It’s one of those embarrassing family traits. The kind my partner and I joke about, but a therapist might link to a long-forgotten wound inflicted on my inner child. Take a peek in my freezer, fridge or cupboards and you will find bags and containers encasing tiny portions of food. Some are leftover, some not yet tasted. I assure myself that these bites will be part of a perfect meal someday. You might find the spoonful of curried chicken, and a half of a yogurt in the fridge. A few remaining tortilla chips in a bag in the pantry. Most of the time those bits get thrown out, rotten or stale, the perfect moment to indulge never seized. Or they remain unused, the perfect meal never realized. In tonight’s case I reluctantly pulled out a frozen Ziplock bag of pesto, the last of three small bags that I filled this summer as basil soared skyward in my garden, and overtook tabletops at the farmer’s market. It’s January, and my craving for summer is stronger than my desire to save a piece of it in my freezer.
Frankly it’s no wonder I want to save the pesto—ration it throughout the long Wisconsin winter. Winter has hit hard this year, dreams of a white Christmas fulfilled long before the holiday itself. The joy of batting eyelashes bejeweled with glimmering snowflakes has dwindled as we watched snowplows push mounds of snow up into our freshly shoveled driveway, our backs aching, through those now tired eyes.
What food is deserving of this fleeting taste of summer? Organic penne pasta? No, too boring. Lasagne? How unfair to hide pesto in all those layers. Eggs and toast? Again, not quite special enough, though spinach, pesto and asiago omelets were a postpartum staple of mine. Pesto pizza? Yes, that’s it! The bold flavors of garlic, basil and cheese perfectly complement fresh baked crust. The toasted pine nuts exude a smooth, and slightly sweet oil that blends perfectly with olive oil, coating the crust. I considered what ingredients might top this pizza. Red or white sauce would certainly diminish the exquisite taste of the pesto. Olives would add too much salt, as would artichokes. I finally settled on sauteed mushrooms and sweet onions with small hunks of goat cheese nestled throughout, adding an earthy and salty bite now and then. Top with mozzarella and fresh parmesan and bake. Nothing beats a warm slice of summer. Sound good? There’s a small piece left over in my fridge. I was saving it for the perfect moment. Guten appetit, let’s eat.
Pesto Pizza (all measurements approximate)
1 recipe crust (I used pre-made dough from Trader Joes)
2-3 Tbsp basil pesto
½ sweet onion, sliced about ¼ inch thick, then sliced in half
½ cup sliced mushroom
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp goat cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Preheat a skillet on stove, medium heat, and put about 1 tbsp olive oil in it. Make crust and roll or press out to about 12-14 inch diameter. Don’t worry about circles or squares, pizza tastes best when irregularly shaped! Sautee onion and mushroom slices in heated skillet until soft. You can flavor with a pinch of salt if desired.
Sprinkle about ¼ cup mozzarella over crust and stick in oven for about 4 minutes until cheese melted. Spoon pesto onto crust and spread somewhat evenly over warm crust. Scatter sautéed veggies over pesto layer. Place small chunks of goat cheese around pizza. Top with remaining mozzarella and parmesan. Bake at 425 for 12-14 minutes until cheese is golden around edges. EAT!