Wild Things

My loving, darling husband has a stupid-crazy-job these days. He works harder than anyone I know (certainly harder than me), and he’s in school two nights a week to get yet another degree so he can work even harder (but hopefully bring in more cash for that B&B he’s gonna buy for me in Napa one day…). I miss him a whole bunch, and those nights we get to watch TV together are extra special lately since there’s not an abundance of them.

This week, we ate veggie pizza together and watched a movie. It was nice.

We watched Where the Wild Things Are, a movie I’ve been wanting to sit through for a while now. It’s relatively short, in movie terms, and perfect for a weeknight. It made me a little weepy, but those movies are the best – the ones that touch you, make you think, and make you relish the good moments. It makes you remember how hard growing up can be, and how in our adult lives we take so many things for granted. I think that little guy took things for granted too, and eventually realized he had to “go home”. His friend, who I assume was an alternative version of him, experiences a similar realization, and the unity at the end of the film was really something. Like I said, weep-worthy.

It didn’t hurt that I got to hear the voice of Sopranos star (the best series ever) James Gandolfini throughout, and it made me chuckle to myself every time I pictured him in strip clubs, NJ gangster-style but then saw him on screen as a frumpy, troubled creature trying to find his way in the world while throwing sticks and pouting cliffside.

For dinner, I made pizza. Veggie pizza. Grilled veggie pizza. Grilled veggie pizza with ramp pesto. That’s more like it, right? You see, I’ve been waiting patiently for ramps since I first used them last year. Wild things in their own right, they are so pungent, so fragrant that, even a year later, I still remember the taste of ramps in the way that I remember the taste of my gramma’s lemon pound cake – it’s always there, though the frequency of consuming it isn’t, and that’s a sad fact.

I whipped up a batch of pesto with my first supply of ramps (ask Jennifer about my excitement when I saw them in the store; I think I embarrassed her), and used some of it to toss with some potatoes earlier in the week. I used a little more on this here pizza, and thank goodness, there’s still plenty left and with that, I made this egg omelet sandwich and still have more. You’d think it was regenerating or something, but it’s not; I’m just really making it last. Plus, ramps aren’t something you need to eat in large amounts, unless you’re hoping the resulting bad breath might keep your landlord or your in-laws, or perhaps even your spouse, away. I don’t have a landlord, I love my in-laws, and as for my spouse, I like to keep him as close by as possible.

Of course, that’s another story when he tries to steal my pizza. Which he did. Try, that is; I tend to have ninja-like reflexes when it comes to my food. Steal it from me, and you’re liable to wind up with a black eye, or maybe a missing finger if my fancy Japanese knife is nearby. Just don’t try it, for your sake and mine. I try to stay out of jail these days.

Although, with pizza that tastes as good as this one, a black eye or missing digit might be worth it. Just maybe.

Got any fancy pizza plans coming up? Share your favorites with us – don’t be shy :).

Grilled Veggie Pizza with Ramp Pesto
Loosely adapted from Cooking Light; serves 4

yes, there are multiple steps in this pizza-making process. but let me tell you a few things: it’s all easy, and three of the four “components” can be made in advance, and in large quantities. the pesto? you just read all the things I’ve done with it already. you can also freeze it in little ice cube trays for later. the pizza sauce? you can buy it, or make a batch that’ll last through 3-4 pizzas. the dough? double the recipe and freeze one for next time – I should have, because I have another pizza recipe up my sleeve for ‘vegetarian month’. once these are made, the pizza comes together in 30 minutes – perfect weeknight fare!

printable version

2 small bunches of ramps, leaves separated from stems/bulbs
1 c grated Parmesan cheese (or other hard cheese)
1/3 c Marcona almonds (or other nut)
1/2 c walnut oil (or sunflower or olive oil)
salt and pepper

pizza dough
2 to 2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 c warm water, divided
1 packet of active, dry yeast
2 T evoo
1 t sugar
3/4 t salt
cornmeal, for dusting the bottom

pizza sauce
1 T evoo
3 T minced garlic
28-oz can of organic diced tomatoes
1 t fresh cracked pepper
1/2 t salt
1/2-1 t Italian seasoning or other dried spice (parsley, oregano, basil)

pizza toppings
1 baby zucchini, quartered
1 baby eggplant, quartered
1 red bell pepper, quartered
salt and pepper
1 c fontina cheese, shredded

make pesto.
heat olive oil in large saute pan over med-hi heat. chop ramp bulbs and stems and saute in pan for about 5 minutes to soften. add sauteed ramps, raw ramp leaves, cheese, almonds and a pinch of salt and pepper to food processor and blend. through the top with processor running, slowly drizzle in 1/2 c of oil. will make 1 1/4 cups of pesto. adjust seasoning and sit aside. [can refrigerate or freeze.]

make pizza dough.
Combine water & yeast; let sit for about 5 minutes. By hand or w/ stand mixer (dough hook attachment), combine flour, sugar, salt. Add yeast mixture and oil. Mix until sticky ball forms. Transfer to floured counter and knead until smooth (will probably add more flour as you go because the counter gets sticky and the dough is sticky; add by tablespoons). Total kneading time is 1-2 minutes (you can also do this in the mixer). Put in large bowl that is oiled or sprayed and turn down over to cover with oil/spray. Cover w/ plastic and let rise in warm place (I preheat oven to lowest possible temp, like 100, and then open door to let heat out before putting in; best is about 80 degrees) for an hour, or until about doubled in size. Take dough out, back on floured surface and deflate dough. Roll out to desired shape and dust one side with cornmeal. [alternatively, you can refrigerate dough overnight to let flavor develop. then take out 1 hour before using to let come to room temp, punch down dough, and roll out onto floured surface.]

pizza sauce.
heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes. add tomatoes and their juices, salt, pepper, and spice. bring to boil. reduce to low and simmer for 25 minutes. if you like your pizza sauce clumpy, leave it as is. if you like it smooth (I do, for pizza), blend it in a food processor or break out that handy dandy immersion blender. [refrigerate if making in advance, and if you make a lot, you can can it or freeze it.]

make pizza!
preheat grill (outdoor or indoor). grill eggplant, zucchini, and red pepper chunks until a good char forms. cut eggplant and zucchini into small pieces. place red pepper in ziploc bag for 10 minutes; peel and cut. mix all together in a bowl. plop pizza down onto grill (cornmeal side up) and grill for about 3 minutes; flip and grill 4 minutes. remove from grill.

spread pizza sauce over top of pizza. spread random dollops of ramp pesto around (use ~1/3 c). add mixed veggies, sprinkle with salt and pepper and add cheese. grill for another 4-5 minutes or until cheese melts (if grilling inside, it might help to place under broiler for a couple of minutes unless you like a dark pizza crust). slice into 8 pieces and enjoy!

A Parting Gift?

As you read this, I’m out enjoying one last day in Seattle with the Hubs. I’m sure it’s been a fun trip, and I’m sure I’ll tell you more about it when I’m back home. It’s likely that we visited Pike Place Market and the original Starbucks, and we probably ate some seafood. Perhaps a trip to Woodinville for wine tasting? The possibilities are endless; I just hope it didn’t rain the whole time, but when I left, the forecast looked darn good.

Sadly though, I won’t be around to tell you of my adventures until next week, as I’ll get home tonight just long enough to re-pack for Albuquerque, NM. It seems as if it’s that time of the year – the time when I have to learn more about genetics and sit in huge rooms full of people, room temperature pitchers of tap water, and knitters (yes, knitters – some of them knit during conferences). Fortunately, these forced trips are accompanied by good friends and sunshine and hopefully some bars. So don’t worry about me – I will survive.

But since I won’t be around, I thought I’d leave you with pie. Is that alright? It was national pi day last week (3.14), wasn’t it?

And no, I don’t mean apple pie, I mean pizza pie! I actually make a decent amount of pizza at home, or at least I feel as if I have lately. This one is definitely a keeper, and I didn’t even spend the time making the crust. Which is weird, because I’m usually into that sort of thing. But I wanted to test out a store-bought dough, and this seemed like the time to do it.

As it turns out, the store-bought dough is quite the timesaver (unless you plan ahead, in which case making your own is a cinch) and this pizza well, let’s just say you shouldn’t take my word for it’s raditude, but rather give this thing a try.

Pear & Prosciutto Pizza
Adapted from Cooking Light, March 2010; serves 4 (or 2 really hungry people)

printable version

My friend and past Iron Chef, Hope, informed me that Whole Foods makes killer pizza dough. I now concur. But if you want to make your own, you might try this recipe from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks; she knows her grains for sure. If you’re not into whole wheat flour, I have a simple recipe I used a while back, so give it a try. If your recipe of choice makes extra, just freeze the other dough and thaw overnight. Brilliant!

2 t evoo
2 c vertically sliced Vidalia onion (1-2 onions)
1 recipe of pizza dough (see above)
1/2 c shredded provolone cheese
1 medium firm Bartlett pear, thinly sliced
2 oz prosciutto, cut into thin strips
fresh-ground pepper
2 T chopped walnuts, toasted
1 1/2 c baby arugula leaves
1 t sherry vinegar
cornmeal or flour for dusting

If using homemade dough, prepare it the night before or an hour before you’ll need it because it will certainly need time to rise (most recipes say at least an hour). If you have store-bought dough or made your dough the night before and put it in the fridge, take it out and let it come to room temp before messing with it.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and cook 10 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently.

Meanwhile, roll out pizza dough with rolling pin, or with your hands, until it’s a good sized circle, or rectangle, or whatever shape you darn-well please. It should be 10-12 inches in a circle. If it’s pulling back and not being your friend, let it rest for 10 minutes or so and try again. It will work with you when it’s ready :). Once you’ve got it the way you want it, sprinkle a baking sheet or pizza stone with cornmeal (or flour if you prefer) and place pizza atop that (this will help to prevent sliding and add nice flavor too). Poke a few holes (with a fork) into the dough, or omit this step if you like the big bubbles, like I do.

Place pizza crust in oven and bake for about 5-10 minutes. Afterwards, top evenly with onion mixture; sprinkle with cheese. Top evenly with pear and prosciutto. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake for 12 minutes or until cheese melts and remove from oven.

Sprinkle with nuts (or put them on, untoasted, when there’s about 5 minutes left for the pizza to bake). Place arugula in a medium bowl. Drizzle vinegar over greens; toss gently to coat. Top pizza evenly with arugula mixture. Cut pizza into 8 wedges.