Kale. The luscious and leafy green vegetable that has been unceremoniously garnishing plates at restaurants across the country for decades. I can distinctly remember going out to dinner as a child and being so offended by that “green stuff” that was always on my plate – so offended that I would promptly pick it up and place it on the table beside my plate. Heaven forbid it actually touched any of the good food that was waiting for me. Of course, the kale was merely on the plate as decoration, or a garnish. it was an afterthought. A sad, sad afterthought. That’s how I felt about kale for all of my childhood years and many of my adult years. It never even dawned on me that you could actually eat the stuff! So, why eat kale? Well for starters, it actually does have a wonderful taste when it’s cooked properly. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s absolutely loaded with nutrients and vitamins. Also appealing to this penny-pinching cook, it’s extremely inexpensive. There are many different applications for cooking kale, but today I’m going to write about my favorite – the kale chip. These chips have brought kale out of the dungeon and thrust them straight into the spotlight.
Speaking of the spotlight, working in television requires me to keep quite unusual hours. On most nights I’m getting home just before midnight. Perfect timing for a true midnight snack! This is where the trouble begins. I’m always tempted to go for the potato chips (bet I can’t eat just one…bag). Obviously this isn’t the best habit to be in before my nightly slumber, so what if I could substitute my favorite potato chips with something a bit healthier? Something that would still give me the satisfying crunchy, salty bite that I crave at that hour, without all of the guilt. Kale now enters the picture. Stay with me.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the perfect potato chip substitute:
1 bunch of kale
Salt & pepper
A lemon wedge (optional)
Fairly simple and straightforward, no? First you need to get your kale prepped for the oven. Give it a nice rinse and pat the leaves completely dry. This is a very important step. If you don’t remove as much of the water as possible, your kale will get soggy instead of crispy. Nobody wants a soggy chip! Now you’ll want to peel the kale off of the big, thick stem running right down the middle. The stem isn’t edible, so remove the leafy green parts and discard the stem. Tear the leafy green pieces until they’re a little bit bigger than bite-sized chunks. They’ll shrink quite a bit in the oven once they start cooking. Place the torn pieces of kale on a baking sheet that you’ve lined with aluminum foil.
They’re almost ready for the oven, but we are missing one critical step. These guys need some seasoning to make sure they’ll taste super when you pull them out of the oven. Give them a healthy drizzle of olive oil and then as much salt and pepper as your taste buds prefer. If you want your kale chips to have a little bit of a bite, squeeze some fresh lemon juice on them at this point. Then get in there with your hands and mix it all together. Try to make sure that each kale chip has some of the olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
The chips are ready to be baked. Place them in a preheated 325 degree oven, but don’t go too far because you’ll need to keep an eye on them. There’s a fine line between creating a kale chip and a kale krisp. One is nice and the other isn’t. After about 8 or 9 minutes of baking, pull the pan out and give them a stir. They’ll need about 8 or 9 more minutes before they are completely finished. Once they have completed the cooking process, your baking sheet full of kale chips should look like this:
The kale has gone through a total transformation. The edges will be brown and crisp. The flavor profile will also be totally different. What once was a bitter green will now take on a nutty and caramelized flavor. It’s amazing what that 16-20 minutes in the oven can do! Now it’s time to plate them up!
They really won’t need much additional seasoning. If you want to glam them up a bit, you could sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top while they are still warm. Otherwise, they are good to eat just like they are. You can make a big batch and then store the leftovers in containers, so when the urge for a salty, crunchy snack hits, you’ll be ready!
It’s time we stopped thinking about kale as a garnish. It’s a versatile, tasty, inexpensive, and healthy vegetable, so let’s give it the respect it deserves. Going krazy for something can be a good thing and this is certainly one of those times. Your taste buds will thank you. This Taste Bud will thank you.
The Taste Bud