Week 11: Freshness

Freshness is essential. That makes all the difference.

~ Julia Child
Kale pesto pizza with butternut squash, mozzarella, and red onions

All Hail Kale!

We skipped over this recipe several times, thinking kale pesto sounded like basil pesto’s less popular cousin. But, we walked by a big bunch of fresh kale at eye level in the grocery store, calling our names. We put it in our cart, intending to “do something” with it during the week. That something turned into kale pesto on pizza. It was surprisingly delicious, with an earthy flavor.

Kale is a Nutritional Powerhouse

You probably know this, and it warrants repeating. Kale is a superfood. One cup of raw kale has 3 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fiber, and just 33 calories. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. It’s also a food I prefer to disguise in other things like smoothies or rice bowls, or this delicious kale pesto.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of raw kale
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic depending on your preference
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • dash of salt
  • dash of pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 cup of raw nuts- you can use pine nuts or almonds. We used walnuts toasted for 5 minutes on a sheet pan in a hot oven.
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions

  • Tear the kale off the stems, discard the stems, rinse the kale, either pat it dry or if you have a salad spinner, spin away! Massage the kale for a few minutes to help break down the tough cell structure of the plant. People say this leads to easier digestibility and a better taste.
  • Pulse the nuts and garlic in a food processor. Add the kale and pulse a few more times.
  • Add the lemon juice, salt & pepper. Pulse again.
  • While the blade is running, drizzle in the olive oil. Scrape the sides of the food processor and pulse again. If you prefer a smoother pesto, add more olive oil.
Making the pizza, kale pesto with butternut squash and red onions

We had extra pesto that we stored in the fridge and used a day or two later. You can also make it ahead for quicker pizza assembly.

The Big Green Monster

Kale pesto is the star of this pizza show and for good reason. It’s enough on its own. One of our self-imposed rules for this year of pizza making is that we actually make a pizza each week. Flatbread, breadsticks, and garlic knots don’t cut it, even though all of those bread based items are super yummy. This is about pizza and pizza has toppings.

I was intrigued by recipes that use butternut squash. We happened to have some butternut squash cubes in our freezer. Word of warning, my friend, butternut squash may freeze well enough for soups, but that’s about it. I un-froze small batches by boiling, baking, and pan frying it. The results were the same each time- the texture was mushy.

As Bay Area residents, we are under a mandatory “shelter in place” order due to Coronavirus, so we are making due with what we already have in our kitchen. Next time we’ll make this pizza with fresh butternut squash and use the extra to make this soup.

Despite the mushy squash, my partner commented that this is one of his favorites so far this year (and we’ve had a LOT of pizza!). I like that this recipe showed me a new way to sneak some kale into my cooking. Next time I’d try the pesto with 1/2 kale and 1/2 basil. That makes for a more expensive recipe, but basil freezes well for later use.

Unbaked kale pesto pizza

Putting it All Together

Crust

We made this dough from Bobby Flay, using bread dough, which has a higher protein content than all purpose flour. This recipe is for 2 pizzas, so we halved the recipe. You can use any dough you like, including store bought. There’s no shame in making things easier for yourself and store bought dough is cheap, with an elastic texture and consistent quality. I’d recommend trying a pre-made corn crust with this recipe to complement the earthy kale taste and the delicate squash.

Toppings

Slather on a generous amount of pesto, leaving a 1/4 inch rim around the edge of the pizza. We topped it with slices of red onion and garlic, sautéed in a glug of olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes. A dash of of salt & pepper and red pepper flakes are great additions and flavor enhancers. You can add them to the sauté or sprinkle over the pizza before baking.

Baking

The longer you bake a pizza the more moisture the dough loses. This is why in Naples piazzaiolos heat their ovens to 900° F and bake your pizza for only 90 seconds.

At home, the best you can do is heat your oven as high as it goes, typically 500° F, for about 45 minutes before you plan to use it. Having a pizza stone or pizza steel makes a big difference and allows you to achieve a more evenly heated crust. We were all set to buy one when the Coronavirus hit and changed our priorities quite a bit. For now, it’s on our wish list.

Bake this pizza for 12-15 minutes in a 500° oven. Let it cool before slicing and serving.

Wishing you and everyone you love much tenderness and love during this tough time.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish blessing:

“May joy and peace surround you, contentment latch your door, and happiness be with you now and bless you evermore!”

If you make this or any of our pizzas, let us know. Got a recipe to share? @52veganpizzas

Published by 52veganpizzas

We're a couple living in the Bay Area who are committed to a pie a week in 2020. Join us!

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