Jul 16, 2014

That Vegetal Feeling

In Boston this morning it was raining hard. A beautiful, heavy rain that was musical, like a whole bunch of pianos being hit softly and randomly by nine year olds. Morning thunder and the lights flickering a little and a cup of coffee and some dehydrated kale.



Kale has become a kind of comfort food for me. It's probably because I went to Oberlin College, where everyone woke daily to dine on kale sprinkled with nutritional yeast powder before riding their reconstructed recycled bicycles to environmental studies 101. But even if it weren't for those yummy co-op breakfasts and rusty bike rides, it's still a flavor I've come to love and crave. It's an earthy, bitter flavor, vegetal and a little briny like seaweed.


I had an idea recently which is to make powders out of vegetables. Not very profound, or even original for that matter, but for someone who is as obsessed with things that go in small jars to be sprinkled on food, this counts as big. 

Flavor powders—which sounds like something invented in a windowless factory in New Jersey—can be as simple as a dehydrated vegetable or fruit ground finely so as to be applied to other ingredients in surprising ways. Maybe it's the old fashioned glass rimmed with pluot powder, or goat cheese rolled in bright pink beet dust. Is it molecular gastronomy or just deconstructed flavors?

Ground spices are essentially flavor powders but we've come to categorize them as spices because they come from the aromatic part of a plant such as its seed, bark or root. Herbs aren't spices, even when dried, and nor are vegetable parts. What do we call kale powder? Vocabulary fails me sometimes.


Drying out a vegetable like kale and then making it into a powder is like making a paint pigment, or a medicine. Here is this unwieldy plant and then suddenly here it is a uniform color and texture that fits in a jar. Chaos reduced while flavor (and health!) potential remains. 

Nature is conquered for the purpose of tasty popcorn toppings. Finally.



Garlic and kale go marvelously together, so if you have a little garlic salt kicking around, this will accompany your kale powder quite well. Otherwise, just think of its family members (the brassicas) and go from there. 

Summer in a jar: sprinkle generously. 


To make kale powder:

A dehydrator works best, but you can also use the power of the sun. I've read about people using their car dashboard while at the beach, or putting things in an attic area that's very hot but not dusty! But unless you're super creative and have lots of time, I honestly recommend just buying a dehydrator. I have this brand, which works wonders. Thanks Dad!

For approx. 1 cup kale powder you will need about 3 lbs of kale.
Lay the kale in single layers on the shelves and dehydrate at 115 degrees fahrenheit for 10-12 hours. 
Once dry, strip the kale from the tough stems and place in a blender. Blend and then push through a fine mesh sieve. 

Mix with a little garlic salt to keep on hand for a tasty popcorn topping, or sprinkle on garlic bread, or in sauces and dressings for a brilliant green color. Add 1-2 TB to smoothies for a healthy green shake. 

Kale contains high levels of vitamin A as well as cancer-fighting sulforaphane (one of the leading anti-prostate cancer compounds) so it is like sprinkling medicine after all!

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