A little more than 2 years ago, I wrote about my love for kale chips. I’m happy to report that—unlike, say, pâté, beets, and orange foods—it’s a love I still embrace. Only now, because I’m such a big boy, I get to help make them. And clever Mama has upped the ante by introducing nutritional yeast into the mix.
What I can tell you about nutritional yeast can fit on a kale chip. Suffice it to say that it is different from the yeast we’ve used to make bread and is most definitely not brewer’s yeast (even though the label might tell you otherwise).
One of these is nutritional yeast, and one is not. (Psst… it’s the one on the right.)
Nutritional yeast (often called “nooch” by those in the know) has a cheesy/nutty flavor (think: Parmesan), and what’s not to like about that? In addition to adding oomph to vegetarian dishes, it has a dose of B-vitamins as well as all the amino acids. Mama likes putting it on her eggs, but it’s similarly stellar in a tofu scramble or on popcorn.
But don’t let my 4-year-old limitations hold you back from experimenting with nooch. If you make something yummy with it, let me know!
Supercheesy Kale Chips
1 bunch kale
Sea or kosher salt
Nutritional yeast flakes
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or just commit to cleaning your baking sheet when you’re done and go without. Rinse kale and rip the leaves from the center stalk. Mama suggested I pull the upward-growing leaves downward, so they tear off more easily, and it works! Try to make them of similar size because remember that the larger pieces won’t crisp up as much as the smaller ones.
Tear the leaves downward away from the stalk.
Scatter kale on baking sheet, then toss with about 1 Tbsp oil. You really don’t need a lot—it’s just so the salt and nutritional yeast has something to adhere to.
We used kosher salt on our kale, but feel free to use sea salt, if that’s what you like.
Sprinkle with salt and as much nutritional yeast as you want—the more, the cheesier. Who am I to tell you how much you like? Experiment by spreading the kale leaves around the baking sheet then sprinkling different sections with different amounts. (After my little experiment here, I think we learned that “avalanche” is a little too much.)
Maybe don’t let your kid pour on the nooch.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until desired crispness. You could toss them once during baking, but you don’t have to. Enjoy immediately!
That’s a big plate of kale chips and a little bowl of soup.
I used to eat beets. A lot. Mostly they were pureed, sometimes mixed with apples and carrots. I’d make a real mess out of them, that’s for sure! But when we got some beets from my friend Walter’s farm, Mama decided to try something that the whole family could enjoy. Yet, she wanted something fast, and if you know anything about beets, you know that they take time to prepare. There’s boiling them until soft, and there’s roasting them until soft. So what to do?
Grate ’em! If given her druthers, Mama would rather use a mandoline than a box grater any day, and it was probably because of this attitude that she knicked her thumb knuckle on it. So let me warn you now: be careful! Anyway, grating the beets (after peeling them) turned them into small enough pieces that could be cooked in a skillet…to which she added butter, the grated beets, the zest and juice of 1 lime, then some salt and pepper. Aside from the afore-mentioned grated knuckle, it was an easy dish to fix and tasted quite yummy. The tart lime contrasted with the sweet beets, and the slight creaminess of the butter played off the tiny bit of saltiness. And we all had pink pee!
Mama paired these beets with organic, whole-wheat farfalle pasta (that’s the kind shaped like bow-ties, but if you really want to know why they’re called farfalle, it’s because that’s the Italian word for “butterflies”), dressed in the leftover kale pesto that she brought back to life with a bit of the pasta cooking liquid. Papa grilled a simple salt-and-pepper pork chop to share with me, and dinner was done!
I wish I could say I ate more than my requisite one bite of pasta and chop…but I was feeling pretty beet after the long day I’d had picking blueberries and making muffins (stay tuned).
Mama had a mess of heirloom tomatoes ripening on the counter and more kale in the fridge than she knew what to do with. Even I can’t eat that many kale chips. So she decided to make a tomato tart with kale pesto.
You can use beefsteaks or romas…but why would you want to?
The first thing she did was lop off the top of a head of garlic. She laid it in foil, drizzled it with olive oil, scrunched it all up, then put it in the oven for about half an hour. Just until the garlic softened and started becoming golden. She told me this is a really yummy thing to spread over crostini, which she said I’ve actually eaten before, but my baby memory isn’t recalling that.
A drizzle of oil transforms garlic into something YUM.
Meanwhile, Mama made the crust. She explained to me that she doesn’t generally like making crust in the food processor because then she has to clean the darn thing, but since she would be making pesto with it anyway, she figured why not? To the processor, she added her flour, oats, and salt. Then she added her butter and processed it just until little clumps formed.
This is how you want your butter cut in to the flour, whether it’s by hand or machine.
She said you don’t want to process the butter so much that it melts–the cold butter is what makes for a flakey crust. Then she added the ice-cold water and processed it again just until large clumps formed and began pulling from the side. She tested the dough by squeezing a bit in her hand, and she saw that it held together. You don’t want to process it into a smooth ball, otherwise you’ve overdeveloped something called gluten, and your crust will be tough.
This is how you your dough should look when it’s ready. See the squished clump in the top left?
Once she had the crust chilling in the fridge, Mama moved on to the pesto. Ordinarily, Mama makes a pretty traditional pesto, which she first ate, ironically enough, at a friend’s mother’s house in Bad Bramstedt, Germany, back in the ’90s. When you use basil or other fresh green like arugula, you can make the pesto fresh from the garden. When you use something hardier, like kale, it’s better to first blanch the greens. Mama generously salted her boiling water (and I stayed far away from the burner) and blanched the kale for a minute or two, in batches. She then ran the cooked kale under cold water (she said she’s cheating because she really should be putting it in an ice bath…but there are only so many dishes she wants out of the cupboards at any given time). The kale went into the food processor, to which she added olive oil, more salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice, toasted pine nuts (you don’t have to toast them–they just develop a nicer flavor), some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and the roasted garlic. When the cloves were cool enough to handle, a gentle squeeze popped them right out of their papery skins! She whirred the ingredients in the processor and stopped to taste. I reached in and grabbed a chunk of the pesto to try for myself. I was not happy with it. But neither was Mama! She added more lemon and more salt.
A tart is so pretty and sophisticated (like myself), but Mama had so many tomatoes that she decided to turn this into a deep-dish pie. I sampled many of the tomatoes to be sure of their ripeness, which is rather strange considering that I rarely eat raw tomatoes.
If I see something sitting on the counter, I’m going to eat it!
Then Mama rolled out the dough. I took my bitten tomatoes and stamped them on the dough to make pretty patterns. She showed me how to wrap the dough around the rolling pin to lay it into the pie pan easier. There was really a lot of dough, so Mama trimmed the edges and was sure to have leftovers. Then she spread some pesto along the bottom of the pie. She neatly layered some sliced tomatoes, then sprinkled some mozzarella on top.
I like the pretty colors of the heirloom tomatoes.
She explained that if this were a shallow tart, she’d be done, but she continued with two more layers in the same manner. (The leftover pesto she put in the fridge for pasta, but it would also freeze fine.) She put the whole thing in the oven until the top was brown, about 30 minutes, then grated some asiago cheese on top. She could’ve put it back in the oven for another minute or so, but she didn’t.
I had a few bites, which tricksy Mama was trading off for bites of the crust, which I really enjoyed. She kept telling me that if it were horrible she wouldn’t be bartering, but I’m not so sure. I hear this pie tastes good cold, too. Guess I’ll find out for lunch tomorrow.
Heirloom Tomato & Kale–Roasted Garlic Pesto Tart
1 head garlic
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Pastry Crust (or, Pâte Brisée if you’re really interested)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you can substitute whole-wheat, if you like)
1/3–1/2 cup ground rolled oats (optional)
1 tsp sea salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/3 cup ice water
1 large bunch kale, ribs removed and torn into rough pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil (about 2 swirls around the food processor)
Juice of a lemon (or more, to taste)
Kosher salt (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (a few grinds)
2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts (toasting optional)
3 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1–2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes (however many you need, depending on size & variety)
1–1½ cups shredded mozzarella
Freshly grated asiago cheese
To roast the garlic: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Trim the tops off the garlic bulb, place it (cut side up) in the center of a square of foil, drizzle with the olive oil, seal the top of the foil, then place the bundle in the center of the oven. Roast until the garlic is soft and fragrant, and slightly brown, about 30 minutes. (You can certainly make the pesto with regular ol’ garlic, too, without the roasting.)
For the pastry crust: Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor. (Mama already had ground oats, but if you don’t have them, grind them in the processor first.) Give it a few pulses to distribute. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times, just until the butter and flour begins to form pea-sized lumps throughout. With the machine running, add the water in a stream and process just until the dough starts to clump. Turn it out onto your counter, give it a few quick kneads to bring it all together, flatten it into a disk, and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate for half an hour.
For the pesto: To blanch the kale, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, if necessary, add the kale to the water and stir to submerge. Boil for 1–2 minutes, until the kale is bright green. Transfer with a slotted spoon or tongs to a bowl of ice water (or to a colander that you’ll then run under cold water in the sink). If using toasted pine nuts, toast them in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes, shaking every so often, just until fragrant. You can also put them on a piece of foil or on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven, since it’s on. As soon as you smell them, they’re done! Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until pasty. You might need to add a little more oil—you can even add some of the blanching water. Taste and adjust seasonings. (Mama notes that all these amounts are approximate.)
To finish the tart: Slice the tomatoes—about as thick as you would a sandwich tomato. Set aside. Take the pastry crust out of the fridge and remove the wrap. Generously flour a surface, then gently roll the dough. Lay into pie or tart pan, then trim the edges, fluting if desired. Spread a layer of pesto along the bottom. Arrange slices of tomato to cover, then sprinkle with mozzarella. Repeat layers, if desired, ending with cheese. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Shave additional cheese on top, then pop back in the oven until melted and browned, a few minutes more.