Chard and Chard
One of life's big Aaaaaaah's is putting on comfy clothes after a long work week, snuggling up to a warm sweetie, enjoying a nice pizza, easy wine, and Gwen Ifill on the tube; an important Friday night decompression point I have come to depend on. This weekly pizza ritual gives ample opportunity for experimentation, or sometimes just the chance to use up bits of things from the fridge. This week's pizza and wine combo, though, is something to write about.
A creamy, intensely green chard sauce- not quite pesto, but along that line- topped our standard dough this week, along with mozzarella, bites of proscuitto and hazelnuts. Robin over at Vegetable Matters frequently provides an inspiration point with her interesting flatbreads, as was the case here. This chard sauce is a take-off of her idea, and we've found it to be quite versatile. Read to the end to find out some other exciting ways we've been using it.
Part of the joy of this meal was the wine selection. We are learning, through our extensive but not-so-exhausting research, that the wine and food relationship is not so different than Goethe's Theory of Colors. Goethe shows us that the colors opposed to one another on the color wheel, "reciprocally evoke each other in the eye." Similarly, wine and foods opposed to one another on the flavor wheel evoke each other on the palate, providing delightful dancing counterpoints. Those next to one another, both colors and food/wine, provide a visual or flavor monochromy or connectedness, which is also a lovely but quite different thing. Some day I'll write more in here about this continuum of science and art.
Palotai Winery's 2009 Chardonnay played it both ways with this chard pizza. Palotai's Chardonnay is fermented in neutral oak, which allows its varietal fruitiness (which is often hidden with the heavily-oaked Chards) to come forward and add a big sparkle to the earthy bitter chard. But, it does have a creamy mouthfeel of its own so it played in unison with the mozzarella and hazelnuts. Amazingly terrific.
We started with our usual dough. I often make it in double batches and freeze half for a later convenience. Thawed in the refrigerator for a day, it warms up to perform just as if it were freshly made.
Fresh From the Garden
Out in the garden we went to harvest a large bunch of Swiss chard. In less than an hour these glossy leaves went from garden to plate. Fresh, fresh, fresh. Since we have planted several rows of chard this year, we'll surely utilize it in this delightful sauce again.
Homemade Dough and Bright Green Sauce
After stretching the room-temperature dough out into a nice thin round, this luscious green puree went atop, followed by some mozzarella, pieces of proscuitto, roughly chopped Oregon hazelnuts, and green onions from the garden too. Here's how to make the creamy chard and our favorite dough:
Creamy and Versatile Green Chard Sauce
4 cloves garlic
one large bunch Swiss chard, big ribs removed
1/4 cup cream
a healthy grating of fresh nutmeg, about 1/2 teaspoon or more
salt and pepper to taste
In bowl of food processor, roughly chop garlic and leave it in the bowl.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Blanch chard leaves in 2-3 batches, removing blanched leaves directly to food processor bowl. Add cream, nutmeg and salt and pepper. Whirl away until mixture is a smooth puree. Thin with more cream, if necessary, to suit your application.
We liked the sauce so much, the next day we made more to mix with blanched potato cubes, which we layered with a cheese blend and baked as a side dish. Votes are in to try it schmeared on English muffins topped with a poached egg, which we'll try soon. It would also be delicious warmed in a skillet, an egg plopped into its depressions. lidded and left to steam until the egg is set.
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
2 cups + all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
Place water and yeast in bowl of mixer with dough hook. Allow to stand about 10 minutes until yeast is foamy and dissolved. Add salt and flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing with dough hook at medium high speed, until it is incorporated. As you knead, the dough will come together on one cohesive but soft ball. Knead until the dough is smooth and satiny. Remove dough hook, cover lightly with plastic wrap, an allow to sit in a warm place for about one hour, until doubled in volume.
Roll out dough, cover with toppings and bake at 475 degrees for 15-20 minutes; allow less time for lightly topped pizzas and more time for heavily topped pizzas.