Eat Like a Farmer: Slow Pizza with Preserved Vegetables
Eat like a farmer: Slow pizza with preserved summer vegetables
To make a homemade locavore pizza tonight, you might want to get started in August.
Northern people who want to eat well all year long can find their way to one type of perfect winter meal by settling down with people you like and making a homemade pizza.
My husband and I are organic farmers. It’s the time of year we joke about how anyone looking into our shopping cart at the grocery store must think we are miserable, unhealthy people. Flour, butter, the odd bag of chips or chocolate chips or—why not, it’s Christmas?—a cheese ball.
But of course we don't really live on that stuff. The vast majority of what we eat is made up of protein and vegetables that come from our farm. But it should be said that a big part of being able to live well and locally means putting up a bunch of certain foods when they’re at their peak.
Our organic farm is centered around farm memberships that people can buy in both winter and summertime. During that gorgeous part of the year our young son refers to as “the grassy time,” we load our members and ourselves up with free vegetables to take home and preserve for the snowy months.
This year, my family squirreled away bricks of frozen, shredded zucchini, shelves of gleaming red jars of tomatoes, blanched greens, and frozen pesto. It turns out that most of this tastes more than good on a pizza come December.
One reason we offer our CSA members food for preserving at no extra charge is because we want them to eat well all year long, too, relying mostly on good food from around here. Helping to foster a longer season of local eating is really important to us.
Beyond that little twist of wonder I get every time I crack open a jar of something I canned during the days of summer abundance, there are a few other important reasons why Northern food people should preserve vegetables during the high season.
First, I know for sure that there is no Bisphenol-A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor common in the lining of canned foods, in my canned tomatoes. I know the foods I’ve preserved from our organic farm came from clean soil, and that they were grown with care by responsible people at every step of the way.
Also, because they’re halfway prepared already, these foods also free up my time. The name ‘canned food’ really doesn’t seem to do it justice. Preparing summer food for winter is a way of life that balances the seasons and increases our household’s reliance on food from right here.
Preserving summer's bounty is not all that hard, and it will make you feel like a hero in your steamy, snowbound kitchen. But if you didn’t freeze any kale in October or put up any jars of tomatoes in September, take heart. Modern substitutions exist—you just might miss out on an opportunity to gloat until August 2017 rolls around.
Preserved Vegetable Toppings
1 bunch Lacinato kale, blanched (processes are described below)
8 ounces frozen cherry tomatoes
4 whole heads garlic, roasted
1 cup frozen pesto
½ pound shredded Mozzarella, or any combination of any cheeses you like
Locavore Pizza Sauce
3 32-oz jars of crushed tomatoes
1 onion, diced
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
Overnight No-Knead Crust
6 cups flour (any combination you like of white and wheat)
½ teaspoon dried yeast
3 teaspoons sea salt
1/3 cup fresh rosemary leaves
3¼ cups water
A real locavore pizza in December is the opposite of what you buy on the way home from a shopping trip. It takes a lot of time. It’s a balanced meal. And you can load the thing up with as many preserved summer vegetables as you like.
The night before you want to bake the pizzas, mix together the crust ingredients in a large pot or a bowl you can cover tightly. Let it sit on the counter until morning, just like that.
In the morning, generously flour a countertop, dump the dough onto it, and divide it into two halves. Roll or pull the two doughs into the shape of pizzas and transfer them to well-floured cookie sheets. Pizza stones are lovely, if you have them. A dusting of cornmeal can help guard against sticking.
Generously oil the tops of the crusts with olive oil, then let them rest on the counter for another couple of hours. While you wait, chop up an onion and slowly move it around in a big pot with some salt and olive oil, and then add the crushed tomatoes. You’re going to let the sauce reduce by at least half, which takes several hours.
After an hour or two, when the crusts have risen a bit, pop them into a preheated oven at 425 degrees. Bake them for 20 minutes with no toppings. At this point, you can choose to complete the process and dress the crusts with toppings and return them to the oven for the final baking, or wait for your friends to come over and let them help build the pizzas to their own liking.
Finish baking the pizzas at 425 degrees until the cheese is bubbling.
Makes 2 pizzas, about 16 slices.
Preserved Pizza Toppings
To blanch kale for freezing, or to prepare store bought kale as a pizza topping, add a tablespoon of salt to a large pot of boiling water. Plunge the kale in the water and set a timer for two minutes. Drain the greens into a colander, then dump them right away into a pot of cold water. When they’re cool enough to handle, grab a big double handful and squeeze out all the water you can. Roll up tight fistfuls of kale and slice them into chunks about the size of a piece of pepperoni.
To freeze cherry tomatoes in summertime, simply remove the stems, lay them flat on a cookie sheet, and slide them into the freezer. Once they’re frozen solid, dump them in a Ziploc bag like so many marbles. Besides being great on a winter pizza, cherry tomatoes preserved this way are delicious baked into a frittata.
To put up pesto for winter, use any recipe for pesto and simply freeze it. We like to parcel out a cup or so in little jelly jars, since that seems to be the about the right size for a batch of pasta or pizza at our house. Some people like to use ice cube trays to freeze small amounts. Because basil pesto will discolor when exposed to air, make sure you top off each jar with an extra glug of olive oil. You can use any herb, or even a combination of herbs and cooking greens such as kale. Sage pesto can be very nice.
To roast whole garlic, drizzle a couple tablespoons olive oil over a few whole, unpeeled heads of garlic, and add them to the oven along with the pizza crusts when you’re pre-baking them.