A valentine in the form of a cheese laden, doughey pie, with a pesto surprise under the cheese, and kale chips on top....
If there is a food that rivals my husband Dan's affection for pasta, that food is PIZZA. Yes, PIZZA, in all caps, because that is how much he loves the pizza pie. Because of his deep seated love for this particular food, I decided to make a Kale Pesto Pizza, at home, from scratch. A valentine in the form of a cheese laden, doughey pie, with the surprise of a pesto under the cheese, and flecks of kale chips topping the cheese.
Before divulging the recipe for Kale Pesto Pizza, I am going to share my husband's story, about how his brother, Murry, discovered a new food, called pizza. This story is part of his family history, and one which Dan is fond of recounting whenever the subject of pizza comes up for discussion.
The Story of How Murry Cohen discovered a new food,
pizza pie, in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, as recounted by Daniel Cohen.
"Around 1955, my brother came home one day, all excited. He said that he had discovered something new in Brooklyn, this new food, and he wanted to introduce me and our parents to it. He said that it was called a pizza pie and that it had cheese on it. A pie with cheese on it? We were awfully puzzled, but off we went, my brother, ten year old me, and our Polish immigrant parents, to Kings Highway to visit the brand new Belladonna Pizzeria, the first pizzeria in our Flatbush neighborhood.
We each had a slice of this pizza pie, and it was delicious. A slice was 15 cents and a soda was a dime. Shortly afterward, a second pizzeria opened on Kings Highway, and a price war ensued. Belladonna lowered the cost of a slice to 10 cents and a soda to a nickel. We visited often.
Within a year or two, a pizzeria opened even closer to our house, on Avenue M, Esposito's, and that became our "home field" pizzeria for the next few years."
Since the time in which Dan's brother, Murry, discovered pizza in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, pizza has become an industry in America. In NYC, many restaurants have wood burning ovens and produce pizzas that rival the quality of the best pizzas in the world, those of Naples, Italy. As an example of the important place pizza has claimed in the hearts of New Yorkers, I should point out that the book "Slice Harvester: A memoir in Pizza," by Colin Atrophy Hagendorf was recently published by Simon & Schuster. The book is based upon a blog originally published by Hagendorf, in which, according to the Publisher's Weekly review of the book, "he chronicled his quest to eat and review a slice of cheese pizza from every pizzeria in Manhattan." NPR Books sums it up by saying, "Then again, as Slice Harvester so compellingly proposes, the plain old pizza pie is actually a blank canvas upon which we can, and should, project anything we wish.”
I decided to try my own hand at painting the blank canvas of home made pizza dough by following this recipe for Kale Pesto Pizza. I must say that the pizza, to borrow a baseball analogy, "hit the ball right out of the ball park." My husband Dan, seldom eats the same meal more than one or two times. We ate slices of the Kale Pesto Pizza for many days after the initial baking, and when the last slice was gone, we were sorry to see our private pizza fest end. It left us craving more. The Kale Pesto Pizza was a big hit, and I hope that you, dear reader, will try it for yourself, and enjoy!
Kale Pesto Pizza
- PIZZA: Pizza dough - see recipe above or use 1 pound store-bought pizza dough.
- 2 cups 8 ounces grated low-moisture part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup lightly packed kale chopped into small, bite-sized pieces
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Optional garnishes: red pepper flakes
- KALE PESTO: yields about 1-½ cups, which will probably leave you with extra. 3 cups packed kale, preferably the Tuscan/lacinato variety, thick ribs removed and roughly chopped (about 1 small bunch)
- ¾ cups pecans or walnuts
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice about 1 small lemon
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic depending on their size
- ¾ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ½ cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the upper third of the oven. If you're using a baking stone or baking steel, place it in the oven on the top rack. If you're using the dough recipe provided in the summary, prepare dough. If you're using store-bought dough, check the instructions of the package. It might need to rest at room temperature while you work on the pesto.
Make the pesto: In a food processor, add the kale, pecans, lemon juice, garlic, salt and several twists of freshly ground black pepper. Turn on the food processor and drizzle in the oil. Process until the pesto reaches your desired consistency, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Taste and add more lemon, salt or pepper if necessary.
Prepare the pizza dough, and roll the dough out as thin as possible while maintaining an even surface level. Transfer the dough to a pizza pan.
Top pizza(s) with an even layer of pesto (you may end up with extra pesto, which would be great on pasta or as a sandwich spread, etc.). Sprinkle cheese over the top. Lastly, in a small bowl, toss 1 cup chopped kale with 1 teaspoon olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Rub the oil into the kale so it's covered with a light, even layer. Distribute the kale evenly over the top of the pizza.
Transfer pizza on baking sheet or onto your preheated baking stone. Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese on top is bubbly (about 10 to 12 minutes on a baking sheet, or as few as 5 minutes on a baking stone). Repeat with remaining pizza, if necessary. If desired, top pizza with a light sprinkle of red pepper flakes. Slice and serve.