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Recipe: Bacon, Pea & Leftovers Pizza

21 Jul

The beginning of last week started off nice and quiet. We’re on a two-week hiatus from swimming lessons (Isobel was promoted to Seahorse, the next level up, have I mentioned how proud I am?!), and we didn’t have any exciting plans until later on in the week. Little did we know at the time that these exciting plans would include a late-night trip to the ER, but that’s a story for tomorrow.

┬áBecause the day had gotten off to a leisurely start I decided to take this opportunity to make Tracy’s pea & bacon pizza recipe. I had my eye on this recipe since she first posted it, and I thought it would be a great way to surprise Anthony with a treat when he got home from work. The dough recipe conveniently created two pizzas so I could make the pea and bacon version for us and a cheese and olive version for Isobel.

We actually deviated from both Isobel’s desires and Tracy’s recipe as it we had quite a few leftovers in the fridge that I needed to use up before they went bad, but we did reserve a fourth of one of the pizzas as a purely cheese-and-olive enterprise. If your day isn’t quite so leisurely you can still enjoy a delicious pizza by using store bought pizza dough.

Isobel loved helping me add the toppings. She was really proud she had helped make pizza for dinner. She didn’t realize that this was something you could actually make at home–she thought it was just something you could get at restaurants. She was impressed, I could tell. She also really loves olives. Her pizza would have had more olives on it if she hadn’t kept eating the olives directly out of the can. Girlfriend loves her some olives.

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DOUGH

I followed the no-knead pizza dough recipe exactly, but I deviated quite a bit when it came to the toppings.

TOPPINGS

  • Sauce: Tracy’s recipe doesn’t use a traditional red sauce, but I had a fourth of a jar of tomato basil pasta sauce I needed to use up, so I used a scant smearing of that on the bacon and pea pizza and a more liberal coating for Isobel’s olive pizza.
  • Peas, I used frozen as I had a bag to use up, and I just put them on our pizza
  • Bacon, I used three strips per pizza
  • Green onions, Isobel is going through an anti-onion phase, I only out them on ours. I eyeballed it.
  • Cheese, I used three kinds: shredded mozzarella, fresh mozzarella balls I had leftover that I tore into chunks, and lots of Parmesan.
  • Mushrooms, I had a small handful of baby bella mushrooms that I let Isobel scatter over both pizzas. Half a cup, probably.
  • Basil, Tracy’s recipe calls for fresh mint, but I didn’t have any growing in my garden. My basil was going gangbusters, so I added six or so leaves to one of the pies.

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- At least three hours before you want to eat, prepare the dough according to these instructions.

- Once the dough is ready to go, oil the baking sheets and preheat the oven to 500F.

- Stretch the dough out onto the oiled baking sheet and add the toppings listed above, adjusting for your tastes.

- Spray the exposed pizza crust with olive oil and bake for 18-20 minutes.

It was so, so good, and much easier than I thought it would be to put together. Dinner that night was mostly a quiet affair as we dug in, but at one point Isobel took a break from chewing to shout, “Mmm! Home pizza is my favorite pizza!”

Little Big Kitchen: How to Prepare Artichoke

15 Jul

Sometimes when I look at an artichoke I wonder about the first person who decided to try and eat such an odd-looking prickly flower. It’s part of the thistle family, and in addition to the sometimes formidable thorns on the leaves it also contains a prickly choke on the inside. I grew up eating them so it wasn’t something I batted an eye at as a kid, but I’ve noticed that those who didn’t find them on their plates as a kid had a harder time with them. Artichoke hearts on pizza are one thing, but how to go from the plant in the vegetable bin to dinner? I’ve had friends call me to ask how it’s done, and so I thought I’d share here.

My cousin and her husband lived in New York for four years while she did her graduate work and she said that she couldn’t find the enormous green beauties easily in the markets there. They were her favorite vegetable, and the ones she found were as tiny as golf balls, and probably meant to be fried whole and served as appetizers. In California we are used to large specimens, easily the size of softballs or a grapefruit. They come into season late winter and into the spring. When selecting them, look for firmness and tightly closed leaves. Green or purple coloration is the norm, but avoid anything that looks brownish.

Raw artichokes have a chemical that can make your fingers taste, well, odd and unpleasant, so be sure to wash or wear kitchen gloves while preparing if you are going to be eating after.

1. The first thing I always do is slice off the stem–but don’t toss it! Cooked and peeled, it is as sweet and delicious as the artichoke’s heart. Since I typically steam them, though, I cut off the stem so it can sit flat in a pan.

2. I then slice the top of the artichoke off using a serrated knife. I have a regular vegetable knife in the photo above, and that works just fine in some cases, but artichokes are fibrous and a serrated blade has a better grip.

3. Remove the thorns by snipping the top of each leaf off with kitchen shears. Again, you can use a knife for this, and I have before, but it’s so easy to use scissors, and it looks much neater.

At this point, it’s ready to steam. My family always cooked their artichokes by putting an inexpensive collapsible steamer basket into a pot filled with about an inch or two of water. Clamp the lid on, turn up the heat, and after it comes to a boil turn the heat way down to a simmer and steam it for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the vegetable. Some people season their artichokes with slivers of garlic between the leaves or a good dousing of lemon pepper, but I usually cook mine plain and make a seasoned sauce to serve with. Artichokes pair naturally with creamy, dairy-based sauces, but olive oil-based ones are great, too.

Half the fun of having an artichoke is the actual process of eating it. It isn’t a food you can eat in a hurry because it takes time to scrape the meat off the leaves. This makes it a perfect appetizer or food for sharing with friends as the leisurely pace of eating it leaves plenty of time for conversation. Have small bowls out for sauce an another plate or large bowl for discarded leaves and share among the whole table. I can eat an artichoke myself in a sitting, but it’s much more fun to share with friends.

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