I laughed through “The Celery Incident“, a teaser episode from the new season of Portlandia; Steve Buscemi plays a sad sack salesman at Produce Sales Headquarters, taken to task for the sorry state of his account – celery – on the vegetable totem pole.
It’s pretty funny; in the episode, heirloom tomatoes, kale and brussels sprouts are the hot, sexy IT foods (bacon and corn play some parts, too), while celery struggles for some love. It did make me wonder if in reality kale has its own marketing board; no question kale (and healthy, green food in general) has gone viral over the past few years. But as far as I know kale ads aren’t taking the place of huge displays of Victoria’s Secret models in Times Square.
I’ve been trying to give celery a second chance in my kitchen. I use it as part of a flavor base – the soffritto - when I start cooking certain soups or sauces, but other than that I find its flavor can be overpowering when used raw or else it goes completely benign and unpleasantly mushy when cooked.
But to get back to kale, the co-star in this pizza recipe: I couldn’t be happier everybody wants some. I kind of hope it’s not just a fad that every restaurant in the land has some version of a kale salad on the menu (not so in France: The Kale Project is attempting to stir the pot).
I’m experimenting with a new baking steel I bought a few months ago from Stoughton Steel, a Kickstarter company – my old baking stone was a moving casualty. So far it’s been great. The steel is pretty heavy, not much more than the large stone I had before, but it has a slimmer profile. The idea is that steel can conduct heat more efficiently than a brick oven surface. It makes a great pie pretty quickly, although even with my oven cranked as high as it will go, 500 degrees, for me it’s nowhere near producing that blistered char of a wood-fired crust. I’m going to try it next in my fireplace to see how that goes.
I made a slow-rise dough from the Brooklyn restaurant Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian cookbook – (heads up – the dough needs at least 24 hours to proof). I haven’t made it over to Brooklyn to sample Franny’s pizza in person yet, but it’s at the top of my list; once the icebergs here in New Jersey finish melting I’ll venture out.
I used Italian “00” flour to make this pizza dough, but all-purpose works just as well. One batch of dough will make 4 approximately 12-inch pizzas, allowing for a little variety in toppings – I made a few basic Margheritas, but this one with creamy ricotta, earthy mushrooms and kale was my fave.
- ¼ portion or ½ pound dough from Pizza Dough recipe (see below)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- ½ red onion, sliced thinly
- 1 small garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 5 ounces cremini mushrooms, halved
- 1 small bunch Tuscan kale (aka Lacinato or Dinosaur), stemmed and leaves chopped
- ¾ cup whole milk ricotta, drained
- Pecorino Romano cheese
- Place your baking stone or steel in the oven on middle rack and preheat oven to 500 degrees for an hour.
- Remove dough from the refrigerator to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Put a saute pan over medium heat and coat the bottom with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and the onion to the pan and cook until softened; toss in the garlic and mushrooms and cook until the water from the mushrooms escapes; stir the mushrooms around and cook a minute or two more. Remove from the heat and stir in the kale. Set aside until ready to bake the pizza.
- Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured counter and pat out to a circle with your hands. Flip the dough over to coat both sides with some flour. Pick up the dough and gently stretch, holding the edges of the dough while rotating it around – gravity will do the work. Fit your knuckles under both sides of the dough and stretch a little more to make a 12-inch round, keeping the edges just a bit thicker.
- Set the dough on a floured baking peel or an upside-down baking sheet.
- Working quickly, drop the ricotta over the surface of the dough in spoonfuls. Top with kale and then the mushrooms.
- Slide the dough (or gently use a pair of tongs) onto the baking stone or steel and bake until the edges of the dough begin to bubble and turn golden brown, about 8 minutes. Keep your eye on it, as oven temperatures can vary.
- Drizzle the hot pizza with a little extra virgin olive oil and grate some Pecorino over before slicing and serving.
The pizza dough recipe makes enough dough for 4 pizzas - just double the amount of mushrooms, kale and ricotta as needed to make more than one pie.
adapted from Franny's Simple Seasonal Italian
- 4 ½ cups Italian double “00” flour, or all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons instant granulated yeast
- 1 ¾ cups filtered water
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Combine the flour and yeast in a the bowl of a heavy duty mixer fitted with the dough hook, or stir together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.
- Pour in the water and salt and mix until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, 2 to 3 minutes – don't knead.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 24 and up to 48 hours. When you take the bowl out of the refrigerator, it will have risen to less than double in volume.
- Divide the cool dough into 4 equal sized portions; roll each one around on an unfloured work surface, using the surface as friction to make a tight ball.
- Place the balls on a baking sheet, cover loosely with a tea towel and return to the refrigerator for an additional 4 hours.
- Take the dough out of the refrigerator as you preheat your oven to start making pizza, but take care it doesn't get too warm because it will soften and become stickier to work with.