how to make dried, oily, salty leaves, aka kale chips

kale chips

Popcorn used to be my former salty-snack preference when watching movies, but for now, at least, I can't eat corn. Neither can I eat potatoes, so potato chips are also out. But I can eat kale, and it's growing in the garden downstairs. So this is another of those late-to-the-food-trend posts. Kale chips are old news by now, but I hadn't tried them before this evening. The taste and texture remind me of dried Korean seaweed sheets but with a little less sea. Hey, anything oily, crunchy, and salty probably will trigger pleasure in the brain, right?

Because the weather's warm and to avoid burning the leaves to charcoal (see some of the comments here), I used a recipe in The Oregonian, whose author, Sara Bir, makes a convincing case for a return to lower oven temperatures as in olden days. I also found that tossing the torn kale leaves with the olive oil and salt right on the baking sheet worked just fine. (Lacking a dishwasher, I'm always looking for ways to avoid unnecessary dishes.) And though some recipes call for parchment paper, it's not needed; the dried leaves come right off the baking sheet like bits of paper.

kale leaves for chips, prepped & unbaked

The hardest part of the process was rinsing the tiny gray aphids off the textured underside of the dinosaur (lacinato) kale leaves, this being organic, pesticide-free kale from our yard, which means I'm eating at least a few dead bugs as extra protein. The leaves were then torn into pieces and spun in the salad spinner, the oil and salt rubbed in by hand on the baking sheets (and so a great, easy, hands-messy cooking project for kids, FYI), and then the two sheets popped into the oven for an hour. I had snipped enough kale for two separate batches over two hours. And don't worry about the kale leaves touching each other because it all shrinks up when it dries like those Shrinky Dinks plastic craft-project pieces from the 1970s.

Or if this sounds like too much work and time (poor you, to be so busy), you could always pay Whole Foods and the like $7.49 for a 2-ounce bag of locally made Pacific Northwest Kale Chips in four flavors.

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