I know people who are vegan, vegetarian, pescaterian, flexitarian, or raw-foodist, and I know people who might eschew only beef or keep kosher or (yikes!) eat nearly only protein. Lots of different motivations lead people to follow specific dietary rules, and although I doubt I could ever embrace full vegetarianism personally, it’s hardly the radical concept it was even twenty years ago. It’s getting downright commonplace. Now you know that I’m a devout omnivore and I’ll eat pretty much anything (except raw cashews, but more on that later), but unlike some other “meat-friendly” eaters I’m not judgmental of “alternative” diets. Rather, I’m fascinated by some innovative approaches to cooking that vegans and raw food-eaters in particular have adopted to keep their diets interesting and varied.
My friends Bill and Lani are vegetarians. I recently saw them at a friend’s (hi, Jen!) house for an informal outdoor barbecue and they brought some amazing kale chips that Bill had made. Apparently he makes a big batch at least once a week. Even though I tried to restrain myself I probably ate half the big container they brought with them. They were super-crisp and a bit salty and slightly spicy. They tasted almost cheesy, a bit like healthy Doritos, with a faint but pleasant bitterness of leafy greens. They were totally addictive and I knew I needed to make a batch of my own ASAP. Bill was happy to share both his recipe and his method.
Of course it’s all about the dehydrator, which is one of those tools that (mostly) raw foodists use in lieu of an oven. They’ve taken a device used primarily for home fruit-drying and come up with all sorts of bread and dessert and snack recipes. I really love that kind of creativity and basic innovation that is born of dietary necessity. I’m currently fascinated by home-drying and I’ve already posted three other tales in The Dehydrator Chronicles. This kale chip is the fourth.
This recipe differs from Bill’s a bit. He adds a bell pepper. I put in a little miso paste. I’ve seen very similar recipes online that call for the addition of nutritional yeast. You want to do that, go for it. Bill used curly-leaf kale for his recipe, but I thought I’d try it first with the flatter-leaved Tuscan (also called dinosaur or lacinato) kale. Also Bill’s recipe calls for raw cashews, in keeping with the dictates of a raw recipe, but I am allergic to the highly caustic natural oils in raw cashews (they are distantly related to poison ivy) and can only eat them after they’ve been roasted and the raw oils have cooked out. So I’ve used roasted and salted cashews instead.
Otherwise our recipes are very similar. If you try this recipe, I encourage you to make some changes, play around with your ingredients. Try other nuts. Although choose nuts with a decent fat content — peanuts or macadamias are probably decent substitutes. I tried it with almonds and the result was bland and sandy, so I’d skip it if I were you.
You will need, besides a dehydrator:
- I bunch kale
- 1 cup roasted and salted cashews
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 a large carrot, peeled and cut into half-inch pieces
- 1/3 cup scallions greens, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons shiro (white and mild) miso paste
- 1/2 a large jalapeño, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- the juice of one lime
- a pinch of salt
- a pinch of sugar
Now do this:
Prep the kale by removing the leaves from the woody spine. Tear kales leaves into pieces approximately three-inch square. Rinse leaves in cold water and dry them very well; I put them in a lettuce spinner and then gently pat them dry with a paper towel.
Put all remaining ingredients into a blender and puree on high until very smooth. Into a large bowl put the kale leaves and pour the puree over the leaves. With your hands rub the puree evenly all over the leaves.
Put the coated kale on your dehydrator racks in an even layer, taking care to leave a little space in between leaves. Set dehydrator for 125ºF and dry kale until crisp, perhaps four hours.
You could try making these in a conventional oven set to 200ºF. You’d need to spread the kale out on wire racks set over baking sheets. I’m sure it’ll work just fine, but you’ll need to flip the kale once and to watch them to make sure they don’t over-crisp and brown. It would probably take about an hour. That’s just a guess; I haven’t yet tried it in the oven.
Store in an airtight container for about a week. Hope you enjoy!
Other tales in the Dehydrator Chronicles: