What to do when you have an excess of kale in the garden, and not enough meals in the week to use it all?
You make kale chips!
I had always heard about kale chips but thought they were strictly for hippie-foodie, Whole Foods-consuming, crunchy-granola health nuts. As someone who bizarrely lacks the snacking gene, I hardly even ate potato chips… let alone kale chips. I didn’t even know kale could get crispy like a chip. All I’d ever done with it was boil it, steam it, saute it.
But if doing all that turned kale into a forkful of tasty goodness, I figured that baking it could definitely make for some finger-lickin’ goodness, too.
I love Russian Red kale for its frilly, oak-leaf shape and its beautiful, reddish-purple stems and veins. The colors intensify in cooler weather — ranging from lavender to magenta — and add a pretty accent to a monochromatic winter vegetable garden. Also known as Ragged Jack kale, it tends to be sweeter than common curly varieties.
I harvested a large bunch of my Russian Red kale for this recipe, but any kale works; the savoyed texture of dinosaur kale or curly kale would make for good crunch, too.
Remove all the leaves from the stems and discard the stems into your compost pile. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.
Wash the leaves and give them a quick and thorough dry in a salad spinner. Make sure they’re completely dry — any excess moisture on the leaves will simply steam them in the oven.
Now for the fun part… most kale recipes will tell you to season with olive oil and salt, and be done with it. But let’s get creative here!
Since I had so much kale going on, I made four batches with four different flavors. First, spread the leaves in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil over the leaves and massage it in, making sure every part of the leaves is lightly coated. You’ll want to get your hands dirty for this.
On the first batch, I seasoned the kale with a little Himalayan pink salt and garlic powder. So simple — you can never go wrong with garlic.
On the second batch, I used my fancy extra-virgin olive oil with chipotle and sprinkled in some Lawry’s seasoning salt. Just enough zip for the tongue, but not too much.
The next batch was flavored with a little garlic salt and a generous heaping of shredded Parmesan… mmmm.
And on the final batch, I wanted chips with a kick, so I seasoned the kale with a special West African spicy pepper blend that contained black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder. I also added chili powder for extra heat. My mouth was watering as I did this!
With everything oiled and seasoned, I popped the kale in the oven to bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Your oven time may vary, but definitely check your chips at the 10-minute mark to make sure they don’t burn. You want the edges slightly browned, but the chips should stay a nice, deep green.
When you remove them from the oven, the kale should be delicately crispy and delightfully savory. If the chips taste bitter, they’re burnt. The burnt chips might be good crumbled and tossed into Japanese rice balls (onigiri), actually. Kinda like seaweed, but without the fishy taste.
Now you can stuff your chips into a Ziploc bag to bring along as a snack… and hear people dubiously ask “What is that?” when you offer them… followed by “This is kale? But it’s so good!” as they ravenously grab handfuls with smiles on their faces.