Marinated caprese salad with kale is a simple take on a classic appetizer with a boost of nutrition. Massaging the kale with olive oil and balsamic vinegar tenderizes it so it isn’t so tough!
I’ve yet to meet someone who isn’t dairy-intolerant or anti-tomatoes that doesn’t like caprese salad. You get the juiciness from the tomatoes, creamy soft fresh mozzarella, and a big burst of flavor from basil. Add a little salt, pepper, or balsamic vinegar (if you like) and you have all of the makings of a fabulous salad.
Except for the fact that – if I’m being honest – devouring caprese salad isn’t quite the same thing as enjoying a salad salad. You know, ones with leafy greens beyond a few basil leaves? And isn’t comprised 50% of cheese?
So I present to you marinated caprese salad with kale, which addresses the two points above in a way that ensures you’ll be enjoying the same great flavors of a traditional caprese salad, with the added benefit of a ton of vitamins and nutrients that kale is known for (specifically vitamins A, C and K).
Kale can be tough and chewy when left raw, however massaging and/or marinating the kale leaves works to break down and soften the leaves and reduce its bitterness. For the kale in this marinated caprese salad we do a little bit of both. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar are poured in the bowl with the leaves and massaged into all sides of them for several minutes. Once the leaves have that ‘slightly wilted’ look, the kale will sit out for a half hour (or longer) to continue marinating in the oil and vinegar mixture. Easy enough! Meanwhile, the tomato slices marinate in a separate bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper to absorb all that flavor. I have a hard time not grabbing a few from the bowl on their own!
One of the benefits of a marinated salad like this is that leftover portions, in my opinion, seem to get even better in the fridge. The kale is intended to wilt and soften, after all. So while this marinated caprese salad recipe as written below does make a fair amount, don’t be concerned that it’ll all need to be eaten the day it’s prepared. I’ve enjoyed portions as side dishes to my lunches and dinners for multiple days afterwards and thought it held up beautifully.
- To easily remove the center stem from a kale leaf, gather and hold all of the leafy greens to one side of the stem, and just slice off the stem with a sharp knife. Then roughly chop or even just rip apart the leaves.
- If you can’t find mozzarella pearls, any variety of fresh mozzarella sliced into sections will do.
- 1 bunch of kale, center stems removed and roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 lb tomatoes, about 5 medium, sliced into wedges
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/8 tsp sea salt, or to taste
- Pinch of ground black pepper, or to taste
- 4 oz fresh mozzarella pearls
- 8 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade [see note]
- Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling (optional)
- Add kale to a large mixing bowl and pour in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Using your hands, massage the liquids into the kale leaves for several minutes, working the kale down until the kale tenderizes and becomes less bitter. You can taste test to see when it's to your liking. Let kale sit for 30 minutes, or longer.
- While the kale is sitting, add tomato wedges to a bowl and pour in olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss the tomato slices in the oil. Let tomatoes marinate for 20 minutes or longer, tossing them every so often.
- To serve, add kale to a plate and top with tomatoes, mozzarella, and strips of basil. Season with additional salt and pepper to your liking, as well as a drizzle of balsamic vinegar if desired. Refrigerate leftover portions.
'Chiffonade' is a fancy pants term to describe the process of slicing long strips of leafy veggies. To make slicing the basil strips a breeze, stack the basil leaves on top of one another and while holding them tightly together as best you can, roll them length-wise into a thin roll. Using a sharp knife, perpendicularly slice small sections of the roll, unrolling once done to yield thin strips of basil.
P.S. Is your backyard basil plant flourishing? Here are some more recipes to put it to use!