Tuesday night some old friends who live upstate came for dinner, and surprised us with an armful of Morel mushrooms and a sack full of ramps. I'd planned a simple roasted chicken and vegetable dinner, but when I saw the gift I'd been brought, I clicked into cook-by-instinct mode, the kind of cooking we are about to start espousing in the second half of our online Kitchen Cure (today is the last day to sign up and catch up.)
I had to practice what I'm about to preach. With some pre-made lumps of pizza dough in the freezer, some good cheese, prosciutto, and a good lump of butter for sautéing the mushrooms and ramps, we were good to go. I had a bulb of fennel to roast for dinner, so the pizza got a pretty topping of fennel fronds. No sauce this time: just some mozzarella, prosciutto, morels and ramps with a sprinkling of Parmesan and fronds after cooking.
It was magnificent.
If you're enrolled in our Kitchen Cure, consider this a teaser to the work ahead. If not, making a pizza without worrying about a recipe is a great skill to have. Here's my cooking-by-instinct formula (recipe-less with training wheels) for pizza when you've just stumbled across a great topping like Morels, ramps, or whatever your field, forests, or waters are gifting you at the moment.
Cooking By Instinct Pizza Formula
A nice lump of pizza dough (pick some up from your local pizzeria, buy it at many groceries, or
1/4-1/2 cup or so of sauce like pesto or tomato
Enough cheese, sliced thin, to cover most of the stretched dough
Toppings to loosely cover like meats (prosciutto, salami, sausage, etc.) and/or cooked vegetables (onions, fennel, artichoke, greens, mushrooms)
A few cracks of black pepper
Fresh toppings like fennel fronds, thinly sliced greens like arugula or spinach, chopped herbs like Italian parsley
Preheat the oven to 500° F. Place pizza stone or baking sheet in oven.
Stretch the dough out. on a floured piece of parchment, large upside down baking sheet, or pizza peel. Spread sauce if using, dot with cheese, then arrange toppings.
Carefully remove hot stone or baking sheet from oven. Slide prepared pizza onto cooking surface and return to oven. Check after 5 minutes. If the oven is hot enough, it will not take more than 7-9 minutes to cook. Look for a golden brown crust.
Remove from oven and slide onto a cutting board or other surface where it will be sliced and served. Before slicing, top with any fresh ingredients you have. Or just dive in.
• Recipe: Quick Pasta with Dried Morels and Fresh Ramps
• Recipe: Homemade Thin Crust Pizza Dough
• How To Clean Morel Mushrooms
• What To Do With Ramps
NEWS ZIPPER: Pregnant, been pregnant or know someone who is/has been? I'm judging a contest with Smith Magazine and Rick's Picks, some of our favorite pickle people, that asks for great pregnancy stories in 100 words or less. There are so many great food aspects to being pregnant — I certainly have some of my own stories &mdash so I'm looking forward to reading through all the entries. Last day is Mothers' Day, Sunday May 10. Enter here!
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