Tuesday, June 24, 2008

City Kitchen Chronicles: Kale Chips

City Kitchen Chronicles is a bi-weekly column about living frugally in Manhattan. It's penned by the lovely Jaime.

Last night I got home at 10pm, after a reading of a new play and treating myself to a late dinner of Greek yogurt and raspberries at Whole Foods. (Oh, delicious unfrugal sin.) Once I got home I wanted nothing more (well, nothing that wouldn’t involve feats of teleportation or lottery-winning) than to check my email, read a few blogs (this is what I do without cable) and go the heck to bed. But even in my sleepy stupor, I knew what I had to do. I had few-days-old kale in my fridge, and nothing for lunch the next day. It was now or never.

Of course, what sleepy (and apparently not-reading-my-own-blog-posts) me didn’t think about was the possible downside of running the oven, stovetop, and toaster oven simultaneously this 85-degrees-and-humid evening. Ah well. It made my bedroom feel almost arctic in comparison.

What the hell, you may be asking, was I doing to this kale that required such Herculean effort, so many steps, such copious heat? Why the hell, you may be asking, didn’t I just sautee it in olive oil and garlic? Well, I did. For half of it. (I had a pound and a half of kale, because that giant bunch is the only kind of bunch my supermarket sells.) But the rest of the kale was destined for another, slightly more elaborate fate. Something new and exciting that probably sounds totally weird but was completely awesome:

Kale chips.

Yes, that’s right. Kale salted and oiled and vinegared and baked until crispy and light. Turning one of the healthiest, most virtuous foods in the world into a satly, addictive bowlful of delicious. While keeping it darn healthy and virtuous. (And since this was about 75 cents worth of kale, darn cheap, too.)

I’d read about kale chips last winter, after I’d gone through my seasonal kale phase and subsequent roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower addiction, and was thoroughly mired in supermarket collard greens while waiting for the farmers market to return. But I filed it away somewhere in the back of my mind, supplanting more important information like where my Metrocard was this morning (answer: behind my jewelry box). When I brought home this unseasonable supermarket kale to go with the tempeh I’d splurged on the week before, I knew that not all of it would make it to the sauté pan.

I’d read about kale chips on Serious Eats, where they pointed out this recipe, but kale chips are all over the internet. I am happy to continue that tradition.

The recipe for kale chips is a pretty basic unrecipe – oil, vinegar, salt, kale; bake till crispy, try not to finish the entire bowl at once because you have to take pictures for the blog and you should probably save some to see how they keep overnight and also isn’t it time for bed? But in case you want something a little more delineated:

Kale Chips
(serves 2? or yourself? I mean, it’s a bunch of kale and healthy oil, so really, go crazy.)

Large bunch of kale (once in pieces, I had about 6 or 8 cups)
1 T olive oil (I used canola because my olive oil is very strongly fruity)
2 T vinegar (the other internet recipes seem to agree on apple cider vinegar, but I used rice wine vinegar because that’s what I had, and it was delish)
salt (please, for all that’s holy, use Kosher or sea salt – the larger grains make a big difference)

1) Pre-heat oven to 350F.

2) Rinse and dry the kale. Tear it (discarding the big veins) into large chip-sized pieces. (It’ll shrink some in cooking.)

3) Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar with a couple of pinches of salt in a small bowl.

4) Put kale in a big mixing bowl. Slowly add the oil/vinegar mix, until the kale is just coated. (Mixing by hand is good, unless you have a big paper cut on your thumb. The vinegar will sting.)

5) Spread kale in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (You may need to do multiple batches.) If you’re a low-blood-pressured salt-fiend like myself, sprinkle on some more salt.

6) Bake for 10-15 minutes, flipping/moving around half-way. After about 10 min, keep an eye on it – you want it dry but not brown.

7) Let cool a bit.

8) Try not to devour.

9) Or, heck, devour.

I made this in two batches, and good thing I did. The first one was way too wet, and browned before it was dry. I finished it off in the toaster oven, and even while not totally chippy, these were delicious. I ran the second batch in my salad spinner before baking to get rid of extra moisture, and this worked brilliantly – the chips were light and dry in 15 minutes, stayed green, and were massively addictive. Kept overnight on the counter in an aluminum foil-covered bowl, they got a tad soggy, but were still devoured with speed. A paper towel covering might be better, or make sure they’re totally cooled before covering.

You can make this in larger or smaller batches if you like – just keep the vinegar-to-oil ratio at 2:1, and make sure not to soak the kale. You can also add seasonings other than salt – cumin and paprika come to mind, or an Italian basil/oregano thing? Go wild. Kale and you – living on the wild side. Just maybe wait for the temperature outside to drop just a bit.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
177 calories, 8.5 g fat, $0.53

7 cups kale (in pieces): 234 calories, 3 g fat, $0.75
1 tablespoon oil: 120 calories, 14 g fat, $0.06
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar: 0 calories, 0 fat, $.23
1 teaspoon kosher salt: negligible calories and fat, $0.01
TOTAL: 354 calories, 17 g fat, $1.05
PER SERVING (TOTAL/2): 177 calories, 8.5 g fat, $0.53

[Also, one serving contains 30% of your daily potassium, 417% of Vitamin A, 469% Vitamin C, 32% Calcium, 22% Iron, 12-32% of the various vitamins B (except for B12), 20% Magnesium, and 34% of your daily recommended intake of Copper. (Copper!) I’m sure baking diminishes that a little, but 417% gives you a lot of room to go down.]


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