Krazy for Kale

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
Olive oil
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:

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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.

Happy eating,

The Taste Bud

Hestiaphobia

Hestia-who? What-a-phobia? I thought this was a food blog? What’s with all of the questions? Let me give you some answers…

Hestia was the Greek goddess of the hearth. The hearth is where most of the baking was done in ancient Greece, so those with hestiaphobia have a fear of baking. While I may not suffer from full-blown hestiaphobia, I certainly do have hestiaphobic tendencies. While I may be one of the first to gobble down some delicious fresh-baked goodies, I’ll be one of the last to actually cook them in my kitchen? Why the fear?

Baking is so methodical. It’s so calculated. It’s so precise.

Just add 1/32 teaspoon of baking powder – no more, no less! Wait, is that baking powder or baking soda? Uh-oh. Did you sift that flour? Is your butter cold enough? Are those eggs precisely room temperature? You’re going to try and make that today with this high humidity? Did you adjust your baking times for your different elevation? What is my elevation anyway? I’m practically breaking out in hives already. No wonder it’s a very rare occasion when I actually do decide to conquer my hestiaphobia and crank out some delicious baked goods.

Typically, I don’t shy away from recipes that require multiple steps, lots of chopping and dicing, and plenty of stirring and simmering. With baking though, all bets are off. For this cook, simple is best. The fewer ingredients the better. You can imagine my delight (and skepticism) when I stumbled across a recipe online that claimed you could make a light and fluffy cake with just two ingredients, with a cooking time of only 30 minutes. With more than a bit of doubt, but lots of hopefulness, I set out to the store to pick up the ingredients. Would I be able to satisfy my sweet tooth and quell my hestiaphobia all at the same time? If not, I had a bounty of ice cream in the freezer just in case, so there would be no love lost. Now time for Brantley’s Baking 101 – preheat and pray.

Here are the ingredients:

1 box of angel food cake mix

1 20 ounce can of crushed pineapple

That’s it! Now this is my kind of baking. You don’t need measuring spoons or measuring cups. You don’t need eggs or oil. For goodness sake you don’t need different kinds of flour and baking powder. All you need is a mixing bowl and a 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan (sorry for that scary part). Let’s get started.

Empty the contents of the angel food cake mix into a bowl. Dump in the can of crushed pineapple with the juice. Mix it up. Don’t add any water. No eggs. No oil. Disregard anything on the box of the cake mix. You only need the mix and the pineapple with its juice. Interesting things will start to happen at this point. The mix will start to grow in volume and get quite foamy. This is perfectly normal. Once you’ve mixed it for about 30 seconds, it will look like this…

Is this easy enough so far? Believe it or not, that’s about as difficult as it gets. Now just spray your 13 x 9 x 2 inch pan (sorry for that again) with some non-stick cooking spray so your cake won’t stick and transfer the contents of your bowl to your baking dish.

Now just slam that stuff into a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. When it’s done, the top will turn a golden brown. You could insert a knife or toothpick in the center to see if it comes out clean. If it does, you’re good to go! If not, let it have another minute or two in the oven.

Remove it from the oven and slice it into pieces, squares, slices, or whatever shape you like. I served mine with a nice scoop of vanilla bean ice cream that I had waiting in the freezer in case this endeavor turned out to be a failure. I didn’t know what to expect when I had that first bite, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. It may not be the most amazing baked good you’ve ever consumed, but for what it’s worth, it wasn’t too shabby.

For this cook who suffers from mild episodes of hestiaphobia, it was comforting to know that I could pull this off. I think you could too. So are you ready to conquer your fear? If so, I think this recipe is the way to go. It’ll boost your culinary confidence. It’ll impress your family. After all, they don’t need to know how easy this was. But most importantly, it’ll satisfy your sweet tooth. For this hestiaphobic guy, that’s really all that matters at the end of the day.

Until next time,

The Taste Bud