Early in the afternoon, after a simple snack of halved grapes shared quietly with a little boy, I sneak downstairs for a few minutes to prep for dinner. I slide my mixer out of the quirky little built-in cabinet in my kitchen, and mix sea salt harvested on the Oregon coast into a few cups of flour. I drizzle in some briney olive oil, which always makes me hungry for some reason, and stir a small teaspoon of yeast into warm water from the sink. After a few minutes, I mix it all together, pull the sticky dough out of the mixer and form a ball, then stripe the dough with a bit more oil before lovingly draping a tea towel over top. I whisper “good luck” to my yeast, dreaming of a perfect rise, and set it atop the oven. I sneak back upstairs and we resume our play. It’s a scene that happens at least once a week. A favorite meal. A family tradition.
I’m not exactly sure why I’ve never shared this recipe before, perhaps because it’s so simple. Or maybe because I can make it from memory, and it never sticks out to me as anything particularly exciting. But simple recipes are often the best, especially those that hold a special place in your heart.
Almost every week, usually on a Thursday or Friday night, as the groceries in the fridge begin to thin out and my interest in lengthy meal preparation wanes, we turn to this simple sheet pan pizza to save our family dinner. I always have yeast on hand in the fridge, try to keep the freezer stocked with fresh mozzarella and parmesan, and throw whatever I can find left in the fridge on top. Usually a few vegetables and maybe some sausage, ham or prosciutto. When my garden really gets going in early summer, I gleefully add green beans, summer squash, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. If we’re craving comfort food: green peppers, deli ham, wedges of red onion and tart, thinly sliced pineapple. In the fall when the squash are a plenty, I tuck in crescents of delicata, shaved red onions and kale ribbons amidst the bubbly cheese. It’s pretty much a fool-proof recipe and allows me the freedom to 1) be creative and 2) use up whatever I have on hand. For some reason, I never feel the need to use tomato sauce, so perhaps it can’t really be considered pizza, but I especially love it this way and my family does too.
This past Friday I topped the pizza with a bunch of asparagus I’d grabbed greedily from the market in my desperation for spring produce. Some thinly sliced red onion was tucked into the mix, and a few sheets of prosciutto, finished off with a handful of Oregon hazelnuts.
This recipe takes just the tiniest bit of forethought, since the dough needs to rise for about an hour, but I usually just keep my eye on the clock and shoot for a 3:30 p.m. dough mix. It only takes a few minutes to put together and then you just leave it to do it’s thing. If I’m feeling extra ambitious, I’ll mix it during Emmett’s nap and then tuck it in the fridge when it’s risen, but that rarely happens.
This simple recipe, this easy fix to an uninspired meal, is something I look forward to every week. Something about having a go-to, a standby, a backup plan. Being able to whip it up from memory, feed my family and clean out the fridge at the same time, well, something about that makes me feel very grown up. At least until I eat more than my fair share of slices and drip gooey cheese all over my chin.