Thursday, January 12, 2012

Recipe: Don't Try This At Home Kale

Think you have mastered kale? Think again. When somebody says, 'kale chips' (#1000 out of 1000 on the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) can also be a snack food,' you have to try 'em.

So I tried. I tasted kale chips two years ago in Hartford. A restaurant owner passed them out. Delicious black squares salty and with a bit of something else, not sure what. I learned that her kale chips were dehydrated. Don't have one of those machines so moved on in the research.

Discussing kale with some kids in Great Barrington, a woman named Sharon said she loved kale chips and made them all the time.  She baked them in the oven, real hot, oil and salt. Easy!

She said the secret to kale is to make sure it is very, very dry before cooking. "So I leave all of the cut leaves on the table to dry overnight. Then my partner comes home and she says, "Is this an art project?" 

Further investigation revealed several recipes, all of which involved drying before baking. The dehydration method, I ruled out since I don't have one of those machines. Being a locavore, I try to keep the grid to a minimum.

Anyway, I remember the business about drying and take a couple of recipes and put them together. I follow the first steps, all recipes specify cleaning, cutting away the stems and drying.  After drying, baking instructions ranged from 250 to 350, depending on the recipe. I wash the kale and decide to stick the leaves in the oven, very low, to DRY them right away rather than having to leave them out on the table over night. Seems like a quick way to do the overnight method. But it was a one-way ticket to Pompeii. When I took out my sad little squares of kale, they were ashen, like burned notes lire, like an art project. They tasted of blackness.

In the end, we went out to dinner at Hope and Olive in Greenfield, where I knew kale would be on the menu. The place never disappoints, never forsakes our local bounty, no mater what the season. Way out in front of the food curve, Hope and Olive was first to feature mead, hard cider and grass-fed beef on its menu.

Last night, Hope and Olive's Kale Salad featured ribbons of kale. If you try to make this salad at home, massage the kale as described several posts ago, before adding the other stuff. In this case, the other stuff was white rice, sliced beets, the exotic red and white stripped kind, bits of squash, not sure what kind, roasted whole pecans maybe with a hint of sweetness and apple.

It should be noted for those who are trying to make the dish, is that the roots are cut into MATCHSTICKS. This is a step that must not be ignored because scale is important when it comes to mixing this much different food together. You don't want to let the kale ribbons get lost in great lumps of other produce.  How wonderful this salad is. An entire meal.

Can kale the super food also be kale, the super star of snack foods? Stay tuned.