As That Salad Lady our founder, Nina, is often invited to give nutrition talks and cooking classes for a variety of audiences. During a “Juneteenth” celebration, she showcased easy and creative ways to put a fresh and healthy spin on traditional African American cuisine, better known as “soul food.” Given that collard greens are a soul food staple, Nina put them at the forefront of a green salad recipe – in their raw form.
When most people hear the term ‘soul food,’ a green salad is probably the last thing that comes to mind, let alone one made with raw collards. In classic soul food recipes, collards are generally cooked for long periods of time, which, unfortunately, strips away many of their potentially valuable nutrients. Not to mention all the added salt owing to smoked meats and other sodium-dense flavor-enhancers.
In her recipe, That Salad Lady not only kept the collards fresh, but she maximized their overall nutritional value by introducing other nutrient-packed ingredients too. In what’s become our “Collard Green Salad with Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette,” she:
- Included a balsamic vinegar-based dressing made with functional ingredients like extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) and garlic. This dressing also serves as a marinade for tenderizing and softening the collards.
- Added fresh okra, another soul food favorite that boasts an impressive nutrient profile. From a nutritional standpoint, uncooked (or lightly cooked) okra is always best – and it won’t have that slimy mouthfeel either.
- Packed in a colorful blend of high-fiber veggies and fruits along with the tangy, creamy goodness of goat cheese for satisfying texture, rich flavor and even more nutrition.
Naturally gluten-free and low in net carbs, our “Collard Green Salad with Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette,” is delightfully crispy, refreshing and downright crave-worthy. You’ll never look at raw collards the same again!
THE BALANCING ACT
A first-cousin to kale, collard greens are chock-full of health-promoting fiber, disease-fighting antioxidants and powerful micronutrients, notably vitamin K. Vitamin K is an often overlooked yet very important fat-soluble vitamin that greatly supports heart and bone health.
If you generally enjoy your collards cooked into submission, you’re probably already doubting this recipe. We won’t steer you wrong! It’s all in the preparation.
The leaves of collards are large and tough with a slightly smoky flavor that can be off-putting when they’re fresh. After a good chop and a rubdown (or “massage”), collards are way more palatable. Massaging them with oil and a bit of salt and acid in the form of either lemon juice or vinegar is most ideal.
Our recipe calls for massaging the collards with the actual salad dressing which contains all the oil, salt and vinegar you’ll need. This massage will give them a softer texture and milder, less smoky flavor, making them more pleasing to the palate. The dressing also locks in plenty of flavor, especially when used to marinade the greens.
Besides the flavor-enhancing effects of the dressing, the EVOO it contains will help your body better absorb all the nutrients housed in the collards and other fresh ingredients (study up in our “Nutrition Glossary” to learn more). The end result is a wholesome, hearty, nutritious and unbelievably delicious blend. It even highlights the colors green, red and yellow making it the perfect addition to your Juneteenth celebration.
Now, let’s talk more specifically about what’s in our Collard Green Salad recipe and why.
A Mean Green Combo
In addition to collard greens, our recipe calls for fresh okra, green onions (or scallions) and cucumber. You’ll appreciate all these mean greens have to offer. We include avocado too, as its creamy, rich, buttery flavor helps balance out the “smokiness” of the greens. Avocado also adjoins with the EVOO to give the salad bowl an even heftier dose of monounsaturated fat.
Okra, green onions and cucumber are all great sources of vitamin K and antioxidants, and each delivers their own unique flavors.
While often used as a vegetable, okra is actually a fruit. The same is true for cucumber, though we almost never treat it as one. The crisp, juicy flavors of both are a great addition to the salad bowl, but the mildly sweet, somewhat grassy flavor of okra is what really complements the collards. Green onions bring in a nice mild bite that isn’t as overpowering as white and yellow varieties.
Nature’s Reddest of Reds
Our Collard Green Salad includes a powerful mix of red foods, specifically red tomatoes, red onion and red pepper. From vitamin C to carotenoids to flavonoids, these foods contain a cocktail of phytonutrients and antioxidants known to reduce chronic inflammation, lower cancer risk and promote heart heath by preventing cholesterol buildup in the arteries.
The bold and spicy taste of raw onion adds a pungent punch that pairs perfectly with the rich, sweet, subtly tangy taste of the tomatoes. Our recipe calls for using grape tomatoes, but you can use cherry, vine, Roma or whatever type you choose. They’re all equally nutritious.
Then there is red pepper, which is one of That Salad Lady’s favorite bowl toppers. Since it’s the ripest of all pepper varieties, it adds a whole lot of sweet, fruity flavor to the bowl. While you can also use orange or yellow pepper too (we include yellow in the recipe), green pepper might not fare well as it’s the least ripe and tends to add a bit of an aftertaste.
Energizing Yellow Goodness
We round out our color trio with yellow pepper and yellow tomatoes. As with other veggies, yellow foods are naturally high in fiber but also among the richest sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that’s well known for its energy-enhancing, immune-boosting and disease-fighting effects.
Just one yellow pepper packs close to 400% of a day’s worth of vitamin C. Though not as sweet as its red counterpart, it can be used in much the same way. On the flip side, yellow tomatoes are relatively sweeter than red tomatoes, but we only include them in the bowl for decorative purposes so don’t go out of your way to find and use them. Red tomatoes will certainly suffice. As will red and even orange pepper if that’s all you have.
Super Savory Proteins
For added protein and super savory flavor, we include goat cheese and bacon as optional ingredients. Besides being rich in protein and health-promoting probiotics, the distinctive tart and earthy flavor of goat cheese delivers a whole extra layer of savory satisfaction (visit our “Nutrition Glossary” to learn more about goat cheese). The flavor impact of goat cheese is even greater when it’s paired with the crisp and tender texture of bacon.
Bacon is one of That Salad Lady’s favorite condiments as it always lends itself perfectly to a great salad bowl. Our recipe calls for turkey bacon, but feel free to use pork, beef or even meatless bacon if you’d like. Though a processed meat, bacon is a good source of protein and other essential nutrients. Be sure to check out our “Homemade Turkey Bacon Bits” recipe, which also highlights specific details about the overall nutritional value of bacon.
As always, That Salad Lady encourages us to top off our salad bowls with chia seeds as well so use them if you have them (study up in our “Nutrition Glossary” to learn why).
Simply Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette
Finally, we suggest using That Salad Lady’s “Simply Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette” as both a dressing and a marinade for the collard greens. Richly flavored with white balsamic vinegar, EVOO, a touch of honey, minced garlic and wholesome herbs, it brings the perfect balance of sweet, sour and savory to the blend – and it all comes together in five minutes!
We recommend mixing the dressing first as you’ll be using it to massage and marinate the collard greens. That Salad Lady’s sweet balsamic vinaigrette dressing is included as part of the recipe (see recipe card). If you plan to dress your finished blend, we suggest doubling all the dressing ingredients to ensure you have enough. Any unused dressing will last in the fridge for up to 10 days.
To make the dressing, all you’ll need to do is add all the ingredients to your blender or food processor. With variable speed units, start with a low speed and then gradually increase it to a higher speed until the mixture is perfectly smooth. That’s it! If you don’t have a blender or a food processor, simply add all the ingredients to a jar with a twist off lid or even a bowl and just shake or whisk until everything’s well-mixed.
If you choose not to make our dressing, a simple white balsamic vinegar-based dressing should do the trick. Just spike it with a teaspoon or two of pure honey to sweeten it.
If you’re building your bowl with bacon, this is literally the only ingredient that requires cooking. We suggest making bacon crumbles or bits. That Salad Lady’s homemade turkey bacon bits recipe is highlighted on the recipe card. You can make them in 10 minutes or less.
GET YOU CHOP ON
This Collard Green Salad is prepared much like a traditional chopped salad, so you’ll need a cutting board or another stable cutting surface, and a good quality chef’s knife or another sharp knife suitable for chopping.
Start With the Collards
We suggest chopping the collard greens first, as their preparation time takes much longer than all the other ingredients. You’ll need to marinate them for at least an hour or two – overnight for maximum deliciousness.
Due to their large leaves and texture, you’ll have to de-stem the collards and then chop them into small, bite-sized pieces. You can use pre-packaged collards to cut down on prep time, but you may still need to chop them further. From here, give the collards a nice, thorough rinse in warm water, massaging them well as you rinse them. Drain the rinsed collards in a colander or use a salad spinner if you have one.
Once the collards are completely drained, transfer them to a large bowl (ideally one with a lid), coat them with at least half the dressing you’ve prepared and a little sprinkle of sea salt, and then toss and massage them by hand (you can wear disposable food prep gloves if you wish). Massaging and marinating collards this way softens the leaves and reduces their volume in much the same way that cooking them would.
After the massage, it’s time to start the marinating process. Simply cover the bowl with a lid or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap and place it your fridge. Again, we recommend marinated the collards for an hour or two, but you can certainly do this overnight – we encourage it.
Chop Everything Else
As the collards are marinating (or the next day), chop up the rest of the fresh ingredients (except the avocado). The recipe calls for chopping the bell peppers, cucumber and red onion into bite-sized pieces, thinly slicing the okra and green onions and halving the grape tomatoes. Using a good sharp knife will make the process a whole lot easier.
We recommend rinsing each ingredient separately to avoid color bleeding as they are all heavily pigmented due to the phytonutrients they contain. For slime-free okra, rinse the pods whole and then pat them dry with a paper towel prior to slicing them. After rinsing, you can either keep the ingredients separate or mix them together.
BUILD YOUR SALAD BOWL
When you’re ready to build your bowl, spread the marinated collard greens out in a large bowl or on a large platter and then arrange the fresh ingredients and goat cheese (if using) in their own sections. At this point, you can chop the avocado into bite-sized pieces and give it a section as well. If presentation isn’t an issue, just combine all the ingredients in a large salad bowl and stir them up for a nice, even distribution of colors.
Top off your finished Collard Green Salad with bacon bits and chia seeds (if using). If you choose to add more dressing, we recommend portioning it out as needed so as not to completely saturate the ingredients, especially if you’re planning for leftovers. All put together, our Collard Green Salad is large enough for 6-8 generous servings.
Add Your Finishing Touches
To boost the protein content and filling effect of your bowl, throw in a handful of chopped chicken breast. Chopping up or shredding the breasts of a precooked rotisserie chicken can be delicious, cost-effective and time efficient. Visit our Nutrition Glossary for good protein ideas as it’s all about making YOU confident in building YOUR bowl.
SHOW US YOUR BOWL
That Salad Lady wants to see your bowl! If you like it, which we are sure you will, drop a comment below and tag pics on Instagram with @thatsaladlady, #thatsaladlady and #buildyourbowl. If you love it, pin it on Pinterest and share it on Facebook and Twitter using #thatsaladlady.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.