Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Diaphanous Roasted Kale

There are no bad vegetables, only people who prepare vegetables badly. So if you hate {insert any vegetable you had a traumatic childhood experience with here}, I would say you just need to find an appropriately fabulous way to cook it.

Or, maybe you've never even come close enough to the unappreciated, yet maligned vegetables of this world to actually eat one. Perhaps the infamy of certain vegetables has been enough to thwart you from even trying it. If that's you, well, you're in for an adventure. One word: KALE.

Now before you call me an over-the-top vegetable evangelical I must explain that until about six weeks ago I had never eaten kale either. And let me tell you, my years without kale-- over two decades devoid of the lusciously dark leafy green--those were the lost years. Do not delay with kale. Add it to your bucket list because I have such an ingenious way to cook kale that almost anyone will LOVE it.

The root of most people's kale abhorrence is texture. Kale is kind of like the black heavy-duty garbage bags of the vegetable kingdom. Its leaves are tough, possibly rubbery, and even when boiled down the can have a slightly alarming spring back reaction when you sink your teeth into them. Not only that, but like other greens kale can be bitter. And finally, I've found most people are baffled by what to do with it. Sure if it's Curly Kale, it has some beauty, albeit the fleeting beauty of a tawdry spinster wearing a dress with too many ruffled petticoats. But honestly, I've seen kale applied more times as a garnish than as a dish. If you live near a store that stocks Tuscan kale you might be inclined to think that a kale leaf was something a lizard sheds. Simply put, kale is quirky.

So here's what to do with a weirdo vegetable no one likes: you roast it in the oven with olive oil.

Like every single other vegetable (asparagus, parsnips, carrots, turnips, tomatoes, beets, cauliflower) just to name a few, it turns out phenomenally well when cooked this way. It's just impossible to cook a vegetable badly if you roast it with olive oil.

It's embarrassingly simple.

Diaphanous Roasted Kale

Wash some kale leaves and remove the tough stems. Any type of kale will work: Dinosaur, Tuscan, or Curly. Dry the leaves with a clean kitchen towel. Spread the leaves in a single layer without crowding on your largest cookie sheet. Gently drizzle with olive oil. The key is to gently coat each leaf, but not drench it. Now, massage the olive oil into the leaves. This step is crucial because if the kale is not completely coated in oil it will not crisp evenly. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground black pepper if you'd like, and roast at 250 degrees for about 17 to 33 minutes. Each batch I've done has timed out differently, so start checking for crispness early and often. The only way you can flub up this recipe is to let the leaves burn. As soon as all leaves have reached desired crispness, remove from oven and devour immediately, using your hands.

The end product has an earthy toasted flavor and crunch not unlike a fresh potato chip. However, underneath the toast and crunch is a fresh, sharp--well--green flavor for lack of a better word.

The leaves come out looking fabulous--as I hope you can see from the picture--after roasting they become translucent and luminously green.

I am totally smitten with this kale, this light of my life. I crave it. I blame this ravenous compulsion to buy, roast, and single-handedly polish off mountainous amounts of kale on a vitamin deficiency. Perhaps I'm missing vitamins A, C, and K, or folate, or potassium, or magnesium, or iron, or any other of the nutrients kale packs, or perhaps roasted kale leaves are just good. Damn good.

1 comment:

Diane said...

Yeah, Kale and I have never gotten along. Which is weird because I love seawood soup (Korean), and that stuff is all kinds of rubbery/slippery/chewy. I do love swiss chard though. Yum.