Kitchen Intuition: Cabbage chips

Authored By aliceodea

Last week when I wrote about hummus, I realized that it could make for a great Super Bowl dip that is far healthier than the usual fare, as well as cheap and easy to make. This week, I have another suggestion for you, which is to ditch (or supplement) the usual fat- and sodium-laden potato chips for a surprisingly delicious homemade treat that is quick, easy and still works for dipping. What I have in mind are cabbage chips, but many other tougher greens (kale, collard greens) or very thinly sliced sweet potatoes, squash or root vegetables would do as well.

Cabbage is versatile, cheap and delicious, and makes an especially sweet and savory chip. Compared to the ones made of potato, cabbage chips are a dramatic improvement healthwise. High in vitamin C and potassium, low in calories and carbs, cabbage chips on their own are practically pure nutrition. Be careful what you dip them into, though, if you want to preserve their nutritional advantage-or just skip the dip entirely, as they are packed with quite a lot of flavor on their own.

You can use whatever cabbage is in season, including the flat-leafed green or purple, crinkly savoy, or napa cabbages that you’re likely to find at the grocery store. You might discover some more unique varieties at the farmers market. There are so many different kinds, and cabbage is virtually a year-round crop. Generally, the darker the pigmentation, the more dense the nutrients in the cabbage.

I looked at a number of different recipes for making cabbage chips, and they universally agree that the chips should be cooked at a temperature of 200 degrees for two to three hours. A number of cooks recommend blanching the cabbage in boiling water for about two minutes, quickly cooling it in a bowl of ice water and blotting the leaves dry before cooking. It’s an extra step that’s entirely optional. I’ve made them with and without the blanching, and the only difference I noted was that the blanched leaves laid flatter on the baking sheet than the crisper, unblanched cabbage. There also might be a bit of a difference in cooking time, but that’s probably negligible.

A number of recipes call for suspending the chips over the baking sheets on wire racks during cooking. My kitchen is not equipped with such things, so I just put my cabbage directly on some jelly roll pans. They cooked just fine.

At least one recipe recommended waiting until after the chips are cooked before brushing them with oil, as this supposedly shortens cooking time. Adding any oil at all is entirely optional, but if I do use it, I like to add it to the cabbage before cooking so that any seasonings I sprinkle on will cling better. A lot of cooks brush on the oil, but I just give each leaf a quick squirt of spray oil on each side.

The prep is very short. Just wash the cabbage and remove any tough or damaged outer leaves. Cut it in quarters, remove the core, pull the leaves apart, and blanch the cabbage (if you’re going to bother with that step). Blanched or not, spread the leaves out on a couple of baking sheets or jelly roll pans and flatten them as much as possible (if they’re still crisp, trim them into smaller pieces). Oil the leaves (optional), sprinkle with salt or other seasonings (caraway seeds, dill and cayenne pepper are just a few possibilities), and bake until crisp. Depending on the thickness and moisture content of the cabbage, this could take anywhere from two to three hours. Start checking after an hour and a half and pull out any pieces that are done (dry and/or starting to brown), while leaving the rest to continue cooking. They’ll crisp up even more as they cool.

If you didn’t add oil before cooking, it can be brushed or sprayed on after, at which point you can also add seasonings. But I think cabbage chips taste perfectly delicious baked simply, with no oil or seasoning; if you’re going to be serving them with dip, you might want to leave them plain, since the dip is likely to overwhelm whatever flavors you would add.

As far as the dip is concerned, you could just use whatever salsa, hummus or onion dip you would use for regular chips, or you could mix up something special, such as this dill yogurt. Try it for the Super Bowl! You’ll be hooked on cabbage chips.

Alice O’Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn’t really learn to cook until midlife. When she’s not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.