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Semolina Flatbread with Arugula, Mint, and Spinach Pesto

25 Jun

Generally, when I gather together the elements to make a meal, I attempt to strike a reasonably healthy balance of protein, grain, and vegetable.  In the winter months, you’ll see a fair amount of polenta and pasta sitting in for the grain component, their hearty and warm properties providing the perfect bit of comfort one seeks to counteract the cold and drizzly weather.  In the summertime, when the sun beckons and our meals are almost exclusively eaten outdoors, we eat hunks of bread with our slices of cheese and heaping plates of garden vegetables.  And during the intervening weeks, which means now, when the sun appears only sporadically and our days are often still drenched with the cold and the wet, our meals are punctuated with foods that exist in between, not too hot, not too cold, but a rather Baby Bear-like middle ground.

A flatbread like this, hearty and crisp with semolina, slathered with a pert combination of spicy arugula, fresh mint, and lots of lemon zest, is the perfect example of the type of accompaniment I like with my meals on these days of in between.  It’s a great companion for soups (cold weather), or salads (warm weather), and it packs up perfectly for a picnic (dreamy weather).  Paired with yogurt-marinated chicken skewers and some slices of fresh raw bell pepper, it was the defining element of a springtime dinner last week, on a day that couldn’t figure out if it wanted to be rainy or sunny, so it decided to be both several times over.

But, guess what else?  This flatbread has a bit of a secret weapon.  In addition to making a fine side dish at lunch or dinner, it is also able to transform itself, with the addition of a single ingredient, into a fantastic breakfast meal.  By simply cracking some eggs onto the flatbread midway through cooking, your flatbread emerges from the oven as a cross between a breakfast pizza and the most flavorful eggs and toast you’ve ever had.  Don’t want to bother with making the dough in the morning then sitting around waiting for it to rise?  I don’t blame you.  Luckily, you can get around it by throwing the dough together the night before, then leaving it to rise in the refrigerator overnight.  Come morning, you’re one step closer to fresh flatbread dotted with baked eggs, and some great leftovers for lunch or dinner, rain or shine.

Last Year: Mango and Avocado Salsa

Semolina Flatbread with Arugula, Mint, and Spinach Pesto Recipe

Semolina Flatbread:

¾ cup warm water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

1 ½ cups bread flour

½ cup semolina flour

pinch sea salt

1 teaspoon rapid rise yeast

In a small bowl, or in a measuring cup, whisk together the warm water, olive oil, and honey.

In a large bowl, whisk together bread flour, semolina flour, pinch of salt, and rapid rise yeast.  Pour the water mixture into the flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon.  When the ingredients are well combined (the mixture will look a bit shaggy), start kneading the dough, still in the bowl, with your hands.  Knead the dough, turning it over onto itself several times, until it is smooth and somewhat shiny, about 3-4 minutes total.  Form the dough into a ball.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top of the dough, then roll it around in the bowl to coat it all over with oil.  Cover the bowl with a sheet of plastic wrap or a moistened towel, and leave the dough to rise for 1 ½ to 2 hours, until it is large and puffy and more than doubled in size.  Alternately, you can cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then place it in the refrigerator to rise overnight.

While the dough is rising, make the pesto.

Arugula, Mint, and Spinach Pesto

½ cup packed fresh arugula

¼ sup packed fresh mint leaves

1 cup packed fresh spinach

1 large clove garlic, roughly smashed

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons roasted almonds, chopped, sliced, or slivered

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus another ¼ cup for topping the flatbread after it bakes

salt and pepper to taste

In the bowl of a food processor or in a blender, combine arugula, mint, spinach, garlic, lemon zest, almonds, olive oil, and ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste (the cheese is a bit salty already, so you won’t require much additional salt).  Process or bend the ingredients until they are fully incorporated and have turned into a rich paste.  You will have to stop several times to scrape down the sides of the bowl or blender, but it is necessary in order to make sure all the ingredients are properly combined.

Makes about ¾ cup pesto.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet on the lower middle rack of the oven as it preheats.

Line a rimless or overturned baking sheet with a large piece of parchment paper, and set aside.

When the dough has fully risen (if you are taking the dough out of the refrigerator after it has risen overnight, allow it to rest on the counter for 20-30 minutes so it can lose some of its refrigerator chill and is easier to work with), turn it out onto a well-floured surface.  Using your hands, shape the dough into a 14-inch by 10-inch rectangle, gently stretching and poking the dough in order to coerce it into taking shape.  Place the rectangle of dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet.  Spread the pesto over the surface of the dough, leaving a ½-inch border around the edges.

Slide the dough, still on its sheet of parchment paper, onto the heated baking sheet or pizza stone in the oven.  Bake for 10 minutes, until the edges of the dough are golden brown and slightly puffed.

If adding eggs to your flatbread, crack 3 to 4 eggs into a bowl.  After the flatbread has baked for 5 minutes, carefully pour the eggs onto the flatbread, directing the eggs as far from the edges as possible (if the eggs are too close to the edges they will simply slide off onto the hot baking sheet, which makes an incredible mess).  Bake the flatbread for an additional 5 minutes, until the egg whites are fully cooked and the egg yolks are slightly runny.  If you’d like your eggs firmer, add them a minute sooner so they have time to bake a minute longer.

Remove flatbread onto a wire rack to cool slightly.  Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese.  When bread has cooled a bit, cut into squares and serve.

Recipe Roundup

22 Apr

Good things have been happening over at Indie Fixx, where I write a twice-monthly column called Melting Pot.  These two most recent recipes are fast becoming favorites of mine.

Fig and Manchego Flatbread

The perfect balance of salty and sweet.  Small children have been known to swoon over this bread.

Pear and Apple Kuchen

A wonderful, light cake with a yeasted base and a fruit and streusel topping.  This might become my go-to breakfast pastry.  It is only slightly sweet, and you can let the yeasted dough rise overnight, then assemble and bake everything in the morning.

For the better part of a month, I’ve been staring at this chocolate bunt cake recipe from 101 Cookbooks.  It’s got a generous amount of dark beer in it, along with muscovado sugar and maple syrup.  It has started to haunt me in my sleep, so I think it is only a matter of time before I break down and make it.  Would you look at that slip of chocolate icing resting atop the cake?  I swear to you, I can almost feel myself biting into it.

Honey Cream, Strawberry, and Chocolate Pizza

16 Apr

Perhaps it is not entirely honest to refer to this as a pizza, since, barring the fact that it is pizza-shaped and utilizes a crust that is quite fitting for savory pizza applications, it is quite clear that if something contains strawberries, cream, and chocolate, it’s probably not really a pizza, per se.

But, in yet another example of how I like to turn non-dessert foods into dessert, when I had a leftover pizza crust laying around last week, it just seemed wrong to let it live out the last of its days as something not sweet.  Plus, I had leftover strawberries sitting around.  And leftover cream.  And chocolate.  And also, I am not actually trying to justify what I have done, and I hope I am making that painfully obvious right now.

For something so simple to make, this dessert is a real showstopper.  Not only do the honey cream and strawberries go together like, well, strawberries and cream, but the light drizzle of chocolate at the end provides a finish that is as delicious as it is easy on the eyes.  If you want to be really cheeky, you can serve this pizza as a dessert on pizza night, whipping up this pizza dough the night before, allowing it to rest overnight in the refrigerator, then using 2/3 of the dough for dinner pizzas, the last 1/3 for this dessert pizza.  Resting the dough in the refrigerator overnight is not a necessity, but in my years of pizza making (the last year being the most intensive and experimental), I have discovered that a long-rested dough develops an unbeatable flavor and texture that is difficult to approximate with a dough that has rested at room temperature for a couple of hours.  You’ll have to plan ahead a bit, but it is so worth it.

Plenty more recipes for pizza can be found here.  Also, last year on Indie Fixx I published one of my most favorite pizza recipes, which can be found here.

Last Year: A Trio of Flavored Butters

Honey Cream, Strawberry, and Chocolate Pizza Recipe

Pizza dough for 1 pizza, or 1/3 of this dough, rested in the refrigerator overnight for maximum flavor

¼ cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons honey

12 ounces of strawberries, de-stemmed and sliced

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place a baking stone or a heavy sheet pan on the second to lowest shelf in the oven.  Line a rimless baking sheet or an overturned sheet pan with parchment paper, and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, stretch and push the pizza dough with your hands, coaxing, poking, and punching it until it forms a roughly 12-inch circle.  Place the dough on the parchment-lined baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and honey until the honey has dissolved.  Brush ¾ of the cream mixture over the pizza dough.  Arrange the strawberries over the cream, trying your best to lay them in concentric circles.  Brush the remaining ¼ of the cream mixture over the tops of the strawberries.

Gently slide the pizza—still on its parchment paper—onto the preheated baking stone or sheet pan.  Bake pizza for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges of the pizza are dark golden brown and bubbly.

Remove pizza to a rack to cool a bit.  While the pizza is cooling, melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave on low heat, stirring frequently in both cases.  Melt the chocolate just until it still has come visible chunks, then remove from the heat and stir until the chunks have melted and the chocolate is glossy and smooth.

Drizzle the chocolate over the cooling pizza.  You can eat it while both the pizza and the chocolate are still warm, or you can allow both the pizza and chocolate to cool and firm up before eating.  Either way, it’s delicious.

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