Friday, March 12, 2010

Kale-ing Me Softly: Roasted Kale and Kale Smoothies

I have a confession to make. [Big breath.]

I have not, historically, enjoyed my leafy greens. 

I know, I know!  It's embarrassing!  They are so incredibly nourishing, so healthful - how could I turn up my nose at such a nutritionally perfect food?  And so many foodies gush over their favorite steamed/sauteed/squirted with lemon/tossed with bacon/stewed with garlic versions.  But I just simply did not enjoy them.  I found them unpleasantly bitter and chewy, the flavor too assertive.  

But, oh, how I wanted to love them!  They were all so lovely, beckoning at the farmer's market.  The chard with its stems in a brilliant rainbow of jewel-tone colors, the kale with its frilly, curly leaves.  I wanted to be the one at the market with those gorgeous greens lounging across the top of my basket.  Yet I always walked on by, and anytime I saw a new recipe involving a leafy green, I sighed and turned the page.  It wasn't meant to be.

Until now! 

I have seen the light!  In the past month, I have been eating kale like it's going out of style, thanks to two of my dearest girlfriends/cooks, Heather and Sarah.  (And with a little help from the amazing kale from Be Wise Ranch, here in San Diego.)  So here are the two recipes that have turned me from kale-phobic into kale-fanatic.  Now that I'm head over heels for these two versions of kale, I'm ready to venture forth and try some of those kale (and chard, beet greens, mustard greens, collard greens, etc.) recipes I've been ignoring.  I'll let you know how it goes . . .

Heather is one of my college girlfriends and although we don't get to see each other very often, I get the joy of "hearing" her voice when I read her blog, Stumptown Sisters.  And despite me never mentioning my love for Orangette to Heather, she gave me Molly Wizenberg's book, based on that blog, as a gift.  So, obviously, I trust that Heather's cooking style and tastes will dovetail with mine.  When I did my recent post about roasted cabbage, Heather left a comment suggesting I try roasting kale.  Well, given my intense love of all roasted veggies, I knew that this was my big chance to finally fall in love with a leafy green.  And, wow!  This is so good.  It makes an excellent snack -- Heather says it's as good as popcorn, but to my mind, it's more like eating potato chips.  I've eaten an entire bunch of kale while my kids were snacking on buttered popcorn and I never even once had the desire to dip into their popcorn bowls.  It really is that good.  (And if you aren't convinced yet, let me tell you that my mom, who, God love her, is not exactly a health food or veggie lover, thought this was delicious!)
  • 1 bunch kale (I've used both green and purple curly-leaf kale, but I'm sure any of the varieties of kale would work fine)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Wash and dry your kale leaves.  Pull the tender leaves off of the tough stems and put them on a rimmed baking tray.
  2. Drizzle the leaves with some olive oil.  You want enough to just coat them, so that they are all glistening, but not so much that they are drowning in a pool of oil.  Generously salt and pepper the leaves.
  3. Roast at 400 (or 425 or 450 -- it doesn't much matter what temp), tossing them around every now and again, until the leaves are starting to get crispy.  I like mine fairly close to being burnt -- darker than depicted in the photos below.  The leaves get papery and crispy and as addictive as potato chips.  I also like mine with a pretty hefty dose of pepper, but use your own taste as a guide, here.  I serve them piled high on a platter.  And I'm not ashamed to say that I just use my fingers, if I'm snacking. 

Note:  I think that this has the potential to be a kid-pleasing veggie preparation, with one caveat:  go easy on the pepper!  I called it "leaf chips" and got my 5 yr. old to take a bite (always the biggest hurdle with a new veg), but she spit it out, saying it was too spicy -- and now she won't try it again.  I wish I had given it to her with just a lot of salt, and then added pepper to the portion on my plate. 

My next great kale adventure came in the very surprising form of a smoothie.  My friend Sarah has been touting the deliciousness and health benefits of her "green smoothies" ever since I met her two years ago.  And I've even seen her kids drink them down.  But a smoothie made with kaleSeriously?  It just never sounded appealing to me.  And then my son got a nasty cold just 5 days before his third birthday party and I wanted to try anything and everything I could to boost his immune system and get him healthy in time to enjoy his birthday.  Well, I wasn't lucky enough to get him to fall in love with the smoothie -- he refused to try it because it was green (which makes zero sense, since he adores guacamole and eats salad).  But I fell in love, instead.  Here is the basic recipe.
  • 2-5 leaves kale (start with 2 and work your way up from there)
  • a handful of parsley (Sarah says about 1/4 of a bunch;  I just cut a handful from my garden)
  • 1 apple
  • 1 orange
  • 1 banana
  1. Wash all your produce.  Pull the tender kale leaves off of the tough stems and put them in the blender.  Pluck the leaves of parsley (and some small stems are fine, too) and add them to the blender.  Add a splash of water and blend the greens. 
  2. Core and chop the apple; peel and chop the orange;  peel and chop the banana.  Add all three to the blender and mix.  This makes a very thick smoothie, but you can thin it with water to your desired consistency.  I thin it just a bit and serve with a spoon.  This makes enough for at least two servings, although I often eat the entire thing over the course of a morning (or afternoon, if I'm having it for lunch). 

Note:  As I said, Sarah's kids drink this, so if your kids can get past the green color, this could be a great way to get in a bit of veggies.  You could start with just one kale leaf and all their favorite fruits, even.  Also, you can play with the recipe quite a bit.  Sarah has added mangoes, berries, and other fruits that she has on hand.  I have tried it without each of the three fruits listed above and, although I like the combo of all three best, I think the only essential one is the apple.  It just wasn't quite as tasty without the apple. 


PS  Lyn, that title pun was for you! ;-)


  1. Well, Megan, I have to admit that I have not been a lover of leafy greens either! But I have to say that I really like the idea of the kale is such a pretty color, and I'm guessing that with all of the yummy fruit, you probably hardly even taste the kale. Sounds like a pretty painless way to get all the goodness from those greens! P.S. I love reading your blog and am always excited to see a new post!

  2. We, too, just discovered Kale!! I tried a kale "chip" recipe...but, of course, I ruined it. It's important to note that the kale pieces should be completely DRY before preparing them to go in the oven. I think that was my mistake. I was so eager to get them done, that I didn't wait for them to dry long enough. While they were in the oven, some pieces were getting done (burning) while others were still soggy. Plus I used too much lemon juice!!!

    Thanks for reminding me to try it again! Plus, I'm excited about the smoothie.

  3. Thanks, Colleen! Right back at you!
    Rachel: Yes, I pat mine dry with a dish towel. But I also am impatient and often stick them in a bit damp. Yep, some pieces are not as crispy that way, but I haven't minded.
    Also, Sarah emailed to tell me that you can turn the green smoothie into a "purple smoothie" by using just one leaf of kale and adding lots of blueberries. Might be a good way to start off when introducing kids.

  4. Omg, Megan, these Kale chips were AWESOME!! I'm always looking for new and creative ways to get in those leafy greens, and kale was a struggle for me. I couldn't find a good way to incorporate it into anything I cooked. I was psyched to try the chips because I love having a healthy snack that tastes good enough to substitute for the bad snacks. And the kale chips were delicious!! Even my one year old loved them! I used an olive oil mister to get a good, even coating on the leaves, without going overboard on the oil. Turned out perfect. I will definitely be giving the smoothie a try next. Thanks for the rockin' recipes!