Thursday, January 21, 2010


Even though I consider myself a major vegetable fan, I hadn’t really tried fennel before (the bulb, I mean; my father loves fennel seed and instilled an appreciation for it in me, even though I don’t really care for other licorice-flavored items). I’m pleased to report that it is delicious, at least when caramelized and heaped onto pizza. Also delicious: kale pesto! If you’re unsure about trying kale, kale pesto is a good gateway drug. Although it tastes quite different from basil pesto, it’s not especially kale-like, just garlicky and green (if you gave it to me in a blind taste test, I might have guessed that it was spinach pesto, although in my opinion it also had a certain ineffable something that made it tastier than spinach). It’s a genius way to get your winter veggies, or to use up any extra kale that you might have lying around, and I imagine it tastes great in any context where you might use pesto (on pasta, bread, etc.).

I also love sausage and needed to make a new batch of pizza sausage anyway, so this recipe from Eggs on Sunday was an all-around win for me, heaped with bold, hearty, wintry flavors that complimented each other tremendously well. It was a bit more labor-intensive than my other pizza recipes, but having premade my own sausage cut down on the work, and there’s no reason you couldn’t make the pesto or caramelize the fennel ahead of time, too. But even if it took hours I’d still be panting to make it again—and you can bet I’ll be bookmarking more fennel recipes posthaste.

(You may notice that I rearranged the order of the items in the title, and that's because when I told someone I was making “pizza with sausage, caramelized fennel, and kale pesto,” they thought that meant that all three items were ground up together in the pesto, less appetizing-sounding.)

2 cups (packed) trimmed kale
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
Salt to taste
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large fennel bulb (or 2 smaller ones), thinly sliced
1 pinch sugar
½ pound hot Italian sausage
1 pound pizza dough
1–2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add fennel, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until soft and caramelized.

2. Meanwhile, remove casings from sausage and brown in a skillet over medium heat, crumbling with the back of a spoon. (Or you can use 8 ounces of ’Atsa Spicy Pizza Sausage and skip this step.)

3. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the kale for 2 minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Add kale, Parmesan, garlic, and salt to the bowl of a blender or food processor and puree until fairly smooth. Add the olive oil and process until a smooth, loose paste forms.

4. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Roll out the pizza dough and place on a cornmeal-dusted baking sheet. Spread the kale pesto over the dough, then top with shredded mozzarella, caramelized fennel, and sausage.

5. Bake until the crust is golden and cheese is bubbly, about 8 minutes.

Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Leftover potential: Good, especially if reheated in the oven

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