January 06, 2012
Welcome back to the kitchen. As we get in to the New Year, many
of us are reassessing our priorities and setting personal challenges. I would be willing to wager that in this
country weight loss and exercise rank among the most common resolutions.
But the problem
with resolutions, as we all know, is that they tend to set us up for guilt and failure. A recent study suggested
that it is calories alone that determine weight gain or loss, suggesting that we should basically ignore any fad
diet that comes along.
Instead, we should eat well and exercise, and not worry too much
about the rest. So I want to focus on good, wholesome foods that are simple enough to make at home and tasty
enough to distract from unhealthy cravings.
I for one avoid so called low fat, artificial
sweetener versions of treats, and opt for dishes that are delicious in their own right without trying to
substitute for something else. Of course, for you defiantly meat and potato folks out there, you may have some
adjusting to do.
One of the most crucial steps we can make for personal and planetary
health is to shift towards a more plant based diet. We eat far more meat than we need to. I know, I know, bacon
tastes good; pork chops taste good.
I’m not suggesting complete abstinence here, but
rather that we can explore a wide variety of foods that are exotic, interesting, and tasty, and which just so
happen not to have any meat in them. Today I’m thinking of an awesome appetizer to bring to your next winter
potluck, of which hopefully you are having many.
Allow me to put my money where my mouth
is by introducing you to a minor revolution. A food, not even really a dish, that has only three ingredients, one
of which is sort of the epitome of choke it down ‘cause its good for you, yet transforms into a no way can
you eat just one snack addiction.
I’m talking about kale chips.
/> Did you wrinkle up your nose in disgust? It’s alright if you did, as long as you are
willing to go a bit further along with this experiment. You see, the first time I was offered kale chips I too was
extremely skeptical. How could this chewy, fibrous, sometimes bitter leafy green ever deserve to be called a chip,
that holy grail of American snack foods?
But darn it, these things are the real deal! All
you do is remove the toughest woody parts of the kale, cut it into chip sized pieces, toss with oil and salt (and
other seasonings if you desire, and just bake on a sheet until they get crispy. And they really do crunch like a
chip! The flavor is subtle but satisfying, and definitely worthy of grazing and dipping. Make a big batch of these
and you’ll be amazed at who suddenly seems to love kale, which is very good for you.
/> Kale chips almost don’t need a formal recipe, but here is the basic, as it were.
-1 bunch (about 6 ounces) kale (either dinosaur or curly leaf,
both work great)
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-sea salt, garlic salt,
or seasoned salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 300 degrees (some recipes call for 275,
it can vary based on our oven, but just keep an eye on your first few batches so you know how long it takes to
make the chips in your oven).
Wash the kale and dry it off thoroughly. I like to use my
salad spinner for this, but you can just use a dish towel. Remove the stems and toughest center ribs using a knife
or kitchen shears. Cut the kale up into large chip sized pieces and toss with olive oil and salt.
/> Arrange the kale in a single layer on a large baking sheet, making sure the pieces
don’t overlap. You can line the pan with parchment paper or foil for easier cleanup if you wish, but you can
certainly skip this as well.
Bake the kale chips for about 20 minutes, or until they
crisp up a bit. Some folks will tell you to turn the chips over half way through, but this is a pain and I think
it can be skipped. The edges might brown in places. Take the chips out of the oven to cool on a rack, if you have
it. They will get even crispier as they cool down and dry. I think you will be amazed just how crispy a piece of
baked kale can get. And they keep a lot of that deep green color, so they look pretty cool (at least to me).
To go along with our kale chips I want to make a dip. I love hummus, but I
want to explore a different legume today. So I’ve got some Washington grown dried white beans I’m
going to make into a garlicky Mediterranean dip. I’ve soaked about a cup of dried beans overnight in water
so they are ready to simmer in four cups of water with a dash of salt and baking soda (which helps them cook)
until completely tender, about 45 minutes. Otherwise, you can just use a can of pre-cooked white
So for this White Bean and Garlic Dip we’ll
-about 2 cups cooked white beans, or 1 15 ounce can, drained
/> -2 or 3 cloves garlic, peeled (you can also use roasted garlic for a mellower flavor, but I
would use several more cloves that way)
-2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
/> -1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
-about ¼ cup fresh Italian
-1 teaspoon oregano or thyme
-salt and fresh ground
black pepper to taste
-smoked paprika (optional), for garnish
/> Put the cooked beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, thyme or oregano, and parsley into your
food processor (or a large mortar and pestle if that’s all you have). Pulse or grind until the mixture is
partially smooth (I like to leave some coarser chunks in there as well). Season with the salt and pepper.
/> I like to serve this in a bowl with a little extra pool of olive oil in the center and a
sprinkling of smoked paprika on top, with a big bowl of those kale chips on the side. Pita is of course a
traditional foil for this dip as well. You could also make up a plate of kale chips already topped with a dollop
of the white bean dip, because these chips are a little hard to scoop with and don’t have the tensile
strength of potato or tortilla. Maybe a little slice of red pepper or a sprinkle of chopped green onion to top off
those kale chips and white bean garlic dip for an elegant platter.
So that’s the basic idea for today’s simple,
healthy, and delicious appetizer or snack. But let me be the first to admit that this is nowhere close to a full
meal that would replace a steak or what have you. No, this is merely meant as a first step to spur us towards
healthier snacking and eating all around. We could include some brown rice pilaf, spicy baked squash, and a big
salad to make a vegetarian meal. But that is just an idea off the top of my head, and we will save it for another
For now, gives these baked kale chips an honest try, and see if you can trick the
kids into tasting them as well. They satisfy that crispy snacking urge, and take very little time or preparation.
And this white bean dip is a great alternative to hummus (or unhealthy sour cream based dips) and is also great
with veggie sticks or even as a topping for roasted veggies.
I hope I’ve given you
at least some inspiration to help with a healthier and happier new year. Let’s eat and drink it in!
I’d love to hear what you’ve been cooking. Send me any questions, comments, or suggestions to
Isaac@kohoradio.com. Cooking local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m Isaac Kaplan-Woolner.