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The Jury’s Still Out

August 20, 2011

When this pretty kale showed up in our CSA box this week, all curly and dark green and purple, I decided it was the perfect time to tackle kale chips. Have you heard of kale chips? If not – do you live under a rock? Seriously, a Google search results in 4.6 million finds. Kale chips are everywhere. And everyone raves about them. Needless to say, my expectations were pretty high – I mean, come on – a crispy, salty snack food loaded with iron, vitamins, calcium, protein, and antioxidants? Yes, please!

Every recipe I looked at had basically the same ingredients: 1 bunch kale, 1 tablespoon of olive oil,  and salt. The chips are super easy and quick to make – the most tedious task (which is by no means tedious) is removing the stem and ribbing from the kale. I found it easiest to lay the kale curly side down, with the stem facing away from me, while pulling the knife toward me along both sides of the stem.

2 minutes later: viola! De-stemmed kale.

The next steps are to tear the kale into chip-sized pieces, toss in a large bowl with olive oil and salt, spread in a single layer on a couple of large baking sheets, and bake in a 250 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

Know this: kale does not smell pleasant when being baked into chips. In fact, it stinks. More people should be talking about that fact, as it was a rather nasty surprise to me.

Around this time my husband came home from band practice. Surprisingly, rather than asking, “why does our house smell like a fart?” he said, “why are you baking lettuce?” The answer to either question would have been the same.

Fast-forward. Kale chips come out of the oven and are stacked high in a bowl. Windows are opened in an attempt to air out the house.

We anxiously dig into the kale chips, and use the words crispy, salty, and interesting to describe what we’re tasting. “It reminds me of something I can’t quite put my finger on,” I say.

“Cooked lettuce?” My husband offers.

“No, it’s like… something. I don’t even know. I don’t know if I like them or not.” I respond, eating chip after chip. I realize, in horror, that although I can’t figure out whether I like the kale chips, I am addicted to the kale chips. How is this possible?

“It’s the salt,” my husband says, “They’re addicting because they’re salty.”

“Something is missing.” I declare. I get up and move toward the fridge.

I crack open two beers and wonder if having to eat these kale chips with beer negates all of the nutritional benefits.

Honestly, I still can’t decide how I feel about the kale chips. But we ate them all over the course of several days. Roasting the kale certainly brings out a briny, deeper flavor, and removes the bitterness from the green. But it also tastes a bit like you would imagine dried out greens to taste. Am I selling you on this or what? I’m not sure that I’m sold myself, yet I would be inclined to make them again – perhaps with a different variety of kale, as I did consider that maybe this particular type was what contributed to that unidentifiable, familiar, elusive flavor.

Baked Kale Chips

Recipes for baked kale chips abound (and are all very similar), but I ended up using  this one from Epicurious

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • Salt, to taste (I recommend going light on the salt, as baking the kale somehow brings out a salty flavor that you don’t otherwise realize is present)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Remove the stems and ribbing from the kale. Tear the kale into chip-sized pieces and toss in a large bowl with olive oil and salt. Spread in a single layer in two large, rimmed, baking sheets.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Be careful not to overcook as the kale will burn easily. Remove from oven when kale is completely crispy throughout.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2011 9:45 pm

    Are they crisp like a potato chip? Do they taste a bit like a seaweed snack? I’m super curious now! I have a great recipe for a white bean and kale soup if you ever want it.

    • August 21, 2011 10:57 pm

      Yes, and maybe even crisper! I think that the comparison to seaweed is a good one – give then a try, they’re easy enough to make and I’d love to hear someone else’s opinion on them.

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