Monday, October 31, 2011

Cooking Floyd: Kale Chips

People are always looking for something to feed kids in place of potato chips.  Heck, I'm always looking for something to satisfy our urge for crispy, crunchy, salty-good snacks.  I think I've found it with Kale Chips.
Kale is the green most often recommended for making chips but I've been trying out other greens as well.  In this post I used Swiss Chard.  The chard takes a little longer to dry completely than the kale does but other than that works just fine.  However, Michael and I lean toward kale as our favorite for chips.

The standard sized bunch of kale from the grocery store currently costs around $1.49 and makes a gallon jar full of chips.  Add another few cents for seasoning, oil and vinegar and you not only have a healthier crunchy snack but a decidedly cheaper one.  If you grow your own greens the cost of the chips becomes negligible.

No matter what green you use the method is the same.  I start out by tearing the leaf from the stem and dropping it into a sink of cold water to remove any residual debris.  If your greens come from your garden as mine do you may have to rinse them several times.  After the final rinse, drain them well and take them for a whirl in the salad spinner or spread them out on paper towels to dry for a bit.

Next gather your ingredients for seasoning the chips.  These can be as simple as vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper or as complex as your imagination can create.  For these chips I'm using maple vinegar, canola oil, cranberry pepper jelly, ground cranberries, ground walnuts, ground crystalized ginger, and salt.  So far, our all time favorite seasoning blend is the crispy shallot, coconut, basil sprinkle from the July Spice Rack Challenge post.  You could probably use your favorite oil and vinegar based salad dressing as the flavoring component.  Or pre-made dip or seasoning blends rubbed onto the greens after moistening the greens with oil and vinegar.

I combined the ground cranberries, ginger, and nuts.

Then I sprinkled the leaves with first the vinegar and tossed, and then the oil and tossed.  Use a light hand and just moisten the leaves.

Then I added a teaspoonful of the cranberry pepper jelly and tossed that well.

Next I added the ground cranberry nut mixture and sprinkled the leaves with kosher salt.

Now this mixture is massaged.  That's right, all resemblance to a salad ends here because you actually rub this mixture gently into the leaves instead of tossing.  The volume of the leaves will reduce by about a third during this part.  When everything appears to be well distributed, taste a leaf for seasoning and adjust if needed.

Spread the leaves out in a thin layer on dehydrator racks.
If you don't have a dehydrator you can follow these very good instructions for drying the chips in the oven.

Set the dehydrator for 125F and 4 hours.  Depending on the type of leaf you use the time can vary.  When the chips are ready they will be light and brittle.  Check them at two hours and again at four.  If necessary add more time until the chips are fully dry and brittle.

Store the chips in an air-tight container.  We use a gallon jar but any container will do.  I don't recommend bagging them because the chips are delicate and they crush easily.

Which brings me to what to do with a less than tasty batch.  If you play with your seasonings they won't all be winners.  But even a batch that's too bland or spicy has a use.  Crumble the chips coarsely over soups, salads, or sandwich fillings, or as a garnish or finish for an entree.  Finely powder the chips and use them as an ingredient in soups, sauces, meat or veggie loaf, breads, etc.  They really do add flavor used this way as well as boosting fiber and nutrients.

The other problem is how fast a batch of kale chips disappears, especially when a bowlful is set in front of the grandkids.  Just as fast as a bag of potato chips!  But totally without the guilt factor.  In fact, we often feel somewhat righteous knowing we've just snacked away an entire bunch of healthy greens.  So I never mind making another batch of these!

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