Tuesday, March 3, 2009

You've Got Kale

I'm aware that it doesn't sound very sexy to say that you love kale. That you can't survive a season without it, and that your heart longs for just one more tasty, green morsel of this slightly curly winter green. But folks, I've had an unexpected and poignant epiphany. I can't live without kale. When I'm without it, I wonder what it's doing not on my plate. When I'm eating it, I wonder when I'll get to eat it again. That's right, kale is my new boy-toy and I'm ashamed to admit that I'm smitten. Before you think me mad or weird, know that I'm speaking of a special kind of kale. A kale like no other, one that you would enjoy so much, it may even replace potato chips as your favorite snack. I speak of course, of crispy kale, the 10-minute wonder of crunch and flavor that is as equally delicious as it is good for you. 

Evidently, crispy kale has been around for years and right in front of my face this whole time. But I must say, now that I've found it, I'll never let it go. Eating just one piece is impossible, since it's like crunching into a paper thin chip that packs a surprising and serious crunch. Once it comes out of the oven, the flavor is almost unrecognizable as kale. It's transformed from a limp green into a salty, crispy, snack, a lot like nori. Which makes sense if you consider that nori is just a sea green (seaweed, really) that is cut or shredded and allowed to dry in an oven. I'd say that this kale is significantly crunchier, with a deeper and slightly earthier flavor. I promise if you make this as a party snack you'll have guests begging for more and requesting the recipe. I encountered it a few weekends ago when it was made for me as a topper for a creamy potato and chorizo soup (see the full recipe here). While the soup was delicious and the recipe only called for enough kale to use as a garnish, we ended up baking off the entire bunch and eating it as an appetizer. It was a huge hit, and I must say managed to outshine a wonderful soup.

The best part is that the preparation couldn't be simpler. It's just a matter of quickly slicing the kale, tossing it with a tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and baking it in the oven for 10-15 minutes (depending on how much kale you're using). Watching it transform is a bonus. If you're lucky enough to have an oven light, I'd recommend watching the widespread kale leaves shrink down into a soft mushy pile, then suddenly go tense and crisp. There's no messy clean-up or frying required. In fact, if you line your baking sheet with aluminum foil (as I always do), all you'll have to do when you're done is roll it up and toss it in the trash. No oil splatter to wipe-down, or cooking vessels to clean. And you can play around with the flavors as well, adding hints of spice and heat or mixing in fresh herbs. It's a super healthy snack as well, using less oil than you'd need to saute it. Not to mention that kale is rich in calcium (many vegans add it to their diet to replace calcium lost from not drinking milk), vitamin A (great for skin and eyes), and recent studies show that it helps fight carcinogens, particularly with respect to ovarian cancer. I can't think of one potato chip that can compete with those kinds of benefits!

Crispy Kale

1 bunch kale, thick stems removed
2 Tbsp olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Slice the kale leaves into 1-inch thick ribbons (the easiest way is to stack a few and roll them tight like a cigar, then slice into ribbons).

2. Place half of the kale on an aluminum foil lined sheet pan (you'll have to do it in two batches). Toss with the olive oil and salt and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until each piece is crispy. Remove to a bowl and repeat with remaining kale. Enjoy!



Gloria and Sam said...

This could be the perfect bar snack.

Elizabeth said...

It just might become my new favorite snack. I've been a long time lover of kale, any kind of kale, and this sounds like it will be off the charts. Thanks!