Use Raw Kale To Power Up Your Panzanella Salad

There are few dishes that capture the essence of summer quite like a panzanella salad. It features the season's beloved harvest — fresh, ripe tomatoes, along with onion, cucumber, basil, and croutons — soaked in a tangy, zesty dressing that's often made from olive oil, vinegar, garlic, and some seasonings. Each bite brings a vibrant burst of flavors that feels like sunshine on your taste buds.

With so much going on already, it's hard to imagine adding more ingredients to panzanella without turning it into disarray, but surprisingly, it's possible. Kale, a leafy green with endless culinary potential and a powerful nutritional profile, is an excellent choice for taking this salad up a notch.

Raw kale has a robust earthy taste and a slightly bitter undertone that layers the salad with a uniquely complex depth. It's a stark contrast with the tomatoes' taste and the dressing's bright, tart notes, but that's why the combination works so well. These ingredients balance each other out with a harmonious blend of flavors that softens the leafy green's harsh edges and simultaneously gives the dish an exciting, unexpected twist. Beyond the taste, there's also the textural element. Kale comes with a delightful crunch that, when paired with the juice-bursting tomatoes and crispy croutons, makes for an interesting interplay of textures.

The many ways to add kale to your panzanella salad

First of all, let's talk about which kale variety is best for salads. There are quite a few to choose from, but your best bet is to go with curly, lacinato, baby kale, Siberian, Red Russian, or Red Winter. These varieties generally lean more toward the subtle, pleasant side, so you can enjoy them raw and don't have to worry too much about any face-crunching bitterness.

As for the salad itself, there are many ways to jazz it up using kale. You can go with the classic route of adding kale to a pre-existent panzanella salad recipe. This is a foolproof choice for keeping things simple but still tasteful. Of course, there's also no harm in a little experimenting. Use kale in conjunction with other leafy greens such as spinach and arugula, or roasted veggies like squash, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, or broccoli. Kale also goes exceptionally well with fruits, most commonly apples and berries. For something a little more playful, give your kale panzanella salad a Mediterranean twist with the use of chickpeas, feta cheese, and olives. And of course, some protein is always good to toss in. If you have the time, grill chicken breasts and throw in some lettuce to make a delightful hybrid of Caesar and panzanella.