Forget roses and truffles. In Vermont, nothing says “be my Valentine” like a bushel of kale.
So for Valentine’s Day we ate kale.
My Valentine and I both love to cook, so naturally we decided to make dinner instead of going out. Food is indeed the language of love. Normally we cook together, but last night we deviated from tradition. We were in the same kitchen at the same time, but neither of us knew what the other was cooking: each of us made a surprise dish for the other.
It was a test.
A test of how well we know each other, of course. And my Valentine, well, he passed with flying colors. He made lamb. And he cooked it perfectly, slightly rare and tender, with an excellent spicy and sweet crust. And he served it with caramelized brussel sprouts. Man, he really nailed it.
I made pizza.
Normally I would make a meat and vegetables based dish. But I really wanted to make something different and challenging; something that he would never expect and that I’d never made before. From all the times we’ve cooked together, he knows what I tend to cook. I wanted this meal to be a total surprise. And it was, until the very end. It’s hard to identify a pizza until the very end of the process, when you put all of the toppings on and pop it in the oven. The look on his face when the pizza came out and he realized that it was in fact pizza was one of the best parts of the evening.
The pizza had kale on it, too.
The greenery was going to be spinach, but kale seemed so much more seasonal and appropriate. It also has so much more texture than spinach does, even when cooked. The leaves get soft and supple when sautéed gently, but they do not wilt away into nothingness, as spinach can when it gets overcooked.
Toppings are great, but what about the crust?
Making a gluten-free, rice-free, egg-free, dairy-free crust was frightening. Using the internet and several different recipes, however, I cobbled together a new recipe that seemed promising. A few hours on the internet can be quite informative, especially when interspersed with reading French poetry and Economist articles for class. I would have preferred a grain-free recipe, and it’s very possible to make one, but as the only grain-free flours at my disposal are tapioca starch and fava bean flour, which has a very peculiar taste, the crust wouldn’t have been edible using only grain-free flours. The resulting recipe has fava flour, tapioca starch, amaranth flour, and sorghum flour, and it turned out quite well.
Speaking of flours, how about cake for dessert?
Our dessert though really was grain-free. The flavor of the fava flour is easily covered up with the addition of enough cocoa powder and chocolate. So we made ourselves chocolate lava cakes, which were awfully delicious. That may have been due to the addition of extra chocolate, however…you really can never have too much chocolate.
Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Dairy-Free, Rice-Free Pizza Crust!
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup fava bean flour
1/2 cup amaranth flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons organic light brown sugar
2/3 cup warm water (between 110 – 115ºF)
1 tsp organic light brown sugar
1/2 packet (1/8 ounce) active dry yeast
1/8 cup good olive oil
1 tbsp chia seed + 3 tbsp water (equivalent to 1 egg) A splash of white balsamic vinegar
Grease your pizza pan WELL (I used my cast iron skillet but not a lot of oil and the crust stuck a bit, so make sure there’s a fair amount of grease on the surface)
Proof the yeast in 1 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours and dry ingredients.
Add the proofed yeast to the dry ingredients. Add the oil, eggs and vinegar.
Stir until smooth and sticky. Add the remaining 1/4 cup water if you need to. The pizza dough should be creamy smooth – almost creamy peanut butter consistency.
Scoop the dough into the prepared pan and press down lightly and flatten the dough to create a thin, even pizza shell, with slightly raised edges. Take the time to smooth it out.
Set the pizza shell in a warm spot to rest and rise a bit- about 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
If using a cast-iron skillet: Put the toppings on your crust and put the whole thing on the stove for about 4 minutes – this helps make the bottom of the crust crispy.
If not, put the crust in the 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Then add your sauce and toppings.
Then bake the pizza until the crust gets slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Pull it out of the oven and enjoy!
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp tomato sauce
1/2 tsp mace
Heat the balsamic, oil, mace and sugar on medium heat for about 7 minutes, until the balsamic begins to reduce a bit. Stir in the tomato sauce and cook for 3 minutes more. Add salt, if needed. Pull of the heat and paint onto the crust before adding the toppings. Drizzle any extra on the pizza when it comes out of the oven.
5 large kale leaves – 4 cut into thin strips and 1 torn into small pieces
5 pieces of thin sliced salami – I like Applegate Farm Soppressata – cut into strips
1/2 large yellow onion, cut into rounds
Sauté the onion pieces in a tablespoon of olive oil on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. They should get brown and soft. Add the kale that is cut into strips and sauté everything for 3 minutes more. Toss with a pinch of salt and pull off the heat.
Spread the sautéed kale on the pizza, then add the salami. Put the onion on last.
Toss the torn pieces of kale in a little olive oil and salt. When the pizza has about 2 minutes to go before being done, put these pieces on the pizza and put the oven on broil. The pieces will get super crispy, like kale chips.
Grain-free Vegan Chocolate Lava Cakes
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 cup fava flour
*Note – almond flour would also go wonderfully in this dessert. I’m allergic to almonds, so I don’t use it, but feel free to substitute it for at least part of the fava and/or tapioca flours.
1 cup sugar
8 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
½ cup hemp milk (you can sub in soy or another alternative milk here – you could use a chocolate alternative milk too for even more chocolate flavor)
¼ cup grapeseed oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all of the dry ingredients and the chocolate chips together. Pour in all of the wet ingredients and stir well.
Divide into six ramekins and bake for 15-20 minutes, until they are risen and the edges are crispy. Pull them out and enjoy!
We also added a blackberry sauce, which took about 10 minutes:
1 cup blackberries
2 tbsp honey
Juice of 1 grapefruit
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tbsp water
Cook everything except for the water on medium heat for about 7 minutes. It should reduce and become slightly syrupy. Add the water for a thinner sauce. Pour on top of your chocolate cakes!
I hope you all enjoyed a lovely Valentine’s Day, whether with friends, family, or your Valentine.
It’s 40 degrees and rather windy…spring is coming.