Dinner and a Movie

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The other other issue: Will 9- and 11-year-olds understand any historical references in Gump?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.

Dinner and a Movie Menu
Whole Wheat Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes
Kale & Avocado Salad

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 2 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 3 cups sauce; enough for 2 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 1 to 2 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 5 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 17 x 12-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 2 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.)

Many many many more pizza recipes in Dinner: A Love Story.

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We’ve been on the fence about Forrest Gump for our 9-year-old, and came to the decision that we could stand to wait a couple of years.


forrest gump most definitely needs some screening for kids – just way too much sex-drugs-violence – which isn’t what i remembered. i consulted common sense media movie reviews {a great resource} & knew to have the remote ready.

both the pizza & the kale look delish.


Let me just say that Forrest Gump was one of my favorite movies around age 11 – and it showed me a lot of history that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. (Social Studies books tend to skip the interesting stuff.) Give your kids some credit, they’ll figure it out! Also, if you’re looking for something a little less PG13 for next time, try That Thing You Do – Tom Hanks, Liv Tyler, 1960s, really fun movie.

Margit Van Schaick

Love that you’re highlighting homemade pizza dough and tomato sauce, walking us through what is essentially a simple process, resulting in a delicious, nutritious, and thrifty meal. About the kale, have you ever tried cooking it in olive oil, with minced garlic, sautéing for 10 minutes or so, then adding 1/2 cup of chicken broth and cooking it for another 5 to 10 minutes, until it’s really soft, silky, totally delectable? That’s how I learned to cook kale, years ago, and my kids scarfed it down and asked for more. My Hungarian mother cooked all vegetables until they were well-done, cooked until soft, until they were brimming over with the very essence of what they were–carrot, green beans, broccoli, whatever. Marcella Hazan, of Italian cooking fame, begins one of her wonderful books talking about the practice of cooking each vegetable separately and long enough for it to “give up” its true flavor. So, I’ve never gotten converted to the almost raw veggies common in modern American cooking. I’m not saying that either way is the right way to cook veggies. I’m just recommending that you maybe try cooking kale much longer, and see how you like it. More importantly, how the kids like it!

Margit Van Schaick

A detail: after you add the chicken broth, turn the heat to low and cover the pan, checking and stirring every few minutes.


Ha! I had to laugh when I saw your post this morning. Last night I was staring into an empty fridge and a garden full of tomatoes and kale and I came up with the exact same dinner! Heirloom tomato flatbread and kale salad. Except next time I guess I’m going to have to raid the neighbor’s avocado tree too!


Please oh please come to the rescue with ideas on how to handle kids sports right in the middle of dinner time
Eat early right when they get off the bus?
Eat when they get home but should be getting ready for bed, reading etc?
Is there an answer to this insanity?
Makes me nostalgic for the easy days of cutting food up into little pieces, and high chairs….

Emily Cottrell

remember roger & ebert’s review of ishtar? “Ishtar ish tarrible!” so funny. looking forward to dinners like this with my kids and their friends.


@Angela: How about a snack (eg, a sweet pastry, fruit and glass of milk) before sport, then family dinner when the kids get home? They’ll have a later bedtime, but then you will get to eat well, and together.


Margit Van Schaick:
I used those basic guidelines tonight with spinach. Oh, my goodness. We are never going back. My kids were so excited about spinach. Bless you and your mother!


Hmmm…I’ve been using the Marc Bittman pizza crust recipe for years, but will try this one as it looks even less complicated! My 1st grader refuses to eat my homemade pizza, though…i think it’s spite b/c i’ve seen him eat Domino’s at parties. grrr….

Margit Van Schaick

Jess: oh, thank you for noticing and being adventuresome in trying this method! I honestly think that we would eat way more veggies if we cooked them to scrumptious softness–as far as worrying about losing vitamins, I’m no expert, but we always ate any liquid left in the pan either drizzled over the veggies as a sauce or as part of a salad dressing. Actually, with kale, depending on what kind it is, you may have to use more than 1/2 cup of broth. Of course, you can also use water but broth has extra flavor. And, as far as the vitamin question goes, I figure that kids will not lose a significant amount by longer cooking because they’re going to eat way more veggies when they’re so delicious!