ode to the lemon…

As I was walking yesterday morning on my way to grab a coffee, I walked past a chalkboard that boasted a quotation from an unlikely source.  I chuckled at the memory of flipping through MAD magazine and was simultaneously struck by the unfortunate reality that the words on that chalkboard claimed.  Written in dusty, blue chalk were the words: “We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors, and furniture polish is made from real lemons” – Alfred E. Neuman.

Since I do not ascribe to any particular spring ideology or faith, I thought I would spend my weekend  by honoring the lemon…in food.  Lemons are readily available and in season year round, although citrus in general peaks during the winter.  However, I cannot think of a time of year where we should live without a good lemon vinaigrette, honey-lemon tea, or lemon curd on toast for breakfast.  Thus, lemons are always in my kitchen. We created this dish with the first spring greens available, livened things up with bursts of lemon, then threw everything on top of pizza dough.  To me this is rustic elegance at its best.

pizza bianca with wilted dandelion greens and lemon

(Makes two single serving pizzas)

single recipe pizza dough (store bought or homemade)

Pecorino Romano flakes

1 bunch spring onions

Sauce:

¼ cup fromage blanc

juice ½ small lemon (approx 4 tsp)

½ tsp lemon zest

generous pinch of kosher salt

¼ tsp cracked pepper

topping:

1 generous handful dandelion greens

1 generous handful arugula

1 spring onion, thinly sliced

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

½ tbs white wine vinegar

1 tsp hot Chinese mustard

juice of ¼ lemon

2 cloves garlic, shredded

Kosher salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Make sauce by mixing together ingredients, building from the fromage blanc. Make sure ingredients are well incorporated. Tastes better after marinating for a little while, the lemon flavor grows with time.

To make wilted greens, heat olive oil in a pan on medium-low heat, add garlic and vinegar, careful not to allow the garlic to brown.  Add lemon juice and mustard, and stir mixture until emulsified in the pan.  Take off heat.  Add greens and coat. Salt and pepper to taste. Add thinly sliced, raw spring onions.

After coming to room temperature, cut pizza dough portion in half, roll out to make a single serving pizza.  Lightly cover baking sheet with olive oil and semolina flour (or fine cornmeal).  Place dough on the pan.  Spread on as much sauce as you like.  Top with generous amount of Pecorino Romano flakes.  Place in oven until dough in browned, crispy, and bubbly, approx 10-12 minutes.

Top pizza with wilted greens, and garnish with more Pecorino Romano. Serve with lemon wedges family style, right on the cutting board for all to share. While people are eating you can make the second pizza, either repeat or try your own creation.

I also do a pizza with crisp arugula in a lemon vinaigrette and slow roasted tomatoes (or sun dried) with the same white sauce and Pecorino Romano.

Notes:

On warm spring days we love to grill our pizzas.  Brush the grill with olive oil and throw the dough straight onto the grill, assemble right then and there, cover grill, and cook until dough is nicely browned.

Any plain pizza dough recipe will do, just use or find your favorite. Some specialty grocery stores have delicious pre-made dough as well for ease of cooking.

I imagine the wilted dandelion green pizza would be delicious topped with a smoky bacon as well…but I wouldn’t know…but don’t dare me.

Cook together, toast to each other, and share!

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