Monday, June 4, 2012

Rustic Spring Flatbread with Asparagus and Life Lessons from a Hound Dog

A Guest Post by Finn the Cooking Assistant (aka the dog picker)

I drool over pizza at this website, it's pure food porn to me. Occasionally I hear lady muse about why certain bookmarks like this one appear on her laptop, but if you want to know, we haven't had homemade pizza for a long time around here. I've been feeling a nostalgia for it.  

Then suddenly this weekend, the lady was talking pizza.  Talk about dreams coming true and prayers answered. She got out this book, and flipped to a flatbread recipe.  My first thoughts: the good old cooking days are back, baby!  I could chase my tail or roll over for this!

But before I dish about pizza and give you the recipe which came from this book, let me tell you how I was unceremoniously booted from the garden this past week.  

Apparently I'd walked over squash plants. Who knew?  All I heard was "Bad dog!  Get out!"  As if I'm supposed to automatically know those little things were going to bear vegetables one day.   Frankly, the plants all look alike to me, except the ones that smell like food.   Thank God, no one said anything about missing radishes and lettuce leaves with big bites I took out of them.  

Back into the house I went, but I didn't even hang my head.  I live in the world of "No."  I'm used to getting tossed out of the kitchen and the garden.  But the lady and man forget.  I think they have short-term memory loss.  I'll be invited back because I'm handsome, loveable, and frankly persistence wins in the end.  

In the meantime, I'm hoping to learn a few tricks from this book. I discovered it on the lady's bedside table.  Counter-surfing anyone?

I think the lady is trying to discover my secrets by reading this one, but how can anyone learn from a dog that chases sticks for a hobby?  Hello?  Even if  the main character Blake claims he is only humouring his "owner," no one really believes that.  Frisbees or balls? You ask.  

I give this kind of look, if you catch my drift. 

The Stink-Eye
Maybe I have contemplated the contents of the garbage can next door, but why gnaw through chicken-wire or burrow underneath a fence to get there?  Seriously, wait for a gate to be left open!  That Blake isn't just bad, he's dense.  And his kind often passes for "bright."

Go ahead and underestimate me. The lowly hound dog.  I love it, because there's nowhere to go but up from there.  I get kudos for the sitting and waiting, and I can drool all I want.  It doesn't get much better than that.  Untapped food possibilities on the home front keep me going.  How can I get into the freezer or the pantry?  

Lesson number one: Know what's important and go for it, no matter what anyone says.

A place on the sofa; an occasional TV program tossed in--that's the life for me. 

Even as a pup I knew what I wanted.  I went for the asparagus, the cauliflower, the cheese, and so what?  A dog has to learn how to get his paw in the door, leave it there.  

Live your story and dreams will come true.  

Lesson number 2:  Act as if you have no idea what "No!" means, no matter how many times people say it.  Sure, you'll earn a reputation for being stubborn.  But is that so bad, if you get what you want?

How else do you think I gained access to the refrigerator?

Management provides us (my sister and I) with 5-pound bags of carrots!  I come running when the refrigerator door opens.  I freeze until I get a carrot.

Life is good.   You can put anything on top of this pizza and since asparagus is everywhere now, why not indulge in some asparagus pizza?

Recipe notes:

This is a version of Rosemary Amaranth Flatbread with Roasted Red Peppers page 114 in The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook.  The rustic flatbread makes the best personal pizza in the world.  And the dough can be made with other grains like polenta (cornmeal) and teff.  You can use all whole-wheat flour, but it takes a more skilled bread maker to work with the flour because it tends to remain sticky.

The toppings can vary and what you want on top is up to you.   This week we had asparagus, but perhaps next week, we'll try mushrooms and snow peas.  One recipe makes four little pizzas and those disappear much too quickly and I barely got a few pizza bones.

I smell two with cheese and two without.  I'll take the cheese.

Polenta Flatbread with Roasted Asparagus

Makes 4 11-by-3-inch flatbreads

1 cup plus 1/4 cup water
1/3 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)
2 teaspoons fast rise yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 or 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound asparagus
1 sliced sweet spring onion
1/2 cup sliced olives
1/2 to 1 cup grated aged cheese, your favorite variety

1.  Combine 1 cup water with polenta in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the amaranth is soft, about 30 minutes.

2.  Place cooked polenta in a large bowl.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup water. Mix well.  The mixture should be about 115F—warm enough to touch.

3.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top and gently fold polenta over the yeast. Blend in yeast. Let the mixture sit until the yeast bubbles up—about 5 to 7 minutes.

4.  Add the honey and salt. Blend thoroughly. Add whole-wheat flour and stir vigorously, scraping the bowl often.

5.  Blend in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition. When the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, turn it out onto a floured board and knead 5 minutes, adding the oil so your hands don't stick to the dough.  The dough should be smooth and elastic.

6.  Gather the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel.  Let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk—45 minutes to 1 hour.

7.  Roast or grill asparagus and onions.  Roast in a 350F oven for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears.  Grill in a basket for about 10 minutes or until tender. 

8.  Poke the dough with your finger.  If the indentation remains, the dough has finished rising.  Push it down, then turn it out on a counter.  Oil your hands with about a tablespoon of oil then knead the dough about 5 turns.  Set aside for 5 minutes.

9.  Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into four portions and roll each into a log. Pat or roll into an oval shape about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. The ovals should measure approximately 11 by 3 inches.
10. Place on a baking sheet and top each with the asparagus, onions olives, and cheese.

11. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes. Gently slide off the parchment paper to a cooling rack. These little flatbreads can be refrigerated and reheated in the microwave or oven later, if they last that long.


Diane Balch said...

It looks like your recipe has gone to the dogs but I would still love if you would share it on my foodie friday party today.

Anonymous said...

Cute post. Looks good too. Thank you for sharing.

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Hey Diane, I got busy last week but I'll be sure to check out your party this week! This is the only pizza that works for me, so I'd love to share the recipe!

Joan said...

I love flat breads, especially when they make for great grilled pizzas!! Thanks for the great post!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Hi Joan! I took the filter off my comments and sometimes forget to check the comment section. I think grilling is a great idea. I'm anxious for my zucchini to get big enough to harvest for more pizza!