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the salad i can’t quit

When Cuz lived here, she endeared herself to me by eating our leftovers. I am really talented at creating leftovers. I am also good at packing leftovers, and storing them in the refrigerator. But I am bad at eating them.

That’s because I’m highly prone to food exhaustion. Tom, on the other hand, can eat the same thing every day. When I met him in NYC he was subsisting on sushi and the Route 66 burrito from Burritoville. One or the other. Every single day.

When Baja Fresh opened in Portland ten years ago, Tom made me eat there all the time. And then one day, I stepped into a Baja Fresh and smelled that unmistakable Baja Fresh cilantro smell, and felt like I was going to throw up. I knew then that I could never eat at Baja Fresh again, no matter how many free jalapenos they offered at the salsa bar. The same thing happened to me at Chipotle, but I still have to go there for my kids. Actually now that I think about it, maybe it’s not food exhaustion, maybe it’s cilantro exhaustion.

Whatever. All I know is that I hate to eat the same meal twice in a row. Unless it is this salad, which I have eaten at least ten times since Mother’s Day, when I received “Super Natural Every Day,” the cookbook the salad can be found in, from my kids. I cannot stop making this salad. I cannot stop eating this salad. TOM cannot stop eating this salad, and he thinks of salads as punishment, or an evil to be borne. I brought the salad to a party last night and three friends asked for the recipe.


mother’s day. photo by finn

It works for me because it’s a whole grain salad, and I dig whole grain salads. They seem healthy, but are substantial enough to be satisfying. And they pack well for lunch.

By the way, if you live in Portland, there is a lunch place downtown called the Picnic House that has the most insanely delicious brown rice salad. Take my word for it. I went to get one last week and they had just run out, and I started crying. Not SOBBING, but there was definitely moisture on my face. I mean, I’d had a shitty day up to that point so it wasn’t just the salad, but still. Go get one.

Or just cook this salad at home, which is different, but similar, in that feeling of nuttiness, chewiness, wholesomeness, deliciousness. This salad is interesting in that the flavors are Asian. My kids would eat their own shoes if they had soy sauce and sesame oil on them. If yours would too, they might like this. If you have leftover whole grains in your fridge, this can be on the table in less than 30 minutes.


Kale Salad with Coconut and Sesame Oil

Adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson


1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce, shoyu, or tamari

4 cups (lightly packed) kale, preferably lacinato/dinosaur/tuscan (about one large bunch) (large stems removed, torn or chopped)

1 cup large-flake unsweetened coconut

2 cups cooked whole grain (something firm–I like farro and brown rice for this, but bulgur, wheatberries, or barley would all work well)


1. Preheat oven to 350. Put two racks near top.

2. Put sesame oil, olive oil, and soy sauce into a jar or bowl. Whisk to blend, or just put the lid on the jar and shake the hell out of it.

3. Put kale and coconut in large bowl and toss with 2/3 of the dressing mixture to coat. This step works best if you use your hands to massage the dressing onto the kale leaves. Spread evenly over two baking sheets.

4. Bake for 12-18 minutes total, switching racks and flipping kale halfway through. You should end up with kale that is still green but toasted and brown at edges.

5. Combine kale/coconut with the whole grains. Toss to combine. Add as much of the leftover dressing as you like.

Serves 2-3 as meal, maybe 6 as appetizer.

Note: This is also really good with roasted butternut squash if you want more color and texture to the salad.

21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Shannon Hartwell #

    Oh my effing god! Just made this for d and we’re swoony in love with it. I double cooked the rice in a wok with a little more sesame oil and added about a cup of chopped asparagus and broccoli to the wok before adding the kale, coconut and dressing. Served it warm and I want to eat it every single day. Thank you!!!

    July 10, 2013
    • Gah, I must try the Shannon variation. Sounds like the perfect amount of oomph to take it into dinner land. Thanks for trying my dear

      July 10, 2013
  2. Claire Jeffers #

    Yoona, this salad is amazing. A-maz-ing! Thanks for sharing.

    June 27, 2013
  3. Mmh this sounds soo good!

    June 23, 2013
    • just ate it again this weekend. when will the madness stop

      June 24, 2013
  4. yummy food:) amazing post on food. keep it up. Yo!

    June 15, 2013
  5. I have fallen in love with kale since Olive Garden puts it in their soups…now I love to try it in different recipes.

    June 13, 2013
  6. Lauren Garrett #

    We’ll be testing this out on Father’s Day. Thanks for the recipe, Yoona!

    June 12, 2013
    • lauren. salad on father’s day? i must object on chris’ behalf

      June 12, 2013
  7. @lindybartell #

    The whole family fell in love with kale just a couple years ago, and recently discovered coconut oil, so I’m excited to try this recipe. Thank you for sharing! Btw, coconut oil instead of vegetable oil in cornbread is so yummy!

    June 10, 2013
    • love coconut oil. kale salads are so ubiquitous in this town, but not many have Asian flavor…enjoy!

      June 10, 2013
  8. It figures I’d see this just as I have both sworn to give kale a serious third chance AND gone low carb for the foreseeable future (as in until I’m OK with non-cover up appearances poolside because right now I’m not even happy with the squirrels watching…). Bookmarked.

    I’ve heard 4th hand that kale is best when massaged with oil only I’m not noticing that step in this recipe. Did I potentially conflate two different conversations (wine was involved)? The kale is all OK-ish with just a little toast in the oven? I’ve got no quarrel with the stuff but the texture often puts me off, honestly.

    June 10, 2013
    • I just revised the recipe to indicate that the dressing is best tossed into the kale by hand so you can really get the leaves coated. Let me know if you try!

      June 10, 2013
  9. Will try this. Sounds so yummy!

    June 10, 2013
  10. Heidi #

    Mmmmm. That looks reaaaally good.

    June 10, 2013

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