Green

Roasted Kale, Four Ways

crispy chicken skin
It should be around this time that I begin to crave green. The holidays are over. We’ve experienced more than one substantial snow event. I haven’t eaten a green bean in three months, an asparagus spear in seven. Unfortunately, though, this wanting began some time earlier. I’ve been itching for a fix of green that’s not broccoli, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts—because whose stomach can really handle mass quantities of those, as delicious as they may be? Certainly not my little fire pit. I want green that’s not greens—I’m not looking for leaves. I want fresh and delicate produce when I feel neither fresh nor delicate. I want quick-cooking when I’m slow. I want summer in winter. And, as in most aspects of my life, I want something I can’t have.

But I’m getting along with my beloved roots. Rugged and long-lasting, they’re versatile and their colors match those of the hidden sun, the long-lost rainbows. They’re earthy-tasting reminders of the ground from which they came that is typically covered this time of year by all that is winter. As for that green I crave, I’m getting most of it from, well, a green: kale. But kale is different to me than chard or spinach. Kale feels more substantial, its flavor hinting of broccoli. It’s the curly and hardy never-let-you down, always-make-you-feel-good vegetable that people couldn’t stand several years ago but suddenly can’t seem to eat enough of.


kale
But do you know what I hate? I hate when people say that a particular vegetable, such as kale, suffers from a bad reputation. You know the old blog post that reads like an advertisement from a vegetable literacy campaign: “You know you should eat Brussels sprouts, because they’re so good for you. But Brussels sprouts get a bad rap and for good reason: They’re smelly and funky if not cooked correctly. But I’m a Brussels sprout convert and can make you one, too! Just do X to your Brussels sprouts and dress them in Y. They’ll be so good that you’ll want to eat your veggies [insert wink, nod, and feelings of superiority here].”

How many times have you read something like that about certain so-called superfoods? Saying these things implies that people inherently dislike vegetables and eat those without character, the “easy ones,” in abundance while only letting in the others because they’re supposed to be healthful.

Spanish kale
I’d like to think that for the majority of people, though, this isn’t true. I want this to be the reality: People eat vegetables not just to stay healthy but to experience different textures and flavors from bitter to sweet and everything in between. I want people to eat vegetables because they make them feel good not look good. I want people to eat vegetables because they’re from the earth and because they’re sustaining, not because they think they’ll make their skin glow, their weight drop, their boss give them a promotion, their numbers get called in the lottery, and their hot next-door neighbor want to the bang them.

Kale was formerly feared, but is now accepted as a regular part of the American diet, treated almost like medication, served up in dosages per day (usually by way of juice), it’s name slapped on kitschy hippie-slamming bumper stickers. And that’s too bad. I want people eat kale because of its playfully curly leaves. Because of it’s earthy, mineral-y taste. Because of it’s heartiness and toothsome bite. I want people to eat it because it’s fucking delicious.

Chicken Skin
So today, you have roasted kale. I have not been roasting kale for long. I’ve wilted it into soups; massaged it for raw salads; sautéed it just enough; cooked it down to silky, pork-enhanced perfection; baked it into chips; and, sure, whirred it into a smoothie in my day. But I didn’t really start getting into roasting it until I madethis gem of a delicata squash dish from the beautiful Sprouted Kitchen—a dish that I just can’t quit. The kale becomes neither chip nor limp leaf. Those curly edges that I’ve describled so fondly become crisp—frozen in that beautiful, ruffly state. The centers become a bit papery but also tender like sautéed kale, and you can still feel the pulse of those veins under your teeth. For texture nuts like me, it’s perfect. And because it takes less than 10 minutes to cook and goes well with any winter meal, I decided to make four types of roasted kale: one with crispy, salty shards of chicken skin, grainy mustard, and cider vinegar and maple pickled apples; one with bright lemon, woodsy rosemary, and briny Mediterranean olives; one with Spanish smoked paprika and salty, toasty Marcona almonds; and one with lemon-scented garlic oil and Parmesan. I’m not sure I’d ever tire of this kale dressed with just olive oil, salt, and pepper, but just in case, I have these to turn to all winter long. And with this kale, I feel like I’m getting my green.

garlic oil

**Timing is key for this recipe. The leaves can go from tender to crunchy, late fall brown leaves in a flash. Check kale early and often as the type of kale and its weight can affect the cooking time.**

Roasted Kale with Crispy Chicken Skin and Pickled Apples
Serves 2 as a side

I removed the skin from a whole bone-in (not split) chicken breast and a thigh for this recipe. Three and a half ounces of chicken skin shouldn’t yield much more than the 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon chicken fat needed for this recipe. If it does, discard or reserve for another use. The apples can be left to pickle for just 30 minutes but they taste better after pickling overnight. Good apple choices are Pink Lady, Fuji, or Empire.

Pickled Apples
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large sweet and firm apple, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Kale
3 1/2 ounces chicken skin
Salt and pepper
1 1/4 teaspoon whole-grain mustard
1 teaspoon pickled apple brine
1 (10- to 12-ounce) bunch kale, stemmed and cut into rough 3- to 4-inch pieces

1. For the Pickled Apples: Place apples in bowl. Bring vinegar, water, maple syrup, and salt to boil in small saucepan. Pour boiling vinegar mixture over apples, cover with plastic wrap (make sure that all apple pieces are submerged or they’ll discolor, and let sit for 30 minutes. Transfer apples and brine to airtight container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 5 days.

2. For the Kale: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees.

3. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Pat chicken skin dry with paper towels. Season chicken skin with salt and lay flat on prepared sheet. Place second sheet of parchment paper over chicken skins and weigh with second baking sheet. Place cast-iron skillet on top of baking sheet. Bake chicken skin until fat has rendered and skin is golden and crispy, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Transfer chicken skin to paper towel–lined plate for 2 minutes, then transfer to clean plate and set aside to cool completely. Pour 1 tablespoon chicken fat from baking sheet into large bowl. Pour 1 teaspoon remaining fat on baking sheet into small bowl. Discard remaining chicken fat or reserve for another use.

4. Carefully adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions.

5. Whisk 1 teaspoon mustard and pepper to taste into chicken fat in large bowl until combined. Whisk pickled apple brine and 1/4 teaspoon whole-grain mustard into chicken fat in small bowl until emulsified. Add kale to large bowl with fat-mustard mixture and toss to lightly and evenly coat leaves. Divide kale evenly among 2 clean baking sheets, spreading it out so that the leaves overlap only slightly. Roast kale until leaves are tender and curly ends turn dark and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes, switching sheets and flipping kale after 4 minutes of roasting.

6. Place half of kale on large serving plate, sprinkle with some pickled apples, and drizzle lightly with some chicken fat–pickle brine mixture. Top with remaining kale, then some more pickled apples, and drizzle lightly with some more chicken fat–pickle brine mixture. Cut or break chicken skin into bite-size pieces and sprinkle over top of kale. Serve immediately.

Roasted Kale with Olives and Rosemary
Serves 2 as a side

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper
1 (10- to 12-ounce) bunch kale, stemmed and cut into rough 3- to 4-inch pieces
1/4 cup green and/or black Mediterranean olives, pitted and chopped

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Whisk 1 tablespoon oil, shallot, lemon zest, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste together in large bowl. Whisk lemon juice and remaining 1 teaspoon oil together in small bowl until emulsified.

3. Add kale and two-thirds of olives to large bowl with oil-shallot mixture and toss to lightly and evenly coat leaves. Divide kale evenly among 2 baking sheets, spreading the kale so that the leaves overlap only slightly. Roast kale until leaves are tender and curly ends turn dark and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes, switching sheets and flipping kale after 4 minutes of roasting.

4. Place half of kale on large serving plate, sprinkle with some remaining olives, and drizzle lightly with some lemon juice mixture. Top with remaining kale, then some more olives, and drizzle lightly with some more lemon juice mixture. Serve immediately.

Roasted Kale with Smoked Paprika and Marcona Almonds
Serves 2 as a side

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4-1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 (10- to 12-ounce) bunch kale, stemmed and cut into rough 3- to 4-inch pieces
3 tablespoons Marcona almonds

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Whisk oil, paprika, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste together in large bowl. Whisk vinegar and remaining 1 teaspoon oil together in small bowl until emulsified.

3. Add kale to large bowl with oil-paprika mixture and toss to lightly and evenly coat leaves. Divide kale evenly among 2 baking sheets, spreading the kale so that the leaves overlap only slightly. Roast kale until leaves are tender and curly ends turn dark and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes, switching sheets and flipping kale after 4 minutes of roasting.

4. Place half of kale on large serving plate, sprinkle with some almonds, and drizzle lightly with some vinegar mixture. Top with remaining kale, then some more almonds, and drizzle lightly with some more vinegar mixture. Serve immediately.

Roasted Kale with Parmesan and Garlic Oil
Serves 2 as a side

Don’t go overboard when seasoning the oil mixture with salt since you will be sprinkling (or blanketing depending on how you roll) the leaves with Parmesan.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon zest, plus lemon wedges for serving
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt
Parmesan cheese, grated

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Bring oil, garlic, lemon zest, and pepper flake to simmer in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain oil through fine-mesh strainer into bowl and let cool completely. Transfer 1 tablespoon of garlic oil to large bowl and season with salt to taste. Transfer 1 teaspoon of garlic oil to small bowl and whisk in lemon juice until emulsified. Reserve remaining garlic oil for another use. (Use oil within 2 days.)

3. Add kale to large bowl with garlic oil and toss to lightly and evenly coat leaves. Divide kale evenly among 2 baking sheets, spreading the kale so that the leaves overlap only slightly. Roast kale until leaves are tender and curly ends turn dark and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes, switching sheets and flipping kale after 4 minutes of roasting.

4. Place half of kale on large serving plate, drizzle lightly with some lemon juice mixture, and sprinkle with some Parmesan. Top with remaining kale, drizzle lightly with some more lemon juice mixture, and sprinkle with some more Parmesan. Serve immediately.

3 responses

  1. Me too! I’ve been craving greens too!! I also have a bag of kale in the fridge that is seeking it’s life’s purpose so thanks for the recipes!

  2. I so agree on various counts. First, there is that annoying what’s in/what’s out thing. Second, I wish people would stop treating food as medicine. I’ll take mine with chicken skin and pickled apples, please.

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