Esalen Institute Kale Salad


Two years ago around this time, I took a Cloud hands/Tai’chi class at the Esalen Institute.

Perched on top of the rocky shores of Big Sur, California, 45 minutes from the nearest civilization, Esalen Institute is one of the best detox retreats in America.

Every morning, to get to breakfast, we would walk through a lush forest, cross a valley where a solitary meditation hut sits next to a running creek.  The view of the Pacific Ocean opens up.


Meals and snacks are served at the lodge.  The outside deck has a fire pit and is perfect to enjoy a tranquil moment in the morning or a reflective time at dusk.

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Being non-vegetarian, my biggest concern was that the food will be bland and tasteless.

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I was soon proven wrong.  They grow vegetables using organic practice, so salads are fresh from the garden.  And they make these heavenly breads along with various home-made jams and nut butters.  Oh, if only I could get a hold of those recipes!!!

Fortunately, they published a cook book, and this has been my favorite Kale Salad ever since:


  • 1/3 cup Bragg Liquid Aminos or tamari soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (save the squeezed lemon for other use, see Note)
  • 1/3 cup flax seed oil or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 pound fresh kale


Combine the Bragg or soy sauce and lemon juice in a blender or whisk in a bowl. Slowly dribble in the oil as the blender turns or as you whisk vigorously. Slice the onion into half moons and marinate in the dressing as you prepare the rest of the salad.

Toast the seeds in a heavy bottomed pan (cast-iron is the best) over medium heat until seeds are just golden and fragrant. Toast each seed type separately as their size requires varying roasting times. Cool to room temperature.

De-stem the kale. Slice kale leaves into 1/4 inch ribbons (very important!)

Toss the seeds and kale with the onions, and as much dressing as necessary to lightly but completely dress the kale. Thoroughly massage the kale with your hands.


Lemons are rich in vitamin C and citric acid, so they can help brighten and lighten your skin when used over time.  It may sound too good to be true, but because lemons are antibacterial, they can also help treat acne or blackheads.

After washing your face, take the squeeze lemon and rub it over your face (You may feel a slight tingling sensation, be careful not to use lemon on areas with open wounds), leave it on for 5-10 minutes, then wash it off.  Your blackheads will start to fade before you know it!

Because the citrus fruit can make your skin more sensitive to UV rays, remember to wear SPF before any sun exposure.

And to continue the story…The best part of the Esalen Institute is its cliff-side hot springs:


With healing power dates back to more than 6000 years ago:


After the meal, the bath and the gorgeous sunset:


We retreat back to our room and fall asleep under moonlight and the sound of the crushing waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Esalen Institute

Address: 55000 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
No cellphone & Internet coverage, except wi-fi during mealtime

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