Sunday, January 20, 2008

CSA week eight - baked kale chips

I was looking around to see if you could successfully use kale as a steaming wrapper (as mentioned in the last post) when I came across a cornucopia of interesting kale recipes in this Chowhound message board thread.

There is a nice Thai-style steamed kale roll recipe there but I got distracted by this post by daveena:
"Kale chips are my favorite! The method I use comes from "Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven" - take off the stems (I chop them and put them in soup, or frittatas), wash and dry the leaves, cut them into 1" ribbons. Spray with olive oil and coarse salt, bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, stirring once or twice.
It can be hard to get them just right - stir too infrequently, and parts burn (although gently burned parts are very tasty). Stir too often, and the whole pan comes out a little more steamed than toasted. When they come out right, though, they're fantastic - nutty and minerally - I've been known to eat an entire head of kale while watching tv..."
and I was off to my kitchen.

I wanted to add a bit of my own to the recipe and I figured this is precisely the sort of application spice mixes are best at. I had three good candidates amongst the Spice House mixes I have on-hand: Very Hot Cajun Style Seasoning, West Indies Barbecue Seasoning and Smoke House Seasoning. (Penzies no doubt has equivalent versions with slight variations on the names.) I settled on West Indies because the sweet heat should counter the bitter greens. It works for callaloo anyway.

So I prepared the leaves as per the recipe substituting in the spice mix for the coarse salt. Also I tossed the leaves after the first spray with olive oil and gave them a second spritz to get the other side before seasoning and a second toss to get everything distributed.

Here they are before cooking:

Here they are after ten minutes:

and after fifteen minutes they were done:

You shouldn't entirely trust my timing, though. In the pictures you can't see that my baking sheet has those big chunky ergonomic handles that keep it from fitting into a normal sized oven. My oven door is always cracked open a bit when I use it and I know it affects my cooking times. Exactly how varies depending on exactly what I'm cooking though. I think, but I can't swear, for a dehydrating application like this, the venting causes a breeze that speeds up my cooking times.

The dried kale has a insubstantial brittleness interspersed with chewy slightly thicker leaves that retain a strong bitter kale flavor. The West Indies seasoning does work nicely with that, but you'll still want a beverage on hand if you're going to eat a bowlful. And I liked it enough that I did eat the whole bowlful. I think I'm going to regret not having it on hand for a dinner recipe later, though.

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