I'm crazy about kale raab. Have you tried it? Quick, run to your farmers market and see if there's still some left! It's available only for a month or so in early spring, and we're getting close to the end of its run. I love to sauté it lightly with onions, then finish it off with a grind of sea salt, a dash of red pepper flakes, and sometimes a little grated Parmesan and lemon juice. So easy, so good.

I've also discovered that kale raab is a fine substitute for asparagus, including in my all-time favorite stir-fry. The stalks have a consistency surprisingly similar to that of asparagus spears. Happy day! Armed with this newfound knowledge, I knew just what to do when Anna and I were salivating over a Smitten Kitchen recipe for shaved asparagus pizza recently and didn't have enough asparagus: we used half kale raab and half asparagus. The result was excellent. What's more, I think we could easily have used all raab and had something just as tasty. 

The discerning eye will notice two discrepancies between the recipe and photo below. Where are the scallions, you ask? We had them all ready to go—and they were gorgeous, straight from the farmers' market that morning—but forgot to add them before we took the photo. Gah. More important, where is the mozzarella?! We'd just bought a beautiful, fresh ball, handmade in Vermont, but it turned out to be bad (a first, in my experience). Alas, we didn't discover this until we were ready to put it on the pizza and I happened to steal a nibble. A few expletives later, we were on our way with Plan B: a combination of feta and grated Parmesan. The pizza was delicious, but let's be honest: it would have been even better with mozzarella. Some days that's just the way things go. Fortunately, we know there will be a next time.


We tinkered with Deb Perelman's original recipe—of course. (Isn't that what recipes are for?) As for the dough, the sky's the limit. The recipe below is super quick and easy, but feel free to use whatever your own favorite is. As for the raab and asparagus, you can obviously use all of one or all of the other. I'm sure any other raab (broccoli, for example) would also work nicely.

First, the dough:

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup warm water 
2 1/2 cups bread flour (I use half whole wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium-sized bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in the warm water and let stand until it's nice and bubbly, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, salt, oil. Knead well or beat in a stand mixer with the dough hook (hello, e-a-s-y!) until smooth. Cover and let rest in a warm spot while you prepare the raab and asparagus. It's also time now to turn on your oven, to 450 degrees F.

Now, the rest:

1/2 pound total of asparagus and/or kale raab
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus a few extra teaspoons for drizzling on the dough
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
several grinds of black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced or cut into cubes
1–2 scallions, thinly sliced

Using a vegetable peeler and holding each asparagus spear by its sturdy end, peel the spears into thin shavings. (I was tempted to take a shortcut here and just dice it. Anna barked that I would not be doing that, and she was right. This is not the tedious task I thought it would be.) Gather your raab into a bunch and trim just the teeniest bit off the ends, then slice through the bunch at roughly 2-inch intervals. Put the asparagus shavings and raab in a medium-sized bowl and toss with the olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. 

Roll out your dough and move it onto a lightly oiled or cornmeal-dusted baking pan or stone. Drizzle the dough with a few teaspoons of olive oil and then put on the mozzarella. Add the asparagus and raab and sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is just how you like it. Especially if your crust is all or partly whole wheat, be careful not to overcook or the crust will be too dry. Sprinkle with scallions, slice, eat, and happily say mmmmmmmmm.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.