Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Adirondack Kale: Last Vegetable Standing

Each winter, I start perusing the seed catalogs, dreaming about what will be planted when the snow recedes and the sunlight lingers longer. While I’ve planted kale over the past few seasons, this year I strayed from my favorite Tuscan or ‘dinosauer’ kale and put in some lovely Russian Red kale. I’ve been using the harvest throughout the summer and fall, adding to fresh vegetable soups, sauteed with garlic and other leafy greens as a nutritious side, and sometimes added raw to a vibrant garden salad. The warm weather gave me a bounty, but kales, in general, end up being the most flavorful and tender during the colder months.

And then the snow. Luckily, most of the garden had been put to bed, but there were plenty of hardy greens remaining, curly leaves and light purple stems holding up clumps of white slushy stuff. I rescued more than a few bunches this past weekend prior to the next snowy onslaught and heavy frost, and decided to use a portion making ‘chips’ — brought along to a dinner party hosted by our friends Charlie Burd and Suvir Saran.

Suvir is a chef, owner of restaurant Devi in NYC, and noted cookbook author. He and Charlie have made their home the beautiful Masala Farm in the nearby hills of Hebron where they also have a number of goats, chickens and a couple of adorable canines. The dinner had some great additions brought along by our catering friend, the creative and talented Sally Longo who hails from Glens Falls (you might also know her as the host of Dinner at 8, aired on local cable).

While we discussed the recent popularity of this particular kale preparation, Sally thought of the kale as being ‘reclaimed’ — so true, and so here it is.

Reclaimed Kale Chips

Packing a great nutritional punch, kale isn’t normally known as a snack food. Use any sort of kale you like, or use a mixture of a few varieties.
Serves 6-8

1 good-sized bunch of kale (may yield 12-16 cups of leaves)
1/8 to 1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
parchment paper

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Wash and thoroughly dry all leaves (if they are damp, the leaves won’t crisp, but will steam). Remove any yellow or brown portions of the leaves, as well as the stems and firm center rib using your hands or kitchen shears. Break leaves into approximately 3-inch pieces. Toss with enough olive oil so the leaves glisten; sprinkle with salt. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in a single layer — you may need to do a number of batches or a few baking sheets. Bake for approximately 8 or 9 minutes, checking for crispness. Return to oven if necessary. Allow to cool to room temperature and serve.

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Annette Nielsen is a noted local food writer, editor, community organizer and activist on behalf of regional agriculture. She recently edited Northern Comfort and Northern Bounty, two seasonally-based cookbooks for Adirondack Life. A native of Northville, (she now lives in Salem, Washington County with her husband and son), Nielsen writes about Adirondack foodie culture with an eye toward locally sourced foods from forest, orchard, and farm. Annette Nielsen can be reached on Twitter and Facebook.

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