When I went to college at Emory 3,000 years ago, there used to be a spot in Emory Village called Cedar Tree that sold “pitzas.” It was basically a piece of toasted pita bread topped with pizza-like toppings and the surprising thing was that it was really, really good. A dinner at Cedar Tree was always a treat and when I listen to the Indigo Girls–who, incidentally or maybe not so incidentally went to Emory–their song “Cedar Tree” always makes me think about how good a piece of toasted pita bread with pizza-like toppings can be. Yet, weirdly I’d never attempted it at home until I hit upon a technique that makes so much sense for transforming plain-old-pita bread into something that resembles a pizza crust.
That technique is pretty simple: you put the pita directly on an open flame on your stove and flip it over repeatedly with a pair of tongs.
What you get is something that resembles the char of a pizza baked in a wood oven. Then all you have to do is top it with something good and pizza-like, pop it on a cookie sheet and into a 425 oven, wait for the cheese to melt (I assume you included cheese in your pizza-like toppings) and cut it into pieces like a pizza.
On the night that I decided to make my own Cedar Tree pitza, I had a bunch of kale from my CSA and having recently read the pesto chapter in the wonderful new cookbook Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell (it’s seriously my favorite cookbook that I’ve purchased in recent memory; more on it soon), I decided to make a kale pesto. His technique involves a food processor and a rubber spatula; the goal is a chunky, well-textured pesto, not a smooth puree. So you take some nuts–I had almonds, but walnuts and pine nuts are probably better–toast them a bit, put them in the food processor with 2 or 3 garlic cloves, all of the kale leaves cut off the stem and chopped a bit, a big pinch of salt, and a big glug of olive oil (like 2/3rds a cup, say), then you pulse for a few seconds, use the rubber spatula to stir things again, pulse, stop, stir, and keep going until you have a coarse and rugged looking pesto. Then I added lemon juice and lots of grated Parmesan until it tasted like kale pesto heaven.
To finish my pitza, I put the charred pita bread on to a foil lined cookie sheet, brushed it with olive oil, topped with with the kale pesto, laid on some sliced tomato, and crumbled on some goat cheese I had in my fridge (shredded mozzarella would probably be better here, or more Parmesan) and baked in the 425 oven.
I don’t have children (that I know of) but something tells me that this would be a wonderful thing to make with and/or for them. They can make their own toppings, cheer as you char the pita on an open flame, and delight in their little creation. Crank up the Indigo Girls in the background, and you’ve got a pitza party I’d be happy to attend.
Recipe: Kale Pesto Pitza
Summary: An original recipe inspired by the Cedar Tree in Emory Village.
- 1/4 cup whole almonds, walnuts, or pine nuts, lightly toasted (until fragrant) and cooled
- 2 to 3 whole garlic cloves, chopped a bit to get started before the processor
- 1 bunch kale; leaves stripped off the stems and roughly chopped
- 2/3rds a cup olive oil (plus more as necessary)
- Freshly squeeze lemon juice
- 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 pieces of pita bread
- 2 whole tomatoes sliced
- Grated or crumbled cheese (mozzarella, goat cheese, and feta would all work nicely)
- First things first: make your pesto. Combine the nuts, the garlic, the kale, a pinch of salt, and the olive oil in the bottom of a food processor. Pulse a few times, then stir with a rubber spatula, continuing the process without letting the processor whir too much until you have a chunky, coarse mixture. Then season with the lemon juice and Parmesan until it tastes rad.
- Preheat the oven to 425 and char the pita bread on your gas stove by turning on a burner or two, placing the pita directly on it, and flipping with tongs as it begins to smoke. Don’t be afraid here; even if it catches on fire, you can put it out by just flipping the pita over. It’s fun (especially if you’re a pyromaniac).
- Finally, lay the charred pita on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Top with the kale pesto, some slices of tomato, and the grated cheese. Place in the 425 oven and bake until the cheese is melted. Cut into wedges and serve right away.
Preparation time: 25 minute(s)
Cooking time: 5 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 4