This Fall (2013) I made it a mission to embrace kale, love it, even. There are reasons for that determination: First, it’s good for you; kale is healthy to the max. I don’t know of another plant food with such an impressive nutrition profile: all the vitamin K you never even heard of, much less knew where to get; vitamins B and C; the minerals potassium and calcium, to name just the highlights. Second, it’s a leafy brassica vegetable that can star or tuck in and around any course of the meal, any time of the day. Cooked, raw, chopped, or pureed, in salad, soup, a smoothie, a pesto-like mash for pasta or soup or dipping, you can take kale just about anywhere.
But, there’s a small problem. In spite of its nutrition profile, its flavor profile needs a cook’s deft-hand to become appealing. Unlike cabbage, or cauliflower, or collards, or even broccoli and turnips, kale is a brassica more of the Brussels sprouts strain. It takes some effort to soften its acrid aroma and initial nip. One straightforward, easy and tasty way to do that and partake of kale’s health benefits is with homemade kale chips. As we were working on the shot for this recipe, Rick said “I can’t believe it, you made me like kale!” More good ways to follow in the next few weeks.
Cooking Note: There are many kinds of kale, with curly leaves or straight-but-crinkled or ovulate, like some collards, and there are subtle taste differences among them. For chips, the Italian cultivar, cavalo nero, also variously named Tuscan, lacinato, or dinosaur kale, is the first choice for its mellow balance between sweet and bitter when baked crisp.
Serves one to several as finger food
1 bunch dino kale leaves torn into 2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 275 F.
2. Spread the kale pieces in one layer on a baking sheet (use 2 sheets if necessary so they’re in a crowded layer but not overlapping). Drizzle the olive oil across the top, sprinkle with the salt, and gently toss to coat the pieces all around. Place in the oven and bake, stirring once after 5 minutes, until no longer moist and barely crisp, about 10 minutes.
3. Sprinkle the Parmesan, if using, across the top and serve.