Spinach, Pesto and Sausage Pizza

Pizza is often used to teach math, especially fractions and percentages.

I recently finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which, for one year, Kingsolver and her family ate almost entirely locally. They live on a farm which enables them to raise poultry and tend an incredible garden. At the end of each chapter, Kingsolver’s daughter Camille shared her thoughts, recipes, and seasonal weekly meal plans. I was inspired by the Kingsolver’s weekly pizza night to make my own pizza as close to 100% from scratch as possible.

Let’s see how I did with my “pizza math”.

The Elements

  • Crust
  • Sauce
  • Pesto
  • Cheese
  • Sausage
  • Spinach

Crust: 100% made from scratch

Pizza Dough, pre-rise

Pizza Dough, pre-rise

I often purchase pre-made pizza dough from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s to have on hand to make pizza at home. But this time, I overcame my “fear” of yeast, and whipped up Camille’s recipe for pizza dough.

It was so easy, and delicious!

Note to self: make your own dough more often…

Sauce: 50% made from scratch

Pizza sauce ingredients

Pizza sauce ingredients

For the sauce, I followed my typical “recipe,” which involves throwing canned tomatoes and some seasoning into a pan. I used 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 can of diced tomatoes (I like my sauce chunky!) 1/2 cup red wine, a generous sprinkling of dried basil, a dash of red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste. Combine all ingredients and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes.

Combined sauce, simmering

Combined sauce, simmering

While I have taken the step away from pre-made tomato sauces, opting instead to make my own from canned (no salt added) tomatoes, I give myself 50% on this one because I have yet to take the step towards canning my own tomato sauce. This is a definite goal for me this summer! I plan to grow tomatoes again this year (and maybe one or two other vegetables, but that is a story for another day), and I will definitely be canning my own 100% from scratch tomato sauce.

Pesto: 100% made from scratch

Pesto ingredients

Pesto ingredients

Our favorite pizza from Mellow Mushroom (our go-to take out pizza place) is Kosmic Karma, tomato sauce base topped with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella and feta cheese, fresh tomatoes, and a pesto swirl.

When I asked my husband what he wanted on our pizza, he asked me to recreate the Kosmic Karma. I was pleasantly surprised to find nice, local basil at the store, and jumped on the opportunity to make my own pesto, using walnuts instead of pine nuts (since that is what I had on hand).

Raw Basil Pesto

Raw Basil Pesto

Raw Basil Pesto

Inspired by Edible Perspective

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender and puree until smooth. Add water as needed to reach desired consistency (I used 3 Tablespoons).

Pre-baked pizza

Pre-baked pizza

The Toppings: 0% made from scratch

I decided to add a bit of sausage to our Kosmic Karma imitation. I used a Tuscan sausage made in-house at my local Whole Foods using local pork. While I am happy with this choice of meat, no from-scratch points for me here… though I’m not sure I will ever reach the point of making my own sausage…

As for cheese, I chose mozzarella and goats milk feta. Kingsolver has a chapter on cheese making, which peaked my interest in this unexplored area of kitchen science. Kath makes it look easy… I might be ordering rennet and experimenting with cheesemongering in the near future…

His and Hers pizza slices

His and Hers pizza slices

The spinach also gets 0% made from scratch since it was neither local nor home grown…

So, let’s add things up:

“Made From Scratch” Pizza Math

  • Crust – 100%
  • Sauce – 50%
  • Pesto – 100%
  • Cheese – 0%
  • Sausage – 0%
  • Spinach – 0%

Total: 41.67% made from scratch

Delicious!

Delicious!

Had I made this without the sausage, my percentage would have been much higher… Not bad for my first foray into homemade crust.

This pizza was delicious, and it gave me great joy to know that I had made so many of the elements from scratch. The added time spent making crust, sauce, and pesto was time well spent in the kitchen.

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

-L

WIAW–What I Ate Over the Holidays

While Lindsey and I were on hiatus for the holidays, I was shockingly lazy.  In a week and a half, my only exercise was one (ONE!) walk.  My usual physical activity was replaced by lots of kitchen activity!  For this WIAW post, I’m sharing some of the best dishes I made and ate while on vacation.

After my matinee performance on Christmas Eve, I hopped on a plane to Southern California to spend Christmas with my aunt, uncle, and parents.  Shortly after walking in the door, my uncle handed me a Cranberry, Gingerly cocktail.  YUM!  I have a bit of a ginger obsession, so this delightful concoction with ginger beer, ground ginger, and a garnish of crystallized ginger was right up my alley.  It was also a fun, festive shade of red.

Great way to kick off the break!

Great way to kick off the break!

Christmas morning began with coffee and mimosas.  After opening presents, we sat down for an delicious brunch.  My mom and aunt had prepared a Sausage, Fontina, and Bell Pepper Strata the night before, so we just had to pull it out of the refrigerator and bake it in the morning.  The creamy fontina cheese balanced the spicy Italian sausage wonderfully.  It was a delicious, savory dish.

Sausage Strata

Sausage Strata

We can’t have savory without sweet, so we also prepared Maple-Poached Pears with Ricotta and Pistachios.  These tasty pears could be served as a dessert as well.  They were so good!  The crunch of the pistachios was a nice contrast to the soft pears, and the ricotta kept the dish from being too sweet.  I will definitely make these again.

Poached Pears

Poached Pears

With beautiful food and beautiful weather, our table for Christmas Brunch looked lovely!

The table

The table

My main contribution to Christmas Dinner was a Gingerbread Layer Cake with Candied Kumquats.  I think I may need to bake this cake annually.  It looked great, and tasted even better.  The cake was moist and full of flavor.  The spices came through nicely.  The cream cheese frosting included a bit of caramel, so it ended up being a lovely cream color.  It was a sweet and creamy,  and complemented the ginger and molasses flavor of the cake well.  The candied kumquats were difficult to prepare (Thanks Mom and Aunt Kris!), but were delicious!  We used the leftover kumquats to top off a fruit salad the following morning.

Gingerbread Layer Cake

Gingerbread Layer Cake

Fruit Salad with leftover Kumquats

Fruit Salad with leftover Kumquats

My parents and I came home to Texas a few days after Christmas, and were later met by my sisters and their husbands.  Before they arrived, I met some old friends for a coffee date.  Someday I want to be able to make latte art that looks this good!  Props to the baristas at Buon Giorno for making this lovely latte.

Soy Latte

Soy Latte

The first morning the whole family was home, we did Christmas Round 2, complete with another Christmas brunch.  We prepared another strata, this time using broccoli, red pepper, mushrooms, and bacon.  We served a fruit salad and sweet breads with it.  Lindsey and I each prepared a bread the evening before.  She made Banana Bread, and I made Spiced Pumpkin Bread, which I modified to make a bundt instead of 2 loaves.

Our breads: Pumpkin Bundt and Banana Loaf

Our breads: Pumpkin Bundt and Banana Loaf

That evening we had a blast at our annual holiday party.  As usual, we prepared Caprese Sticks for our guests to munch on.

Platter of Caprese Sticks

Platter of Caprese Sticks

The full spread for the party

The full spread for the party

We enjoyed leftovers and what Lindsey referred to as “the obligatory Mexican meal” for the next couple days.  The last night the sisters were in town, we had a special New Year’s Eve dinner.  Lindsey made a delicious Roasted Parsnip Soup with Walnut Pesto for the first course.

Walnut Pesto

Walnut Pesto

We also ate roasted chicken with mushroom gravy, roasted vegetables, and a potato medley with rosemary.

First course

First course

I had so much fun with my family, and loved having the opportunity to cook together again!  It was the perfect way to wrap up the rollercoaster year of 2012.  I look forward to sharing more good food with good friends in 2013!

Cheers!

Cheers!

Happy Eating and Happy New Year!

-C