Debbie Matthews: Crispy greens a real hit

Jan. 29, 2013 @ 02:59 PM

In Vermont there’s a movement called “Eat More Kale.” Which is pretty funny, because The Kid, at culinary school in Montpelier, doesn’t like kale – except The Kid does.
We’re not fans of Southern greens, but there is plenty of other green food at our house. Broccoli and peas have always been a hit. And since I began cooking in earnest, I use lots of fresh herbs.
When The Kid was very little, my beloved Uncle Bill passed away.
I’d heard the saying “rosemary for remembrance,” so I decided to plant a little pot of rosemary for him outside my front door. It’s an extremely hardy plant, and requires little care.
Almost 20 years later it’s still there. Only now it’s a large shrub. When I’m cooking something that requires rosemary, I step out the door and snip a piece. And it always makes me think of Uncle Bill.
I’m not a gardener, but I do grow herbs at home. They’re all pretty easy to cultivate. I threw some lavender in my side yard a while back, and it now fills my yard with color and fragrance. (Science has discovered that men are very drawn to the aroma of lavender. Petey loves it.)
To eat things you’ve grown yourself is a heady feeling.
We also eat a lot of salad. When The Kid was a toddler, a piece of lettuce got stuck in the roof of our baby’s mouth.
We were alerted to the predicament by what sounded like a cat coughing up a hairball. We fished it out, but the damage was done. The Kid was done with lettuce. Years passed before it was eaten again.
Eventually, the phobia was conquered, and our child began eating salads. Now there’s always a box of spring mix in our fridge.
My little chef even turned me on to a couple of green ideas.
A handful of baby arugula thrown into pasta dishes after putting together brings a lively, fresh note. And instead of heavy, creamy dressing, The Kid dresses salads with a light drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper.
We use our own homemade garlic oil. It’s simple:

Garlic Oil
2 cups extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic, peeled
Pour oil into a small sauce pan. Drop in garlic and cook on low. Let the oil simmer until the garlic has turned golden brown. Remove cloves after cooling. Pour oil into container and refrigerate.

You can use this for all kinds of things. You can use it in cooked dishes or cold food.
Back to the kale (which is crazy good for you, BTW).
Lately, I’ve been seeing tons of stuff about kale chips. Everybody from Guy Fieri to Ann Burrell has been singing their praises. It made me curious.
I decided to pick up some, and try making chips. I wasn’t sure how it would work out, or if I’d like them.
Frankly, I wasn’t too optimistic. I figured they would be gross and bitter.
But I gave it a whirl.
I checked out a few different recipes and set to work.
I decided to use my garlic oil, along with sesame seeds, and kosher salt. The kale went into the oven, and I waited.
I loved them.
They were crispy and salty. The bitterness was still there, but it was very mild, which actually enhanced the flavor. The taste was a celebration of green. I ate half the batch right after they came out of the oven.
I’ve made a couple more batches since then, and learned a few things.
There are two main types of kale. Curly kale; the type you most often see at the grocery store. It’s dark green, with thick ribs, and very curly edges. Dino kale (I know, cool name) has straight pebbled leaves in a lighter, almost grayish green.
Dino kale is easier to cook into chips because the edges of the curly variety can burn while baking.
You need to remove the ribs. Instead of ripping them out, use a paring knife, and cut down each side.
Store chips in a zip-top bag. But if there are any pieces that aren’t completely dried out they’ll corrupt the entire batch, and when you open the bag, they will all be soggy. If this happens, just put them back in a low oven (200 degrees) for 15-20 minutes until every last bit of moisture is gone.
You can flavor them any way you want. Use flavored oil, different spices, and things like red pepper flakes or fennel seeds. I’ve also used lemon juice along with the oil for zip.

Kale Chips
1 bunch kale, washed and ribs removed
3 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon flavoring agent (optional)
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Set oven to 250. Put cleaned kale in a large plastic bag and massage in oil and spices. Spread out on cookie sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes or until completely dried and crispy. Every 15 minutes move veg around with tongs so they’ll cook evenly.
Sprinkle with a little more salt right after removing from oven.

After eating the kale chips, I called The Kid, and asked our scholar to try them, as a favor. They actually made some at school last weekend, and The Kid had a taste.
Later I got a phone call. “OK, I do like kale. This way.”
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is