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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Super "Kale" afragalisticexpialadoshus

I really wanted to write a blog about kale because before I started on this vegan journey I pretty much hated kale, and for no good reason at all. I thought it was a strictly decorative green that no one really ate. It's most commonly recognized as the tough, little, green, shrubby thing on the corner or your dinner plate that I would usually offer a friend five bucks to eat just for laughs. I now know that kale is a wonderful, delicious green that gets a lot of flack.

Before I get into the part of the recipe portion of this blog entry I want to just say a few positive things about kale for all those kale-haters out there. According to many nutritionists, kale can lower your cholesterol and it reduces the risk for some cancers including cancer of the bladder, breast, colon, ovary, and prostate. And finally, kale acts as an antioxidant and and anti-inflammatory. So go get yourself a big bunch of it and start cooking!

One of my first blog entries included a recipe for kale chips. Kale chips are a wonderfully nutritious replacement for fried potato chips. When kale is baked and sprinkled with a little sea salt, they become tasty little leaves that I actually prefer over greasy potato chips. They are super light and very crispy. Anytime I'm preparing something in the kitchen my dogs assume their positions in what I call "the drop zone." Chloe backs herself into the corner of the kitchen where I do most of my prep and Millie stands right under the sink where all of my vegetable scraps go. Millie particularly loves kale. As I pull the leafy parts of the kale away from the stem, she gives me the look reminding me that she was once a homeless, starving little street dog that often ate leaves and dirt for meals (it's amazing what you can read from a dog's face, haha). So I give her the kale stems and she is the happiest little girl in the world. Chloe, on the other hand, would never accept a vegetable scrap unless it was covered in cheese or peanut butter.

So here is a recipe for kale chips (again). Give it a try. I bet you won't be disappointed. And to go along with this recipe I am including a little video clip of Millie enjoying the finished product so that you can see how really crispy these chips turn out. Turn up your volume and listen for the crunch!

Baked crispy kale chips
The biggest secret to getting the kale super-crisp is to dry them in a salad spinner. If there is moisture on the leaves, the kale will steam, not crisp. Also, do not salt the kale until after they have come out of the oven. If you salt beforehand, the salt will just cause the kale to release moisture, thus steaming instead of crisping.

4 giant handfuls of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces and tough stems removed (about 1/3 pound)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt or kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place the kale leaves into a salad spinner and spin all of the water out of the kale. Dump the water and repeat one or two times more just to make sure that the kale is extra dizzy and dry. Use a towel to blot any extra water on the leaves. Place the kale on the baking sheet.
3. Drizzle olive oil over the kale leaves and use your hands to toss and coat the leaves. Bake in the oven for 12-20 minutes until leaves are crisp. Take a peek at the 12 minute mark - the timing all depends on how much olive oil you use. Just use a spatula or tongs to touch the leaves, if they are paper-thin crackly, the kale is done. If the leaves are still a bit soft, leave them in for another 2 minutes. Do not let the leaves turn brown (they'll be burnt and bitter) Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and serve.

When I made these kale chips I had a lot of left over kale because my produce stand sells kale in ridiculously large (and ridiculously cheap, about $1) bunches.  I wasn't going to let it go to waste of course so I searched Google for more kale recipes.  I stumbled across this blog called 365 Days of Kale.  Now, it's not a vegan blog, but it certainly gives you some great uses for kale.  One of my favorite things in the world of food is potato pancakes!  There's nothing like a little, brown potato pancake with a dollop of good apple sauce on top.  So YUM!  So this is a recipe for potato pancakes with kale, obviously, and carrot, onion, and herbs. They came out very good! Initially I thought I might not put onion in them next time but I had three other people try them and they all said they would leave them as is. You can really make these your own and get creative with the ingredients. I think next time I will try them with zucchini instead of carrot.

Potato Pancakes with Kale

6 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
2 large carrots, scraped
1 medium yellow or white (not sweet) onion, peeled
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup parsley, finely minced (or use other green herbs you might have on hand)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen kale, (remove the large center stems and then chop small)
2 large eggs (obviously use a vegan substitute here; I used 1 tbsp ground flax whisked together with 3 tbsp water)
1 Tbsp canola or extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Applesauce, for garnish (I prefer a good, chunky applesauce)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Spray large non-stick baking sheet with cooking spray or cut parchment paper to fit a baking sheet.

Using a food processor or large hand grater, coarsely grate potatoes and carrots and onion. Place grated vegetables in large colander. Set colander into large bowl so it nestles securely. Hand-squeeze vegetables to wring out as much liquid as possible (you can save this liquid for future soup broth). If vegetables still feel wet, pat dry with paper towels. Transfer vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Stir in flour, parsley/herbs, kale, eggs (egg sub), oil, salt and pepper, making sure ingredients are well combined.

Spoon small mounds of potato mixture on baking sheet to form 2 1/2 inch pancakes (about 12 per cookie sheet), leaving a 1/2 inch between each. Pat down flat gently if needed. Bake pancakes until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes per side, turning once with spatula. Transfer to plates or platter and serve at once with applesauce. Makes about 24 - 2-½ inch pancakes or 8-12 servings.

Even after the kale chips and the potato pancakes I STILL had more kale to use. Not much, but I wasn't going to waste it. I wanted to saute it this time. So I decided to make one of these make-it-up-as-you-go-along, use-up-leftover-stuff recipes. Yes, that's a technical term. I had about a single serving of pasta to use, some kale, and about a 1/3 of a package of dried porcini mushrooms. Basically I just reconstituted the mushrooms in some white wine and vegetable broth. Cooked the pasta. Sauteed the kale in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. I added a little bit of corn starch to the liquid used for the mushrooms to let it thicken slightly to make a light sauce, then I tossed it all together. It was one of the most delicious dinners I've ever made. I just love it when things work out!

Well, I guess that's about all I have on kale for right now. I hope I have inspired you to give kale a chance.

1 comment:

  1. The potato pancakes with kale are just beautiful! I can't wait to try them!