Friday, February 18, 2011

Crispy Roasted Kale Chips

A couple of years ago, my brother Steve and his then girlfriend (now wife) Masumi took (read: kicking and screaming - me, not Mom) Mom and I to a macrobiotic cafe in the East Bay.  I realize it's supposed to be healthy and good for your body but when confronted (that's right confronted) with a plate full of the parts of plants I typically cut off and toss, I was convinced I was either being punk'ed or punished.

Among the foliage they were trying to pass off as my lunch was a ginormous heap of Kale.  I was NOT on board for this.  While my family giggled and I contemplated life as an orphan/only child, we tucked in to graze.  Mentally I was trying to recall where the closest drive thru McDonald's was located - I had every intention of getting even.

Fast forward a couple of decades and I still hadn't even considered allowing kale to have a place in my shopping cart.  Then I read about kale chips.  I come from a culture that eats seaweed, I felt like I should reconsider my position on this offending vegetable - what better way than to make it into chips?  An epiphany was happening!

Kale chips are crisp, delicate and can be seasoned a number of ways - I'm going to break down the garlic and salt version, but scroll to the end for additional ideas.  Also you'll find there are a number of varieties of kale, they basically cook the same, so try any one or grab a couple of different varieties and mix it up!  If your kids are adverse to kale (like I was) getting them engaged to help could be a good way to introduce this vegetable to them!

Stuff you'll need:

  • Kale - one bunch shrinks down to what looks like a single serving to me so you might want to consider several bunches if you're going to share.  
  • Sea salt 
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic - finely minced
  • Baking pan
  • Silpat or parchment (not absolutely necessary but makes clean up a breeze)

Preheat your oven to 350

The hardest part of this treat is cleaning the kale - the woody stems of the leaves needs to be cut off - they don't crisp up, and personally I find the contrast of crispy leaves with not crispy stems to be off putting.  Then again, I DID admit being new to this kale appreciation thing...

You don't need to fuss about and cut the whole stem out, but I'd get rid of the widest parts - the easy way is to fold the leaf in half the way it naturally folds with the stem on one side as the fold.  Use a sharp knife (be careful!) and slice along the edge of the stem, taking the whole thing off in one chop.  You can tear the leaves into pieces about the size of a business card at this point if you like - just keep in mind they shrink when they cook so no need to make them bite size.

Wash the kale, and make sure it's as dry as possible (I use a salad spinner) - water on the leaves will lead to steamed kale rather than crisp kale.
Toss with olive oil and salt to lightly coat, and lay out in a single layer on baking pan.
Sprinkle with minced garlic and pop the entire tray in the oven.

Cooking times vary depending on who you ask - anywhere from 8 min to 15 min, your oven and the way it performs will be the greatest variable.  Keep your eye on the kale, you're looking for a rich dark green color, and for the leaves to flatten out a bit and become crisp.  My chips took about 12 minutes, eating them took about 4.

For a little variety, substitute various oils and/or add dry seasonings.  Some suggestions:

  • Sesame oil soy sauce and a touch of wasabi powder for one Asian variation
  • Sesame oil and 5 spice powder for another Asian variation
  • Crushed chili flakes for a spicy kick
  • Sprinkle dry salad dressing mix 
  • Sprinkle finished chips with Parmesan before transferring to a plate to serve
  • Get creative!  


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