Tortilla Pizza

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We all have lazy days. Days when getting out of bed feels like the most difficult task in the world, and you schlep to work and procrastinate your sanity away. It’s painful. I hate those days, because, if I had a choice, I’d design infographics in my sleep.

For a while, I’ve been in a dear-god-please-don’t-make-me-cook phase. Weird, right? A food blogger should never have that problem… but coming up with things to cook, sometimes for the blog, and sometime just for lunch, feels like I’m pulling my own teeth. And it’s not like I’ve been overworked at the day job lately, because things have been relatively calm for the past week.

Freelance, on the other hand, is a different story.

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I would classify all of last week as one of the laziest weeks of my life. I didn’t stick to any sort of healthy eating plan, I didn’t get much done at work or in freelance, and I just couldn’t get myself to sit down and write. Hell, making lunches to take to work was probably the most productive thing I did — and that was basically putting salad ingredients in a jar. I spent most of the week envying Keri Russell’s 80s jeans in The Americans (when I really should have been doing squats to get me closer to fitting into said jeans).

During weeks like those, I’m guilt of even my biggest pet peeves, like leaving dirty dishes in the sink.

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So naturally, one day, I came home ravished, in the need for something delicious, unhealthy, and fast. No time for pizza dough. No money for take out. But I did have tortillas, pasta sauce, and parmesan cheese.

It took just 15 minutes to make, and 13 of those minutes were spent watching Veep on my living room floor. The downsides are limited: lots of cheese, and a tortilla, which I shouldn’t be eating. The upsides could go one forever, though: lots of cheese, fewer calories than pizza dough, takes three minutes to make, tastes like legit thin crust take-out.

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Tortilla Cheese Pizza

1 flour tortilla (whole wheat ones taste great, too — but what’s pictured here is flour)
4-5 heaping spoonfuls tomato basil pasta sauce
Approx. 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Drizzle of olive oil

First, heat your oven to 500 degrees.

Then, brush the top of a tortilla with olive oil. Generously spoon tomato sauce onto the tortilla, using the back of the spoon to spread it evenly. Then, just cover everything in parmesan cheese.

Bake at 500 degrees for 10 minutes, until the cheese starts to bubble. The crust (tortilla) should be brown and crispy. Transfer to a plate, cut, and inhale.

Plum and Marscapone Flatbread, Caramelized Balsamic Glaze

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This might be my favorite set of photos yet.

A couple of weekends ago, Shaeda came over to spend an entire Sunday as my sous chef. The hands you see in these photos are hers. Aren’t they pretty?

I don’t think I can ever spend an entire day cooking without a sous chef ever again. Let me know if you’re interested, because an extra set of hands (and taste buds) in the kitchen really makes my life a lot easier.

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Well, there is only one day and a handful of hours left in this old house. The movers are coming Saturday morning (or so they say…) and I’ll be picking up in an older building in an older, gayer neighborhood.

In usual Sarah-fashion, this week has been unfairly busy. One of my clients sent me their data about a week late, which threw my entire freelance calendar off, which gave me an unexpected week of freedom in exchange for a looming week of hell. Hell was this week.

But as the week winds down, I’ve found solace in pandemonium — mostly thanks to my Thursday yoga “meeting” at the Department of Energy gym. There’s something incredibly soothing about reserving one hour a week to not think about a to-do list or an annual review or a muddled mess of clients. One hour. Just sixty minutes of soothing concentration — on holding a pose, building strength, and personal growth.

At the moment, my life is in boxes. Not everything, but a good chunk of it.

At the moment, there are twelve boxes. There will probably be fifteen by this time Friday night.

But hopefully, Saturday will go smoothly, and I’ll be able to reinstate food blogger Sundays… albeit, from a new home.

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Today, I’ll keep this short. I can’t deny exhaustion, but I just had to share this recipe and my favorite photos to date. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. Happy Friday!

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Plum and Marscapone Flatbread, Caramelized Balsamic Glaze, derived from Butter Me Up Brooklyn

Ingredients
1 package active yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon coarse salt
3/4 cup warm water (might need more)
1 teaspoon oil

2 ripe plums, sliced thinly (preferably with a mandolin)
4 to 6 oz. marscapone cheese
Cornmeal, for dusting the crust
Fresh basil, sliced

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar

 

Combine yeast, sugar, flour, salt, and water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Using the dough hook, knead on medium until the ingredients form an elastic, smooth dough. That should take about ten minutes. Once that happens, cover the dough in the olive oil, place a kitchen towel over the bowl, and let the dough sit for an hour or so.

Roll the dough out on a clean surface — I kept it to about 1/2 an inch thick. Dust with cornmeal.

Heat your oven’s broiler.

Using a spatula, spread the marscapone on the crust, covering as much as you can. Then, arranged the plum slices, and be careful to not put too much fruit in any particular area. Too much will make your flatbread soggy. With a pastry brush, lightly coat the plums in olive oil.

Broil the flatbread for about 8 minutes, until the crust is crisp. Then, crack the oven door, and switch the oven to bake at 350 degrees. Let the flatbread bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, and then remove the sheet from the oven.

In a small saucepan, combine the balsamic, honey, and sugar. Reduce over medium heat until syrupy.

Top the flatbread with sliced basil, and drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

Impromptu Breakfast Pizza

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Some of my friends are strong proponents of the “yes man” idea. You know, by saying yes to everything — ways to make your life more exciting, adventurous, and fulfilling.

I’ve been saying “yes” for far too long.

While I know my design career has a long way to go, I’ve found myself in the same arm wrestling matches that I struggled with in high school and college: the tug-of-war between having free time and taking on too much work.

When it came to my career, I said yes to everything. Redesign my old job’s entire website without a raise? Sure, it’s good for my portfolio. Go on 23 job interviews in one year? Yes. Get me the eff out of said job. New job? Yes. Design infographics? Yes. Design infographics for Google? Yes. Design logos for Google? Yes. Design 5 infographics and 5 logos for Google in two weeks? … Yes.

Kill me? Yes. Been there. Done that.

(I’m dying, here.)

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With spring well on its way, I’ve also struggled with the mess of a garden that has wriggled its way out from under my green thumb. Last summer came and ended quickly, and with a slurry of travels, the new job, and influx of freelance work, it’s really no wonder I didn’t get around to properly breaking it down and prepping for the winter.

For a while, anyway, I thought winter would never come. But as the saying goes, March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb.

Oh, how true that adage has proven itself this year.

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With all the change that has taken over my life in the past twelve months, I can hardly even think about the possibilities for the next twelve. I toy with the idea of dropping everything and moving to the city of all cities, as you, as a reader, are well-aware of. But part of me is just as in-love with DC as I was three years ago.

And, like many other nights, reader, I have little substance, if any, to write.

Instead, I have much to design. And, like many other nights, I long for a weekend. A real one, that doesn’t have any freelance. And hopefully, I can blow off some freelance this weekend to get back to what I really enjoy: feeding the people I love, and finding content to strike some sort of emotional response. One that I can write to you, here.

In the meantime, enjoy the Sweetsonian version of food for those who procrastinate, cram, and deprive themselves of sleep: pizza.

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Breakfast Pizza

Ingredients:
250 g all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoons dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
150 mL hand-hot water
Cornmeal, for dusting the crust

1 cup Greek yogurt, plain
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup mayonaise
1 teaspoon red pepper chili flakes

2 large onions, sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup artichoke hearts (canned are fine)
4 or 5 eggs
Arugula, parmesan, and feta — for topping

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and hot water. Mix with the dough hook for about five minutes, until the dough is evenly combined. Then, transfer the dough to a clean surface, and knead until smooth and elastic. At first, the dough will be sticky, but as you knead, the gluten forms, and the dough will become smoother and more elastic.

Knead the dough into a ball, and set aside in a warm place to rise for one hour.

In a jar or bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, tomato sauce, mayonaise, and chili flakes, stirring with a fork. This will be your pizza sauce. Set aside.

Using a cast iron skillet or other medium- to large-sized frying pan, caramelize your onions. Drizzle with olive oil, and cook onions over medium to high head until the onions brown, and start to smell sweet — about 20 minutes. Transfer the onions to a bowl, and then, saute your mushrooms until browned.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Strain the artichoke hearts.

When the dough has risen (up to twice in size), punch it down, and knead it a few more times. Have a large baking sheet or pizza stone ready. Carefully stretch or roll the dough as much as you can, in the shape you’d like for your pizza. Dust the bottom of the crust with cornmeal. Lightly grease your baking sheet with olive oil, and lay your crust flat on the sheet.

Generously spread the yogurt sauce on top of the crust, and then top the pizza with the onions, mushrooms, and artichokes. Then, go ahead and crack each egg onto the pizza. Try to do so in areas where the toppings will keep the eggs from spreading too far!

Bake the pizza for 10 minutes at 400, and then, broil the pizza for a few minutes to get a crunchy crust.

Top your pizza with lots of arugula, feta, and parmesan.

Pizza Bianca

Everyone grew up with pizza, right? Sleepovers, elementary school pizza parties, Book-its (remember those?)… pizza took up some sort of memory in American households in the 80s and 90s.  After all, our parents were workaholics, and not everyone could have been blessed with home-cooked meals every single living day of their lives.  It was always that special treat we got as kids, like soda and ice cream, if and when dinner turned to disaster or the amount of effort required to feed a pool party exceeded the time and patience available in the kitchen.  Birthday parties and movie nights were filled with pizzas in my childhood.

After spending last weekend in New York, and the week prior in Louisiana and Mississippi, I was on a veggie detox.  Never have I eaten such vast amounts of unhealthy food and drink.  I’ve done my fair share of attempting to visit New York without having a slice of pizza, but it just doesn’t work.  Ever.  I don’t know what it is, but that city’s reputation for pizza aligned with my absolute love for all foods orgasmic Italian will probably contribute to the end of me, in 80 years, insha’allah.  We stumbled across Rocky’s pizzeria in Manhattan, and I had “Grandma’s pizza,” loaded with fresh, minced roasted garlic and some sort of pureed bruschetta-like sauce.  My inquiry regarding the types of tomatoes or any other ingredients was respectfully denied, and replaced with a plate of chocolate mousse.  To diefor.  I’ll dream about that pizza until I figure out how to clone its recipe.  And then I won’t tell anyone, simply requiring your presence to witness how amazing it really is.  I don’t know exactly when or how I fell in love with food and hosting dinners, but as you can see via this blog, this lustful romance has taken over my life.

A number of friends are in Washington this weekend, en route from cities all over the world. Naturally, my town house looks like a tornado swept through, dropping off traveling goods from India, Bolivia, and other American cities that my friends have been through — I really am lucky to have friends all over the world. I am, after all, visiting one in Bogota this summer.

Will I take my pizza recipes to South America? It honestly depends on how much time I spend salsa dancing. I’d rather be salsa dancing than anything else — that’s one of the downsides of living in Washington. The salsa dancing scene sucks. I guess I do miss one thing from Los Angeles — Third Street Promenade street salsa Sunday evenings. If Washington had something similar, my life would feel slightly more complete.

Anyway, I made two different types of white pizza for my visitors, who have, consequently, been eating non-stop for the past 48 hours: broccoli-feta-mozzarella, and a zucchini/goat cheese and lemon pizza. They make a really easy and impressive quick fix for having more than enough guests to enjoy a balcony brunch on a breezy, beautiful Saturday morning.

WHAT YOU NEED:

for the zucchini pizza:

Pizza dough.  For the sake of time, I used Trader Joe’s ready-made, one dollar pizza dough.
1 fresh zucchini
Lots of goat cheese
1 lemon, or 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
Fresh, cracked pepper
Olive oil, for working with the pizza dough

for the broccoli pizza:

(More) pizza dough
2 to 3 cups fresh broccoli, tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper
1 cup feta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Olive oil

WHAT TO DO:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Making pizza is pretty self-explanatory, and I’m positive that you understand the idea.  I like to keep my pizza crusts thin and even: no one likes biting into a doughy crust that could have used another five minutes in the oven.  So play it safe, and spread the crust to be extra thin (but don’t puncture it).

I don’t use sauces on my white pizzas, although, alfredo or some other white cheese sauce would be to die for.  Or even pesto — yes, I often use pesto on my pizzas instead of tomato sauce.  For the zucchini pizza, I used my fingers to spread a soft goat cheese evenly on the crust, and then used a vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini.  I like having the zucchini extra thin on pizzas because it bakes to a crisp and just looks beautiful.  After dressing the pizza with the zucchini, use a pepper mill to grind fresh pepper to your liking, and squeeze some fresh lemon juice all over the pizza, to get a nice tangy flavor in each slice of zucchini.

The broccoli pizza is easy — simply toss the broccoli, feta, and mozzarella together in a bowl, and evenly spread the toppings over your crust.  Sometimes I like to add a little basil or marjoram to the mix.  For both pizzas, bake for 12 to 17 minutes.  To roast the vegetables, I turned the heat of the oven up to about 400 degrees for the last few minutes.

Feta, Zucchini, and Heirloom Tomato Pizza

One of the best memories I have about growing up in Southern California definitely has to do with the summers–being able to cook with homegrown vegetables (poolside, of course) had me convinced that I would never leave. So much for that.

It’s not that you can’t grow vegetables out here… I’ll just have to wait six months to do so. But for now, I can live with southern hemisphere imports and greenhouse organics. For the most part, the weather has been fairly cracked-out. Every time I’m convinced that it’s actually winter, the heavens open up and a clear sixty degree day falls upon us, much like last weekend.

And today, it rained. Womp wooomp. Sadly, it’s December and I think the warmth may be gone for good. Outside the boundaries of my kitchen, anyway.

The roommates generally blast the furnace, thus turning my centrally-located bedroom into a kiln. In turn, I blast the oven and the dishwasher, and fog up windows all over the house. It’s hot, and always smells good–the perfect escape from the heinous rain. In the meantime, this is a little slice of a homegrown Los Angeles summer.

WHAT YOU NEED:

pizza crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour

1 package active yeast

1 cup warm water

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

OR
1 package Trader Joe’s pizza crust

(let’s be realistic… whoever condemns pre-made or boxed mixes obviously doesn’t spend enough time at their day job)

TOPPINGS:

1/2 cup pesto sauce (unlike dough… homemade pesto is a kitchen staple. Recipe to come soon!)

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1.5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 zucchini, VERY thinly sliced

2-3 tomatoes, also very thinly sliced

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon basil flakes

Salt and Pepper

WHAT TO DO:

I’m going to assume you are buying ready-made pizza dough, because that’s what I do. It’s way easier, and it’s cheap. So if you need to know what to do from scratch, check Epicurious.

First, pour olive oil on a pizza pan or a baking sheet, and spread evenly using your fingers or a brush. Then, spread the dough as thin as you can, covering the entire sheet. The yeast makes it hard to do–I like to pick it up from one edge and let gravity stretch it down, while rotating the edge you are pulling from. That usually does the trick.

Use a fine cheese grater to grate the garlic clove evenly over the dough, and sprinkle the olive oil over it as well. Then, top the pizza with the feta and mozzarella, tomatoes, and vegetables. Sprinkle the basil flakes over the top, and add salt and pepper as you deem necessary.

I prefer to slice the zucchini and tomatoes as paper thin as possible, for visual aesthetics, mostly. But the zucchini will definitely cook nicely if it’s cut into thin slices… we used a vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini tonight, and it came out perfectly. I highly recommend keeping one of those around.
Once you’ve decorated your pizza, slide into the oven and let it bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until the zucchini looks crisp and the crust is golden.