So there I was at the co-op the other day and there they were: two bunches of lacinato kale, a couple of days old, leaves drooping like the willow does; sitting in a dim corner as a divorcee waiting for the final judgement might; ignored as elderly women at the bus stops often are, their wisdom and years of experience sought by no one. Aside from cosmetics, however, there wasn't anything really wrong with them; the stems were firm, the bunches generously sized, and there was no mush or rot whatsoever. The fact remained however that they were no longer as young and attractive as the new batch that was being put out, and therefore no longer desirable.
I actually felt sorry for them, if it's possible to feel sorry for kale, of all things, and took them home with me; it didn't seem right for them not to fulfill their intended purpose. The philosophical question, "If the kale had a choice in it's own fate, would it rather have been composted and returned to the earth whence it came, than ending up in my hungry maw?" is one I'll leave for another time.
Less unselfishly I also wondered, would slightly past-it's-prime kale be just as good as kale chips as a very fresh and sprightly bunch? Happily for me at least, and everyone else who snacked on them, the answer was "yes"; which means from now on I won't be so prone to shove aside yesterday's kale in a mad dash for today's pretty young things.
Kale chips have been a party and snack staple in my house since I first saw Cathy Elton's recipe back in September 2010. Now they've gone mainstream (sort of ); you can find them packaged, as you would potato chips, at Fiddleheads and other "health food" grocery stores. I admit I haven't tried the store-bought version and I ought to just for comparison's sake, but I don't feel compelled to do so either because the homemade version is so good. Like potato chips, they are ridiculously addictive; but unlike potato chips, they are easy to make in an "if I can do it, you can too" sort of way. They do however require a little time and attention on your part to keep them from burning, as they crisp within minutes. Most recipes use the oven, as I prefer; but they can be just as easily done on your outdoor grill, (which I claim as my invention until your attorney tells me otherwise); or even in a dehydrator.
Of the two varieties of kale that we carry regularly at the co-op, I prefer lacinato to curly kale (red, green or purple); the broad and relatively flat leaves of lacinato are much easier to work with and provide a perfect platform for the seasonings, whereas I find that curly kale tends to fall to pieces at the ruffled edges.
Spicy Kale Chips
1 bunch lacinato or russian kale
2-4 T extra-virgin olive oil or good-quality vegetable oil, plus extra to coat baking sheets
sea salt, finely ground, and black pepper, to taste
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder, or a few drops of tabasco sauce/ hot pepper sauce to taste
Preheat oven to 325 degree (F); arrange 2 oven racks in the center of the oven, but allow some air space between for proper heat distribution and circulation. Lightly coat 2-3 large baking sheets with oil (omit this step if using nonstick sheets) and set aside.
If the kale has been rinsed, shake well and allow to air-dry, until it's at least dry to the touch. (A slight amount of moisture as it adds a bit of chewiness to the finished chips, which I like; but other folks I've spoken with prefer to their kale to be bone-dry at the start.) Tear the leaves in large pieces from the stems, and put in a generously-sized bowl, such as an enlarged "salad" bowl. Coat with the olive oil by turning with a spoon and/or with your hands, "massaging" individual pieces* until all are well coated. It's not necessary to be 100% coated, however; driving yourself crazy is not the goal here.
Sprinkle the seasonings over the leaves and give another few turns to distribute evenly. Place the kale pieces on the baking sheets in batches; if necessary, uncurl the pieces so they lay flat on the pan. Load up your trays as long as the leaves don't overlap; place the baking sheets on the racks in the oven, and bake for approximately 7-10 minutes, checking frequently at that point. To determine doneness, push individual pieces of kale across the tray; if a piece slides easily on the tray and is stiff rather than soft or limp, it's done. If the leaves crumble to pieces at the first touch or are mostly brown in color they are overbaked; check a minute or two earlier next time.
Remove individual chips from the baking sheet to a plate, bowl or airtight container as they are ready; return the rest to the oven as necessary. Continue as above with the rest of the kale in batches. You can pile the just-baked chips as high as you like; they cool so quickly that new layers don't cause the earlier ones to loose their crispness (as happens when you layer your waffles just off the iron.) Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container for at least a week - assuming they last that long. They do store successfully and retain their crispness, although when I've made them they are usually gobbled up on the spot.
*Some amount of rubbing with your hands is necessary IMO to thoroughly coat the leaves, so obviously this is not the recipe for those of you who don't like to get your hands dirty. If that sort of thing does bother you, however, you might want to consider leaving the kitchen to someone else and pursue less messy hobbies, such as knitting. Or nuclear fusion. Just a thought.
This is the dressing I made for an appearance on “Thinking Green”, the cable access show hosted by Ronna Stuller, earlier this month. The focus of the show was actually a conversation with Rob Schacht from Hunts Brook Farm. He was passionate and knowledgeable and about a variety of issues affecting the business of a small organic farm. (Watch the show on our YouTube channel here.)
I meanwhile played "Vanna Organic", and managed to cut open a blood orange for the camera without actually drawing any blood...mine, that is. (Sorry, kids, no squirting arteries for your viewing pleasure; perhaps you'll get lucky next time.)
Blood oranges, sesame oil and fennel have been staples in my kitchen lately; the bitterness of the HBF greens provided a perfect foundation for the light and zippy dressing. (Last week Rob and Teresa made their last shipment of bagged mixed greens and spinach to the co-op, which we will dearly miss.) To the salad I also added slices of orange bell pepper, chopped tomatoes, carrots, sliced fennel stalks and more fennel fronds, cilantro leaves and blueberries. This recipe is very flexible and you can alter the herbs and spices to your liking. If you use celery instead of fennel, add a little celery seed; I like to include the chopped leaves in that case.
Another evening I mixed the salad dressing with homemade teriyaki sauce (store-bought would work just as well, if you like) in about a 1:1 ratio and used it as a glaze for pork chops; simple directions are below as well. My next adventure will be trying it with a tofu stir-fry; the tofu should absorb the glaze quite well. (If you get there before I do, let me know how it goes for you.)
Blood orange, Fennel & Sesame Salad Dressing
3 blood oranges (or other sweet, intense citrus fruit), juiced
1-2 tea. unfiltered apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg’s)
toasted sesame oil, in 1 : 1 ratio with the amount of orange juice
3 T fresh fennel or dill fronds, finely chopped; or 1-1/2 T dried fennel or dill
2-3 tea. finely-chopped fennel stem and/or bulb, or same amount celery stalks
finely ground sea salt, and black or white pepper to taste
2 tea - 1 T gomasio; or sea salt and sesame seeds, coarsely ground together; plus extra sesame seeds
3-4 cilantro stems and leaves; stems finely chopped and leaves torn
1T fresh or frozen blueberries, crushed (optional)
Blend all ingredients until thoroughly emulsified; I like to do it by hand with a small whisk, or simply shake vigorously in a jar. Taste after the addition of each ingredient to make sure it suits you, and adjust as necessary. Makes approx 1 cup.
Variation - Pork Chop Glaze: Combine equal parts of the dressing (above) with a thick, homemade or store-bought teriyaki sauce. Brown 1-2 pork chops in a lightly-oiled or nonstick pan or skillet on both sides over medium heat; pour sauce over chops and cover, about 1-2 minutes or sauce has thickened on surface of chop, turn and repeat, adjusting heat if needed. If using high-quality pasture-raised pork (with no added preservatives, etc), such as Four Mile River Farm’s, make sure you do not overcook the chops; they should still be slightly pink (not completely grey) and tender inside.
(Photo and text courtesy of Sue Guida)
This is a recipe I adapted from a magazine LONG ago, probably Woman’s Day or the like. I generally use a 10-inch pie dish in case I get carried away with the vegetable amounts. This recipe is VERY adaptable; you can use spinach or braising greens instead of the kale; and it's fine with "elderly" kale that's begun to wilt and is just past it's prime. You can also add any fresh or dried herbs you like, other veggies, etc. It really doesn’t matter, IMHO, what kind of cheese you use; I use whatever’s on hand. For this recipe I do prefer the earthy flavor of the crimini to white button mushrooms. -Sue Guida-
Sue Guida’s Onion, Crimini & Kale Quiche
One baked, 9-inch pie shell with high fluted rim
1/2 bunch kale, stems removed
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 and 1/2 cups milk (I used fat free)
1 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1-1/2 cups shredded Swiss cheese
Coarsely chop kale leaves and steam until just limp. In a separate skillet saute onions and crimini slices in the butter or margarine till tender; if you wish to add any additional veggies, do so here. Stir in the steamed kale, turn off heat and set pan aside to cool a bit.
Beat the eggs, milk flour, salt & pepper till smooth. Stir in cheese and the onion/vegetable mixture. Turn into pre-baked pie shell. Bake in preheated 325F oven 40 min or till knife inserted in center comes out clean – or till nothing jiggles. Cool at least 10 min. Cut and serve 6
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Text and photos copyright 2011-2013 Janice Janostak unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.