How to Clean Winter Greens: And a Kale Chip Recipe


On Tuesday, I was having an email conversation with a work colleague on the West Coast, when, out of the blue, she ended her one of her messages by saying “I just made your kale chips. WOW. Addictive.” I was delighted by this. I don’t always hear from my readers, and I’m glad to know that I’ve made someone’s life better, half a continent away, one mouthful at a time.

I mentioned to her that one way to improve the recipe is to roast the kale for the requisite time, and then turn the oven off, and leave it in oven while it cools. If you make them in the morning, and then leave them the rest of the day, you’ll have a great snack in the afternoon. This would even work with someone who had to go to an office. Cook them before you leave the house, and then turn off the oven, go to work, and come home to crispy, savory, neigh addictive, kale chips.

She said that she had used Trader Joe’s prewashed kale, and that the pieces were nice and small. “Next time I'm going to get whole leaf kale (and I think I'll plant some this summer, to go totally native),” she said “and have bigger pieces.” I asked her if she knew how to clean the leaves. “I usually just strip it, and it comes off nicely, but I'm no expert,” she said, adding “Is there an easy way to pull off the leaf?” No, I said, I just wanted to make sure you weren’t using a knife.

“A knife?” she replied “Ha! Never.” I told her she was doing it the right way, but then this evening I happened to look on the Internet. I found countless videos directing people to use a knife to clean winter greens. Really, I have to tell you: There’s no reason to do so. Just grab the stem with one hand, and use the other hand to strip the leafy part off. It’s very gratifying, and very easy. Trust me, you can do it.

Super Super Simple Kale Chips

  • 1 head kale, leaves washed and dried; center stalk removed
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, or from a spritzer
  • 1/2  lemon or lime, juiced, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Preheat oven to 205 degrees.

Lay the kale out on a baking sheet, and spritz with olive oil, sprinkle with the juice, and dust with salt (if you don't have a spritzer, mix oil, kale, and seasonings in a bowl).

Bake in the oven about 30 minutes, or until the leaves are crisp.

Turn the oven off, and let them rest in the oven for an hour or longer.

Note: Image courtesy New Pi Eats.

Almost Vegetarian Dhal Recipe--Cake Recipe Another Day

I think I have been doing something wrong all my life--I have failed to learn how to bake. We just celebrated Nina's birthday, and Santa Maria made from scratch the cake pictured above. It was the lightest, freshest, most delicious confection I have ever had. After one bite, I was convinced that I needed to learn how to make things like this myself.

I never learned to bake, in part, because I never really had much of a sweet tooth. Growing up, my mother was too busy raising five kids and tending to a husband who couldn't do much more in the kitchen than make coffee. So desserts when I was a kid ran more along the lines of ginger snaps from the bag or rice pudding (my mother always had a practical mind, even when it came to desserts).

Santa Maria, on the other hand, is one of two kids, and her mother specialized in baking pies and making cakes and cookies. Whenever we go to visit her, it's like going to a bakery. So Santa Maria knows how to make cakes that stop clocks.

Even before the cake was served, the party was a great success, but do you know how much energy is burned entertaining fourteen kids on your home turf? Enough to power a small city for about three weeks, and my energy is gone. I promise to get that recipe for the cake to you shortly, and in the meantime I'll leave you with something more practical than a cake recipe (I am my mother's son, after all).

We served pizza to the kids, but I wanted something more substantial for the adults. I made my Tuscan white-bean soup, and a big pot of my dhal. The central thing to making the dhal is its chicken-stock base. When I looked in the freezer yesterday for chicken stock, though, I couldn't find any. Worse, I couldn't find any chicken carcasses to make some stock anew. I've been eating one or two chickens a week this winter, but I have neglected to save any bones. Here's a reminder: save your bones for stock.

I wasn't worried, though, because stock or no stock, I've learned a great trick for giving any dish a rich base--sneak an anchovy or two into it and you'll add more flav0r (and no fishiness) than you can imagine. It might not be a cake recipe, but it will still please your palate. Trust me, you can do it. 

And I promise to write up that cake recipe shortly. The world should have more cakes in it like the one Santa Maria made today.


Pesco Vegetarian Red Lentil Dhal
  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise 
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • One 2 inch or so cinnamon stick 
  • 2 teaspoons (or more) of minced fresh ginger 
  • 3 cloves of garlic 
  • 1 dash of cayenne pepper 
  • 1 or 2 anchovies
  • 2 cups small red lentils, about a pound, rinsed
  • 1 lemon, halved and juiced (seeds removed) 
  • 6 or more cups of boiling water 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
Heat the oil in a heavy sauce pan
Add the onion, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick
Saute until the onions are translucent
Add the garlic, ginger, anchovies, and the cayenne
Continue cooking another few minutes
Add the lentils and stir to coat them with oil
Add the chicken stock and the water
Add the lemon juice and the squeezed halves of the fruit
Add the salt
Bring to a boil
Reduce to a simmer
Cook for about a half hour, until the onions mostly break up and the lentils more or less dissolve. If it looks like it needs more water, add some. Remove the lemons, cinnamon stick, and bay leaves after about half an hour.
This freezes remarkably well. It is best served with rice. To make it more fancy, caramelize some onions to go on top, along with some plain yogurt, and some chopped cilantro