Thursday, September 1, 2011

Food: Swiss Chard Pizza with Whole Grain Crust

Earlier this year Jonathan and I installed a raised garden bed next to our deck so I could grow a little more than the usual patio tomato and banana pepper plants.  As in any home project, this met with some failures in the beginning.  Like how we (me) had a difficult time deciding where to place the darn thing (and after I had unboxed and assembled it and dragged it around the yard, I decided I hated it and thus needed to return it).  But we finally decided on a spot and fastened it down and filled it with bags and bags of dirt.  Then came the fun task of deciding on plants and planting them. 

I've learned a lot this year as an amateur gardener.  For example, radishes apparently don't fare well with a cool wet spring followed by a zap of blazing hot weather before they're fully developed.  And tomatoes can develop a disease called blossom rot that can sometimes be corrected by a boost of calcium fertilizer.  I also decided next year I need to plant the tomatoes in the middle - not on the outer edges - of the bed because now that they're all grown up, they're shading the other plants.  But with all of this "learning," I've also had a bunch of plant successes.  We've had pickled Hungarian wax peppers, hand chopped basil pesto, tomatoes galore, fresh lettuce, and perky parsley.  So you can imagine I was pretty excited to see one of my final my trial veggies this year - Swiss chard - was full size and ready to be harvested when I got back from our annual family beach vacation.

I know I've mentioned my parents' garden about a million times on this blog. But if it weren't for this garden and my mother's culinary skills, I likely never would have experienced the savory treat that is a fresh Swiss chard pizza.  The pizza is the prime reason I picked the leafy green to be one of my garden babies this year.  And although over time, I've developed my own crust, the recipe is mostly my Mom's...a savory mixture of chard, onions, garlic, and parmesan cheese with a touch of bacon for a smoky and savory finish.  It reminds me of home and so much more.

If you're not that familiar with chard and have a difficult time finding it in your grocery store, no worries...it's very easily grown in your garden or a pot on your patio (and not to mention pretty if you select the colored stem versions).   You must add it to your list for next year (hint, hint to my sister Meghan).
  

So on to the educational part.  If you have heard of Swiss chard, you may not have known that it is part of the beet family and is a great source of fiber and vitamins A, C, and K. According to various nutrition sites, it's also rich in anti-oxidants and omega-3's, contains a boatload of minerals, and could help prevent osteoporosis, and cardiovascular diseases if consumed on a regular basis. But despite all of these benefits, I am a fan of chard because, well, when cooked this way, it really does taste good.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.



Swiss Chard Pizza
MM & Glenda D. (MM's Mom)

INGREDIENTS
Whole Grain Crust


  • 2 c Whole Wheat Pastry Flour*
  • 1 c Spelt Flour*
  • 1 1/2 T Active Dry Yeast
  • 1 t Kosher Salt
  • 1 c very warm water (~120-130 degrees F)
  • 1 1/2 T Honey
  • 1 1/2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    *If you can't locate spelt flour (sold at health food stores and some specialty grocers), you can substitute 1 c of regular flour. Also, if you don't have whole wheat pastry flour (I used Bob's Red Mill brand) but do have regular whole wheat, you can substitute with 1 c white flour and 1 c whole wheat flour...using straight whole wheat will make the crust too dense.
The Savory Toppings
  • 1 large bunch fresh swiss chard, washed, stems removed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 slices center cut bacon (plenty of flavor but slightly lower in fat)
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Shredded parmesan cheese
  • Fresh ground pepper
DIRECTIONS 

Prepare the Crust:
  • Turn your oven on to "warm" (or the lowest heat setting)
  • Mix the flour, salt, and yeast together in a medium-sized mixing bowl
  • Combine the warm water, olive oil, and honey in a separate dish (a liquid measuring cup works well) then stir into the flour mixture to combine
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured counter or work surface and knead it together with your hands, adding more flour in small increments if needed. You'll want to knead the dough well - around 10 minutes for best results
  • Turn the oven off and then wash and dry your mixing bowl; Oil the interior surface of the bowl by pouring some olive oil on a paper towel and wiping down the sides
  • Place the dough back into the bowl, turning once to expose the oiled side and cover with a lint free towel
  • Move the bowl to your prewarmed oven (now turned off) for a warm, draft-free rise
  • Rise time will be around 45 minutes or until the dough is around double in size
Prepare the Toppings:
  • In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp; place on paper towels to drain but leave the drippings in the pan (this is where the chard will get an extra special flavor boost)
  • Add your chopped onion to the drippings and cook until just barely translucent; add the garlic and cook a few minutes more
  • Roughly tear the swiss chard and add to the skillet; cook until wilted, usually a few minutes
  • Season your skillet mixture with a little bit of freshly cracked pepper
Assemble Your Super Tasty Pizza:
  • Remove the dough from the oven and then pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees (Note: I used a pizza stone that was preheated in the oven, so if you're using a stone, feel free to add it to the oven at the time)
  • Turn out dough out on a floured surface and using a rolling pin (or a drinking glass), roll the dough out to your desired size/shape depending on your baking pan/stone; For a crisper crust keep the dough thin, for a more dense crust, allow the dough to be a little thicker
  • Sprinkle some extra whole wheat flour (or cornmeal) on the bottom of your baking dish and place your rolled dough over it (this helps prevent sticking -and- gives your pizza a fancy, gourmet finish)
  • Spread the Swiss chard mixture over the dough, then crumble the bacon pieces over top
  • Top with shredded and shaved parmesan cheese (having two textures to the cheeses works great with this pie) and place in the oven to bake
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crust is slightly golden
  • Remove from the oven, cut and serve!

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