From snails to kale

It’s funny how dramatically food tastes can change between childhood and adulthood. When I was little, my favorite dish to order at restaurants were vineyard snails in a parsley-garlic sauce, turtle soup and frog legs. Now I must explain that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, those foods might have been a bit unusual for a child but they were not stigmatized as they are today. Turtle soup was President Taft’s favorite food and he even had a special chef dedicated to making it without ever being accused of animal cruelty.

Unless I were very hungry and had nothing else to eat, I would not touch any of those foods any longer. Today I love many of the foods I dreaded as a child: beets, kale, capers, white asparagus… It was definitely the way they were prepared that made all the difference. The only form of beets I remember were soft, soggy pickled beets in a can, the smell and look of which already appalled me. Those beets had nothing to do with a beet roasted in the oven and tossed into a crunchy wholesome salad. Kale was similarly off-putting. It only came in a heavy stew with fatty meat, sausages and overcooked potatoes.

I grew kale for the first time last fall and used it only for vegetarian dishes, the One Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf from food52 and these simple kale chips being my favorites. Yesterday I harvested the last kale to make room for the spring crops.

These kale chips are addictive. They are very easy to make but require a bit of time, as you need to stand by and make sure they don’t burn. After I charred one batch I decided to leave them in the switched-off oven for the night; this morning, they were perfect.

There is room for experimentation here. Most recipes for kale chips use herb salt and olive oil, but I find that garlic-infused or herb-infused oil tastes great as well. This time, I used the strained leftover oil from marinating feta cheese with herbs and garlic, which I found a pity to discard.

Lately I have been too tied up with other things to do anything about the garden but today I will finally order seeds. I cannot think of a better and more motivating nibble to accompany this than homemade kale chips. That is, if there are any left, as my husband loves them too.

Kale Chips

1 large bunch of kale

1-2 teaspoons olive oil or garlic oil

2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs, such as Herbes de Provence

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Remove the middle ribs from the kale leaves with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors and discard them. Tear the leaves into bite-size pieces. Toss with olive oil, herbs and salt to coat evenly.

3. Spread on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, turning once or twice. Switch off the oven and leave for a few hours until the chips are completely dry.

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