One year. One year since the sun rose one last time for her. Listening to one of her sons, wordless, unable to speak through the suffering, her hand held by her final love, my mum left life.
Her influence remains in everything I do. When I cook something or eat something, I have one simple filter to determine if it is good. If I hear my mum’s voice say “Fine eating,” with her emphatic “Mmmmm,” I know it’s good. I should feel the instant connection of passion: the quality of each ingredient, the focus and dedication of the person cooking and the pleasure shared with someone who cares about that passionate link.
One example of a moment shared, that still lingers is when I go to Sunbake Pita Bakery in Edmonton for lunch. It was a favourite spot when my mum came to visit. They specialize in quality Lebanese style pitas, but for the front of the bakery they use the thin pita dough for what could be best described as a Lebanese pizza. Some of the toppings include cheese, but not exclusively. Some have a ground meat mixture spread over the top, some a sesame seed, herbs and olive oil spread, but my mum’s favourite was the spinach and cheese pie. This is a wilted spinach topping that is flavoured with onion and the tanginess of sumac, a lemony spice prominent in Lebanese cuisine.
As I am wont to do, I like to find ways to recreate things that I enjoy elsewhere with a greater focus on as many locally sourced ingredients as possible. With a large bunch of kale from my most recent vegetable bounty from Riverbend Gardens and the glorious Red Fife wheat flour from Gold Forest Grains, I did my own twist.
Spicy Kale Flatbread Pizza
For the dough:
3/4 cup warm water
1 tsp Coal Lake Honey Farms mixed flower honey
1 tsp active dry yeast
2 Tbsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil
1 tsp Bles Wold sour cream
1 cup Gold Forest Grains soft white flour
2-1/4 to 2-1/2 cups Gold Forest Grains Red Fife flour
1 tsp salt
In a medium bowl, mix together the flours and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the warm water, honey and yeast. Allow to sit until bubbly, about 15 minutes. Stir in the oil and sour cream. Gradually whisk in the flour/salt mixture and turn on the counter to knead, adding a tablespoon of flour if the mixture remains too sticky. Knead until smooth and no longer sticky. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes.
For the topping:
1 large bunch Riverbend Gardens kale, about 10-12 cups roughly chopped
1 Tbsp Mighty Trio Organics cold pressed canola oil
1/2 cup Riverbend Gardens sweet red onion, roughly chopped
1 Doef’s Greenhouses fresh red chilli, finely chopped
1 cup rhubarb butter (or apple butter) *See Note
*Note: To make rhubarb butter, place 8 cups chopped fresh rhubarb in a large pot with 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup honey. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring until it softens (about 15 minutes). Reduce heat to medium low and simmer uncovered for a further 60-75 minutes until very thick.
In a large pot, place the oil, onions and chilli in the pot before you turn on the heat. Turn on the heat to medium high and when the onions and chillis start to become aromatic, soften and not yet brown, add the chopped kale and 1/2 cup water. Start to stir to enrobe the kale with the flavoured oil. Add the rhubarb butter, stirring to coat the kale completely and add another 1/2 cup water. Stir occasionally as you reduce the heat to medium for a further 15-20 minutes or until the kale has softened, but still has a slight chew to it. (If you prefer a softer wilt, continue to cook, adding another 1/2 cup of water, stirring for a further 15 minutes). Remove from heat and allow to cool.
To prepare the pizza:
100g/4oz The Cheesiry young pecorino, shredded
Reserved kale topping
Preheat oven to 190C/400F.
Divide the dough into 6 equal balls. Roll each ball into rough 25cm/8″ circles about 1/2cm(1/4″) thick. Place two rolled circles of dough on a large baking sheet. Spread each thinly with the prepared kale mixture. Sprinkle lightly with the shredded pecorino. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes or until golden along the edges. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Serves 4-5.
Option: Save some of the kale topping to toss with a pasta or with cooked barley for a warm barley salad.