I hit a carb wall over the weekend. Not that I don’t love all the cake, cookies, candy, and scones I’ve been gorging on mind you. I can make a breakfast out of a swirl of warm cinnamon rolls draped with icing as eagerly as Paula Deen. But after a long weekend of traveling back east for a beautiful family wedding, I found myself thinking about kale chips somewhere between grab-n-go airport food that satisfied my hunger and little else, and my second indulgent helping of wedding cake capped with a thick layer of fluffy frosting.
I don’t think I’m alone. When I mentioned my kale chips over the weekend, people’s eyes lit up. Or maybe that was just the glow from my sugar high. Regardless, I knew as soon as I got home, they would be the first thing I would make.
Kale is grown year-round but it’s at its best in the winter, which is just the opposite from what you might think. Summertime heat and drier conditions conspire to produce a more bitter, tough leaf; whereas the colder, more damp conditions of the winter support a more tender leaf with milder flavor. So we’re in prime kale season now, which is why it will start to pop up on January food magazine covers.
There are a few kinds of kale typically seen at the markets this time of year: the beautiful Red Russian kale, which shimmers with purple highlights on its silver-green leaves; dinosaur kale, with its prehistoric look of pebbly, dark forest green leaves, also known as Tuscan kale, cavolo nero, lacinato, or dino kale; and curly green kale, with its frilly, green leaves. All are packed full of nutrients, making this one of the healthiest greens you can ingest.
Spicy Kale Chips
- These chips are a great entry point to kale for kids and adults alike, but I suggest eliminating the spices for kids.
- I’ve made these kale chips successfully with both dino and curly green kale, but prefer the shape of the latter.
- The center stalk of each leaf should always be removed when cooking kale; it’s very tough and no amount of cooking is going to significantly soften it. Think thick floss.
- You can cut the kale into bite-sizes pieces if in a hurry, but you’ll get prettier shapes if you tear them; although I should add that kale chips are not the prettiest type of chip you’ll probably ever make.
- I wash kale by tossing it in a bowl filled with ice water, spinning dry in a salad spinner, and laying out on paper towels. If the kale is a little limp coming out of the refrigerator, soaking it in a bowl of ice water is a great way to perk it up!
- It’s important to line the baking sheet with parchment paper, otherwise the kale leaves will stick to the pan as they bake and crumble when you try to remove them.
- 2 bunches curly green kale, central stalk removed, torn into bite-size pieces
- 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
- ½ – ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika (I use Pimenton de la Vera) (optional)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ - 1 teaspoon Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
Preheat the oven to 275° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (see Cook’s Notes).
Wash and completely dry the kale. Set aside, sandwiched between paper towels, while you make the dressing.
Place the rice vinegar in a small bowl. Add the salt and spices (if using them) and whisk a few times to dissolve the salt. Slowly add the olive oil, while whisking to get a good emulsion. Take a kale leaf and dip it into the dressing and take a bite. Adjust the seasoning to your own taste.
Place the dry kale leaves in a large bowl and pour half of the dressing over it. Toss thoroughly with your hands and add more dressing as needed.
Lay the dressed kale leaves on the prepped baking sheets in a single layer. The leaves can touch each other, but if the leaves are overlapping too much, they’ll steam and never get crispy.
Grate the Parmesan cheese over the leaves.
Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or until crispy.
- Eat like a potato chip
- Crumble over soups, salads, baked apples, pizza or popcorn