Spicy Kale and Asparagus Pizza

I used to be a picky eater. I hated breakfast to the point that my only early morning sustenance for years was in the form of Carnation Instant Breakfast drinks. Green has been my favorite color for most of my life, but for the longest time any naturally green foods were destined to under-the-table dog treats. You might think that, growing up with a chef in the family, I would have been exposed to things like truffles and duck confit at an early age. But, the truth of the matter is I refused a lot of my dad’s cooking until adulthood, preferring to eat Marie Callender and Easy Mac. I don’t know how, or when exactly, but thankfully I came around and became a much more adventurous eater.

Beer is an essential part of the pizza-making process.

One of the first foods I re-introduced into my diet once I stopped being a junk food junkie was kale. Big jump, I know. It happened when I joined a produce-buying club a few years ago. Kale made its way into my box just about every week of the buying season. I had it in spades, and I had to teach myself to cook it in ways I liked. Enter kale chips. Something amazing happens to this leafy green vegetable when you bathe it in olive oil and spices and then char it in a high-temp oven; it turns into the healthiest, most addictive snack you’ve ever eaten.

Nobody ate the salad because we filled up on pizza too quickly.

Combining these crispy, charred ‘lil leaves with the food that Americans eat 350 slices of every second, and you’ve got yourself a healthy meal that will also satisfy all your junk food cravings. I don’t think I know a single person who doesn’t like pizza, but among my circle of friends it’s almost an obsession. I have multiple friends with pizza tattoos, an acquaintance who is eating every slice in New York, and one of my co-workers just bought a hand-painted pizza back patch. Pizza is one of the most commonly used words in my Facebook status updates, true story. So yeah, we love pizza, and this particular pie is no exception. In fact, it may be one of my favorites.

This meal was inspired by my love of kale chips, and my roommate’s enthusiasm over kale on sale at our local grocery store. He may have gone a little overboard in buying so much, but I’ll gladly take some of the burden off his hands. The mozzarella was left over from panzanella earlier in the week, and the asparagus looked irresistible at the Tompkin’s Square Market.

Spicy Kale and Asparagus Pizza
Serves 3, apparently. Seeing as my roommates and I housed this down in under twenty minutes.
For the kale chips:
4 cups loosely packed, hand-torn kale
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For the pizza:
Pizza dough*
Pizza sauce**
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella, torn into shred-like bits
8 thin stalks of asparagus
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
To make kale chips, pre-heat oven to 500°F. Toss all ingredients together til kale is coated with oil and spices. Spread onto a baking sheet. Bake for ten minutes or until kale looks crispy and slightly charred. Remove and set aside, but keep oven on.
To make pizza, stretch dough to approximately fourteen inches across and place on baking sheet or pizza stone. Top with sauce, cheese, and asparagus. Bake until crust is golden brown. Top with Parmesan, kale, and pepper flakes.
*A note on dough, making your own is awesome and easy! My go to recipe is from King Arthur Flour. However, tonight I was lazy and sent my roommates on a dough-purchasing quest through Brooklyn. Little known fact about your local slice joint: they will most likely sell you enough dough to make two pies at home for a mere five dollars! Trader Joes and Whole Foods also have pretty awesome, low-cost crusts. But, honestly, nothing beats homemade in price and taste!
**As for sauce, I like to make a simple one from canned San Marzanos, a clove of chopped garlic, and some fresh herbs like basil and parsley. Simply cook the garlic in a small amount of olive oil until it smells nice and garlicky. Add the tomatoes and heat, on low, squishing the tomatoes against the pan until they are broken down. To get a smoother consistency, run the sauce through the blender or food processor. Toss in a few herbs, salt, and pepper at the end and voila! Super-fast pizza/pasta sauce.