Friday Night Pizzas

I apologize up front for the really crappy pictures in this post. With these amazing pizzas coming out of the oven, I couldn’t be bothered with taking nicer photos!

I absolutely adore Friday nights spent with good food and wine on the couch. That party bug that used to tell me to go  out every Friday night has apparently died because I no longer have that urge. I haven’t had it, in fact, for a while – ever since I started that 9-5 job a few years ago that required me to get out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7 am on Fridays. Who has the energy to go out after that? Not me, that’s for sure. Plus, I started to really enjoy waking up earl(ier) on Saturdays to do things like go for a run or get work done. Adulthood, I suppose.

So, equipped with some $13 Pinot Noir (which was really quite good), a movie, and these awesome pizzas, my Friday night was destined to be great.

There isn’t really a recipe here… I bought my multi-grain pizza dough (with flax seeds!) from Whole foods and randomly piled on toppings. A few key items for these pizzas: 1) 3-4 toppings, MAX; 2) garlic(!); 3) a super hot oven + pizza stone; and 4) high quality ingredients. I divided my dough into two smaller balls and then made half-and-half pizzas on those two rolled out doughs. I drizzled this spicy olive oil as a base for each pizza, then added toppings.

I think Pizza 1 turned out to be my favorite. Spend the time looking for good quality canned San Marzano tomatoes that have no preservatives – read the label, it should only include tomatoes (and maybe a basil leaf). They taste incredibly fresh… I could have eaten this pizza without the cheese, even!

Pizza 1

hand crushed san marzano tomatoes
kalamata olives
fresh mozzarella balls
garlic slices

Pizza 2

proscuitto
goat cheese (chevre) chunks
garlic slices

Pizza 3

fresh heirloom tomato slices
fresh mozzarella balls
artichoke hearts
kalamata olives

Pizza 4

shitake mushrooms
dinosaur kale shreds
goat cheese (chevre) chunks
garlic slices

To bake, crank up your oven as high as it will go – mine goes to 550 – and let your pizza stone warm up. If you’re not using a pizza stone, crank up the heat anyway. Pop the pizza in the oven for 5-7 minutes depending on your heat levels. To cut them up, I find it helps to let the pizza rest for a few minutes to allow the cheese to set a bit.

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Artichoke Dip

Be warned – this is not your average mayo-laden, saltier-than-all-get-out artichoke dip. Oh no. This, my friends, is an artichoke spread inspired by a very similar dip I picked up at a great store in Chicago that sells only locally-grown veggies and other locally-made specialties. Last week, they had a number of items from a Middle Eastern bakery, including a whole-grain pita that goes very well with their artichoke spread. I was so in love with this spread, I wrote down all the ingredients, determined to make it at home.

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And well, I must say, I really think I succeeded. The spread I made was just as addicting as the original version – salty and tangy and a wee bit sour – and I use all those adjectives in the best possible ways. Throughout the course of the week, I ate it with pita chips, the aforementioned whole-grain pita bread, regular wheat bread, a piece of cheese… well, you get the picture. I *might* have licked the bowl. One thing is for sure: I will be making and remaking this recipe throughout the year. I almost always have most of the ingredients on hand anyway, and I’m already thinking of ways to get funky with it. Throw in a few garbanzo beans – sort of an artichoke/hummus dip. Maybe toss in a whole boatload of spinach. Pile it on top of some heirloom tomatoes. Toss it with some pasta and summer veggies like zucchini. Endless, I tell ya!

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Artichoke Dip

Inspired by Middle East Bakery’s Artichoke Spread

2 cans artichoke hearts, packed in water
1/2 cup green olives with pimentos
2 small cloves raw garlic or 1 big clove
handful parsley
juice of 1 lemon + tiny amount of zest
2 teaspoons capers
1/2 cup olive oil
pepper (didn’t need any salt thanks to the olives and capers)

It couldn’t get easier – toss it all in the food processor and combine. Use more or less oil accordingly. Eat with pita chips or just a spoon.

Recipe: Artichokes with Lemon Butter and Chile Aioli

If you read my last post, you know that I really love artichokes. After all, I nearly named this blog after them. So it only seems appropriate that the first recipe post I share with you be all about this lovely vegetable.
Artichokes
While you can easily get canned artichokes year-round, the even better, fresh version of this veggie comes into season right about now—spring. I’ve seen them popping up in all my favorite grocery stores (yes, there is more than one) and have brought home a couple each week.

The beautiful thing about artichokes is how simple they are to prepare. My favorite way is to throw them on the grill in the summer; however, with a lack of sunshine last weekend, I opted for the easier, indoor method of boiling.

Artichokes

If you’ve never actually eaten an artichoke before, all you have to do is pull the outer leaves off and, holding on to the end, scrap the “meat” of each leaf off using your teeth. The further in you get, the more meat will be on each leaf. Eventually, you will be able to pop the entire leaf in your mouth. After you get through all the leaves, you’re left with the choke, which makes all that hard work you did worth it–the choke is the best part.

Artichokes

Artichokes with Lemon Butter and Chile Aioli

artichoke

1 lemon

lemon zest

1 lb unsalted butter – room temperature

1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

3 eggs–whites separated out

1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp red pepper flakes

salt

To cook the artichokes

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Make sure the pot is deep enough to submerge the entire artichoke. Toss in 1 half of the lemon, some salt, and the artichoke. Let boil for approximately 35 minutes, or until the outer leaves are soft.

Lemon Butter

In a food processor, mix the butter, lemon zest, juice from other half of the lemon, rosemary, and a bit more salt. Scrape it into a small bowl for dipping the artichoke leaves—it is best when it is still semi-warm or at room temperature so that the dipping is facilitated.

Chile Aioli

Pour the egg whites, red pepper flakes, and a little salt in the food processor. As it is processing (the eggs should be getting nice and frothy), slowly pour the olive oil in until you have a nice, thick consistency.

**Note—I had a bottle of some really delicious chile-infused oil that my sister gave me as a gift, I used this instead of the red pepper flakes. So if your color is not the same as mine, do not fret!**

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/aprilds/4509072432/&#8221; title=”Artichokes by aprilds, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4058/4509072432_158e915912.jpg&#8221; width=”500″ height=”333″ alt=”Artichokes” /></a>