Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to do salad right: Put it on a pizza crust

I am supposed to eat five to seven servings of vegetables a day.

Crushed it.

And the best part is that, with the exception of a few southerly ends of asparagus stalks, every serving was absolutely delicious. It's days like today that I think I could be a vegetarian. (It's days like Thanksgiving and any day that involves steak that makes me rethink the all-green route.)

The idea for dinner came courtesy of Bountiful Baskets, which I participated in by myself for the first time on Saturday. I got a bunch of normal fruits and vegetables, but I also got asparagus and avocados, which are not abnormal unless you're me and you don't particularly like either of those things so you never buy them.

I'll get to that later. First, I'm going to tell you about the almost vegan pizza I made that was so good I didn't save room for brownies. Brownies. Fully 50 percent of my cookies have "chocolate" in the title, and I ate too many vegetables to be able to eat brownies.

So without further ado, let me introduce you to Thyme Pizz'alad with Spinach Crust, Flavored with Garlic and Sprinkled with Awesome.

I know, right?

The idea came because I had a lot of spinach and lettuce and there's just no way I'm going to eat that much salad. Salad is delicious when it has lots of colors, flavors and textures; when all you have are greens and tomatoes, but no salad dressing, it's really just a LOT of greens and tomatoes. The spinach became the crust. The lettuce and tomatoes, mixed with a little Parmesan cheese and thyme-infused oil, went on top of the pizza. The entire pie went on the table, where I forewent the pizza cutter (I don't have one) and pulled it apart by hand.

Here's what you need for the crust, which is adapted from All Recipes.

1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp yeast
1.5 cups warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of kosher salt
2 cups fresh spinach
3.5 cups flour

1. Put the yeast, sugar and water into a large mixing bowl; let it sit for about 10 minutes until foamy.
2. Put the spinach into a food processor and process until it's in small bits. (You can cook it if you prefer, but fresh spinach is bright and fluffy and delightful and cooked spinach is a dark, goopy mass.) When you're processing, do NOT stick your spoon or spatula into the food processor while it's going. No matter how good you think you're going to be at not sticking the utensil into the blade, you will end up with a chopped up utensil and flying spinach on your cabinets.) 
3. When foamy, add the olive oil and salt; mix. Add the spinach.
4. Add flour, one cup at a time, until it's reached a good texture. It should mostly hold its shape when you're done. You don't want it sticking to the mixer or bowl, but you also don't want it too dry.
5. If you don't have a mixer, you'll have to knead the dough for five to 10 minutes. And get a mixer. When the dough is kneaded, put it in a greased bowl, turn it over to get it all greased and set it aside for an hour to rise. 
6. When it's about doubled in rise, make your pizza crust. You can make one big one, two smaller ones, thick crust, thin crust, whatever. Just go to town. Bake at 400 degrees -- 15-20 minutes for a thick crust, 10 minutes or so for a thin crust. Just watch it closely. 

All right, boys and girls, got your alien-hued pizza crust ready? It's salad time!

I'm going to tell you what I did to make this pizz'alad. If you have vegetables you like in your salad or different kinds of nuts or fruit or dressing or whatever, put it on. There are as many types of pizz'alad as there are types of salads.

1. Heat up 1/4 cup of olive oil on medium. When it's warm, add half a tablespoon of thyme and 1/2 a cup of pine nuts. ($19.99 a pound is a good price for pine nuts. I know, it hurts.) Cook for two minutes and add minced garlic. If you've invited me over for dinner, put in three or four or seven cloves of garlic. If you have less of an obsession, two to three is good. Cook for another two minutes until nuts are golden, then remove from heat. If you tasted the oil at this point, it would taste like thyme. (And, if you're only using half the pizza dough, cook all of this, use half and save the other half for next time.)
2. Tear up lettuce leaves, slice tomatoes, put into a bowl.
3. Add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. You will not regret the extra two minutes to grate it yourself.
4. Pour the oil over the salad, add a tablespoon of vinegar. White is fine, as would just about any other vinegar. I only had white. If you use balsamic you'll get a more intense flavor; if you only want the lightness and tang vinegar offers, try red or white wine or apple cider vinegar. 
5. Mix it all together and put it on the still hot from the oven pizza crust. It should be hot enough that the crust melts the cheese. 
6. Eat. And keep eating until your pizza pan looks like this.

90% what the pan looked like when I was done, 10% my rockin' leopard print pajama pants
Between the crunchy pine nuts, the tang of the tomatoes, the fact that I love garlic so much, the warm bread -- it's the best salad I've had in a long time. Plus, spinach and garlic are full of antioxidants, and romaine lettuce has all sorts of nutrients. (I forbid you from using iceberg, but green or red leaf is OK.) The crust is all whole wheat flour, all the fat is good and there is so much flavor I can't even take it.

As for the brownies -- well, that's where my errant avocados went. Wish my tastebuds luck! 

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