I want, need, and crave variety in my diet. I can’t eat the same thing over and over again and usually if I do repeat a recipe, it’s been months between versions.
However, writing a food blog means that sometimes repeating a dinner is necessary. I make something I intend to write about and then, for one reason or another, I don’t photograph the meal, or I don’t write down a crucial ingredient, or I don’t keep notes as I am cooking, and presto! I’m making the same meal two days later so I can share it with you.
Last week when I had those friends over, I made this pizza. It is a super seasonal, super local pizza and I loved it. I was so proud of it. I got a photo of it, I kept notes, everything I needed to share with you, my wonderful readers. No need to make it again. But I wanted to. I wanted to eat it again. Randy had been out of town that night and I wanted him to taste it. I wanted to share it with a different group of friends and so I made it again.
The first time I got fresh porcini mushrooms at the farmers’ market, the second time I had to settle for morels. (Poor me.) Now, I recognize that in regions other than the Northwest, you are probably aren’t able to find either fresh porcinis or morels, stinging nettles, spring onions, or perhaps even Mama Lil’s peppers. I could offer you a million different substitutions and variations. But then it wouldn’t be this pizza. The one I ate twice in a week. I call this an original recipe but I am indebted to Mark Bittman for his fabulous dough recipe and to Jess Thomson for her nettle pesto.
Yes, I made pesto from nettles. Those things that used to sting me while playing in the woods in 6th grade. It sounds crazy but everyone who has tasted it (and there have been quite a few since I am currently obsessed with it), thinks it rocks.
One Year Ago: Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (make these now)
Two Years Ago: White Chocolate Almond Chunk Cookies and Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream
Three Years Ago: Spicy Lime and Herbed Tofu in Lettuce Cups
Late Spring Pizza with Nettle Pesto and Wild Mushrooms
Dana Treat Original
For the dough, I always use my stand mixer instead of the food processor but I’ve included his complete recipe. I’ve made this pizza on the grill and in the oven and it works both ways. I’m partial to the grill.
For the dough
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
For the pizza
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
6 ounces fresh porcini mushrooms, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. nettle pesto (recipe follows)
½ cup Mama Lil’s peppers
4 ounces goat cheese, broken into small chunks
Make the dough
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, 1 to 2 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 2 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.
Make the pizza
Preheat the oven to 500ºF. Have a pizza stone set on the bottom rack. Alternatively, preheat an outdoor grill to high.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom, then add the spring onions along with a large pinch of salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 6 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. Turn up the heat to medium-high and drizzle in more olive oil. Add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt. Allow to cook without disturbing for a few minutes. You want the mushrooms to really sear. After about 3 minutes, give them a toss and allow them to cook for a few minutes more. Remove to the same plate as the onions and set aside. Season both to taste with salt and pepper.
Coat a pizza peel with cornmeal or flour. Roll the pizza dough out onto a floured surface until it is the desired thickness. (I like mine thin.) Transfer the dough to the peel. Spread the Nettle Pesto over the surface of the dough. Scatter the spring onions and the mushrooms over top. Fill in the gaps with the peppers, then finally, crumble the cheese over top. Carefully slide the pizza on to the stone. Cook until the crust is browning and the cheese is starting to melt, about 10 minutes.
If you are using a grill, place the dough (with nothing on it) on the grill. Cover and allow to bake until marks appear and the bottom is golden, about 5 minutes. Carefully turn the dough over and slide it back on the peel. Place the toppings on as described above, then slide the pizza back on the grill. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes then remove and serve.
Adapted from Jess Thomson
Make 1 generous cup
The main change I made here is to use less olive oil. I don’t like my pesto too oily but you can add up to a cup or more of olive oil if you prefer.
½ pound nettles
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
½ cup toasted pine nuts
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ – ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to a simmer for the nettles. Add the nettles directly from their bag and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. (This denatures their sting.) Dump into a colander to drain. When the nettles are cool enough to handle, wrap them in a clean dishtowel and wring out as much moisture as possible, like you would for spinach. You’ll have about a cup of cooked, squished nettles. (DT: If you use a light colored dish towel, it will be stained brownish green afterward. I would recommend using either a dark colored towel or paper towels.)
In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the paddle attachment, whirl the garlic, pine nuts, salt, and pepper to taste until finely chopped. Add the nettles, breaking them up as you drop them in, and the lemon juice and whirl until finely chopped. With the machine running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream, and process until smooth. Add the cheese, pulse briefly, and season to taste with additional salt, pepper, or lemon juice.