Winter

Entrée, Summer, Winter

PIZZA DOUGH

pizza crust . margherita . sprouted kitchen

Not to be bossy, but you need to read the notes and the recipe all the way through. Lots of words, but I've messed this up enough times that I want to pass down everything I've learned by trial and error of making pizza at home. I typically don’t do fussy, but there are a few steps here and the wait times between them are worth noting before you start. Nothing is difficult, but it's worth a heads up before you jump in.

I know, I’m asking you to plan ahead a day, ideally two if you can stand it... As it sits, the dough ferments, which is the element that adds flavor to a simple mixture of flour, water and yeast. The only way to impart flavor into something as simple as plain pizza dough is time, so while it will still work if you use it a few hours later, it tastes better, and there are more air bubbles the next day and it is best the day after that. The upside of that wait time is how quickly it comes together in the first place. Prep it Sunday, for pizza on Tuesday night. 

You may absolutely use unbleached all purpose flour for this recipe. My tests came back with more bubbles and a lighter feel when I used either bread flour or tipo “00”, both available at Whole Foods, well stocked markets, and online. You want a high protein content for bubble characteristics and these flours deliver. I really enjoyed this pizza article, regardless that it scolded me for my lack of using a scale. See that photo with the cold ferment?! That's what we're doing here. 

Homemade pizza will never turn out like a shop with a legit pizza oven, because it is impossible for a home oven to get that hot. When we moderate our expectation for such, the results are delicious. The photos here don't show any beautiful dark marks on the crust because I used the toaster oven for this pizza, which was the least hot choice. It's so hot and humid here I just couldn't blast the oven mid day :/ I put a few notes below on what we do on the grill versus the oven too. I like keeping the meal outside whenever possible, but a grill doesn't get the top as hot as the bottom so the toppings don't get at much heat and the cheese doesn't really brown. For that reason, I always vote a piping hot oven over a grill. 

For company? I'll have a big, light salad ready to go (usually arugula, shaved fennel, toasted pinenuts and golden raisins with a mustardy vinaigrette). One pizza goes in, out, rests a few minutes while the other cooks, and I just serve them straight off the cutting boards. 

pizza crust . dough in the mixed . sprouted kitchen
pizza crust . sprouted kitchen

PIZZA DOUGH

Makes about 3 medium-ish pizzas

I know. I should be using weights. Real cooks use weights. I'm a shoot-from-the-hip sort of cook, not a chef, and therefore have not been weighing my flour. Sorry. I leave mine to ferment on the wetter, stickier side, and assume that more flour will incorporate during the roll out phase. 

Ingredients

1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups warm (not hot) water
2 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
3 1/2 - 4 cups bread flour or tipo “00”, plus more for rolling it out
1 tsp. sea salt

Cornmeal or semolina, for cooking

Instructions

Combine the yeast and warm water, and let it sit a couple minutes for the yeast to activate. If you don't get any bubbles or fuzz layer, your yeast may be bad. Stir in the honey and olive oil. 

In the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, add the flour and salt. Turn the mixer on low and stream in the water mixture. Mix the dough for 2 minutes. Scrape the dry flour down into the mix if you need to. Let it rest for a minute, then mix it another minute. The dough should look sticky but still resemble a loose ball. Add a tablespoon of water or flour accordingly, it is safer to lean towards wetter than drier as you won’t be able to work water in later, but you can always use more flour to roll it out. When you touch it, your hands will get messy, but you should be able to transfer the lump into an oiled bowl.

Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover it, and keep it in the fridge for one (minimum) to three days (ideal). 

Don’t even give it a second thought. Its just hanging out in there, needing zero attention.

On the day of pizza making, pull the dough out 3-4 hours before cooking. Cover a surface with a generous dusting of flour. Divide the dough into three parts, roll them through the flour and into balls, cover them with a dish towel and let them rise for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Weather and humidity pending. Preheat your grill or oven as hot as it will go. Preheat the pizza stone or baking sheet if using. Prepare your toppings.

When ready to cook, use your hands to push and stretch the dough super thin. Use a rolling pin if needed, but that pressure pops all of the bubbles. It poofs as it cooks, so the thinner the better. Try not to touch the outer 1/2” in hopes of keeping the air bubbles in tact. 

Sprinkle cornmeal or semolina onto the hot stone or baking sheet. Have your toppings ready because you need to work fast here. If you have a pizza peel, sprinkle cornmeal on that, then your dough and assemble on the peel (we don't have one, so I do this on a cutting board and scoot it onto the stone). Shuffle your pizza from the peel to the hot stone/pan. 

Bake it in your 500 oven for about 10-12 minutes. Remove to cool slightly before slicing. Save any fresh herbs and a sprinkle of parm for finishing. 

* If I'm going with some heavier or wetter toppings, I'll par bake it for a few minutes, then dress with sauce and toppings from there for safety against a soggy center.


Grill it!

On the grill, most of the heat is coming from the bottom. Preheat the grill on high for at least 30 minutes. When you’re ready to go, create a space for indirect heat by leaving one or two burners off (where your pizza will go, so this will depend on the size of your grill). Oil the grates, push out your dough and toss it on the side where the burners are ON. Let it get some grill marks, about 1-2 minutes. Flip the dough over onto the indirect side (burners off but still quite warm). Decorate the par-grilled side of your pizza, this is the time for extra easy sauce and extra easy toppings so they get the chance to warm through with that lower heat. Grill about 7-8 minutes until toppings are melted and warm. Remove to cool slightly before topping with fresh herbs. 

recent favorites:

- pizza sauce, grated zucchini (that has been salted and moisture squeezed out before using), fresh mozzarella (not water packed, preferably), parm, lots of herbs

- pizza sauce, goats milk cheese, roasted tomatoes, barely dressed arugula after cooling

- pesto, peaches, baby tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, red pepper flakes 


pizza crust . slice . sprouted kitchen
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Entrée, Gluten Free, Soup, Winter

BUTTERNUT SQUASH + KALE MINESTRA

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I feel weird that I called it a "minestra." That is the Italian word for a mixed vegetable sort of soup, think minestrone, and it sounds way more intriguing that way right?! I skipped the pasta here, though you could totally add it or some brown rice or shredded chicken to fill it out if you're into that sort of thing. I have a tough time with salads when it's chilly out, so this pot of goodness serves as an alternative to pack in the vegetables. It is made of easy, pantry staples and some easy to find produce. Boring on its own (sell it, girl!), as brothy, all-vegetable soups go, so a heavy hand with the parmesan croutons is necessary. It tastes better the next day, so lunch leftovers or delivering it to a sick friend is encouraged. 

BUTTERNUT + KALE MINESTRA // Serves 6
Inspired by Williams and Sonoma
I understand wine and vinegar are not often subs for each other, but I hate when I have all but one ingredient. It's winter, I stock red wine in the cool months ;) The recipe listed here leaves you with a fairly stewy soup. Add a bit more broth, and you can add in a cup of cooked orzo, brown rice, some shredded rotisserie chicken or what not to bulk it up. 
Use a rich tasting vegetable broth if dietetically preferred, but a bone broth or fresh stock will add more body to this light soup. The soup can be made in advance, add the kale in the warm up to preserve its bright color. 

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, cored and sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
sea salt and pepper, as needed
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (3 cups)
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup white wine (or 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar)
1 tsp. dried oregano
dash of cayenne
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 14.5 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 14.5 oz. can white beans
3 cups low sodium broth, vegetable or chicken
1 bunch of kale, stemmed and roughly chopped

parmesan croutons
1/2 a loaf of day of bread (gluten free bread works too)
1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
grated parmesan, plus more for serving

In a large dutch oven or heavy pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and pepper and saute until they begin to brown. Add the butternut squash, another pinch of salt, whole herb sprigs and saute. Add the white wine and let it cook down, leaving the lid ajar so the squash softens, about 6 minutes. Stir in the oregano, cayenne, tomato paste, roasted tomatoes, white beans and broth (more or less based on how thick you like your soups). Bring the soup to a gentle simmer, leave the cover ajar and cook for 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If it tastes flat, it likely needs more salt, maybe more cayenne and a squeeze of lemon. Stir in the chopped kale until it just wilts, about a minute or two.
While the soup cooks, make your croutons. Preheat the oven to 375'. Rip the loaf into rough 1" pieces. Toss them in the oil to coat, pinch of salt and pepper, and parmesan. Bake the croutons for 12 to 15 minutes until dry an browned on the edges. Set aside to cool.

Ladle the soup into bowls, finish it with a drizzle of olive oil, a heavy handful of croutons and more cheese. 

butternut_kale_minestra_25.jpg
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Fall, Gluten Free, Winter, Side

CREAMY BAKED BRUSSELS

He made me cry the first day I got there. I had been on crowded planes with long layovers, crossed time changes and spent the night in some run down hostel with way too much luggage to be schlepping between all modes of public transportation that take you between small Italian towns. I was tired and emotional and I run shy-ish/self-conscious in meeting new people so when George was yelling at me over how stupid it was to be a vegetarian, I cried right there at the table. 

After I graduated college, I made up my own internship of sorts to work at a Bed and Breakfast in Italy. It was run by a couple who used to own an Italian restaurant in my hometown. Lucy, the wife, had a full Italian mother but she lived most of her life in America. Lucy and George owned the place. She was a super friendly, petite, hard working, full of energy, warm and spunky woman. George was there for her. He was along for her golden years dream project and drug his feet and rolled his eyes often along the way. He was a retired surgeon; very smart and attracted to controversial conversations. He hated waste, he hated it before it was part of the green movement to hate waste, and although he scared me most of the time I lived there, I am a more careful consumer because of his staunch stance on the issue. A solid fellow, a great cook, he grew up in Argentina and must have told me three dozen times that his mother was in her late 90's and very healthy from a diet of mostly meat and potatoes. 

For some perspective to the story, I was in my early 20's, fresh off a new definition of what "healthy" meant. I had transitioned from years of eating fat free and sugar free this and that and got really into cooking and produce and working on a farm and now believed my very vegetable centered life was the answer to all things health.

So, Hugh (my super cute then-boyfriend who came with me for a month and worked mostly as a gardener) and I show up for the first time to this completely new place with all new people, super exhausted and jet-lagged and nervous. They were just sitting down to a lunch to welcome us and it was platters of cured meats, grilled bistecca, oven roasted potatoes and arugula drenched in olive oil. It didn't take long for George to notice that I wasn't eating much and he asked me why, at which point I told him I was a vegetarian. Might as well be honest if I was going to be eating all of my meals with this guy for the next 6 months. He then proceeded to berate me - intensely, angrily, loudly - on why I'd made that choice, asked me to cite my research of why it was healthy, asked if I'd spoken to doctors, listed all the nutritional values of the meal he'd prepared and I'm pretty certain he was standing up and pacing by the time I couldn't hold it in anymore and the tears started coming. I had said nothing in response. Hugh was squeezing my leg but he was in no place to defend me because I'm not sure I honestly had answers to his questions. I came to learn this was par for his course, but couldn't help how personally I took it seeing it was the first time I met the guy. Poor first impressions on both ends I suppose. We had a few more chats about it, he eventually added a few meals to the rotation without meat and let me make the salads. I grew a soft spot for George over time, more clearly seeing how he still craved the authority and leadership he had as a doctor and now was in a circumstance he didn't exactly care for. I think they call that displaced anger. That memory was from a decade ago now, but it popped back in my mind amidst the reel of New Years diets having their spotlight season. Vegan, keto, whole 30, non-dairy, paleo... so many perspectives and so many people looking for the answer with a capital "A." I've come to think healthy can mean different things for different people and it's absolutely ok for those definitions to change over time.
 
If I kept in touch with George, I'd tell him I don't really have a name for how I eat and I'm super ok with that. It's mostly from scratch, heavy on the vegetables. I eat eggs, a small amount of animal protein when I need it or want it. I try to limit dairy because I have finicky skin and it's supposed to help overall inflammation and also because I actually like almond milks and coconut coffee creamers. I make most of our baked goods with almond flour or other whole grain flours but we eat classic pizza dough in between so I figure I've got to be breaking even. And yes! I do consult doctors, my blood work is near perfect. I'm loosing a ton of hair but hey, can't win them all. If I was at your lunch table today, I'd eat whatever you were making because I understand how as the host and cook, you just want people to enjoy what you worked hard to serve them. Sorry I didn't understand that then. I won't forget your hospitality, spicy as it was. Big hugs. 

It's a new year, hooray, resolve to take good care of yourself. Eat more food from plants than packages and I think you'll be heading in the right direction. Long term changes over short-lived diets, and if cream fits into your January plan, these brussels are so easy and Hugh made you a sweet little video for a visual this week for a change of pace. 

CREAMY BAKED BRUSSELS // Serves 4

These work as a warm side, smashed into toast or tossed with your favorite noodles with a splash of pasta water and a bit of fresh citrus juice to make an easy meal of it. 

1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tsp. dijon mustard
dollop of creme fraiche (optional)
1/2 tsp. sea salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

fresh parsley, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350' and grease a shallow, ovenproof baking dish. Steam the brussels for 4 minutes, drain and let them cool to the touch. While the brussels steam, mix together the cream, dijon, creme fraiche if using, salt and pepper. 
Chop up the sprouts, use a food processor if you prefer but I'd rather not clean another appliance. Tip them into the prepared dish and pour the cream mixture over the top. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top and bake them for 15 minutes, turning the broiler on for an extra minute or two at the end to brown the top. Garnish with fresh parsley. Enjoy warm.



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