Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tuscan Kale Pizza and a Blood Orange & Grapefruit Margarita

It's been a crazy few weeks around here, but it seems like I've started almost every post like that lately....I mean, the rare times I've actually posted something!  We spent a great week in San Francisco and Napa with friends only to come home to two little involving family and one involving our dog, Rafter.  I'll spare you the sordid details with the one involving family, but we came home to Rafter only walking on three legs.  Seems he got a little excited while we were gone and tore his ACL in his right rear leg.  Which meant that he had to have surgery this past week and is supposed to remain calm for the next six weeks.  Yes.  Six loooooong weeks.  In a cage.  I tried for the first two years of this dog's life to cage train him and he fought it every.  single.  day.  He finally wore me out and I gave up.  Fast forward 10 years.  He's still not having any of that cage.  Yes, I'm forcing him to stay in it when I can't give him my full attention, but it's pure hell.  He whines and barks and whines and barks and......well, you get the picture.  It's brutal.  And don't get me started on the "cone of shame" he's supposed to wear to keep from licking the incision.  Talk about pissed off.  Only five and a half more weeks to go.

So let's talk about something a lot more this pizza.  It's been a really wet and grey winter in B'ham and earlier in the week, James Spann the Weatherman promised us that Saturday and Sunday would be sunny and warm so I made plans to fire up the pizza oven and have some peeps up to celebrate my BFF's upcoming birthday.  Well, I should know to never trust a weatherman, because we never saw the sun yesterday (it's, of course, beautiful today) and it was cold and foggy but we followed through with our plans to make some pizza anyway.  

I usually make about 4-5 pizzas to feed everyone and one of those is always something new and a little out of the ordinary just to keep myself interested.  The men always want meat, meat and more meat on theirs but I can usually count on my girlfriends to be a little more adventurous.  Since Kale seems to be having it's moment in the spotlight right now, I figured I'd try to incorporate it into a pizza somehow.  After a little research, I found a recipe I thought I could work with.  It starts with a white bean, rosemary and garlic base topped with some spicy Italian sausage and some sauteed kale and shallots.  And just because it's not pizza without cheese, I finished it off with some fresh mozzarella.

 This was soooo delicious and a huge hit with just about everyone.  I started with browning the sausage in my cast iron skillet.  When it was done I removed the sausage with a slotted spoon leaving the drippings behind because spicy sausage grease is one of the great pleasures in life.  I added a little more olive oil to the pan and on a medium low heat added a heaping tablespoon of chopped rosemary and a few minced garlic cloves to the pan.  I let them get to know each other for a few minutes then added a drained and rinsed can of cannellini beans.  Let those warm up and soften a bit then mash it all together with a potato masher until it's the consistency of lumpy mashed potatoes.

Remove that from the pan and set aside.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and saute one good sized, thinly sliced shallot until softened.  Remove the ribs and thinly slice 5-6 kale leaves and add those to the shallots and cook until just wilted. Set aside.

Use whatever pizza dough you prefer, either homemade or store-bought.  If I'm feeling ambitious, I'll make my own but lately I've been getting fresh dough from Whole Food's pizza counter.  Can't beat it.  To assemble the pizza, roll out your dough and place the dough on a pizza peel covered with corn meal or flour.  Spread the white bean mixture over the entire surface of the dough leaving about an inch of the edges uncovered all the way around.  Top with the sausage and then the kale mixture and finally some fresh mozzarella.  Slide it into either your pizza oven or onto a preheated pizza stone/steel in your regular oven. Bake that sucker until the dough is crispy and the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.  Slice and enjoy.  The garlic and rosemary in the white beans, coupled with the spicy sausage, crispy kale and gooey cheese is everything I look for in a pizza.  This will become a regular on pizza night.

The only thing that might have rivaled the pizza is this margarita.  This was a birthday party, after all, and since National Margarita Day was this week, it was only fitting that we have a few.  I had never been told that there was a National Margarita Day, but now that I know, I totally on board.  

I suppose you could make these with store-bought juice (although I've never seen Blood Orange Juice in the store) but c'mon people.  Juice some fresh fruit.  If you don't have a juicer, do it by hand a consider it your workout for the day!

These are the perfect combination of slightly sweet and slightly bitter and taste extremely fresh.  I loved them a little too much!

Here's the recipe for the margarita.

Blood Orange & Grapefruit Margarita
Makes enough for about 4 drinks.

1 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1 cup freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup triple sec
1 cup tequila (I prefer Patron Silver)
1/4 cup simple syrup (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients in a pitcher and stir well.  Pour into a salt-rimmed glass with ice.


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