Monday, 9 July 2012
Mystery Ingredient #2: Kale
It feels like everyone is talking about kale lately. Major newspapers like The Vancouver Sun and The Detroit News have both featured kale in recent months. I've seen mountains of kale in mainstream grocery stores. Kale chips seem to be everywhere I look. Hopefully, this is a reflection of a widespread shift toward healthier nutrition. And as far as healthy choices go, kale is hard to beat.
Kale belongs to the brassica family -- meaning it is related to broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and collard greens. The brassicas are nutritional powerhouses, loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Some of the phytochemicals present in kale are thought to promote immune system wellness and play a role in the prevention of certain cancers including ovarian, bladder, and breast.
More nutritional information: Whole Foods has created an extensive, referenced write-up on the benefits of kale.
Diet as it relates to cancer: I recommend the work of Rebecca Katz. Chef Katz is one of my culinary heroes. She trained at The Natural Gourmet Institute and then went on to complete her master's degree in nutrition. Her approach is one of science-based tastiness.
Alright, back to the kale. Kale is not an ingredient that I am experienced in preparing. I mentioned this to a friend who was staying with me at the time. Oh, you HAVE to try kale chips! was her immediate reply. She even bought kale for me at a farmer's market.
The basic principle of kale chips is pretty simple:
1. Wash kale and remove stems.
2. Mist with oil and sprinkle with salt.
3. Bake until crispy but not burnt.
I've included before and after pictures. The plant comprises mostly of water, so it shrinks down to a fraction of its original size during baking.
As you can also see from the pictures, I skipped the 'remove stems' part. Big mistake. The stems are edible, but they get really chewy. It's worth the extra few minutes to take out the stems.
The kale chips tasted something like a cross between roasted pumpkin seeds and seaweed.
All in all, I would try these again. I also saw lots of recipes for more adventurous kale chips -- interesting flavours, using a dehydrator. I may try out some of the variations for comparison.