In theory I am a big fan of kale.
I always associate it with a wonderful soup that my Aunt Felicity used to make on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
I have a very clear memory of my first brush with it. I recall driving up the path to her family's summer home on Martha's Vineyard one Wednesday before Thanksgiving, delighting in the candles twinkling cozily in each window (the house does not have electricity...these things were I'm sure very charming in the 1920s when the property was initially purchased, and I suppose still are for short stays), luxuriating in the laughter of her many siblings and nieces and nephews emanating from the open doorway, and relishing the fact that she met me at the threshold with a heavenly bowl of meat and kale and rich broth spooned over a toasted piece of bread.
I ate it inside by the fire, drinking in the warm, familial atmosphere. I smiled when my Aunt then asked if I fancied going for a canoe ride on the pond in the moonlight, until my cousin informed me that the offer was in fact serious and my smile widened to a grin.
Sadly, this is not the scene that tends to meet me on the average evening in New York when I am trying to figure out what on earth to do with the bushels of kale that end up in my CSA box. Upon my return from work there is no soup that has been simmering away for hours with delectable marrow bones on my stove. No roaring fire, no pond, no canoe. Just kale.
So for a while I braised it, occasionally throwing in a bit of chorizo and potato, but frankly I could never get the leaves to be tender enough to enjoy. I suppose several hours would be required to achieve true tenderness. Plus which I was not coming even remotely close to using up my allotted weekly amount.
But then I discovered the most wonderful thing...kale chips! I have of late been thoroughly engrossed in food52.com, a website run by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. Kale was a theme of the week a bit ago, and several people submitted recipes for crispy kale chips. Intrigued, and with copious quantities of kale on my hands, I gave the idea a try.
I ripped the leaves apart from the stems. I mashed a couple of garlic cloves with a generous amount of olive oil in my mortar and pestle (although I suppose there is no reason that you could not just chop the garlic and throw it in with the oil), and tossed the kale leaves with the oil mixture. Once spread reasonably flat and in one layer on a baking sheet, I rained a layer of Maldon salt down over the kale and threw it in a 400 degree oven for about ten minutes, tossing the leaves about with a spatula at the five minute mark. Et voila, crispy leaves to accompany cocktails.
Of course you could I suppose get fancy and throw some parmesan cheese or paprika or vinegar into the mix, but why mess with such a good thing? And in case you're wondering, I am, for the first time in months, completely out of kale! Two days early!