Current Food Obsession: Zucchini-Herb Flatbread

Homemade pizza — It’s my cheap, fun and easy go-to meal when we have friends over and it’s becoming somewhat of a Friday night family dinner tradition, too. My husband is always so impressed that I make my own dough but in truth, it’s really simple and takes only about 10 minutes to put together.  To me, that always seems a lot quicker and easier than running to the store (finding a parking space and shuttling 2 kids) to pick some up, so I guess it’s all in how you look at it. I think I’ll let him continue to be impressed.

Lately I’ve been kind of obsessed with this very simple zucchini flatbread version. It’s the same old pizza dough, rolled as thinly as possible and topped with paper thin slices of zucchini, a scattering of whatever herbs I have in my garden (I like rosemary, oregano, parsley and thyme), a grating of parmegiano reggiano, a drizzle of good olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. The version above included some caramelized shallots too. I have learned through experience to make one corner a little less herb-y for Luca and you might try that if you’re making it for a little one. It’s perhaps not substantial enough to make a full meal, but it’s a fantastic appetizer, lunch or snack. For dinner, we’ve been serving it up along with a simple pureed vegetable soup and an antipasto platter for a mostly vegetarian meal.

I’ve become so obsessed with this flatbread that whenever I make pizza I save a little extra dough (and make sure to buy a zucchini) so I can make this the next day… I’m particularly loving this zucchini-herb combination at the moment, but the possibilities are truly endless. You could absolutely trick this one out, but this no-frills version has reminded me that simplicity has its place too.

Luca loves to help me with any dough project and this is no exception. At the mere sight of the stand mixer he runs to pull up a chair. In addition to helping me measure and supervise the mixer, I save a glob of dough for him play with which is another good reason to make a little extra.

Thin Crust Pizza: The Roman Way

(Adapted from Marco Flavio Marinucci from the Cook Here and Now blog. Here’s his original post that includes his recipe and lots of other great pizza info.) Makes 2 large pizzas.

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup “00 Pizza Flour” (available in bulk at Rainbow Grocery), or substitute Pastry Flour
  • 1/8 cup semolina flour
  • 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoons sea salt
  • 3/4 cups of lukewarm water (more if needed)
  1. Mix yeast and lukewarm water in your mixing bowl (the water should be about the temperature of a baby bottle). Let sit five minutes to foam and activate while you set up the rest of your ingredients.
  2. Add flours, salt and semolina to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix just until a ball forms. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides a few times. Adjust the flour and/or water as needed, a little bit at a time. [If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use the “well method”. Mix the dry ingredients in mound and make a crater in the center for the wet ingredients.]
  3. Let rest 5 minutes.
  4. Knead for 2-3 minutes by machine (or 4-5 minutes by hand) — don’t over knead. Marco says the dough should be tacky like used tape.
  5. Shape the dough into a ball and drizzle and coat with olive oil. Place in a bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature for a half hour, then refrigerate it overnight. You can also make it a few hours before and leave it at room temperature.

Baking your pizza:

  1. Let the dough come to room temperature. Place a pizza stone in your oven and heat at 500 degrees for about 30 minutes to get it nice and hot. [A pizza stone is a must for any pizza lover.]
  2. Divide the room temperature dough into two pieces (or more pieces if you want small, individual/kid-sized pizzas).
  3. On top of a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil, roll the pizzas 1/16” thick or as thin as you can.  Using the parchment or foil will help you transport the pizza from your counter to the oven.
  4. Lightly spread with toppings. If using sauce it should almost be transparent since the crust is so thin. If using fresh mozzarella, Marco suggests cutting the cheese into small dice so you get nice pools of cheese.
  5. Use the parchment or foil to lift your pizza into the oven. Cook 5-7 minutes until golden and bubbly. You can slide the parchment/foil out from underneath halfway through so that the bottom of the pizza can cook directly on the pizza stone, the parchment/foil should slide right out. Take the pizza out using a peel, a rimless baking sheet or a couple of large spatulas.
  6. Top finished pizza with a drizzle of good olive oil and some fresh herbs.

You Need to Make This! Jackson Fillmore’s Zucchini Carpaccio

Jackson Fillmore is one of our favorite casual little trattorias in San Francisco. It’s the kind of place where we have fallen in love with certain dishes and, despite being tempted to try a special or something new off the menu, we always end up ordering the same thing. One of the dishes we always get is the zucchini carpaccio, a simple and delicious starter of zucchini, toasted almonds, pecorino cheese and parsley. It’s really, really delicious. I might even add one more “really” for good measure.

I recently threw a bridal shower and thought it would be a perfect addition to the summery buffet I had planned. As luck would have it, I found that Jackson Fillmore had posted an excellent video on this very dish and how to make it.  I love this recipe so much I wanted to share it with all of you. There is minimal cooking involved, just the toasting of almonds (they use slivers, I like sliced). As the video points out, the way you cut the zucchini and the pecorino is the key to the dish. After some of my own experimentation, I like the end result of cutting the zucchini on the bias in slices about 1/8″ thick and then stacking and cutting the slices on the bias again into matchsticks. As far as the pecorino goes, just shave it into curls with a vegetable peeler.

A lot of little ones I know seem to like the flavor of dry, salty cheeses like Parmegiano Reggiano and Pecorino. So as long as you have no nut allergies to contend with, this would be a great one to add to your repertoire. You can get older kids into the act by having them make the cheese curls and tossing everything all together at the end (in the video, he tosses everything in a hot pan, but I usually add the toasted almonds to a bowl with the zucchini and toss off-heat).

This dish is best served right away while everything is still warm and toasty from the almonds, but you could definitely cut the zucchini and shave the pecorino a bit in advance to simplify things as you’re putting the rest of dinner together.

Give it a try.  You’ll love it!

Video Courtesy of Jackson Fillmore.

Guest Recipe: Becky’s Carrot Zucchini Pineapple Muffins

My friend Becky is about as close to a “super mom” as you can get. A demanding full-time job, 3 kids, and manages to find the energy for fun adventures, running half marathons, lots of home-cooked goodness, and having a sense of humor about it all. If she wasn’t such an awesome person, I might just hate her a little.

Here’s what she says about these carrot-zucchini muffins: “We make them in mini muffin tins. Oliver (baby) loves them and the other two will eat them if they are starving, so I save them for the ride home from school. They travel well and are reasonably good for you. Nate (toddler) is a huge fan of cooking with me and he loves this because he gets to do the cuisinart and the mixer. He also likes putting the cupcake papers into the baking pans. Even though he helps me make these, it doesn’t stop him from looking at the muffins later and saying – what is this green stuff mommy? Oh well!”

***

I gave them a test run recently and the kids I was with (ages 2-4) ate them right up. “Do these have vegetables in them?” asks the four year old, suspiciously.  Aren’t you amazed at the impressive power of observation that kids have when it comes to spotting that sliver of green or tiny speck of pepper? But despite the suspicion of vegetables lurking, the lure of these muffins was just too strong. Tiny nibble…. “Mmmmm these are THE BEST!”. Big bite…. “More please!”

This makes a large batch (~2 dozen standard-sized muffins), so unless you have 3 hungry kids, you might cut it in half, freeze some, or best yet share with a friend. For little hands (or messy cooks), you can scoop the batter into a large zip lock bag, snip the corner and “pipe” into the muffin tins about 2/3 full.

Shopping List: eggs; vegetable oil or unsweetened applesauce;  sugar; vanilla extract; 2 zucchini; 3 carrots; 1 can crushed pineapple in juice; salt; flour (all-purpose or can substitute 50% all purpose and 50% whole wheat); baking soda; baking powder; cinnamon; nutmeg; nut or dried fruit (optional)

  • Combine 3 eggs, 1 cup of oil (or use apple sauce or a combination), 2 cups sugar (I reduced this by about a third), 2 teaspoons vanilla. Beat together until thick and foamy
  • In the cuisinart shred about 2 zucchini and 3 carrots so that you pretty well fill up a 9 cup cuisnart. Squeeze well to remove excess moisture and then stir into the to the mixture above.
  • Add 1 can of well drained crushed pineapple (Crushed is much better than cubes as no one notices them if they are crushed.)
  • In a seperate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: 1 teaspoon salt, 3 cups flour (or substitute 1.5 cups white and 1.5 wheat flour), 2 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 1.5 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Mix dry ingredients into the wet mixture, but don’t stir too much because it will make the muffins too heavy. (I usually stop using the mixer at this point and mix by hand.)
  • If you like, add 1c nuts and 1 c. raisins (My kids aren’t fans of these at all.)
  • Bake at about 350 for 15 – 25 minutes until they spring back in the center and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Reduce the baking time for mini muffins.