Massaged Kale with Indian Spiced Rice and Veggies

The other night, I wasn’t in the mood to follow a recipe. I didn’t even do my usual online perusing for recipe inspiration, or bring my camera into the kitchen for potential blog-worthy material. I was flying solo with Funk in his night class, and just knew I was in the mood for massaged kale and Indian food, so I dug through the fridge, cabinets, and spices and came up with a dish that couldn’t have turned out better if I were following a recipe exactly. It just made me think that good cooking is more than following a recipe to a T (which I rarely do anyway) or trying to mimic what your favorite Food Network chef whips up on TV. It’s about combining flavors and ingredients you love, mixing them together, and knowing that you’re nourishing your body with home-cooked food. Halfway through cooking my meal, I thought it looked attractive enough to share on the blog, but I really don’t have a specific recipe for you. That’s ok: the point of this post is to cook without a recipe!

In a hot skillet, I put a teaspoon each of curry, cumin, turmeric and salt and grated a nub of fresh ginger. I let it all sizzle with some canola oil before tossing in some fridge remnants: cherry tomatoes, 1/2 bag broccoli florets, 1/2 bag shredded carrots.


I also massaged some kale. Have you had massaged kale before? Curly kale has become hands down my favorite veggie to eat. Perhaps because of its resemblance to my curly hair…I think if I were a veggie, I’d be curly kale. What about you?

Massaging kale couldn’t be easier and it is how it sounds: using your hands, knead and massage the raw kale leaves (ribs removed) for a about a minute so the cells break down and it actually starts to resemble cooked kale. You’ll need a fat to do this. I usually use olive oil, sesame oil, or even avocado. Then your hands get covered in slimy green goop and it’s actually pretty fun. In fact, I really find massaging kale pretty therapeutic! Nothing like gettin’ down and dirty with your food. You only need a tiny bit of fat (whether from oil or avocado) to massage into your kale – about a teaspoon or even less depending on how much you’re working with. If I’m eating a plain massaged kale salad, I’ll also season it with salt and pepper, and sometimes nutritional yeast or red pepper flakes for some heat. I am so darn happy Trader Joes started carrying bags of pre-cut kale, making it even easier for me to make and enjoy this salad, oh, about 4 times a week.

On the left (or top, depending on your screen), kale out of the bag. On the right (bottom), massaged kale.

kale massaged-kale

Earlier in the evening, I set the rice cooker with some brown basmati rice and this Indian spice blend that Funk and I picked up a while back in San Francisco. A looooonnnnggg while back (I’m a major food hoarder and am trying to now use things up!).


It had cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and cumin in it, which not only gave the rice a warm-spiced flavor, but also made the apartment smell great – so fragrant!

Then I put a scoop of the rice on my kale:


Topped with a scoop of the veggies (whoops forgot to tell you I added in a can of chickpeas at the last minute):


All together now. A massive beast of a massaged kale, rice, and Indian spiced veggie salad that was also a temperature mix of hot (rice and veggies) and cold (kale).


It was perfect.

While I love using other recipes for cooking inspiration, sometimes it’s even more fun (and delicious) to just play around in the kitchen and see what I come up with as I go.

Have you ever improvised in the kitchen and come up with a masterpiece meal?


  1. Posted August 12, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Cracking up over the massaged kale. Love the chickpea dinner! Excuse me, the kale and I need some alone time. : )

  2. Janel
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    haha, enjoy your kale time 😉

  3. Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jane!
    This looks absolutely fabulous. I wondered how the kale got broken down. I’m not a fan, and I’m really trying because it’s supposed to be so good for you.

    I cooked up some Eggplant Drumsticky stuff the other day, without a recipe, but using techniques I’ve learned along the way. Being a Chef, I usually cook without recipes, not a good thing for a Food Writer/Recipe Developer. What I’ve learned to do is after I cook and eat, I write down ingredients, usually I’ll remember the steps. The trick is getting it from the paper to the computer, and writing a post.
    But I do love the cooking without a recipe post, maybe a name for a cook book?

  4. Janel
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I think there is actually a blogger out there called “No Recipes!” Sometimes its more fun to just experiment in the kitchen.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *


Pin It