tuscan kale, ricotta and mushroom pizza

tuscan kale, ricotta and mushroom pizza www.familystylefood.com
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.

tuscan kale, mushroom and ricotta pizza www.familystylefood.com

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).  [Read more…]

BLTs with Basil Aioli and Five-Minute Grilled Flatbread

BLT sandwich on quick grilled flatbread
I love the Vogue food writer Jeffrey Steingarten, and one of my all-time favorite pieces from his book “It Must Have Been Something I Ate” is the one about his search for perfect pizza, which, in true Steingartian fashion sends him on a mission to reproduce the flavor and taste of a true Neapolitan-style pizza crust at home.

Steingarten estimates that in order to achieve blistered, dense and delicious crusts a person needs to simulate the heat of a true wood-fired oven that can achieve extremely hot temperatures, somewhere in the range between 650 and 950 degrees, which proves to be just about impossible to accomplish unless you happen to have a heavy-duty commercial oven. His most successful attempt turns out to be firing up a Weber charcoal grill and placing a pizza stone directly on the rack; when the charcoal is arranged properly (more toward the sides of the stone than piled right under it) your everyday barbecue grill is transformed into a little pizza oven. I tried this method and it seems to work pretty well.

After browsing through a new cookbook called Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas yesterday and getting hungry, I made a simple unleavened dough and lit the grill. I actually wanted to make hot BLT sandwiches for dinner, and thought the bread would be an interesting twist. And since it was so spur of the moment, the dough recipe was a good choice since it doesn’t require yeast or rising time. It doesn’t have the fermented flavor that a good yeasted pizza or flatbread has, but for a quick, interesting meal it was satisfying and fun to make.

This method of cooking on the grill would work with any dough you have, even prepared pizza dough from the bakery or grocery store. I’ve also used this very easy recipe for 5-minute pizza dough from Sara Moulton with excellent results.

BLT’s with Basil Aioli on Grilled Flatbread

Prepared pizza dough or Piadina dough (recipe follows)
Basil Aioli (recipe follows)
Fresh arugula or other greens
Cooked bacon
Sliced ripe tomatoes

Light your charcoal or gas grill to medium-high, arranging coals around edges of the grill once they are hot and glowing. (use long tongs and a heavy-duty oven mitts for this). Place a pizza stone on the rack and heat until a drop of water sizzles and evaporates on contact.

Cut the dough into 3-inch pieces and roll them out on a floured surface into roughly 6-inch diameter rounds.

Place the dough on the stone and cook until both sides are browned and blistered, about 2 minutes per side.

Remove from the stone and spread each with some Basil Aioli. Top with greens, bacon and tomatoes. Fold over loosely and eat like a sandwich.

Basil Aioli
1/2 cup mayonnaise, regular or reduced fat ( I prefer Hellmann’s)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for up to one day.

Piadina Dough (Instant Unleavened Pizza Dough)
Adapted from Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas by Craig W. Priebe

1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the dough blade. Process just until the dough comes together, about 15 pulses. Dump the dough on to a floured surface and knead until soft and springy. Cover with plastic wrap to rest for about 15 minutes.

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