My husband is a saint……. he has, ever so patiently, put up with my quirkiness, bad habits, silly sense of humor and propensity for shenanigans, yes, all of this……………. for thirty-five years! Oh, and I forgot one thing – I also have a ridiculously one track mind that he tolerates …………. especially when it comes to creating new recipes ……………..
…………..like this pizza, the perfect example. It all started out as, what I would call, another Mother Hubbard dinner. You might not be familiar with this term, (probably because I made it up – no, no……… not the nursery rhyme, just the dinner part) A Mother Hubbard dinner results from not planning, not even giving the evening meal a thought until the clock strikes FIVE! ……………. and then scavenging through a somewhat desolate pantry, freezer and refrigerator trying to figure out what there might be to eat.
I had one of these Mother Hubbard experiences one evening last week – I had a busy day and suddenly realized how fast the time had flown. I quickly looked to see what I might put together for dinner and this is what I found; one left-over pizza dough ball, some pesto (always in my freezer), a few bits of bacon and a small bag of arugula. My mind started whirling…………. I grabbed an apple and some toasted pecans from the pantry and the next thing I knew, this Pesto & Applewood Bacon w/ Arugula-Apple Salad was evolving! …………………….. oh my goodness, we LOVED it!
So, back to “the saint”…………….. he has been eating pizza all week as I have worked on perfecting the recipe. The problem is, when I have an idea for a new recipe, I just can’t stop until I have it just right. So Monday night was pizza night, again on Tuesday, yep, you guessed it, Wednesday the same thing! Then I needed to make it one more time, for him to get the pictures! So now you understand a bit what I’m talking about when I say I have a one track mind!
He never complains about these repetitions, (A note from the “saint”: Would YOU complain about these repetitions? I thought so!! :):) just encourages me…………….. but he’s also my most honest (and helpful!) critic. We’ve tested and tweaked the recipe and guess what? It’s ready for YOU! I think you will enjoy it as much as we have – it’s quite “fall-ish” – perfect after a lovely crisp walk, a long bike ride or maybe beside one of your first fires in the hearth! ENJOY!
P.S. Oh, just so you don’t worry, we also ate a TON of salad this week along with small portions of the pizzas! And the pizza does re-warm very nicely for left-overs!
2 ounces pecan halves, broken (I just break each one roughly in half)
½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 ball of pizza dough, purchased or homemade – this is my favorite recipe for homemade
3 tablespoons pesto**
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn in small piieces (about 1 inch size)
8 ounces applewood bacon, cut each slice in quarters and cook until golden brown but not super crispy, drain well on paper towels
½ medium crisp, red skinned apple, cored and thinly slice, each slice halved
2 ounces baby arugula*** or spinach
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, this is the time to break out your best balsamic vinegar* – I used a lovely pear-cranberry white balsamic
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of for oven and preheat oven to 350˚F. Combine the 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt with pecans in a small pan. Toast until deep golden and aromatic, about 7-8 minutes. I recommend setting a timer (pecans are too expensive to burn and it happens quickly – trust me I know!) Set aside to cool. Increase oven temperature to 475˚F.
2. Sprinkle a piece of parchment paper, about the size of your pizza stone, lightly with cornmeal and place it on a pizza paddle or a large cutting board. Set aside.
3. On a floured work surface, flatten the dough with your hands. Start at the center and work outwards, using your fingers to press and stretch the dough to a 10-12 inch circle. If the dough resists stretching, let it rest for a few minutes, this relaxes the glutens in the flour and makes the dough easier to work with.
4. Fold dough in half, then in quarters and transfer to prepared parchment paper. Unfold dough and reshape as needed.
5. Spread dough evenly with pesto and sprinkle mozzarella on top. Carefully open oven and slide parchment paper and dough onto the preheated stone. Bake for 5- 7 minutes or until golden brown. Check after 5 minutes and turn pizza if one side is getting too brown.
6. While pizza is baking, make the arugula (rocket, if you’re in England!) salad. Place arugula in a medium size bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add a pinch of sea salt and a couple grinds of pepper. Toss with two forks to coat leaves with oil and vinegar.
7. Remove pizza from oven. Evenly distribute bacon, then arugula, apples and pecans. Cut and enjoy!
How do you know what’s a good balsamic vinegar? Look at the label. It should have no artificial ingredients or added sugar. Also look at the age – it takes at least 3 years to age a good balsamic. Other than these two factors, it’s more up to individual taste (and budget – some super-aged can actually cost hundreds of dollars – for one bottle! However it’s definitely possible to purchase a very good balsamic for less than $10). It’s wonderful if you can find a store that will let you sample different types of vinegars and olive oils. I know Williams Sonoma frequently does this and other stores as well. If you’re interested in more information about this lovely condiment, check out this article!
~ **I often buy pesto in the large containers (in the refrigerated section) at Sam’s or Costco and divide it into small jars and freeze it. When I need some, I take out a jar, nuke (microwave) it briefly, just to soften a bit. I take out what I need and then re-freeze the rest if I won’t be using it within several days. It keeps a long time this way, otherwise it’s quite perishable.
~ ***Did you know that arugula can be used almost interchangeably for spinach? Just like spinach, it can be served fresh, wilted or cooked. That’s one reason this pizza remains delicious when reheated. The arugula or spinach will wilt but, unlike most salad greens, remains very tasty!