Say what you will about my jumping on the bandwagon, but I’m not going to back down from my conviction that kale pizza is really tasty, regardless of its current trendy status. Now that I’ve found it, I want to continue devouring it right up until the day I expire. After trying it atop the Rooftop Red at Paulie Gee’s in Greenpoint, I no longer like Brussels sprouts as a pizza topping.
Moving to the West Coast has been wonderful in so many ways. There’s room for us to expand. There’s more room for the dog. Only a 20-minute drive away are hiking paths of international renown. A park where dogs are allowed to run free, and where they may meet and make friends with a horse belonging to a kite surfer, all while a hang glider makes an approach to the dunes only feet away.
However, we also have to deal with astronomically expensive rentals. Much too much trendy charcuterie (too much hipster everything). The most alarming of all is the dearth of pizzas topped with broccoli and cauliflower.
Years ago, for my birthday lunch at work, Ed Levine would lovingly order a stack of my favorite Neapolitan-style pizza in the world, the Brussels sprouts pie from Motorino. There was even a candle included sometimes. Under the strong heat of the wood-fired oven, the Brussels sprout leaves develop a delicious, nutty char, which complements the char on the leopard-spotted crust.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen to me this year. You can get some fine Neapolitan pizza in San Francisco (though a good piece is almost impossible to come by), but I can’t think of somewhere that serves a particularly good Brussels sprout or kale pie.
What is it? Obviously, I need you to make me one.
In the past, I used to whip up a few different doughs to utilize while making pizza. These days, my go-to for pizza is a simple dough recipe that mimics the New York style. It takes no time to prepare, browns and puffs nicely without the need for cold fermentation, and can be produced using inexpensive materials found at any grocery store (no fancy imported flours like my Neapolitan dough recipe calls for).
If it works for my favorite pizzerias, it should work for me, so I gave it a short test run by tossing some broken mozzarella cheese and kale drizzled in olive oil on top of a stretched disk of dough and baked it on top of my baking dish below a high broiler.
Unfortunately, the kale in the pie had already been singed to a crisp before the pie was even halfway baked. A broiler and baking steel can simulate the heat and appearance of a wood-burning oven, but they can’t quite match up in terms of performance. Whereas the high convection currents in a stone oven would heat the food uniformly throughout, the broiler will heat the food nearest to it at a tenfold quicker rate,* leading to overcooked kale on the pie’s crust.
We appreciate it very much* the law of the inverse square.
Par-cooking the pizza base was the obvious solution.
First, I scattered some shredded Gruyère and broken mozzarella over my dough. The nuttiness of the roasted brassicas pairs well with the nuttiness of the Alpine-style cheese. Before sliding it onto my steel, I spiced it up with some red pepper flakes, garlic slices, and olive oil. * If you’re in the mood for some cured pig, some diced pancetta or bacon would also be delicious here.
After just a few minutes, you should see some very brown and puffy areas. The kale may go in now.
When it comes to kale, I always go for the regular curly kind instead than the more expensive laminate or other fancy straight-leaf variants. Twisting in the oven, the curls take on a crispier, more savory flavor. And I learned this from Paulie as well: marinating the kale is the actual secret to a good kale pie. Kale becomes soft by being marinated in olive oil and then let rest for a time (I let mine stay out at room temperature while my pizza dough rises). This makes the kale more prone to wilting in the oven.
After letting the kale sit in the marinade for a while, I immediately placed it on top of the partially cooked pie. You need to use a generous amount of it since it will decrease in size as it bakes.
Hopefully, whatever comes out on the other end will have a fantastic aroma. The kale is sweet, nutty, smoky, and charred, while the mozzarella is molten and barely visible behind the char.
Even if nobody brings me a pizza for my birthday anymore, I figure I’ll be alright on the West Coast as long as I have an oven and a pizza peel.
- Document Recipe
- Two 8-ounce balls of pizza dough, either handmade or purchased in a 1-pound package
- 6-8 ounces of kale, washed and coarsely chopped (about 2 quarts)
- Three Tablespoons of High-Quality Olive Oil
- Black pepper with kosher salt
- Fontina, Jack, or Gruyère cheese, shredded (6 ounces)
- Mozzarella cheese, fresh, 8 ounces
- Thinly slice 6 medium-sized garlic cloves
- Crush some crushed red pepper
- Roll the dough into balls and place in separate bowls lightly greased with oil; cover with plastic wrap. Put aside for an hour at room temperature.
2. In a large bowl, mix the kale with the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Incorporate the oil into the kale by tossing and kneading the leaves with your hands. The pizza dough needs to rest, so put it aside. In the meanwhile, put baking steel or pizza stone on the top oven rack and move it to the highest position under the broiler. Turn on the highest heat setting if the oven will be used.
3. One ball of pizza dough should be rolled in flour and a bowl before being baked. Place on a pizza peel made of floured wood and work into a thin round. Layer half the grated cheese and half the mozzarella, broken into bite-sized pieces, on top.
4. Cast pizza onto baking steel and broil it for a few minutes. Wait 2 minutes, flipping the pan halfway through baking, until the cheese is melted and the sides are just beginning to brown. Using a metal pizza peel, take it out of the oven and spread half of the kale over the top. For a further 2 minutes in the oven, toss the pizza around every so often to ensure even cooking and the kale becomes scorched and crunchy. Reheat the remaining pizza and serve immediately.
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