Spring, sprang, sprung. It did it. Finally. I think. There are a lot of fat bees, and I don’t feel the urge to curse under my breath during my morning tip toe to the shower. As a matter of fact, I don’t even have to tip toe. I can walk quite flat footed and hum pop songs and towel off without shivering. So, yes, it must be spring. There are blossoms everywhere, cherry trees and daffodils, cobalt spindly things and white lacy blooms and yellow twining vines. You can tell I know a lot about flowers. I steal them. Really. I drive around my neighbourhood so slowly it’s suspicious and leap out, shears in hand, and snip flowers. I don’t steel the good ones or the precious ones. Mostly the raucous, prolific ones or maybe even weeds. But hey, free flowers.
These are my months. Months of nettles and asparagus, spring chicken and lamb. Everything bursting forth and brimming, young and sweet. Spring is as delicious as childhood and just as ephemeral besides. I always feel a little frantic actually, a little desperate to catch every last drop of springiness and luxuriate in it, soak every bit up before summer comes hulking in with its pubescent produce, and its strapping, husky heat. Don’t get me wrong, summer’s superb and you’ll almost never catch me complaining about the heat. I have, apparently, lizard blood. But spring is poetry. Just ask every poet ever. They know a thing.
In my attempts to bathe in the essence of spring (and of course the essence of anything is food, right?) I always end up with a little bit more produce from the farmer’s market than I know what to do with. And then come the spring pizzas, marching out of my blazing hot oven, slipped off a cornmeal dusted stone with a peel, on a weekly, even bi-weekly basis. And let me tell you why. For one: bread. Everyone loves bread but no one loves bread more than me. Except maybe [my partner] Patrick. That boy loves bread. Two: cheese. That is all. Three: I am cheap, cheap as dirt. And so is pizza dough from scratch, so we get along.
So you’ve got bread and cheese, the backbone of any self respecting meal. Then you’ve nothing more to do than add whatever is in your fridge. And I mean whatever. If potatoes and rapini can be as delicious on a pizza as they are, I assure you, pretty much everything is. The same principles as a sandwich apply I guess. But yes, get outside the pepperoni and margherita box (though make no mistake, those are both excellent pizzas). Step right out. Look in your fridge. What’s that bag of stuff taunting you, threatening to go bad on you at any given moment & riddle you with guilt? Yeah, put that guy on a pizza. And laugh. Oh how you will laugh. And eat. And laugh. And you will pizza and do the twist, and life will be spring and so grand.
Oh, and put and egg on it, y’all.
Rapini & Potato Pizza on Buttermilk Pizza Crust
yields 4 6″ pizzas
I started using this crust as my “quick” crust. I use quotes because eh, it’s not rapido or anything. The other dough that’s my stand-by is Jim Lahey’s No Knead dough, but say I didn’t think to put some dough out the night before, this is the one I turn to because it can be made in a reasonable amount of time. This one is very bready, which is nice for a change. This would work quite well with kale and broccoli instead of rapini (aka broccoli rabe) so don’t go all googly-eyed looking for it if you can’t find it. A few florets, a few leaves. Voila. I really can’t sing the praises of potato pizza high enough. I slice them so thin that some of them almost turn into chips during roasting, so we call this “potato chip” pizza. Use that line on kids to sort of deceive them into thinking it’s unhealthy, if that’s your style. It’d be mine if I had kids. I swear I once even confused a potato for a pepperoni, no joke. I bake mine on a stone. You don’t have to, but they’re quite cheap and so worth it. Baking a pizza in an electric oven is kind of lame, and a pizza stone ameliorates that to a degree. Crispy crust, amen.
Also, I like to blast my pizzas with heat. If this is too burn-y for you, just bake them at 475° on the lowest rack for about 15 minutes.
1/2 cup buttermilk (room temp)
3/4 cup water, almost hot to the touch (about 125° F)
2 tablespoons dry yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
3 cups all purpose flour (sifted, if you’re into that)
3/4 teaspoon salt
olive oil for oiling the bowl
cornmeal or flour for dusting
1 bunch rapini (broccoli rabe)
1 cup mixed baby potatoes (purple, red, yukon gold) or 3 medium sized, sliced paper thin
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups grated gruyere
1 cup grated parmesan
4 eggs (optional)
Proof the yeast: In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk, olive oil, honey, and water. Sprinkle in the yeast. Stir once and let sit in a warm place until it’s nice and foamy, about 10 to 20 minutes. If you don’t have foam, you do have a problem. Toss it and start over. Either it was too hot, too cold, or the yeast was old. The mix should be about 100-110° when the yeast goes in.
Mix the flour and salt well. Stir in the foamy yeast mix with a wooden spoon quickly, dispersing clumps as much as possible at this point. You will have a wet dough.
Knead the dough. Dust a work surface with flour, I do so pretty liberally. Add about 1/4 cup flour to the dough in the bowl so that you can scrape it onto your work surface. Add more flour as needed, but don’t get trigger happy. The dough will stick at first, but just add little bits of flour and keep kneading. Start with about 1/4 cups but add less and less flour as you continue to knead. Add it slowly, don’t be over zealous. You want to end up with a dough that is “just past sticky” and is “threatening to stick to the work surface”. Knead for about ten minutes until you have a smooth, silky dough (not a dry, tough dough).
1st rise. Lightly oil the bottom of a large bowl with the olive oil. Form dough into a ball. Place the dough in the bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a spot that’s room temperature, neither warm nor cool. In 2 hours or so, the dough should double in size.
Shape the pizzas. Cut dough into 4 quarters. Place 1 quarter on a floured surface, pulling it gently into a round as you place it on the surface. Either stretch or pull the dough into approximate 6″ rounds, slightly thicker on the rim. I like to use my fists beneath the dough but if it threatens to tear, I lay it out and gingerly pat/pull. But don’t fret, you can patch up holes with a pinch of dough.
Once formed, make sure each pizza isn’t sticking and add flour beneath them if they seem to be. Cover them with a towel and let them rest again for a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 60 minutes.
During the first resting of the crust, prepare the toppings. Heat oven to 375°.
Toss sliced potatoes with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle to taste with kosher salt and with the rosemary. Roast until soft and crispy on the edges, about 10-15 minutes. More like 20 if you’re using bigger potatoes. Increase heat to 550° and place pizza stone in the oven if using.
Blanch the rapini about 30 seconds and then shock in an ice bath. Drain and cut into bite sized pieces.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, sautéing until fragrant, about a minute. Add the rapini and a healthy pinch of salt (about 1/2 tsp, but season to taste). Sauté a minute or so. Remove from heat. Set aside along with the finished potatoes. Mix the two cheeses to combine.
The oven should now be heated to 550°. (There is a note in the intro to the recipe about an alternate baking temp.)
If using a stone, top pizzas on the peel dusted with cornmeal or flour before putting in the oven. If using a baking sheet, top the pizzas on the baking sheet (also dusted with cornmeal or flour).
Switch oven to broil, making sure there is a rack in the middle.
Brush crusts with olive oil. Sprinkle half a cup of cheese on each of the four pizzas as you assemble them. Broil them with just cheese for about 3 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the crust is puffing. Remove from oven and add additional toppings, the rapini and potatoes and an extra quarter cup of cheese along with an egg cracked in the middle if you so choose. Broil until brown (I like dark spots on my crust) and bubbly and the egg white is cooked through about 5-7 more minutes. If it starts to get too dark, just turn the oven off of broil and back to bake and move the pizza to the lower rack until done.
Remove with a peel if they’re on a stone, slice, and serve!
As originally published on LOCAL MILK.