Archives for posts with tag: arugula

I am still working my way through the pears from my friend Margit’s tree. Because we picked them green and I stored them in the back of our refrigerator in a paper bag they have been holding up nicely.

Original watercolor shows salad of pears, arugula, cranberries, feta, pistachios.

Pear-Arugula Salad. 6″ x 6″ watercolor pencil on paper. Sharyn Dimmick.

Two nights ago I wanted a light dinner. I had some arugula I needed to use. I had pears. I decided to make a salad. I washed and spun the arugula in the salad spinner. Then I went out to pick a ripe Meyer lemon from our tree. Returning to the cutting board, I squeezed both halves of the lemon into the bowl and then cored and sliced three greenish pears lengthwise, leaving the skins on. I tossed the pears with the lemon juice to prevent browning. Then I added a small splash of olive oil and tossed the arugula and pears again. Next I shelled some pistachios and grabbed a handful of dried cranberries.

I was thinking of shaving Parmesan or Pecorino Romano into the salad, but feta won out: I crumbled a small block of feta over the greens, fruit and nuts, then tasted to adjust seasoning. The only thing it needed was a bit of honey to bring out the sweetness. I drizzled a little on top and tossed the salad again.

This is a wonderful salad for the first few days of fall weather when it is sometimes warm enough to eat a salad for lunch or dinner. I served it again last night as a side salad with a dinner of turkey chili, cornbread and Gravenstein apple pie. The second time I made it I used roasted pistachio oil instead of olive oil. By the time I cooked and ate I didn’t have enough time to finish my painting, which is why this post is a day later than usual.

If you should live somewhere where pears and arugula are available in late November, this would make a lovely Thanksgiving Day salad. If not, make it and eat it while pears and arugula are to be had.

In the early fall when tomatoes are piling up on the counter and the temperature dips lower a few times a day, I naturally turn to making pizza. If I put together the sourdough crust first thing in the morning I can have three pizzas ready by 6:30 or 7:00 PM in the evening. I keep a jar of sourdough starter in my refrigerator in a big glass former pickle jar. I use to to make biscuits and waffles and occasional batches of wolverine rolls, but my favorite thing to do with it is make pizza dough. If you use your sourdough starter at least once a week it stays in good shape to help your dough rise.

Original  unfinished watercolor painting of pizza with fresh figs.

Fig Pizza. 12″ x 12″ gouache on paper (unfinished painting). Sharyn Dimmick.

Because I bought a lot of figs on Saturday I pretty much knew I was going to make a fig pizza, or a pizza featuring figs and other seasonal ingredients. I had some corn, some fresh arugula, lots of red Jimmy Nardello peppers from last week’s farm box. This seemed like a good combination to me: a little sweetness from the corn, a little bitter and peppery green taste from the arugula, a little savoriness from the pepper, more sweetness from figs that would roast in the oven as the pizza cooked, the contrasting flavor and texture of mozzarella and Pecorino cheese.

Because my go-to pizza recipe makes three pizzas, I asked my family what they would like on their pizza. Bryan voted for a pesto pizza with fresh spinach. Mom likes more traditional pizzas: for her I used a spoonful or two of Prego, topped with a little mozzarella, a little Pecorino, some feta. She liked it but said that it tasted blah after the rich taste of the pesto pizza.

The fig pizza? I loved it. I loved having all those flavors going on in one slice of pizza. Was it an entree? Was it a dessert? Was it breakfast? It can be all of that. I have eaten it for dinner, for lunch, for a late-night after-rehearsal gotta-have-it meal. I ate the last of it for breakfast this morning. If there had been more I would have eaten another piece or two.

If you want to make this seasonal pizza, you will need sourdough starter. You can stir up sourdough starter in a few days, so if you do it today you might be able to make pizza by the weekend. The recipe that I got from the Cheese Board Collective Works calls for  3 and 1/4 cups bread flour, 1/2 cup of starter, 1 and 1/2 cups water and 1 and 1/2 tsp salt. I prefer to use 1 cup of whole wheat flour in the flour mixture (I sometimes feed my starter some whole wheat flour as well) and a scant tsp of kosher salt. Because I don’t usually have bread flour on hand I have to add extra unbleached flour, sometimes several times, but eventually the dough comes together.

You can also make this with any other pizza crust that you like. For more details about working with sourdough pizza dough, see my previous post, “How to make thin-crust sourdough pizza.” Once you have your pizza dough risen, place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Then you need to divide the dough into three pieces, cover it and let it rest for twenty minutes. I form mine into a baguette-shaped log and cut it into even thirds, then shape each third into a small round.

While the rounds rest covered on the cutting board I grate or chop cheese. Frozen mozzarella slices more easily that it grates and the cheese gets crumbly from its time in the freezer. I grate hard cheeses, including Parmesan and Pecorino with a microplane. I mix the pound of mozzarella with a quarter to half-cup of grated cheese.

Taking one round at a time I make typing motions with my fingers, dimpling the dough. I rub my pizza pans with a little olive oil and transfer one round to each pan. Then I reach my wrists under the dough, pulling and stretching until I get a ten-inch circle.

Then it is time to assemble the pizza. I used green figs with pink centers, preparing them by cutting them into quarters and removing the stems. I started by putting a layer of the mixed cheese on top of the pizza crust. Then I cut the corn directly from the cob onto the cheese layer, sprinkled the arugula over it. I topped it with another layer of cheese, dotted with quartered figs.

I bake the pizza for about ten minutes on the top rack of the oven, then for ten minutes on the middle rack. Then I use a peel to transfer it to the hot pizza stone for its final ten minutes. I made the other kinds of pizza at the same time, rotating them through the oven racks as needed.

If you pizza as much as I do, make a recipe of sourdough pizza dough and have yourself a pizza party. If you can’t abide figs in pizza, top it with something else. I can’t get enough fresh figs in their short season.

Painting Note: The light faded from the sky before I had time to finish this painting. I decided I could show you a work in progress rather than a finished painting. When I finish it I’ll update the post. — Sharyn

painting depicts Canary melon, limes, chile paste, peanuts and fish sauce

Canary Melon Salad 8″ x 8″ gouache and watercolor pencil, Sharyn Dimmick

Those of you who know me well know I am iffy about melons: I like watermelon and ripe honeydew, but I O.D’d on orange melons sometime after childhood. When I get a new melon, it is not necessarily a day of rejoicing. Wednesday’s CSA brought a rather large and spectacularly yellow Canary melon. I had never tasted one before. To make matters worse, my mother does not eat melons of any description, except for a token piece of watermelon on the hottest of days.

I got a sneak peek at the melon on Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market because they were giving pieces away at the Riverdog Farm stand. It was very sweet, floral or perfumy, complex and not orange: it was a melon I could eat.

In the schizophrenic weather of Northern California October I am cooking posole in the morning for a hot lunch and wishing I had gone swimming by mid-afternoon. After thinking about it for six days I knew what I was going to do with the ripe melon: I would fix it Thai-style with chile paste and fresh lime juice and some fish sauce and eat it on a bed of arugula, also featured  in the farm box.

As I sliced and seeded the melon, I tasted it again. It was really sweet. After I cubed each slice into a bowl, trying for bite-sized pieces, there was a lot of juice in the bottom.

I took another bowl, added a dollop of chile paste from my trusty jar, squeezed a lime into that and  added a touch of fish sauce. I tasted the dressing. Pretty good. I combined the dressing with the melon and tasted it again. Hmm. Could it use more lime? Try again to be sure. At this point I was standing at the cutting board tasting rapidly. Yes, It could use more lime. I cut another and squeezed in half of it. “More,” the melon said, “More.”

I ended up using two limes’ worth of juice in the salad. And I tossed in two packets of honey-roasted peanuts leftover from my last Southwest Airlines flight. I ate every bit of this in my large salad bowl and drank all of the juice from the bowl and am happy to say that I have enough melon and arugula left to make another batch for lunch tomorrow (or the next time it turns hot).

Canary Melon Salad with Arugula, Lime and Chile Paste

Slice and seed 1 Canary melon. Cut it into bite-sized chunks.

Wash and dry enough arugula to give each eater a portion of salad.

Make a dressing of a dollop of chile paste (up to 1 Tbsp if you like heat. 1/4 tsp if you are wary of chilies), plus the juice of 2 limes and a splash of fish sauce. (It helps if you taste the dressing with a piece of melon and a leaf of arugula to know what you are getting).

Toss arugula with dressing and remove arugula to individual salad plates or bowls or a family-style platter. Pour remaining dressing over melon and toss. Pile melon on top of arugula. Garnish with whole or chopped peanuts to taste.

Food notes: I meant to garnish this with Thai basil and/or mint as well, but I never made it out to the yard to pick any. But if you have more discipline than I do by all means add either herb. I might like this with cooked shrimp or prawns, too, or even grilled beef, or coins of sausage.

Painting Note: I was uploading the painting and realized I forgot to paint the arugula. Oh well. Artistic license.

Next Week’s Treat: Next week “The Kale Chronicles” will feature a guest post by painter Suzanne Edminster who will share with you her recipe for poached pears with goat cheese.