Spinach

Shaved asparagus, tarragon pizza & spinach, basil, goat cheese pizza

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It's spring and pizza is in the air. We got into making homemade pizzas a long time ago when Laurie, a best friend and past roommate, use to work at a stone-fired pizza place during college. She could take this little baby-bottom soft piece of dough and toss it out into a disc, top it, and have it slipped into the oven in no time. One early summer's afternoon we decided to have a pizza-luck. Laurie got a bunch of dough ball "butts" from work and everybody pitched in and brought toppings. Doing this at the house was extremely fun but not without difficulties. We had pizzas popping out of all different shapes, sizes, deformities, colors, flavors, until the power all over the block mysteriously gave out. So we were oven-less, secretly I was thankful for this, our tiny house felt like a sweat lodge after running the oven for hours and our AC didn't work so well. So we gave the pizza stones a rest and all retreated outside, sat around in our big yard with good friends, drinks, and plenty of pizza to share. 

I made these pizzas when we had two friends from Athens, who now live in Charlotte, visit us in Virginia. It was the first asparagus of the season for me and I wanted to do something special with it. Clearly, pizza is special and it is worth the grace of the seasons first asparagus. Make your own dough at home with the recipe below, buy your own pre made dough (usually found at Earthfare or Whole Foods), or use a pre-cooked crust. 

A word about making your own crust. I've tried so many different pizza crust methods/recipes and none compare to Peter Reinhart's overnight fermentation method. The problem is that I rarely make this recipe because I am usually not planning on making pizza the day before. You have to start his recipe the day before, it is essential. But if you do plan ahead, seriously, locate his recipe and make it; it is a gem.

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Dough, the short version ( makes two pizzas )

Flour (I used bread flour) - 1 1/2 Cups

Olive oil - 1/3 cup

Warm water (110-115 degrees)

Active dry yeast - scant 1Tb (or one packet)

Sugar - A big pinch

Salt - 1.5tsp

Place your warm water into a 2 cup pyrex, make sure it is between no warmer that 115degrees and no less than 105degrees. You need it to be warm enough for the yeast but not too hot or else it will kill your yeast. Add in your good pinch of sugar and whisk to somewhat dissolve. Add in your yeast and whisk until it is dissolved. Let this mixture sit in a warm place for 10 minutes until it starts to get foamy and fluff up.

Meanwhile mix your flour and salt in a mixer with the dough hook attached. You can do this by hand, just need a big bowl and a wooden spoon. Once the yeast mixture is ready add it into the mixture while it is going and then add 1/2 the oil. Let the dough start to come together and finish adding the oil when it looks like it needs it. You want the dough to be soft but not tacky. I left a little oil out of the dough mixture so I could later grease the bowl with it. Let it mix in the mixer for a few minutes.

Lightly flour a clean surface and take out your dough and knead it with you hands for several minutes and form it into a round. Grease a large bowl with your extra oil, roll the dough round to coat the top with oil. Let it covered with a cloth in a warm place to double in size, at least an hour. Once it is doubled in size, turn the dough out and divide in in half, forming each half into a round.

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Asparagus pizza

Asparagus - 1 bunch

Yellow onion - 1/2 slivered

Garlic - 3 cloves minced

A good parmesan - 1 cup grated

Tarragon - scant 2Tb chopped fine, fresh

Lemon - juice of 1 lemon

Egg - 1

Olive oil - 2Tb + some for brushing

Salt/pepper - to taste, I used generous pepper

Preheat your oven on 500degrees. Take a mandoline or a vegetable peeler and peel your asparagus into long ribbons. This may take awhile but it is worth it. It is ok if they are uneven or different sizes/thicknesses. I used a vegetable peeler and held the end of the asparagus (the part you usually cut off) as a handle. Place all your asparagus ribbons in a bowl. Heat up a deep skillet on medium heat with 2Tb olive oil. Add in the minced garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add in the onions and cook for several minuets until softened. Add in the asparagus ribbons. Cook for several minutes until just starting to soften. Squeeze in the lemon juice and season with salt/pepper. Turn off the heat and stir in the tarragon. 

Take one of the dough rounds and place it on a floured surface. Roll out the dough into a circle about 9" in diameter. Transfer the pizza onto your pizza stone or baking sheet now, before you top it. I then brushed the outer few inches of dough with olive oil and rolled the edge in about 1" to make a crust. Scatter 1/2 cup of parmesan over the pizza. Top with the asparagus mixture, spreading evenly. Scatter the other 1/2 parmesan over the top. Part some of the asparagus in the center to make a slight well and crack your egg in it. Finish by brushing the edges with olive oil. Place your pizza in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes (maybe a little longer or a little less) Keep an eye on cooking your egg. It is tricky to get it out when the whites are set but the yolk is still runny. I took mine out a little too early then put it back in but when I went back for it, it was too late and my yolk was cooked. You could try cooking your pizza without the egg for 1/2 the time and then pull out the shelf, crack in the egg onto the already hot pizza, then finish cooking. Experiment.

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Spinach, basil, goat cheese

Spinach - Several handfuls of fresh spinach

Goat cheese - 4Tb about

Parmesan -1/2 cup grated

Basil - 2Tb slivered, fresh

Pepper - generous amounts.

With the oven still at 500 degrees. Roll out your second round like you did with the asparagus pizza. Transfer the pizza dough onto your pizza stone or baking sheet at this point. Crumble the goat cheese around the disc and the smear the goat cheese with a knife, gently, into a thin layer covering the crust. Scatter over the fresh basil. Top with the handfuls of fresh spinach and then the parmesan. Brush the crust edges with olive oil. Finish with a generous sprinkling of black pepper over the pizza. Place in the oven and cook about 10-15 minutes.

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Spring rolls with radish & ginger mushrooms + a cashew dipping sauce

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I made these spring rolls the day before the equinox for a potluck at my last herbalism class. I made them without tofu at first but we had a hankering for ones that we didn't have to share, so with my left-over rice wrappers, I made them again but this time with tofu. I thought spring rolls were the perfect thing for that potluck, calling in the new season with their bright ingredients and fresh crunch. Although, it seems spring hasn't quite made it here yet, we've had several snows since, a particularly good one Sunday night. I am really ready for spring, not just ready, I crave it to help me get my act together. The warmth to thaw everything out and provoke motivation and clarity. I think this weather is actually following in line with what I am feeling. Just as spring peeks out, my hopes get up and then the temperature drops and down flutters the snow. I feel like I am just on the edge of something and I keep dangling over the cliff, testing the plunge but then stumble back again. I know there is suppose to be balance and it is coming, I have to believe that it is coming. Something to scoop me up from the uncertainty I've been a prisoner too these past 3 months. It has made me feel worthless, the type of worthless we all feel sometimes. 

My heart is just yearning for the fun that awaits us this summer. We are going to Denver, a place I think will feel much more like home than Charlottesville has, but also all the things we will get to experience because of it. I haven't had the opportunity to explore on that side of the country. I am really yearning for the possibilites of what we will see, even if we don't get to see everything. The list is endless; salt lake city with a long soak in the great salt lake, the desert in Utah, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the redwoods, the tetons, skiing, California, the Rockies, elk, Yellowstone, mesa verde, hot springs, red rocks, sand dunes, hiking, hiking, and more hiking. I know that soon I will feel invigorated again but I just need to get over this personal wound I have right now and accept that balance will come soon. Spring will come soon, I'll take the plunge and with it comes clarity. Clarity to balance these past months and lead me on to something. Something that will begin with Denver. 

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Spring Rolls (Makes 8)

Rice wrapping papers - 8

Avocado - 1 cut into matchsticks

Fresh basil - 20-25 fresh leaves

Carrot - 2 large carrots cut into matchstick size

Radish - 4 radish cut into matchstick size

Royal trumpet mushrooms - (1 container) cut into matchsticks

(optional) Tofu - 1/2 a container - sliced into thin, long strips.

Coconut Oil - 2TB (Or olive oil)

Soy sauce - 1TB

Fresh spinach leaves

Red onion slivers

Ginger - a good nub minced. 

Cashew dipping sauce.

Cashew butter - 4TB

Sesame oil - 1TB

Soy sauce - 1.5TB

Rice vinegar - 2tsp

Lime - Juice of 1 lime

Sriracha sauce - a good squirt / to your taste

Heat up a kettle of water to boiling, at least 4 cups. Turn off the boiling water an set aside until you are ready to assemble the spring rolls.

Slice up all your veggies into match sticks save the spinach/basil and mince up your ginger. Heat up the 2TB of oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Add in the minced ginger and slivered mushrooms and tofu. Let cook about 5-10 minutes until starting to brown. Pour in the 1TB of soy sauce and stir to coat. Turn off the heat and pour into a bowl.

Pour the hot water into a bowl and add in a few ice cubes to lower the temperature until it is just cool enough for you hands to handle touching it. But you want it to be as hot as you can handle. Arrange all your sliced veggies into piles along with a bowl of the tofu/mushrooms, the basil and spinach, and the stack of the rice wrappers. 

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Take one of your rice wrappers and dip into the bowl of hot water until it softens and turns clear. Take it out and lay out the wrapper on a cutting board, handeling carefully, it tears easy. Lay down three leaves of basil in the center of the wrapper and top with a few pieces of spinach. Top with some slivers of radishes on one side, red onion and carrot on the other, top the center with the gingered mushroom/tofu and slivers of avocado. Folding is tricky, do it the best way you find but here is how I did it. I folded the bottom half over the center filling while pressing and tucking under the filling with the bottom end of the wrapper. I then folded in the sides of the wrapper and grabbed the roll and rolled upwards until the top end of the wrapper is all rolled in. Repeat with the other 7. 

Make the dipping sauce. Add in the cashew butter, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce in a bowl. Take the back of a fork and mash against the sides of the bowl until it all becomes incorporated. Squirt in the sriracha and juice of the lime and stir. Check the consistency and add in more sesame oil, soy sauce, or water to adjust the flavor or to thin out the sauce.

Dip and enjoy. Welcome spring. Welcome clarity.

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Celeriac & potato cakes, garlic spinach, & an over-easy egg

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We woke up to no power, 6" of snow with more falling, and really excited puppies! I was equally excited and we bundled up to go out and play. It was Rue's first time in inches of snow and it was deep enough to cover her legs and brush up against the underside of her belly. She was hopping around like a rabbit and sticking her face deep in the snow until her nose touched the frozen ground. She was adorable. Banjo was made for the snow. As soon as she gets out and sniffs the air, it fills her up with some sort of wild, primitive, wolf spirit and she starts running in circles, flailing her paws attacking the snow. We all licked up our fill of snow, made snowballs, played with the dogs and banjo uncovered a large, four pointed antler a deer had recently shed. Best dog treats ever, no joke. I was too distracted to take photos but I'd better include this puppy photo of banjo during her first snow in 2010 for good measure.

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After playing we were hungry for a hearty breakfast and fortunately we had use of our stove still, since it is gas. I made this delicious brunch dish from the leftover celeriac after the russian beet salad wrap. We enjoyed the rest of the snow day, Ty got out of classes and a mid-term, and we kept close to the wood stove reading books by candlelight. Now, some of the no-power charm has worn out, it is 3 days later and we are still without power, water, have spoiled groceries and sadly, no internet to keep you updated! So I find myself sipping on some tea at our local tea house, bumming the internet, light, and power outlets. This is one of the last meals we had made at the house since loosing power - it is just too difficult to keep washing dishes without water.  

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Recipe (We made 3 large cakes but could make 4 slightly smaller ones) 

Celeriac - 1/2 a mid-sized root, peeled and chopped into medium pieces

Red potatoes - 2 smallish ones, chopped into quarters

Red onion - 1/4 chopped small

Spinach - I used about 3 big handfuls, fresh

Butter - 2TB

Parmesan - 1/4cup finely grated

Gruyére - 1/4cup finely grated

Garlic - 2 cloves, minced

Tarragon - 1-2TB minced (fresh) (parsley, dill, or most fresh herbs would work)

Heavy cream or milk - 1-2TB

Salt/pepper - to taste

Polenta, grits, or corn meal to dust. 

Fill a medium pot with water 2/3 full and add a pinch of salt. Add in potatoes and celeriac and boil until soft and easily pierced with a fork. Add cooked potatoes/celeriac, red onion, parmesan, gruyére, tarragon, pinches of salt/pepper, tablespoon or two of heavy cream and mash until well mixed. Dust a clean surface with polenta and divide mixture into 3 or 4 balls. Shape into a patty about 1/4"-1/2" thick and coat with the polenta. 

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Heat up a large skillet with 1TB of butter on medium heat, add the minced garlic. Let infuse and get fragrant for a minute. Gettin' fragrant with garlic, mmm. Add the spinach and stir until just wilted. Dump out into a bowl and melt the other TB of butter in the skillet. Add the celeriac cakes and cook for several minutes on each side, until a thin, brown, crispy coat forms. Remove cakes and set onto a plate, top with spinach. Replace skillet to medium/high heat (add a small splash of olive oil) and crack in eggs, cooking one at a time if need be. Cook for a minute on one side and then flip. Cook for another minute or so until the white is set, but yolk runny if desired. Place an egg on top of the spinach/cakes. Top with fresh black pepper and serve. 

 

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Russian beet salad wrap

Beets. 

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I made this salad as a quick, simple dinner. We were getting a few things done and were excited for the snow that was to start falling in a few hours. It was suppose to be a heavy snow and those are rare down south but not up here in mountainy Virginia. I had been waiting all winter long for something substancial but up until now all we had were frequent dustings. Well, that definitely changed, but we'll talk a bit more about that later. 

I have to admit that I am fond of the idea of beets, the beautiful color of beets, the history of beets but they are not my favorite root to eat. (If you are more curious about the rich and magical qualities of beets, just click the magic word.) Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the sweetness of them and have a hard time eating a lot of it. To me, they are well suited to a juiced or to be baked. Yet I adore this salad, somehow the creaminess in the yogurt cuts the sweetness of the beet and the dill/celeriac/onion compliment it nicely. I believe russian beet salad usually contains celery but instead, I used raw celeriac (celery root) and I think the slight spiciness made a huge difference but feel free to substitute celery. 

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Recipe - (Will make 4 wraps)

Wraps - I used a whole wheat lavash wrap but use your favorite.  

Fresh spinach - a few handfuls to add to the wraps. 

Beets - 3 smallish red beets. Peeled and quartered.

Celeriac root - 1/2 a small/medium root. Peeled and diced.  

Eggs - 2 (hard boiled)

Red onion - 1/4 large red onion, chopped fine.

Garlic - 2 cloves, minced

Greek yogurt - 3/4cup I used whole/plain. 

Apple cider vinegar - 1/8cup generous

Honey - 2tsp

Fresh dill- 2-3TB

Salt - 1/4tsp

Pepper- a few good pinches

Set a medium pot 2/3 full of water on the stove to boil with your eggs, leave to boil until the eggs are hardboiled. Trim, peel, and chop all your vegetables. Remove the eggs once hardboiled (8 minutes or so) and add your beets to lightly boil until soft and can be pierced with a fork. Combine all your celeriac, onion, and diced hard boiled egg in a bowl. In a separate bowl make you "dressing" - mix together the yogurt, vinegar, minced garlic, honey, salt, pepper, and dill. Once the beets are done, run them under cool water, dice them up and add to the other veggies. Add your dressing to the veggies and stir until well combined. Set out 4 wraps, add a small handful or two of fresh spinach and then spoon in 1/4 (or desired amount) of beet salad. Wrap it up and enjoy, pink drippings and all! 

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