Speaking both as a chef and a parent, my perplexing, sometimes maddening inability to tempt my own children to eat vegetables has to stand out as the one great irony in a long and varied career in the culinary world. I’m a chef, for crying out loud! Well equipped – you would think – with all sorts of creative ways to lure my youngster to the table. And although I am somewhat comforted by the fact that many of my chef colleagues share in this same incongruity, I have to admit that – up until now – my efforts have been a total failure.

So who would have guessed that the tide could be turned with a deceptively simple preparation of one of the healthiest, most nutritious – and therefore most loathsome – vegetables that a child could imagine?

I give you kale.

Cultivated for over 2,000 years, kale is a one of the hardiest members of the cabbage family, easily identified by its deep-green, curly leaves that are tinged with shades of blue and purple. It has a somewhat mild, yet slightly bitter, pungent cabbagey flavor and is typically boiled or steamed. Commonly used in soups and stews, kale is the main ingredient in caldo verde, the national soup of Portugal, which I wrote about in an August 2009 column.

Be sure not to tell your kids that kale is a cruciferous vegetable, and that it contains vitamins C, A and B6, as well as calcium, copper, folic acid, iron, potassium, and zinc. Do not let on that cholesterol-lowering benefits and antioxidants found in kale make this one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, and that kale is included on the list as one of the superfoods, right up there with beans, blueberries, broccoli, oats, spinach and yogurt.

Tempt them, instead, with this scrumptious recipe for a treat that will open their eyes and, just possibly, possibilities for vegetables in their other meals. I give you kale chips. Just like those other chips, they won’t be able to stop eating these!

Frank Chlumsky, the first executive chef at Philander’s restaurant in Oak Park, teaches in Chicago at Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts. In his 36-year career, Frank has owned restaurants in Michigan City, Ind., and in Lake Geneva, Wis. He’s also been executive chef at the Saddle & Cycle Club in Chicago. Frank lives in Forest Park, where he cooks for pleasure.

Kale chips

  • 1 bunch kale (about 4 cups, firmly packed)
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. table salt (kosher or sea salt will give a more pronounced salty taste)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Peel off the tough stems of kale by folding the leaves in half, like a book, and stripping the stems off.

Tear the kale in large pieces.

Wash well in cold water and dry in a salad spinner.

Toss with the olive oil in a bowl.

Arrange leaves in a single layer on a large baking sheet.

Sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until kale turns brownish and becomes paper thin and brittle.

Place baking sheet on a rack to cool.

Makes 2 servings.

Note: Other seasonings can be added according to your whim: Season with paprika, or black or cayenne pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Crumble the chips and sprinkle over your favorite popcorn.

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Frank Chlumsky

Frank Chlumsky, former executive chef of Philander's restaurant in Oak Park, teaches in Chicago at Kendall College's School of Culinary Arts. In his 37-year career, Frank has owned restaurants in Michigan...