One of the things I miss most about leaving the U.S. is visiting the farmer's market, picking up the freshest and yummiest things around, and then figuring out how to cook with them. So my last day in Seattle was dedicated to doing just that, to going out to the Sunday farmer's market, sampling fresh cheeses and jams and breads, and picking out whatever I fancied would look good on the flatbreads my friend and I planned to bake together in his apartment. There couldn't have been a more perfect way to end a weekend of complete and shameless gluttony (you can also savour parts 1, 2 and 3 of my weekend of indulgence in Seattle)
My first experience baking pizzas or flatbreads...(I haven't a clue what the difference is between them, and don't even care to raise that debate here since everyone has a different opinion, including the website I stole my dough recipe from)...was with Mark Bello, the founder of and pizza pro at Pizza a Casa in NYC. My intro to Mark was through one of his classes, which included a mini tour of Little Italy with two other ladies, a walk to his own kitchen, and then, 4 hours later - BAM! We had these gourmet pizzas being pumped out of the oven: margherita with san marzano tomatoes, potatoes and rosemary, egg and sage, taleggio and truffle oil, and on and on. And the best part was, I had been a part of it (AND the kitchen hadn't burned down!) So I thought, wow, it could be done, pizza could totally be made at home. A few weeks later, armed with my pizza peel signed by Mark Bello, a pizza stone that I'd ordered from Amazon, my OXO pie cutter and a microplane (thanks for introducing me to these Mark - I love mine!), I started pumping out pies for dinner right in my own kitchen oven. It was pretty life-changing...that class is what gave me the confidence to start experimenting with doughs for breads, buns, southern biscuits, and other doughy concoctions that will hopefully feature on my blog over time.
Unfortunately, I didn't have Mark's pizza dough recipe on me in Seattle, but I swear by it and was a bit nervous about trying a dough recipe from elsewhere. I ended up using one by Elizabeth from guiltykitchen, primarily because I was looking for a recipe that would make use of the whole wheat flour my friend already had at his place. I pretty much followed Elizabeth's recipe through, up until the end where rather than let it rise as one mass, I separated the dough into four balls, a la Mark Bello, and let them rise in separate containers overnight. That way I could wake up in the morning, head to the farmer's market, and come back to four separated dough balls just waiting to be rolled out, tossed with toppings, and shoved into the oven.
Making dough is NOT hard. So if you're a dough-phobic freak like I used to be, then get over it. If you're not in NYC and can't make it to Mark's class, just find a recipe online (or try to contact Mark from his website to see if he'd give you his recipe!) and practice with it. Trust me, even if it comes out looking like a world map undergoing trauma treatment, it's worth it. Just eat it when it's hot out of the oven, with some high quality mozz, tomato sauce, and basil, and you're set. Plus, who wants a perfect looking round pizza anyway. The funky shapes are in these days...looks more artisanal.
Here were the four courses that my host-friend in Seattle and I cooked up that Sunday and ate over a lazy span of three or four hours, right after we'd got our goods from the farmer's market. Baking one, photographing it, eating, and chatting, until we were hungry for the next. And then we'd do it all over again, just with different toppings. Till we'd eaten through four entire flatbreads. Moderation just ain't my thing, it's all or nothing. And I usually go for all.
First course...Sauteed morel mushrooms, seasoned with fresh green garlic and onions, and topped with some yummy cow's milk cheese that won out among two other cheeses in our farmer's market taste test. And a drizzle of truffle oil to add some gourmet magic to the flatbread - though it turned out to be anticlimactic, since the bottle of truffle oil that my friend had received as a gift totally lacked the powerful, earthy black truffle aroma that one would expect. So no magic there, but overall, still a super yummy cheesy mushroom flatbread.
Second course, stolen again from Mark Bello...eggs with fried sage and onions. You par-bake the crust for 3-4 minutes, then delicately crack two eggs on the crust without letting them spill over or breaking the yolks (quite an art!), bake that baby for another 4 minutes.
Once its out of the oven, you run a fork through the cooked but still runny yolks, which lets them ooze out all over the warm crust like a yellow breakfast sauce. Though in our case, I left the pizza in for a bit too long, which cooked the egg yolks until they were solid rather than still being runny. We garnished the eggs with sage that had been fried and crisped up (I adore crispy sage...here's to making herbs unheathy!), fresh onions, salt, pepper. Nothing better than breakfast at 3pm on a Sunday, served up on freshly baked bread, right on your very own couch.
Third course (and still going strong)...garlic and sage chicken sausage, fresh fennel, chipotle cheese curds, onions, and thick smoky slices of tomato. We sauteed the sausage so that it would get cooked all the way through and get a crisp caramelized coating on the outside.
If I were to be really harsh on myself and try to do something better next time, I'd probably get rid of the cheese and onions so that there'd be fewer, but more prominent, flavors going on in the dish.
And the final course, dessert...fig and ginger jam with toasted walnuts (just throw walnuts into a pan, no oil needed, and let them toast up for a few minutes. Make sure they don't burn and go bitter on you). What emerged from the oven eight minutes later was a fresh-baked package of fruity decadence: warm and bubbly jam, crunchy walnuts, and a toasty crust that had bumps and craters in a very artisanal-esque manner.
This would pair perfectly with a scoop of plain vanilla ice cream...but even we, with our seemingly bottomless pits of stomachs, could hear our tummies screeching to a halt in protest, should we consider attempting a fifth course (not totally improbable, given our track record from our prior indulgences over the weekend).
And thus I wound down my Sunday in Seattle, on a satiated (though overextended) stomach, a fulfilled wish to visit the farmer's market, and the sweet lingering taste of fresh-baked flatbread and melted fig jam.