Oh Kale, Yes: Dinner Party Pizza

Chow on 12.01.11
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Photo credit Julie Douglas

Right about now your palate is probably suffering from Part One of what I like to call the Holiday Ham Hangover. I'm talking about "overserving" yourself with fatty, salty and sweet foods to the point that you just want to crawl under a patchwork quilt and remain there for the rest of December. And yet there's celebrating to be done and get-togethers to plan!

This is when a perky little dish called Turkish pizza can come to the rescue for an easy dinner party entree - goosing your taste buds with coriander, cumin and feta, not to mention a healthy fistful of magical kale. I first met this pizza one wintery evening four years ago at David Sweeney's Dynamic Dish, a culinary haven that has since closed, but still retains a place in the Atlanta restaurant Pantheon for its clean, beautifully executed cuisine, and for its superlative organic pizzas, served only on Saturday nights.

Imagine the kind of restaurant that Martha Stewart might open if she became a blissed out organic farmer: yellow-and-green heirloom squash displayed among Depression-era glassware, tea lights scattered over butcher block communal tables set before a plate-glass window with scenes of winter unfolding before it, BYOB wine bottles emerging out of paper sacks, and the food. The glorious food.

But enough preamble. Let's get to why I've spent a full year trying to recreate Dynamic Dish's recipe for Turkish pizza for my friends, family and now you. Everything about this dish is completely unexpected and wholly soul-satisfying on a cold night in front of the fireplace. The cumin, coriander, sautéed garlic and feta turn your tongue into a pinball machine, lighting up little patches of flavors along the way while kale anchors the pizza with an earthy taste and a little crunch.

While I can't say that this recipe is exactly like the one it's modeled after, I can tell you that everyone who's tasted it swears that it's the real deal. And just like at the restaurant, it's best experienced with a decent bottle of red wine, the flicker of candlelight and good friends.

Turkish Pizza, a la Dynamic Dish

4 cups of kale, ribs removed and torn into small pieces
1 ½ cup mozzarella or a mix of asiago, parmesan, fontina and provolone
½ cup of pizza sauce
1 package of wheat pizza dough, or make your own
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan for garnish

Photo credit Julie Douglas1.       Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl add cumin, coriander, 1 tbsp olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix with kale until well coated. Add more olive oil if necessary. Spread kale on a baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes, or until kale starts to crisp but is still a little chewy. Remove from oven and set aside.

Photo credit Julie Douglas2.       Roll out dough until it's as thin as flatbread.* Spray a pan with olive oil, place pizza dough on top and press on it with the tips of your fingers. Pre-bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the bottoms starts to stiffen a bit. Remove from oven and top with sauce, mozzarella and kale. Then add a scattering of feta on top of kale. Slide it off of the baking sheet and into the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

3.       While the pizza bakes, sauté the garlic in 1 tbsp of olive until golden. Take care not to burn the garlic.

Photo credit Julie Douglas4.       Top pizza with garlic and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Difficulty Level: Easy
Serves 4, pair with a sweet and tart salad 
Notes: The pizza dough is pretty key to the recipe, so if you don't have a grocery store that sells quality pizza dough (like Trader Joe's, for instance), or you don't feel like making your own, you can buy fresh pizza dough from your local pizzeria, as well as pizza sauce.

*You may want to consider rolling out two pizzas from the dough. You'll get two, nicely thin pizzas that'll serve more people. Just make sure to budget for a little bit more pizza sauce and cheese.

If you're not a fan of garlic, feel free to omit it - the pizza is just as delicious without it.

Don't have kale? Collards make an excellent substitute.

For the meat-eaters at your table you could toss a handful of carmelized bacon on their half of the pizza.

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