Regardless of your feelings on kale chips, know that great things can be achieved by bashing them up. In this Genius Recipe from Smitten Kitchen's Deb Perelman, you get kale in magic dust form: the deep flavor of toasted greens scattered across the snackable crunch of popcorn, plus a superfine texture and well-distributed salt.
Perelman writes: "The first time I made kale chips, I thought I had done something wrong, or at least was being punished for some unobserved slight. What else could explain how terrible, bitter flatness was being cruelly passed off as a chip? Chips were something I previously knew in puffy foil packages, salty, fried, and delicious; you dipped them in sour-cream-and-onion sauce; you bought them covered in chocolate at candy shops. These were . . . green, and tasted it, too. So I did the only sensible thing and ground the chips into a powder, renamed it “kale dust” so it would sound as magical as possible, and sprinkled it over freshly popped popcorn.
It was kind of amazing how something so unpleasant magically transformed itself once it became a garnish. It was even better when I starting using more olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, and a good helping of Pecorino Romano. Pecorino is one of my favorite cheeses. I like to joke that it's dainty Parmigiano-Reggiano's loud Roman cousin—saltier, funkier, and a little goes a much longer way. Seek out the Pecorino with the black rind, if you can; it's got my favorite flavor. Though kale chips can be made from either major variety of kale—curly or flat—I get a much better yield from the flat variety. If you're using curly kale instead, bake the chips for 20 minutes and begin with a 1-pound (455-gram) bunch to achieve 2/3 cups dust. You could start with store-bought kale chips to save time."
Heat the oven to 300°F. Rinse and dry the kale; no worries if you don’t get every last droplet of water off. Remove and discard the tough stems.
Lightly brush two large baking sheets with olive oil—the thinnest coat is just fine. Arrange the leaves in one layer on the prepared baking sheet(s), sprinkle lightly with salt, and bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until the leaves are crisp. Let cool completely. In a food processor, with a mortar and pestle, or even with a muddler in a bowl, grind the kale chips down into a coarse powder.
Place 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 or 3 kernels of popcorn in a 3-quart or larger pot. Turn the heat to medium-high, and cover with a lid. When you hear these first kernels pop, add the remaining kernels and replace the lid. Using pot holders, shimmy the pot around to keep the kernels moving as they pop. When several seconds pass between pops, remove the pot from the heat.
Transfer the popcorn to a bowl, and immediately toss with the remaining 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, kale dust, Pecorino, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss until evenly coated. Taste, and adjust the seasonings if needed.
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Creative Director Kristen Miglore.