Produce Panic (or, When Kale Gets You Down, Make Kale Chips!)
Monday, March 07, 2011
OK, so like the other day I found myself wondering why I felt a vague sense of urgency...like...something was left undone....something was forgotten. I checked to see if I'd fed the cat, check; I checked to see if I'd charged my phone, check; I checked to see if I was wearing pants, check. Hmmm...wasn't any of the usual things...
Then my eyes slid to the refrigerator, and I realized what it was. The kale. Once again rearing its beautiful, overwhelming head. The thing was, through a series of circumstances beyond my control, I was now faced with a rather enormous quantity of kale piling up in my fridge. I'd gotten some in the CSA box, but then I just couldn't resist this pretty curly variety at the
farmer's market, then, who comes home proudly bearing a bunch, but The
Hubs, saying "hey, can we have that kale stuff again?" and slinging an
enormous bag of it on the counter. Sigh. (Awww, but he used a reusable bag!)
Oy...those things are BIG! Until you clean 'em and break 'em down, with
all their big ol' stems and all, they take up a LOT of room! And you can't clean 'em in advance; if you do, you've just bought a ticket on the express train to Browngooville.
AND, to top it all off, I'd found a whole treasure-trove of collard greens growing wild in my unkempt winter garden (what passes for "winter" here in CA simply means that I use the slightly chilly weather as an excuse to let my garden go to hell.) These I'd HAD to clean, as they were host to a number of "hangers-on" I didn't particularly want boppin' around my fridge.
...I was feeling uneasy...starting to panic...I had a ticking time bomb of rot hanging over my head...and there's only so much braised kale we can eat!
Later that day at work, a coworker overheard me fretting, and unlike most of my cubie-mates' reaction of "seriously? You're worrying over VEGETABLES?!", she had a suggestion: kale chips.
"Kale chips?" I said dubiously..."that sounds--"
"I know, gross, huh? But they're super good, really! Kind of
like...ummm...like salty nori!"
Now, nori is that black seaweed stuff wrapped around sushi; I love
sushi, but I'm not sure I see nori by itself as a nummy nosh...still, I trust my friend's taste, so I say I'll try it. She says she'll send me a recipe, and she does:
I get home that evening and take out a big wad of kale (jebus, there's kale in every freaking nook and cranny of my fridge!)and shove it into a sinkful of water, and begin stripping out the stems....this is a BIG bunch of kale and I kind of go off into a kale-cleaning trance, looking out the window at the backyard at my overgrown raised bed and wondering what I'll plant this year...hmmm...tomatoes, of course, and cukes for pickling...umm...and cilantro and parsley and chives...artichokes would be fun...and lettuces...mmm...maybe some nice kale...
This is where daydreaming gets you. I shook myself, and realized I was done cleaning the kale; it was floating blissfully in the water, looking all innocent and leafy. I gathered it all up and stuffed the leaves into the salad spinner, gave it a pump, and while it was spinning, went to check everything else. Yep, oven on, got the parchment paper on the cookie sheets, here's a big bowl. OK, good, we're done spinning -- in with the kale, on with the olive oil, toss toss toss (I use my hands -- best thing for dry cuticles!) and, onto the sheets. A little salt, and...and...wait. That's it? I can put 'em in the oven and walk away?!
If you've read my other blogs, you know I love a recipe where you can just leave and go have a glass of wine while things become edible. (My crock-pot gets a LOT of use.)
I take my wine out into the living room and wonder how these things are gonna turn out. I mean, really? KALE? CHIPS?! I'm sorry, it really does sound faintly revolting. Still, they're smelling pretty good...mmm...this wine is good...mmm...maybe I'll try some pattypan squash this year, and definitely peas...wonder if The Hubs'd build another trellis for me...and what about the chickens? When we married he promised me chickens...I wonder if chickens eat kale? RINGRING!!!
Yikes! I guess the chips're done! (I really need to get a hobby; this daydreaming is getting out of hand.)
I call The Hubs in and...moment of truth...take 'em out of the oven, and, halle-ever-lovin-lujah, I didn't burn 'em! Or even caramelize 'em!
They look lovely, all shiny and dark green, but how do they taste? I pick one of the curly leaves up gingerly, and, to my surprise, it does feel crispy! I take a bite of one ruffled edge, and it kind of crumbles in my mouth, and then, as I greedily shove the rest of the chip in, I mumble to The Hubs, "mmm, it'sh good! Chrispy...but kind of chewy at the end, too!" And reach for another.
He grabs one, not one to pass up a chance at a possibly tasty new snack, but I do sense a leeeeetle hesitation as he brings it to his mouth. He steels himself, however, (that's my man!) and pops it in. "Hey! Not bad!" He munches. "Yeah, there's a chewiness at the end that's really good!" He starts grabbing more and stuffing them into his maw, "You should make more -- do you want me to go get some more kale?"
I feel bad. He wasn't prepared for the attack.