Let's face it: You're busy — too busy to mess around with complicated cooking at the end of the day. Still, dinner should be more than just a cup full of cereal and the dream of a brighter tomorrow. Enter: Jenny Rosenstrach, a busy mom who makes dinner happen with style, simplicity, and just the right amount of sizzle. Whether or not you're cooking for kids, we love her easy, delicious approach. In fact, we love it so much, we'll be sharing one of her recipes every week, so you can have a life — and a REALLY good meal, too.
The night: Friday. The scene: Two friends, ages 9 and 11, coming over for dinner and a movie. The movie: Forrest Gump. The issue: Very little in the fridge — except the most beautiful CSA Tuscan kale and peak-season tomatoes — but not ordering in and not going shopping again, no way, no how. The other issue: Is it point-blank unfair to serve kale to kids who were just hoping for pizza and popcorn? The other other issue: Will 9- and 11-year-olds understand any historical references in Gump? The kale solution: Add some avocado to the kale. Maybe a little pickled something if I can get away with it. The main course solution: Pizza. Always pizza!
Homemade whole wheat crust, homemade pizza sauce, last strands of shredded mozzarella (including a few wayward string cheeses), fresh tomato slices, basil. The review: Could’ve done without a few inappropriate scenes in Gump (and should’ve checked Kids-in-Mind!) but, with a little help from the fast-forward button, it worked. The menu review: Kale: Let’s just say it might’ve been the Ishtar of side dishes for kids. The pizza? Four thumbs up.
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Whole Wheat Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes
Pizza Crust (adapted from Jim Lahey’s My Bread)
2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1⁄2 teaspoons instant or other active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/3 cups water, room temperature
Olive oil, for greasing
In a large bowl, stir together the flours, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add water and mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. The dough will be stiff, not wet and sticky. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled in volume, about two hours. Divide the dough in two and shape each section into flattened balls. If you are only making one pizza, freeze the other ball in a freezer storage bag. (If you rub a little olive oil on your fingers and on the ball of dough before bagging, it will be less sticky to negotiate when you need it later.) Now, make the sauce.
Pizza Sauce (makes three cups sauce; enough for two pizzas)
2 garlic cloves
4 to 5 glugs of olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Few shakes of red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (or tomato puree)
6 shakes oregano
4 to 5 basil leaves, chopped (optional)
In a medium saucepan over low heat, sauté the garlic in the oil for one to two minutes until fragrant. Add the onion, salt and pepper, and pepper flakes, and turn up the heat slightly. Stir until the onions have softened, about 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and oregano. Stir, bring to a boil, and then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. If you have basil, definitely add a few shreds during the last five minutes that it simmers. You’re ready to assemble your pizza.
Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes
Preheat oven to 500°F. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, grease a 17x12-inch rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Drop your ball of pizza dough (recipe above) into the center of the baking sheet, and using your fingers, press out and flatten the dough so it spreads as close as possible to all four corners. This might seem difficult, but persist — the thin crust will be worth it. Top with about a cup and a half of pizza sauce (above, freeze what remains) and add about 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella. Bake for 10 minutes, then add fresh tomato slices. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly. If the crust is browning faster than the toppings are cooking, cover with foil and continue to bake. Top with basil, cut into wedges, and serve.
Kale with Avocados and Pickled Something
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Chop one bunch lacinato/Tuscan kale into small pieces, discarding stems. Simmer in water for about two minutes until wilted. Drain. Toss with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, 1 chunked avocado, and pickled cabbage (or pickled onions, or pickled cucumbers, or pickled something.)
NEXT: No Oven? Here's How To Grill Pizza
Jenny Rosenstrach is the author of Dinner: A Love Story and the blog of the same name. She and her husband write The Providers column for Bon Appetit.