Pizzas

Summer Squash Blossom Skillet Pizza

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza
I was at the Hillcrest Farmers Market last weekend and beautiful squash blossoms were in almost every produce stall.

I was PUMPED!!!

I love squash blossoms. They remind me of growing up in Minnesota when my grandparents had a big garden in the backyard and my grandpa tended to his gorgeous dahlias in the front of the house.

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza

Oddly enough, out of all the edible things they grew, I remember the elephant ear stalks and squashes the most.

Elephant ear stalks, or bạc hà in Vietnamese, are often used in our stir-fry dishes and sour-tamarind soups (canh chua). And if you’re wondering how the heck they managed to grow plants in Minnesota that are indigenous to tropical climates—-I can’t help you there.

Seriously. I have no clue how my grandparents and parents coaxed them out of the frigid ground. But they did.

OG hustlers.

Squash Blossom
As for the squashes, I remember them most because….I hated them.

Yup. Hated them.

As in, when they showed up at the dinner table, I was guaranteed to be the last one there because I would just stare at my bowl piled high with pureed squash. UGH!  I would sit there for what seemed like centuries, refusing to eat it. That is, until my grandparents had pity on me and coerced my parents to letting me off the hook.

Did I mention I was the baby of the family?

Oh…and it was probably more like 10 minutes than a hundred years but when you’re eight, 5 minutes could feel like FOH-EVAH!!

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza

But as much as squash was my mortal enemy, I used to love looking at their bright and colorful blossoms. I may have also been caught plucking a few off the vine from time to time. Hey–a kid had to keep herself entertained while her older sibbies ditched her for their friends.

Yes, that’s me unabashedly trying to elicit sympathy. Did it work?

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza
Fast forward to 2017 and I’m still not a fan of most squashes. I do like zucchinis but will most definitely pass on butternut squash, pumpkins, acorn squash, kabochas…..

Hey–just consider it more for you all to enjoy.

But I still love squash blossoms. They have a mild zucchini flavor and are just so darn pretty. I usually have them as fritto misto or stuffed. But my favorite way to have them is on top of a pizza.

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza
The first time I had squash blossom pizza was at Pizzeria Mozza and I was hooked! It’s a simple preparation of their awesome pizza crust with a light red sauce, tons of blossoms and then topped with fresh burrata when out of the oven. And I’m a sucker for burrata!

Armed with a bundle of fresh summer zucchini blossoms from the market, I went home and whipped up a quick batch of dough (1 yeast envelope. 1/4 tsp. sugar, 1 1/4 cups warm water, 1 Tbs. olive oil, 3 cups AP flour & 1 tsp salt) and turned to my favorite cast iron skillet method to make some pizza.

Summer Squash Blossom Pizza

These days, I lean towards pizzas without red sauce and prefer to use fresh tomato slices (or halves) instead. I brushed the dough with a garlic-herb oil, topped it with lots of fresh mozzarella, blossoms and grape tomatoes before quickly cooking it off. Once out of the oven, the pie was sprinkled with parmesan cheese and chopped chives.

Verdict?

Summerifically delish! But if you’re feeling into it, top it with some fresh burrata like Mozza does or a quenelle or three of ricotta.

Allora!   <<< Just threw that in for my Master of None peeps. ❤

_____________________________________
Summer Squash Blossom Skillet Pizza
Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1-teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
5 ounces fresh pizza dough, rested and at room temperature
all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground corn meal
kosher salt
¼ pound thinly sliced fresh mozzarella cheese
6 large zucchini squash blossoms, stamens removed
10 grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

In a small pan, add the olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes and thyme. Heat over medium-low for 5 minutes to allow the oil to infuse. Set aside.

Turn on the oven broiler and adjust one of the racks to the top of the oven to rest directly under the broiler. Place a seasoned cast iron skillet (10-12 inches in diameter) directly under the broiler for 8-10 minutes. It may begin to smoke but you need the skillet to be screaming hot.

While the skillet is heating, roll out the pizza dough onto a floured surface–you’ll want it a tad smaller than the width of your skillet. If you have a pizza peal, sprinkle it with cornmeal and transfer the pizza dough onto it. If not, you can also use a cutting board.

Brush the infused olive oil over the dough and sprinkle salt all over the dough. Top with mozzarella cheese and place the blossoms, fanned out in a circle. Place the halved tomatoes on top.

Once the skillet has heated for the appropriate length of time, quickly and CAREFULLY slide the pizza into the skillet. Place the skillet on a burner over medium heat and allow it to begin cooking for 2 minutes. Move the skillet back to the oven so it sits directly underneath the broiler.

Close the oven door and allow the pizza to cook for about 60-90 seconds. Open the oven door and rotate the skillet 180 degrees. Close the door and allow another 60-90 seconds underneath the broiler. Once the crust is slightly charred and cheese has melted, CAREFULLY remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a rack for 5 minutes. Sprinkle the top with chives and parmesan cheese. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, slice up and enjoy!

Advertisements
Breads · Side Dish

{Cast Iron} Garlic Naan

Garlic Naan

Several years ago I got to spend a little bit of time in India—Chennai to be exact. And as luck would have it, I happened to have visited at the beginning of Diwali – the Hindu festival of lights. Nothing I had read or heard could have prepared me for the country. It’s vivid colors, intense – and I’m talking INTENSE heat, and sounds still replay in my mind as if I was just there. And although I only had a brief 5 days there, the city will forever be imprinted in my heart.

Good thing too because I had such a junky camera at that time — my photos were terrible! 🙂

Anywhoo….

Naan1

Since I only had a short time, I didn’t get to travel around the country too much and stayed primarily in Chennai. I did, however, manage to squeeze in a memorable home stay with a wonderful family –the Bhatts. They welcomed us into their homes, guided us through Chennai and gave us a glimpse of their culture.

Garlic Naan

Over those days, we meandered through the city in and out of markets, braved tuk-tuk rides, and ate—like SERIOUSLY ate. I came to find that Southern Indian food is often vegetarian and was so wonderfully spiced and fulfilling that this carnivore-lovin’ gal didn’t miss the meat. It was also the first time I had ever tried dosas– which I now LOVE.

Dosas are thin “crepes” served with a variety of chutneys. They can be filled or left plain. However, my favorite are the giant paper dosas that are extremely thin and crisp and rolled into a large cylinder. There’s something totally satisfying about breaking off a piece of paper dosa with your fingers and then dunking it into a masala or chutney.

Chicken Aloo Tikka Masala & Garlic Naan

Our home stay mom, Mrs. Bhatt, also did a good amount of cooking during our brief visit. And when she did, I hung around the kitchen trying to make mental notes of how she prepared things. I really wish I would have recorded her rolling out the dough for the parathas because she did it with such lightning speed!

Since my trip, I’ve tried to recreate the flavors I tasted in India –some attempts were definitely more successful than others. Channa Masala and Tikka Masala are on my usual rotation. But I always seemed to have had an issue with making a good naan–which in my opinion, is crucial when I’m devouring the aforementioned dishes. Some recipes turned out too dry or not tender….and others just didn’t taste well.

Garlic Naan

Until I stumbled upon Aarti Sequeira’s recipe–and my search was over. Her recipe uses a combination of both yeast and baking powder which gives it the perfect texture and lightness. I adapted her recipe a bit to make my favorite garlic naan and now there’s no going back.

But here’s the thing. Others will disagree with me but unless you have a tandoori oven (or maybe an outdoor brick pizza oven?), you must–and I mean MUST, use a cast iron skillet. There’s no replacing it. I’ve tried baking naan in a regular oven, in a standard skillet, in an easy-bake oven (PSYCH!) and nothing compares to a cast iron. Just add it to another reason why I adore cast iron skillets so much.

Oh- you better be sure that the next time I manage to get to India, I’ll pack two cameras just in case to capture everything. And although it’s been years, much love and thanks to the Bhatt family for their generous hospitality. ❤

_____________________________________

{Cast Iron} Garlic Naan
Makes 6

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar, divided
¾ cup warm water
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more for finishing
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or melted ghee)
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh garlic, divided
1 teaspoon garlic powder
sea salt
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and water. Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes until it becomes bubbly. Whisk in the yogurt and olive oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, kosher salt, remaining sugar, and baking powder. Pour in the yogurt mixture and use your hands to mix the ingredients all together. The dough will be very wet and sticky at first but continue to mix/knead until it becomes rather soft and pliable. Once it comes together, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a draft free place for 3-4 hours until it nearly doubles in size.

Place the butter and 1 tablespoon garlic in a small, microwave proof bowl. Heat in the microwave until the butter has melted.

Dust your counter (or other work place) with flour and place your naan dough onto it. Using a pastry cutter or sharp knife, divide the dough into 6 even portions. Lightly roll each of the dough balls into the flour to help them from sticking. Using a floured rolling pin, roll one of the dough portions into a circle about ¼ inch thick –it’s completely okay if it’s an imperfect circle. Sprinkle the top side with a bit of the garlic powder and remaining minced garlic. Use your fingers to press it into the dough and then pass the rolling pin over the top of it to ensure it’s secured. Repeat this method with the remaining dough.

Warm a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until it’s nearly smoking. Be sure to have a lid large enough to fit the skillet and have the bowl of garlic butter with pastry brush nearby.

Carefully pick up one of the rolled out naan and gently lay it in the skillet, garlic side up, and cook for about one minute. The dough should start to bubble. After the minute, use tongs/spatula to flip the naan and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Flip it over again and cover the skillet for about an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute. The bread will look blistered and have blackened in a few spots.

Remove the naan from the skillet and generously brush the top with the garlic butter. Sprinkle the tops with a few pinches of sea salt and chopped cilantro. Repeat with the remaining 5 naan. Serve warm.

Slightly adapted from Aarti Sequeira

Miscellaneous · Pizzas

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza…. #LifeChanging

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

I had a life changing moment in the kitchen nearly a year ago….

It was the first time I had tried my hand at Cast Iron Skillet Pizzas!

The method allows the dough to bake beautifully–crisp with a slight char. Delicious! And the kicker? The cook time is less than 3 minutes! So flipping fast!

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

Here’s how to do it:

  • Turn on the oven broiler and adjust one of the racks to the top of the oven–directly under the broiler.
  • Place a cast iron skillet (10-12 inches in diameter) directly under the broiler for 8-10 minutes. It may begin to smoke but you need the skillet to be screaming hot.
  • While the skillet is heating, roll out 5-6 ounces of pizza dough onto a floured surface–you’ll want it a tad smaller than the width of your skillet. If you have a pizza peal, sprinkle it with cornmeal and transfer the pizza dough onto it. If not, you can also use a wooden cutting board.
  • Dress the pizza with the toppings of your choice.
  • Once the skillet has heated for the appropriate length of time, quickly and CAREFULLY slide the pizza into the skillet. Replace the skillet so it sits directly underneath the broiler.
  • Quickly close the oven door and allow the pizza to cook for about 45-60 seconds.
  • Open the oven door and rotate the skillet 180 degrees. Close the door and allow another 60-90 seconds underneath the broiler.
  • Once the crust is slightly charred, CAREFULLY remove the skillet from the oven and place it on a rack for 2-3 minutes.
  • Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, slice up the goodness and DIVE ON IN!!!

And here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The skillet is incredibly hot after it’s been under the broiler so handle with care. I usually use both an oven mitt and a thick kitchen towel.
  • Things happen very fast once you start so have all of your toppings and mise en place ready to go before you even start heating the skillet.
  • Toppings are completely up to you but I would recommend not placing fresh items on top until after the pizza has baked so that it doesn’t wilt or melt (arugula, goat cheese, etc.).
  • I think a 10-12 inch pizza is perfect for two with a crisp side salad, however, if you’re feeding several folks, it would be ideal to use two skillets at a time.

And that’s it! Easy Peasy and totally faster than take out.

*In case you’re curious, the pizza shown here is topped with mozzarella, leftover ribeye steak, mushrooms, roasted garlic cloves, a drizzle of herb oil, fresh rosemary chili flakes and goat cheese.