Monday, February 28, 2011

Kale Pizza with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

During a college car trip back in the 90s, a friend put on a cassette from the band Mazzy Star. It was a nice album, every song awash with a thrummy base of swirling guitars, and sleepy, slurry vocals layered on top. After a few songs that riffed on this theme, my friend Noah turned to me. "You know," he observed, "they have a really good sound. But the problem with having a particular sound is that all your songs, they kinda sound the same." I think his assessment is pretty spot-on for that particular flavor of early-90s alternative rock. And it's also pretty much how I feel about kale.

To back up, I am a big fan of kale. Huge. I think it's lovely, and I think everyone should eat a lot of it (as I try to advertise). It's got a really good sound, so to speak, all full of nutrient-rich dark-green leafy goodness. But the thing is, I'm not always up for that big pile of brassica. And for a while, that's all I thought kale could be. But recently, I've learned how to make kale sing a different song.

The secret turns out to be balance: pairing kale with ingredients that don't overpower it, but join forces to steer it in an interesting new direction. In this case, kale is sauteed up with some olive oil and garlic, and then laid down on top of an uncooked pizza crust (I find that a whole wheat dough is particularly good at standing up to the strong flavor of kale). It's then topped with walnuts to give a nutty depth, funky blue cheese to spark it up, and a handful of thinly-sliced onions that will soften invitingly. All of these strong and pungent flavors hold their own, and combine with kale to make a beautifully balanced pie. While I easily get overwhelmed by pots of plain kale, I could eat this pizza every week -- it's a song I never get tired of hearing.

Kale Pizza with Blue Cheese and Walnuts

yields 2 pizzas

2 balls pizza dough (~10 ounces each, preferably whole wheat)
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch kale, or two smaller bunches (I like Red Russian), washed and dried and roughly chopped
wedge of lemon
flour or semolina for dusting
~1/3 cup roughly chopped walnut halves (do not toast, as they'll brown in the oven)
~1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 red or yellow onion, sliced into thin half-moons

Preheat your oven, with a pizza stone if you have, to 500 degrees for an hour. If your pizza dough has been refrigerated, let it sit, covered, at room temperature for about the same amount of time.

While the oven is preheating and the dough is warming, prepare the kale. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until starting to brown. Add the kale along with a pinch of salt, and saute until softened, covering the pot between stirring to help the kale wilt. When it's almost done, squeeze the wedge of lemon over the top and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Place one ball of the pizza dough on a lightly-floured counter top, and press outward into a thick disk (leaving a 1" unpressed area along the edge as the crust). Pick up the disk and let it drape over the backs of your hands, letting gravity help you stretch it into a 12-14" circle. If the dough resists, let it relax for a few minutes, then try again. Place the stretched dough on a peel (or overturned cookie sheet or cutting board) that's lightly dusted with semolina or other type of flour.

Take half the sauteed kale, and sprinkle evenly over the dough. Scatter half the walnuts, half the blue cheese, and half the onions on top. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Slide the pizza onto the preheated stone in your oven, reduce the heat to 450, and bake ~7-10 minutes, until the crust browns. Remove the pizza from the oven, let cool for a moment, and slice and serve.


  1. Now I know what to do with the other half of my kale. OMG! This sounds delicious!

  2. It's in the oven...I hope it's good! I was surprised by no saice...but I have a good feeling about it. Thank you!