand Lake Kitchen’s green goddess dressing to make a healthy and delicious salad.


Photo by Lance Yamamoto

It doesn’t seem that long ago that kale was seen as something of a rarity reserved for hippies and health nuts. No longer. As word spread of this indomitably hearty leafy green’s health benefits — it’s a potent source of Vitamin K, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, fiber, and carotenoids among other virtues — kale began popping up on the menu of even the most unhip of eateries.

That’s not to say all kale dishes are created equal. Most Californians have had at least one jaw-numbing experience with a kale salad loaded with thickly fibrous leaves seemingly impervious to the chewing of mere mortals. 

That’s a common mistake with kale, said Dave Wasem of Grand Lake Kitchen. The popular deli, restaurant, and brunch hot spot has had a kale salad on its menu since opening on Grand Avenue off Lake Merritt in 2012 (a new Dimond district location is coming this spring). A key step when making it, he said, is to gently massage the kale leaves (we should all be so lucky) to help break down the fibers and make it softer and easier to eat. He also always uses curly kale, which is more tender than other varieties.

“Lacinato and red kale are a little too tough for this application,” he said.

In fact, since there are several varieties of kale, tailoring them to the specific culinary treatment you’re planning isn’t a bad rule of thumb. At his family’s Golden Rule Organic Farms in Hollister, Eddie Diaz calls kale “one of those do-it-all vegetables.” His farm grow three varieties — lacinato (or dino), green curly, and red curly — that sell pretty much year-round at farmers markets in Berkeley and Kensington. Diaz said he’s heard from customers of dozens of uses, from simple salads and sautéed preparations to smoothies and kale chips. 

Because Lacinto is the most fibrous (and most popular, according to Diaz), it is often cooked and works well in stews and soups due to its resistance to wilting. While it can, and often is, eaten raw in salads, Diaz recommends either massaging the leaves or letting the kale sit in the salad dressing for 15 to 20 minutes before eating. Curly varieties are more tender with more delicate flavor and work better in salads and with more simple treatment. (One of Diaz’s favorite way to prepare it is to sautéing curly green kale with scrambled eggs.)

When picking out kale at the market, look for crisp stalks and strong color. It can keep for up to a week when wrapped in paper towel or a plastic bag and kept in the refrigerator.

And whatever variety or preparation you choose, the late-winter period is a great time to experiment with kale. While available all year, that’s when kale is at its peak. Combine that with the fact that March is a lean period for fruits and vegetables in the Bay Area and it makes even more sense.

Your body will thank you.

Green Goddess Kale Salad

For the Green Goddess Dressing:

¾ cup mayonnaise

¾ cup sour cream

½ cup chopped parsley

¼ cup chopped tarragon

3 tablespoons chopped chives

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 small garlic clove, microplaned

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the first six ingredients in a mixing bowl. Using a microplane, grate the garlic head into the bowl and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the salad:

1 bunch curly kale, stemmed and washed

1 watermelon radish, peeled, and shaved

½ cup queso fresco, crumbled

¼ cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Green Goddess Dressing

Place the kale in a large mixing bowl, season with a couple pinches of salt, and mix with desired amount of dressing, taking care to massage the kale gently to help break down some of the fibers and make it a little softer. Add the watermelon radish, 3/4 of the queso fresco, and 1/2 of the pumpkin seeds and toss. Top with remaining cheese and pumpkin seeds and serve.


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