Sunday, July 3, 2011

Using What You Grow: Kale Crisps

Picture from the Chicago Botanic Gardens (CBG) of an organic veggie bed with different types of veggies intensively planted. Artichoke is in the middle.

This last Saturday on the way back from the CBG, I had deep-fried okra for the first time. Last year, I grew the green type for someone because of its ornamental qualities. I was amazed with how prolifically it bore its fruit. This year, I hunted down the burgundy okra after seeing a recipe for dilly okra. I really like dilly beans and am thinking the aesthetic qualities of dilled okra alone makes it worth growing.

It is important to grow those fruits and veggies that you actually use and eat. My sister-in-law and I really like salads. I planted lots of greens this year, but I am always looking for other ways to enjoy our harvest. One of the recipes both of us have been eyeing is one for kale crisps. I grew from seed and planted several of the trendy dino kale, also know as Italian black kale, Tuscany kale, or di Toscano. We both enjoy it and so far have been able to keep it eaten down so the leaves are fairly juvenile or immature.

The recipe calls for a couple cups of the kale with the mid-ribs removed, because they cook at such a different rate. The cleaned and dry leaves torn into sections the size of small potato chips and are tossed with a tablespoon of sherry vinegar and a tablespoon of olive oil. They are then placed in a thin layer on a couple of baking sheets and salted with sea salt to taste. They are cooked at 300 degrees for 35 minutes.

Ours were definitely done in about 20 minutes. (We prepared a cup of Savoy cabbage in the same manner and they burned in about 10 minutes!!!)

The color was nice. The flavor was much stronger than in the fresh kale. The two-year-old twins enjoyed them. I think the twins were into the tactile and crispy qualities (I don't think the twins have had potato chips yet.) As a munchy, they were fairly addictive. My brother didn't care for them.

Considering that the recipe said 35 minutes and ours were done in half the time, I have to assume the recipe really calls for mature leaves (which it did not mention), possibly those harvest after a light frost which would improve the flavor in the fresh leaves and, I would assume, increase the flavor in the crisps as well.

I wasn't sold on the value of kale crisps, but both my sister-in-law and I decided we would try the recipe again with mature leaves later in the season. Both of us are looking for the best method to preserve our kale harvest. Possibly, kale will make a better addition to dried soup mixes than as kale crisps. Until then, we'll continue to enjoy the immature leaves in our garden greens salads.

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