October 5, 2016, is National Kale Day, so toss aside your one-ounce bag of potato chips—a bigger pound-packer than red meat, alcohol, or sweets according to a 2011 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine—and get ready to eat your greens.
Dubbed “a nutritional powerhouse”, “the queen of greens”, and “the new beef”, kale is packed with more iron than a steak and more calcium than a big ol’ glass of milk. It’s also chock-full of 45-different flavonoids, powerful antioxidants that reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. This leafy, cabbage-related green staves off at least five different types of cancer, prevents diabetics from riding the “blood sugar roller coaster”, and stops fat cells from expanding, according to one study published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Veggie phobic? No worries. With over 100 varieties and 50 shades, you’re sure to find greens that’ll tickle your taste buds. Plus, we’ve chatted with three top-chefs whose tips and tricks will help you cook up mouth-watering kale chips that’ll blow an extreme Dorito out of the water.
What the Kale?
Kale fell from twelfth to fourteenth on the Environmental Working Group’s 2016 Dirty Dozen list: fruits and veggies plastered with pesticides even after being washed and, in some cases, peeled. Though, bear in mind, that only 1 out of 744 apples, the dirtiest fruit in 2014, tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture had a residue limit higher than the government’s allotment. What’s this mean? If you can buy organic from a local farmer’s market or big-box store, go for it. But, if you can’t, opt for non-organic. According to a 2009 meta-analysis from the American Society for Nutrition, there’s no nutrient difference in organic versus conventional.
What really matters? “The fresher the kale the better,” said Ken Immer, founder of Culinary Health Solutions. The only caveat: use it the same day that you buy it. Jennifer Iserloh, CEO of Skinny Chef, adds that green thumbs should give kale growing a go. “Kale grows all year round and likes cooler temperatures. [It] is one of the easiest plants to grow,” she said. “I live in a very urban area, and I grow it in a window box on my fire escape.” Hands down: you can’t get any fresher than that.
The size of a kale bunch’s leaves really does matter. “For salads, [I] always recommend baby kale for first timers since it’s far more mild in taste and texture,” Iserloh says. “Mature, larger kale leaves are better for chips, though, and the roasting process makes them sweet, so [these] chips are still good for veggie haters!”
Making good eats:
The best kale chips are like that “one chip at the bottom of the bag that has that extra cakey layer that you love”. How do you make them? “The oven method is the fastest way,” Immer said, “but it’s the least exciting.” A French-foodie turned yogi, he prefers to pop curly, dinosaur, or red kale chips into a dehydrator, which is “essentially a hairdryer on steroids.”
After blending sunflower seeds, flax seeds, garlic, onion, spices, yeast, and flavored olive oil into a cottage cheese-like paste, he coats the leaves and bakes them for 24-48 hours.
The end result? Kale chips that aren’t burned around the edges and have an extra-crunchy goodness. “If you make it yourself, you really realize how small the kale gets. You can eat more kale this way than you ever would in a salad,” Immer said.
Don’t have a dehydrator? The classic oven still works.
Simply rinse and spin the kale in a salad spinner.
Then remove its stems and flatten the leaves with your hands.
Cut or tear the kale into bite-size pieces and massage them with ½ to 1 tablespoon of olive oil. “Massaging them a little bit will cause them to dry a little faster,” Immer said. “[But] if you put too much of anything on them, they don’t dry out all the way, and you end up with wilted leaves.”
Next, place the leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet. “The best way to dehydrate the kale is to cook it low and slow – 275 degrees for 30-35 minutes,” said Liz Palmieri, the Head Chef and Owner of Provisions Tampa, Inc. “[Then] season your heart out with cheese, nutritional yeast, sea salt, pepper, garlic, onion, paprika – whatever your heart desires.”