9.26.12 Chip In

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photos by gluttonforlife
Kale, once the darling of dreadlocked health nuts, has gone so mainstream that there must be a backlash brewing. I'm a longtime fan, having been raised in Santa Cruz, California aka hippie mecca. This leafy green is always in heavy rotation in our kitchen because we grow so much of it. My favorite is the dark, bumpy lacinato variety—also known as Tuscan, black (cavolo nero) or dinosaur—but I also appreciate the curlier types, and the sweetness of Russia kale cannot be denied. I adore the now-ubiquitous kale Caesar salad, which I first swooned over years ago at Il Buco in New York City and is undoubtedly coming to a McDonald's near you any moment now. I also gave you a very basic recipe for kale chips some time ago and it appears to have passed from one mommy blogger to another until every kid in the universe has green flecks stuck between its teeth. I'm still a fan, though I've moved on from plain to fancier stuff. You may remember me mentioning a certain obsession with Bombay Ranch-flavored kale chips, the ones referred to by New York magazine as "Doritos for health nuts." Their vegan cheesiness is nothing short of addictive. Rather than paying eight bucks for a box (easily consumed by two during a short car ride), I set out to make my own, and I was not disappointed.
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bowl of brassica
Use whatever kind of kale you like, though the relatively flat contours of lacinato work well for this recipe. One way in which my homemade chips surpass the store-bought version is in the removal of the kale ribs that, when dried, somehow become lethal daggers. I have stabbed my palate on more than one unpleasant occasion. Taking this simple though rather tedious extra step is highly recommended.
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yellow fever

For the flavor coating that makes the Bombay Ranch chips so spectacular, I just eyeballed the ingredients list and made up my own. I'd been looking for a way to use the container of nutritional yeast I'd bought on a whim and this was it. For your informatiom, this is a deactivated yeast (often a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae) that takes the form of a flaky yellow powder. It’s a complete protein and is especially high in B-complex vitamins (thus the "nutritional" moniker). Its rather intense flavor is sort of nutty and kind of cheesy, in part owing to the glutamic acid, a naturally occurring amino acid that imparts a satisfying savoriness. You could also try mixing it into mashed potatoes or scrambled tofu or broccoli soup, or sprinkle it liberally over your popcorn. I don't recommend shoving a spoonful of it in your mouth (who on earth would do that?!) as you will only be rewarded with something akin to sawdust infused with the essence of dirty gym sock. Trust me, though, it's an essential component to these chips.

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nacho libre
The spice paste, however, is delicious enough to be eaten in great gobs. Try to resist as it's better deployed as a coating for your kale chips. You simply whizz together raw cashews and sunflower seeds with the nutritional yeast, some salt, garlic, chile powder and a tart accent of lemon juice and cider vinegar, and you've got something that tastes shockingly like your ancient but fevered recollections of nacho cheese Doritos. Truth. Of course you can substitute different nuts and change up the spices—feel free—but this particular combination is nirvana.
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get baked
The spreading of this paste onto the raw pieces of kale is your biggest challenge. Just do it.
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let the chips fall where they may (preferably into your mouth!)
I've seen recipes for kale chips that call for leaving them in a 170-degree oven with the door propped slightly open with a wooden spoon for 12 hours. Mine took less than three in a dehydrator set at 150. All I can say is that you want them very dry and crunchy, but not so brittle that they shatter at the slightest touch, and definitely not burnt. Now that would really harsh your mellow.

Kale Chips (Nacho Flavored)

makes about 10 cups kale chips
  • — 2 large bunches lacinato kale
  • — 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • — 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • — 1/2 cup raw sunflowers
  • — 2 teaspoons smoked salt
  • — 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • — 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • — 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • — 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • — 2 tablespoons cider vinegar

If using your oven (as oposed to a dehydrator), preheat to 150 degrees. 

Wash and thoroughly dry the kale. Using a sharp knife or kitchen shears, remove the thick part of the ribs, usually about three-quarters of the way up each leaf. Then cut or tear leaves into 2 1/2-3" pieces—or whatever size you want your chips to be, just not too small. Place on a large baking sheet or in a bowl and set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process to make a smooth paste. Now spread the paste on the kale. I did this leaf by leaf, smearing a bit on each side with my fingers until I got bored. Then I dumped a bunch of raw kale pieces into a bowl, added a meatball-sized clump of the paste and smooshed it together to achieve roughly the same effect. What you want is to have a bit of the paste on each piece of kale, but perfection is not required.

Spread the individual pieces in a single layer on parchment-covered baking sheets or dehydrator trays. Place them in the preheated oven or a dehydrator set to 145-150 degrees. Dry for about 2 hours, or until completely desiccated and brittle. Check frequently towards the end. You want them to really crunch.

Remove from oven or dehydrator and cool completely. Store in airtight container; a ziploc bag also works.

*This recipe makes more spice paste than you will need. Save the extra in the fridge and you can spread it on sandwiches, whisk it into salad dressing, toss it with pasta or dehydrate it to use as a crumble.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


OK, Laura, I'll chalk this up to being an immigrant. What's a dehydrator? A gizmo that dehydrates, I'm sure, but is it a super fancy piece of equipment? Kitchen essential? All I have is a blender and toaster oven!!
amin Ahmad on September 27, 2012 at 8:33 am —
Now that you're officially an American, you'll have to stop with this immigrant shit. And get a dehydrator! (Which is a box-like contraption that runs with very low heat.) No, actually you could probably even make these kale chips in your toaster oven...
laura on September 27, 2012 at 8:51 am —