Spring, as it’s wont to do, is proceeding in fits and starts. We shivered through a Cubs game yesterday afternoon, only to find ourselves eating dinner on the deck—sockless! with candles!—that very same night, as the mercury climbed to seventy (!) degrees. Today, it was back to steel gray skies and blustering wind and that tiresome chill. And that, in a nutshell, is how this brief spell between winter and summer typically unfolds for us here in Chicago. We are teased with warm days, tall blue skies, and bright sunshine, only to have the rug pulled out from under us before we can even bust out a single sundress.
So. I’ve decided to throw winter a going away party. I figure that if we properly fête winter—celebrating all that was great about the all-too-long season—it will uproot itself and fade away. Who’s in? Without further ado, here are the things I’ve loved about this winter:
Kale. Kale with pasta—whether it’s my own rustic version or The Bristol‘s more elegant version, with rich and lemony kale threaded around delicate garganelli. Kale in risotto. Kale shredded, roasted and tucked into a quinoa-feta salad. Kale beneath the runny yolk of a fried or poached egg. Or kale, best of all, sliced into thin strips and perched atop a pizza, under a drizzle of olive oil and a goodly pinch of red pepper flakes—the pizza that you see pictured in this post (recipe below).
Sunny Saturday afternoons. Whether spent in the bright, bustling front room of Big Star, over beers and guacamole, where the yellow chairs and lime juice can warm up even the worst winter day, or spent in the Loop, which transforms into an almost peaceful place after the work-a-days filter out on Friday night, or in the kitchen, where the oven’s warmth welcomes and the dough that must be kneaded or the sugar and butter that must be creamed lend the day a worthy purpose.
Pickled Onions. Harsh and bright and a little sweet, if you pay close enough attention, pickled onions are not all that unlike winter, really. I’ve been eating them atop this salad every chance I get, but I haven’t stopped there. They’re wonderful on sandwiches, atop pizzas, and tucked into tacos (both the dinner and the breakfast kind).
Basketball. I’ve gotten into the Bulls this season, which is easy to do when all they do is win. I’ve been lucky to attend a couple games—including one in which they stomped the Heat—but not lucky enough to make the Kiss Cam on the Jumbotron. There’s always next season. Also: Butler. Here’s where Kevin starts rolling his eyes, because he thinks my full-blown crush on Brad Stevens is ridiculous. I respectfully disagree with him. Tonight, I say, go Bulldogs!
Citrus. It’s been a juicy winter around here. From grapefruits to lemons to limes to oranges (big ones, tiny ones, ruby-fleshed ones), I’ve had my fill of citrus over the past couple of months. Now, I’m ready to say goodbye. Winter: the same goes for you.
Spicy Roasted Kale Pizza
Crust Recipe Adapted from The Fresh Loaf
Yield: 1 10-inch pizza
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cups room-temperature water
2 tablespoons or so of tomato sauce
6 to 8 thin slices of buffalo mozzarella
1 small bundle Tuscan kale, trimmed and thinly sliced
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
red pepper flakes, to taste
Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a medium mixing bowl. Add the oil and water; stir vigorously until the ingredients are combined. Set the dough aside to rest for 5 minutes. On a lightly floured counter, knead the dough for 3 to 5 minutes, adding more water or flour if necessary. Transfer the dough to an oil lined bowl; allow to rest for 1 hour.
Place a pizza stone on the floor of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Prepare a piece of parchment paper roughly the size of your pizza stone. Dust the parchment very lightly with cornmeal or flour. Press the dough into a round on the cornmeal-dusted parchment paper. Spread a very thin layer of the sauce on the dough. Top with the cheese. Pile the shredded kale on top of the cheese, drizzle with olive oil and a big pinch of red pepper flakes.
Wearing oven mitts, transfer the pizza, on the parchment paper, onto the preheated pizza stone (keeping the parchment between the pizza and the stone). Bake for ten minutes, then check the pizza once a minute until the dough is slightly charred in spots and the kale is browned and crisp. Wearing oven mitts, lift the pizza on the parchment off the stone and onto a board. Slide the parchment out from under the pizza and discard it.
Slice and serve hot.