This is exactly the kind of dish that my friend Lara, who is a vegan, describes as "the kind of food that you would laugh at me for eating."
And she's right. I do like to mock the vegans. I have to because I now am surrounded by vegan friends. I must have done something very bad in my former cooking life because now most of my best friends are vegans.
These people, incredible, loving, wonderful people that they are, have no real appreciation for my short ribs or pork belly or pork cracklins or for that matter, lobster with drawn butter or a great hunk of aged cheddar or Saint Andre or just a humungous knob of butter in just about any sauce. In fact, they are repulsed by it.
What? Repulsed by butter? I don't get it. How is it even possible that people don't like butter? Butter is the definition of awesome. It says so in the dictionary. And bacon. Don't get me started on bacon. I'm flumoxed.
But yet, I love these people and so, I have been trying to perfect my vegan kitchen repertoire. Because I didn't actually have a "vegan kitchen repertoire" and because if I didn't get one, we'd never be able to eat together. As much as I want to, saying, "I have a box of saltines in the cupboard for you to munch on" doesn't make for good friendships.
So, here's what I found out about veganism...you need to use a lot of olive oil (fat) and salt to make it taste good. If you see "fat free vegan recipes" out there, run for the hills. They will taste like communion wafer. Unless you don't have a very good palate and then, I suppose you'll put anything in your mouth.
And I think as a general rule, you should stay away from "fake foods" if you are a vegan novice (like me) fake bacon, fake cheese, fake butter. It's like some foreign land of products that you - as a non vegan - will have no idea how it shapes up in a recipe. And fake bacon is just wrong anyway. On so many levels. It's blasphemy, really.
My strategy has been to just do wholesome dishes with good fresh ingredients and just use what you are allowed to use from the pantry. But it feels a little like cooking in some game show where they give you a bottle of ketchup, a head of iceberg and 2 bunson burners and ask you to whip up a gourmet meal for six dignitaries from Sweden.
This is where kale chips make their entrance. I'm not a huge snacker, as you know. Snacks generally set off the carb-meter around here and most of you remember that David is generally opposed to carbs and I'm pretty sure that pumping your kids with organic crackers is still pumping them with crap even if it's organic crap.
That said, I also do not want to eat a snack that's not really a snack, but just boring, healthy leaves cloaked as a snack, with some hippy telling you how awesome it tastes and how good it is for you, but it really tastes like cardboard and dandelions. My taste buds are all over that kind of deception. When I do snack, I want it to taste great.
I am surprised - gobsmacked even - that a snack made of kale can actually taste good. Our friends Chuck and Corey, vegans of course, fall all over kale. They would french kiss the kale if they could. They don't try to disguise it in their cooking either or hide it in a sauce. They just put it right out there. Big buxom heavy leaves in their pasta, for instance, for all to see. Not one ounce of kale shame in that family. Their two fantastic kids age 4 and 2 inhale the stuff as if they've sprinkled it with chocolate and unicorn dust.
This is the exact opposite of me - I have kale shame. I see kale as a dark, hairy, unwieldy, bitter monster with a weird after taste that I hope never finds it's way into my farmer's market basket, for fear it might choke out anything delicious in the kitchen.
So, I have tried to find some love in my heart for kale and it has happened with kale chips. The preparation is easy. And the snack-pay-off is high. These taste great. Just rip the leaves into jagged shreds, coat and bathe them in olive olive and salt. (I do believe the kale is just a means of transport for the oil and salt, but still...) And bake for 10 minutes on a flat baking tray. They crisp up so beautifully it is surprising and they are so light in your mouth that they nearly disappear into a whisper on your tongue.
Tomorrow, I will make these for Lucy's pre-school class for their snack. This will be real test. Will 20 four year olds eat kale chips as if they've been given a bag of potato chips? We'll see. Lucy hasn't even been able to bring herself to try these yet.
But Lucy's teacher asked me to bring in a kale leaf for Charlie the class guinea pig, so I'm guessing if he'll eat it and half her class will try it, so will Lucy.
Lucy might not model me, but she'll surely model the guinea pig.
1 bunch of Kale
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Tear kale off the heavy stem. Rinse well in water and dry as best you can with paper towel. Rip the leaves into jagged pieces. Each of these will be a "chip". They need not be perfect. They can be a variety of sizes and shapes.
Put the kale in a bowl. Pour in some olive oil - eyeball it, a glug or two - and get your fingers in there and work the oil into the leaves until they are all shiny and covered. Add more oil if necessary. You don't want them wet, but definately glistening and tinged with oil. Sprinkle with salt and toss gently to evenly coat the leaves.
Lay the kale pieces out on a baking tray. They should not be over-lapping or they will steam instead of bake. Each should have it's own little place. Put tray in oven and bake about 10-15 minutes or until the kale is crisp.
Best if eaten warm but not necessary. Try not eating the entire thing.