I purchased a bag of Kale at the market last Saturday. Ordinarily, I don't think of kale as a summer food, but it looked especially nice—with small, relatively tender leaves and stems that seemed less developed than usual—it must be that we are at the very beginning of the crop. I bought it, not quite sure what I would do with it. I tend to like kale in recipes that are appropriate for Autumn and Winter—in a hearty soup, or braised and served as a side dish. But I wasn't really in the mood for something so hearty—the weather has turned beastly hot in the past few days.
Last year I taught a class on Greens. As I was driving home from the market, I remembered that one of the recipes I taught was for a Kale & Potato Pizza. I'm almost always in the mood for pizza. Even if turning your oven up to pizza-baking temperatures heats your kitchen up too much for the summer, you can always make it on the grill instead. Pizza seems to fit any season. Since I had also purchased potatoes at the market, I knew before I returned home that I would be having my kale on a pizza.
Kale (greens in general, actually) go particularly well with bland starches like potatoes, shell beans and pasta. The addition of a sweet component (sweet potatoes/winter squash, caramelized onions) or a salty component (anchovies, olives, bacon, sausage...) really lights up this combination. A good example of this flavor profile can be found in one of my first posts where I wrote about a White Bean Soup with Sausage & Swiss Chard—the sausage providing the salty accent.
Last week I made a quick, custard-based tart for dinner and made use of a sweet flavor accent by combining some garlicky sautéed Swiss chard and roasted potatoes with caramelized onions. It was very good and I probably should have written a post about it, but it was one of those meals that I threw together with what I had on hand, so I really didn't have a recipe. I did take a picture of the (half eaten) finished tart:
For those interested in making something similar, I can tell you that you can find the crust recipe here and that I used a custard of 1 egg and 1/2 cup heavy cream. The filling quantities were approximately one bunch of Swiss chard, 3 or 4 new potatoes (cut in scant 1-inch chunks), 1 small onion and 3 or 4 oz. of coarsely shredded Gruyère.
The amazing thing to me about the tart, the soup and the pizza is how astonishingly satisfying they are too eat. I suppose that this should not be surprising since greens are one of the healthiest things you can eat—they are constantly showing up on lists that have titles like: "Ten Things You Should Eat Everyday". The combination of healthy greens with the filling potatoes or beans must satisfy our natural craving for truly nourishing food. To be honest, I rarely think about how to get more "healthy" foods into my diet. I just eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and stay away from processed foods as much as possible. But, if you are trying to learn how to include more greens in your diet, any one of these recipes would be a fairly enjoyable way to do it.
I will give the recipe as I made it, but this pizza has appeared on my table in numerous incarnations. I have used sliced and roasted potatoes instead of the crumbled, poached potatoes called for in the recipe. Olives have been replaced with a couple of ounces of rendered bacon or pancetta--and the rendered fat used to cook the kale. I'm sure the pizza would be good with anchovies or cooked Italian Sausage chunks, too. My choice of cheeses in the recipe happened to be what I had on hand. In the past I have made the pizza with crumbled, aged goat cheese (like Bûcheron). Obviously you should experiment and come up with your own combinations. As always, what is really important is to use a light hand with the toppings so that the crust will be able to cook to crispness in 12 to 15 minutes in a hot oven.
A final note about the Kale. The recipe calls for a 1/2 lb. bunch of kale, which is what is normally sold in the grocery store. After the stems have been stripped (and you should always strip the stems away from Kale—they are quite ropey and tough),
a bunch this size will cook down to about a cup of greens. The bag of kale that I purchased weighed slightly more than a half pound. But because the stems were so young, there was a larger proportion of edible leaves which cooked down to a scant 1 1/2 cups. This left me with some nice braised kale to fold into an omelet, toss with some pasta or serve on a crostini or bruschetta with some cheese. The point is, take the varied nature of things that you purchase at the farmers' market into account when you are following recipes that have been calibrated to what is typically found at an American grocery store. You may have to adjust your recipe as you cook. And to be honest, this is what cooking is really about—learning how to take your cues from the ingredients and equipment at hand and manipulate them to produce something that is good to eat.
Pizza with Kale, Potatoes & Olives
6 to 7 oz. New Potatoes, well scrubbed
1 to 2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
a pinch pepperflakes
1 bunch Kale (about 1/2 lb.), ribs removed and coarsely chopped
Pizza dough (see below), rested
1 T. olive oil
2 to 3 oz. coarsely shredded Aged White Cheddar or Gruyère
12 Kalamata Olives, pitted & halved
3 oz. coarsely shredded Fontina
Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with salted water. Simmer until tender. Drain. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Peel away the skins and set aside until ready to build the pizza.
Place the olive oil, garlic and pepper flakes in a medium sauté pan set over medium to medium-high heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle and is fragrant, begin to add the kale a handful at a time, turning it as you do to coat in the hot oil and adding another handful as the previous one begins to collapse. When all of the kale has been added and it has all collapsed, season lightly with salt and add a few tablespoons of water. Reduce the heat. Cover and cook until tender—about 20 to 30 minutes (possibly longer, depending on the age and variety of the kale). Check the kale occasionally as it cooks, adding a little more water if the pan seems very dry. When the kale is tender, remove the lid and increase the heat so that any liquid left in the pan can cook off. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the kale to cool briefly.
Build the pizza: On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to a pizza pan or baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with semolina, fine cornmeal, or flour. Using your fingers, push up the edges of the dough to make a slight rim. Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the crust. Scatter the Cheddar or Gruyère over the crust. Crumble the cooked potatoes over the cheese. Season with salt & pepper.
Spread the greens randomly over the potatoes and follow with the olives and the Fontina.
Place the pizza in its pan on a pre-heated pizza stone in a pre-heated 450° to 500° oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown on the bottom and the cheese is golden, about 12 to 15 minutes. To insure a crisp crust, slide the pizza off of the pan to finish cooking directly on the pizza stone for the last minute or two of cooking.
Pizza Dough (adapted from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso & Sheila Lukins):
1/2 cup warm water (100º-110º)
1 1/8 t. active dry yeast
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
Place the water in a large bowl and add the yeast. Let soften for a minute or two. Add 3/4 cup of the flour and whisk until smooth. Add the oil, salt and another half cup of the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a soft dough that holds its shape. Sprinkle some of the remaining quarter cup of flour on a smooth surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and sprinkle with a bit more flour. Knead the dough, adding just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking, until the dough is smooth and springs back when pressed lightly with a finger—about 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has doubled in size—about 1 hour. Punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a tight ball. Cover with a towel and let rest for 15-20 minutes. The dough is now ready to be shaped and topped.
General Pizza making tips:
• Anything that you put on the pizza should be able to cook in 15 minutes or less; or, should be pre-cooked to get it to that point. Any ingredient that produces a lot of liquid when it is cooked (zucchini, for example) should always be pre-cooked. Some wet ingredients—like tomatoes—should be drained of excess liquid first.
• Have all toppings ready and at room temperature before you roll out the crust.
• Don’t pile on too much topping—too much and the crust will not cook in the center. Sauces should be spread thinly and if there is no “sauce” other than olive oil, you should be able to see bits of the crust through the various toppings.
• Pre-heat the oven and pizza stone for at least one half hour and preferably an hour.