In the world of greens, kale has to be one of the most intimidating. The leaves are huge and the stems practically woody. It's not a pale, gentle green like escarole; it's dark and dirty, like army camouflage. You could almost imagine a scene in the supermarket at night, when the lights are out and the customers have gone home. The vegetables line up in rank, with wimpy tomatoes and snow peas falling behind the hard-hitters like spinach and collard greens. Kale is, of course, the general, ready to taunt meat-and-potatoes eaters with its in-your-face boldness.

It's one of the few vegetables that actually peaks in the winter, but is in steady supply in July. If you belong to a farm share, chances are you've gotten a bunch or two of kale already, and the question always seems to be, "What do I do with it?"

"You can saute it, dehydrate it or oven bake it," said Charles Vosgian, owner of the Organic Market in Westport.

Baking it into chips is definitely the trendiest way to deal with all those giant green leaves, and there's good reason for it. It's easy, quick and actually really tasty. Last summer, I tried my hand at kale chips and my husband ate the entire cookie sheet full in one sitting.

More Information

THE SCOOP Easy Kale Chips (Just try them. You'll be surprised how addictive they are.) 1 bunch kale 1 tablespoon olive oil Salt to taste Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Clean kale by chopping leaves into "chip" size pieces, soaking in water and rinsing until clean. Dry leaves with a salad spinner or paper towels. Place kale leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 30 minutes, until crispy. If you happen to have any left over, they can be stored in an airtight container. Holy #%@*! That's Good! (Or, Kale with White Beans) This is a recipe I concocted after I kept getting bunch after bunch of kale in my farm share last summer. I was surprised at how tasty it was. 1 bunch kale, cleaned and chopped into bite-sized pieces 3 cloves garlic, minced (or more, if you love garlic) 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 1 15-ounce can white beans (cannellini, Great Northern, etc.), drained Two or three fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade (thin strips) ½-cup shredded mozzarella Parmesan cheese to taste Saute kale in olive oil and ¼-cup water until kale is wilted. Add garlic, crushed red pepper and white beans. Let it cook down a little until the beans soften a bit and the flavors get a chance to meld. Before serving, stir in basil. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

If you're into raw food, you can follow the lead at Catch a Healthy Habit in Fairfield, where they make kale chips by dehydrating the greens. "We use a little olive oil, nutritional yeast and salt and dehydrated them," said Hare Crape, manager. "They're really popular. They have a very crispy sensation."

Another big seller is a smoothie containing kale mixed with spinach, bananas, pears and/or dates.

So what's the big deal about kale? "It's so good for your skin, your blood, your digestion," said Crape. "Kale has a lot of chlorophyll." Hence, the dark green color. To be sure, kale really is a hard-hitter when it comes to nutrition. Not only does it have the usual vitamins and fiber you'd expect from a vegetable, but it's also high in vitamins A, C, calcium and iron.

Sounds great, right? But for some, kale is still a tough vegetable to choke down. "You really have to chew kale," said Sue Cadwell of Health in a Hurry in Fairfield. "I'm a big believer in making it palatable however you can." One way, she suggests, is to make an orange kale salad. "For the vinaigrette, I use fresh-squeezed orange juice, ginger, garlic and sesame. The citrus helps break it down. So many people [when they eat it] are like, `Is this cooked?' "

One of the biggest challenges with kale, said Cadwell, is knowing how to clean it properly. Because it is so hearty, kale can often come with quite a bit of dirt hidden in its curls. Cadwell says to submerge the leaves in a bowl of water; the dirt will sink to the bottom and the leaves can then be removed from the bowl. "Just make sure it's clean," she said. "You may have to change the water a few times." Then stick it in a salad spinner and give it a whirl.

Kale, like spinach and arugula, can be sauteed, but it's a little tricky. Too much oil can make the kale, well, oily. The trick, said Cadwell, is to use stock or water and just a touch of oil. "That's pretty darn tasty," she said.

Email Patti Woods at eatdrinkshopcook@gmail.com.

THE SCOOP

Easy Kale Chips

(Just try them. You'll be surprised how addictive they are.)

1 bunch kale

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Clean kale by chopping leaves into "chip" size pieces, soaking in water and rinsing until clean. Dry leaves with a salad spinner or paper towels. Place kale leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake for about 30 minutes, until crispy. If you happen to have any left over, they can be stored in an airtight container.

Holy #%@*! That's Good!

(Or, Kale with White Beans)

This is a recipe I concocted after I kept getting bunch after bunch of kale in my farm share last summer. I was surprised at how tasty it was.

1 bunch kale, cleaned and chopped into bite-sized pieces

3 cloves garlic, minced (or more, if you love garlic)

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 15-ounce can white beans (cannellini, Great Northern, etc.), drained

Two or three fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade (thin strips)

½-cup shredded mozzarella

Parmesan cheese to taste

Saute kale in olive oil and ¼-cup water until kale is wilted. Add garlic, crushed red pepper and white beans. Let it cook down a little until the beans soften a bit and the flavors get a chance to meld. Before serving, stir in basil. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.