A few weeks ago, I wrote about National Pizza Day. And while our family loves making homemade pizza so much that we probably do it once a week, sometimes you just don’t have the time to do it.
I mean, if we don’t give the dough time to rise, it won’t be good. And, sure, we have often grabbed a ball of dough from 715 when times are tight, but we can’t do that all the time. And I’m not about to buy store-bought pizza crusts. That just isn’t my style.
A shortcut we’ve been trying? Polenta.
Long ago, when the kiddo was a baby, we’d made pizza with polenta. But we hadn’t done it in years. And as with most things that get out of the rotation, it’s so easy to forget how tasty and easy it was.
And it is. Long ago, we’d slice up the polenta into rounds of similar thickness (1/4 inch), arrange them together on a cookie sheet in the rough shape of a circle, pour on the sauce and cheese and bake it for 10 minutes.
But, because the kiddo is sooooo big on making things himself, this time we arranged the rounds like cookies on a parchment-covered cookie sheet and let him dress five rounds himself, just like he wanted. Then, we dressed the rest. It was a little more time-intensive but worth it. And rave-worthy, if the fact that we’ve had it twice in two weeks is any indication.
One night, I served them with sauteed shredded Brussels sprouts (above) and another with sweet potatoes. The result is something hearty and a little out of the ordinary, but “normal” enough that our 5-year-old accepted it without a challenge.
Mini Polenta Pizzas
1 tube polenta, any flavor
Pizza or marinara sauce
Cheese (we used goat cheese)
Toppings (we sauteed bell pepper, mushrooms and onion in olive oil and balsamic and topped the pizzas after they came out of the oven).
Set oven to 375 degrees. Cut tube of polenta into similar-thickness rounds, about 1/4 of an inch, and arrange in rows on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Top with desired toppings. Bake for about 10 minutes. Serve warm.
I might have a tiny, wee bit of an obsession with basil. Not only do I have four basil plants from starters in pots but I also plant some from seed every season as well. And then I freeze it or dry it or make it into pesto at summer’s end.
So, I was pretty excited when we received our first bit of basil at our Rolling Prairie CSA last week. I mean, I already had my basil plants on my deck, but actually getting it? Awesome.
We also got beets with greens, basil, head lettuce, snap peas, kale and broccoli. We steamed the broccoli and snap peas, juiced the beets and kale, and made salad with the head lettuce.
As for the basil, I’m not going to lie — some of it went in the green juice I made with the beets and kale (no, I’m not kidding), but we also used quite a bit in a little dish we were just playing with. We made stuffed portobellos, but called them “pizza mushrooms” so the kiddo would eat them.
And we let him help, which worked extremely well. Helping us cook motivates him to eat something like nothing else.
1 cup marinara
1 package baby bellas or 4 large portabella mushroom caps
1 (4 ounce) package goat cheese, crumbled and/or mozzarella
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or more)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the sauce in the bottom of glass baking dish. Arrange clean mushroom caps, gill side up, on top. Crumble goat cheese and or mozzarella on each mushroom. Bake for 30 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Top with the chopped basil. Makes 4 servings. Serve alone or over baked spaghetti squash with more marinara and/or cheese.
Last week in our CSA, we received whole-wheat flour, pea greens, spinach, salad greens, chives and green onions.
You might look at that list and think it looks like one giant salad after another. And you might be right. We did use the salad greens for its intended purpose, while the spinach and pea greens went into smoothies.
But when I saw our pickup choices, one of the first things I thought was, “pizza.”
The local heritage winter wheat is just perfect for cutting with some regular old white/bread flour to make a heartier pizza crust. Add in the benefit of throwing leftover CSA goodies willy-nilly on top (green onions, spinach and chives were perfect for this) and you’ve got yourself a really useful medium for polishing off some of your CSA ingredients.
Later in the summer, pizza dough is even more helpful when we’re up to our ears in peppers, eggplant, zucchini and basil. If you think it’ll go well together, you can put it on top of your pizza. The whole dinner is super easy, especially if you make your dough ahead of time, freeze it and actually remember to pull out the frozen dough before you leave for work in the morning. (Sometimes I forget, and it makes me crazy sad.)
If you’ve never made homemade pizza before, you’re really missing out. It’s totally customizable, delicious, easy and incredibly cheap.
We have two favorite pizza crust recipes. Both are fabulous and have turned out well for us. So, pick whichever one you like and go for it!
And, if like us you get your hands on some local wheat through your CSA or the Farmers’ Market, try cutting it in. You don’t want to make a whole pie out of it (that would be a bit too dense) but try cutting it with half regular flour or two-thirds regular flour.
Note: You can use the first recipe with a pizza stone or a cookie sheet, while the second one, we only used with a cookie sheet.
Mark Bittman’s Pizza Dough (Adapted from www.markbittman.com)
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine the flour, yeast and salt in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the oil through the feed tube.
Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is still dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time.)
Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let rise until the dough doubles in size, one to two hours. (You can cut this rising time short if you’re in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.) Proceed to Step 4 or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap or a zipper bag and freeze for up to a month. (Defrost in the bag or a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature; bring to room temperature before shaping.)
When the dough is ready, form it into a ball and divide it into two or more pieces if you like; roll each piece into a round ball. Put each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rest until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.
Roll out, top and bake at 500 degrees until cooked through. We usually make two pies plus a little one for the kiddo with this recipe, baking each pizza for about 10 minutes. Note: To make pizza dough by hand or with a standing mixer, follow the directions, but use a bowl and a heavy wooden spoon or the mixer’s bowl and the paddle attachment instead of the food processor. When the dough becomes too heavy to stir, use your hands or exchange the mixer’s paddle for the dough hook and proceed with the recipe.
Chloe Coscarelli’s Pizza Dough (Adapted from www.chefchloe.com)
1 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or half all-purpose flour and half whole-wheat flour), plus extra for rolling
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar or maple syrup
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until bubbles form, about 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine flour, oil, salt, sugar and the yeast mixture. Using lightly floured hands or an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix until a stiff dough has formed. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle extra flour 1 teaspoon at a time as needed. Place the dough in a large, well-oiled bowl and rotate the ball of dough so it is completely covered with the oil. This will prevent the dough from sticking to the bowl as it rises. Cover with a dry kitchen towel and place in a warm part of the kitchen until it has doubled in volume (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Place dough on a lightly floured work surface, shape into a disc, and knead for five minutes. Use dough immediately or cover tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for a later use. Thaw to room temperature before using.
When ready to use: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a large rimmed baking sheet (approximately 9-by-13 inches) with oil.
Stretch pizza dough into a rectangle and fit it into the prepared baking sheet. Spread sauce and toppings on oiled dough. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, rotating midway, until the crust is slightly browned or golden.
Note: If crust is thick, you may need to leave it in for 30 minutes or more.
What’d we get at our CSA pickup this week? Red lettuce, spinach, pesto, garlic chives, green onions and carrots.
If you've followed my blog for awhile, you'll note that in the winter, I'll cook, bake and take the immersion blender out for a spin while making soup. In the summer, though, I tend to avoid any recipe that uses my oven.
That seasonal culinary flip-flop helps a bit with the "rut-like" nature of my cooking style. Yes, I like to have the same foods over and over again and it doesn't bore me in the least (Well ... it does take a very long time to bore me. Like months.) But, just about the time I get sick of something (FINALLY), the season changes enough to where I'll get the consistent urge to try something new. Or at least pull out old recipes I haven't made in a year.
Which makes this time of year a bit strange for me. It's still hot enough to be summer, but I've found myself craving, and eating, very fall/winter-type staples like sweet potatoes and butternut squash. Heck, last weekend I even got out the crockpot and made a big pot of garbanzo beans. Yes, I used the slow-cooker a month from the end of summer. This is very weird for me.
But it actually turns out that my sudden late-summer obsession with wintery foods pairs nicely with what happens to be available from our CSA. Or, at least this week it did.
So, to refresh, last week we received the following from Rolling Prairie: Pears, two baby melons, spicy peppers, sweet peppers, mushrooms, grapes and basil.
The melons, pears and grapes were devoured easily by our little fruit-loving tyke. Shocking, I know. The basil also had a home in topping sandwiches and green juice.
The peppers posed a different challenge. Yes, I love peppers to death, but this week we had so many peppers from our CSA and from our personal home garden that we had to really work to get through them all. Between the CSA peppers and the ones from our garden, we had probably 20 peppers to use. I'm not exaggerating.
So, we got creative with old favorites. First, we had a pizza night, where our toppings included not only a few of the peppers, but local red onion, homegrown tomatoes and a crust that had both local whole-wheat flour from Moon on the Meadow and local garlic from Maggie's Farm. You can see the (unbaked) results above. We tend to use this pizza dough recipe (with lots of added garlic plus a half-and-half mixture of bread flour and local whole-wheat flour).
A few nights later, we took the remaining peppers and all the CSA mushrooms and made a batch of our rut-making veggie fajitas. But instead of serving them on tortillas with all the accompaniments of regular fajitas, we repurposed them into a Buddha bowl.
You may remember that this winter and spring we were constantly making Buddha bowls, which basically consist of a grain plus veggies and sauce, mixed in a bowl. It's customizable, and we often would top quinoa or millet with our favorite roasted vegetables or sweet potatoes and some avocado.
Well, the Buddha bowl is still one of my favorite dinners, and I can't believe it took me this long to make a summer version, but I did and it was fantastic. The ingredients:
Fajita vegetables (We used an onion, mushrooms and a peppers)
Cooked garbanzo beans
Squirt of lime juice
That's it. And it was delightful. Perfect for a nice, hardy dinner after a long run. Brown or white rice and black beans would also sub nicely in this dish, and if you don't like mushrooms, leave them out. All in all, it was a great "new" way to enjoy one of our summer favorites.
What'd we get this week? Edamame, bell peppers, frying peppers, grapes, apples, pears and cherry tomatoes. Yum!
OK, I'll admit it, March Madness isn't the only sports' related item rumbling around my skull this week. It's hard to think of anything other than the Jayhawks, 'tis true, but each year at this time, one other little niggling event manages to creep in and a steal a share of the spotlight.
Never heard of it? Shame on you! I blogged about it (sort of) back in January. (Just kidding, I know I'm not exactly in Tennis Central.)
Though it's not exactly convenient for basketball fans, the "fifth major" tennis tournament started this week, and will end the same weekend as the Final Four, as it does every year. Back in the day, when I worked in sports, this meant trying to keep one eye on tennis and one eye on basketball (Hey, I worked in Florida — which IS Tennis Central — and it wasn't weird to be a tennis fan down there).
Years later, it's the same dual-pull for me, though now my job doesn't depend on knowing every little think about both. Truth be told, while my loyalties are still a bit split, the Jayhawks trump the tennis court, every time — even if my beloved Rafa is playing.
So, I thought this week it would be fun to share a recipe with "two faces." Because, whether we want to or not, chances are most of us have more going on than KU basketball this week. Whether that other thing be work, school, family, activities or other sports (or, if you're like me, all of the above).
Thus, I introduce to you my Two-Faced March Madness Pizza.
One side is traditional and Italian. The other side is a mix of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean. Together or separate, they're yummy.
Doesn't that look gorgeous? It is. And it's incredibly tasty and easy to prepare, even on a game night.
To save even more time, make the dough ahead (or use Megan Stuke's trick, and buy some), freeze it, and then put the frozen ball of dough in a bowl to thaw before you leave for work on Friday. Come home, roll it out and make some really yummy pizza before KU's 9:17 p.m. tip-off.
Heck, use all the dough and make two pizzas — by halftime you might be starved from all the jumping up and down/screaming at the TV.
Two-Faced March Madness Pizza
1 batch pizza dough, divided (I use this recipe from Mark Bittman)*
1 jar pizza sauce (We like Muir Glen)
1 bag mozzarella or pizza-blend shredded cheese
1 tub hummus (garlic hummus is really awesome on this pizza, but pick whatever type you like)
Mix of Mediterranean toppings, including: roasted garlic, marinated mushrooms, sweet peppers, marinated giant white beans ( I just raid the Mediterranean bar for whatever looks great)
Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Roll out half the pizza dough on a floured pizza peel or cookie sheet (if you don't have a pizza/bread stone).
Spread your pizza sauce on one-half of the rolled-out dough, and hummus on the other half (you will probably only use a couple of tablespoons of sauce and hummus — do NOT dump the entire jar/tub on your pizza or it will be a soggy mess!).
Decorate the saucy half with as much cheese as you like. On the hummus side, top with your faves from the Mediterranean bar. If you like, put leftover Mediterranean goodness on the cheesy half.
Bake on a pizza stone or baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes. Pull out of the oven, and let cool a bit before you tear in.
*This recipe makes enough for two whole pizzas (8 small slices, each). If you want to make two pizzas, just make sure to have enough cheese and toppings, you should easily half enough pizza sauce and hummus for several pizzas.
And it was tasty ... almost like I planned it.
P.S. On that pizza, in case you're wondering, is pizza sauce, roasted garlic, marinated mushrooms, avocado and some cashew cheese. Put the cheese on the squash too — yum!