A Simple Pizza

Everyone has their go-to’s.

Their go-to restaurant, their go-to chapstick, t-shirt, jeans, and so on.

You know, something to fall back on when special plans don’t work out. When I’m feeling like a chubster, high-waisted jeans are a life-save. Burt’s Bees will always be in season.

Sometimes, go-to’s are a source of therapy. The Little Mermaid is my go-to for a good cry session. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is perfect for a quick evening read when my eyes are jittery from hours of computer time.

Of course, there are my go-to chocolate chip cookies. They have yet to fail me once.

And when stir-fries, smorgasbords and plain old pasta are just too darned boring, I always go-to pizza.

You might not like me anymore if you knew how often I make pizza.

I make it a lot. Let’s leave it at that.

Good dough is so absurdly important for a delicious pizza. This variety has rosemary in it. Another good idea is ground garlic. Get crazy.

Roasted garlic gives this otherwise simple pizza some zip and zing. Every few bites you’ll get an explosion of flavor.

These are roasted separately in a covered bread baking pan so that each clove absorbs loads of olive oil.

Sparse? Kind of. But just you wait.

Kapow! Melted goodness.

A Simple Pizza.

For the dough:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup wrist temperature water
1 tablespoon dried rosemary

For the pizza:
8-10 cloves of garlic
fresh mozzarella cheese
basil
tomatoes

To make the dough, create a small volcanic flour mountain with enough room in the middle to support half a cup of water. Meanwhile, let the yeast foam up in the water, which will take about 5 minutes or so. Add salt and rosemary to the crater of the volcano before carefully pouring in the water/yeast mixture. With a fork, slowly pick at the sides of the crater, mixing flour with water until all of the dry and wet ingredients are fully incorporated. With your hand, knead the dough for about 7 minutes, until it forms a smooth ball.

Lightly dust a medium bowl with flour and place the ball of dough inside. Cover with a damp towel and let sit for about an hour, until the dough doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange garlic cloves, skins on, in a bread baking pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover with aluminum foil and roast for about half an hour. Pull out and let cool completely before peeling by hand.

Turn up the oven’s heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the dough is ready, roll out with a pin until it reaches desired thickness and size. Brush with olive oil before adding cheese, tomatoes, basil and garlic, and whatever other ingredients you choose to add. Place on a pizza stone or baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is slightly brown.

Serves two to three.

A Really Good Salad

Sometimes you have to swan dive into the weekend. Punch your to-do list in the face. Friends inviting you out for a drink at midnight? You’re going. Hardware store has a sale on mason jars? You’re renting a car to take them home. Don’t even get me started on the Chemex coffee pot at the kitchen trinket store.

You’re going to paint your nails, pluck your eyebrows, sweep out under the bed, play the ukulele and dominate this weekend.

Wrestle with laziness until it lays there, panting, and before it gets back up for Round Two, it’s already Sunday night.

Boom.

Productive weekends always start with a light, delicious salad. You’ve graduated from plain old spinach, mesclun and, dare I say it, romaine. You’re in the major leagues now. You’ve got basil. You’ve got mint. And you’ve got sprouts. This salad is for big kids.

The best salads don’t need more than a sprinkling of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese and a spritz of fresh lemon juice.

Hello, Friday. Eat my shorts.

Strawberry Basil Martini

Growing up, I always had phases.  Not just the normal phases that go along with getting older, like weaning, teething, getting a sports bra because you really don’t have any boobies at all, cooties, shaving, not shaving, bell bottoms to skinny jeans, and of course John Mayer (whoever says they didn’t have a John Mayer phase is a liar and a thief).

I mean handwriting phases.  I mean sew-all-of-my-clothes phases.  Short hair phases.  You know, life-defining phases that only I can control (John Mayer was irresistible!).

Now let me tell you about alcohol and I.

It started with Rum.  Then a downward spiral into the Vodka Dark Ages, thanks to my freshman year of college.  Then came the Gin Enlightenment.  And after watching four seasons of Mad Men in the span of maybe two weeks, I drank nothing but an Old Fashioned (Scotch) for a good six months.

Friends, I have to say that I’ve seen the light again.

Ever notice that my food color pallet still screams for summer?

I’m serious about muddling.  The mortar and pestle might be over-the-top, but it produces the thickest strawberry-basil syrup and thus delicious beverage.

Drink out of mason jars.  It’s good for you.

Strawberry Basil Martini.

5 ripe strawberries, chopped
10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1oz simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water)
3oz Gin

Muddle the basil and strawberry with the simple syrup either with a mortar and pestle or just with the back of an ice cream scoop in a cocktail shaker.

Add all other ingredients and shake with ice.

Pour into a mason jar.

Drink merrily.

Kale Lentil Pasta

I need to start an herb garden.  Growing things is outrageously easy in Hawaii because a) endless sunshine b) sporadic rain and c) the air permeates happiness.  Plants love happy places.

But Boston? The basil I bought last week is already showing signs of winter manic depression.  What’ll happen with the mint? The cilantro?  The sage?!  I can’t raise them in such a hostile world that won’t accept them for who they are!  Herbs just want to grow!

Wait, what?

Okay, so I know that indoor herb gardens should be in a south or west-facing room.  But my kitchen faces north.  I don’t want to grow my herbs in my bedroom.  Granted, I’ll treat them like little green children, but this is a problem.

In exchange for green thumb advice, I bestow this easy and protein-ee recipe.

Another thing about Boston, and I swear this’ll be my last weather-related complaint, is that the flippin’ sun is starting to go down earlier.  I come home around 5:30pm and have little over an hour to cook so as to utilize the natural light (Natty Light!).

 It’s kind of funny, actually.  I turn all the lights off in the kitchen, even though the sun’s pretty much gone, and bring my cutting board to the window to take a photo.

I have a thing for caramelized onions.  Kind of an obsession.  Kind of a love affair.  I might need therapy.

This is a pretty loose recipe.  Get creative with it!

Kale Lentil Pasta.

1 1/2 cups lentils, cooked and drained
2 tablespoons butter
1 large red onion
5 cloves minced garlic
18oz whole wheat penne pasta
10-15 large kale leaves, chopped
handful of fresh basil, some chopped and some for garnishing
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

To caramelize the onion, slice fine, as shown, and cook for about an hour in olive oil on medium heat.  Make sure you keep a close eye – you don’t want the onions to brown prematurely.  The browning should come from the natural sugars emerging, not the frying pan.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the penne pasta.  Cook until just turning soft, then add the kale to blanch.  Drain and throw the pot back on the stove, adding the butter, garlic, pepper flakes, chopped basil, and lentils.  Briefly fry in the pot, letting the pasta brown slightly (fried pasta, what?!).

Dress with parmesan cheese and a few basil leaves.  Serves about 5 hungry people.