Ocean Water Spring Pizzas: A Spring Scavenger Hunt
One of the most beautiful parts of living in the Pacific Northwest is how many different little micro-climates can be explored so easily! In one day, you could go wading along the beach listening to ocean waves, then go mushroom hunting on warm semi-dry southern slopes, then go bootskiing down the patches of snow that still cover mountain peaks. In the verdant lushness of the rainforest you might find other treasures - fiddlehead ferns, feral asparagus, wild nettle, and lots more! Spring is already a burst of vitality and beauty, and adding the ability to explore different terrains just makes it even more entrancing. One of my favorite ways to highlight all of the tasty beauty of the season is by making a vibrant spring pizza. Even the dough contains a foraged ingredient - sea water gathered from a clean location! Who needs salt when you can eat the ocean?
This is the perfect weekend recipe. Think of it as a fun scavenger hunt to explore all of the different niches around your home, gathering one thing from here and one thing from there. You’ll see many beautiful sights along the way and become so much more familiar with the magic of the diversity of life to be found around your home. This pizza is the result of my family’s Easter tradition - we go hunting for “adult easter eggs” (aka morel mushrooms) and often a dish like this accompanies more traditional Easter foods when we all return from the hunt. It’s a fun tradition and makes us all feel like little kids searching for bright plastic eggs all over again. The magic of traditions like the mythical Easter Bunny don’t have to die as you grow up, as long as you shift them to something new and just as magical. And let me tell you, this pizza is magical. The lemon nettle pesto gives it a refreshing kick, and goat cheddar blends perfectly with the flavors of mushrooms, nettle, asparagus, and whatever else you want to toss on top as well. Pack your backpacks, grab your gathering baskets and mushroom knife, and set off in search of the real treasure of the northwest: all of the wild bounty available to you right now! (Please forage respectfully and responsibly. )
1 ¾ c. bread flour
¾ c. sea water, boiled, then cooled to lukewarm*
1 ¼ tsp. Active dry yeast
Add ingredients to a medium bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon to make a slightly sticky dough. Knead for 10-15 minutes or until it becomes smooth. Place it in a floured bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot for about one hour, or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, make the pesto and prepare the toppings.
*seawater should be strained through a fine sieve and boiled to purify it before using in this recipe. For those not near the ocean, you can use 1 tsp. Salt per every cup of water.
Lemon Nettle Pesto
4 oz fresh spring nettles
Zest from 1 lemon
1 clove garlic
½ c. walnuts
3 Tbs. olive oil
3 Tbs. lemon juice
¾ c. grated pecorino romano cheese
¼ tsp. Salt
Bring a large pot of water to boil, and prepare a bowl of very cold water in the sink. Being careful not to sting yourself (use gloves if necessary), add the nettles to the boiling water and blanch for 20 seconds, then pour through a strainer and immediately dump in the cold water to cool down. Strain well and squeeze out excess liquid.
Add the garlic and walnuts to a food processor and blend until small pieces remain. Then add the lemon zest and juice, olive oil, nettles, and salt and blend until it’s the consistency you like. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top and blend again until it’s incorporated.
Feel free to experiment with pizza toppings as you’ll probably find other wild foods than I did. Any variety of edible mushrooms would be delicious as well.
Ocean water dough, risen
3 oz white cheddar, grated (goat cheddar is particularly tasty!)
About 15 fresh morel mushrooms
Extra nettle leaves
¾ c. asparagus tips
Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat it to 400F
On a well-floured board, press the pizza dough out to a round circle. Sprinkle a pizza peel with some cornmeal and transfer the dough to it.
Spread the nettle pesto evenly over the top, then sprinkle the white cheddar over it.
Add the fresh nettle leaves (again, be careful of the sting), asparagus tops, and morel mushrooms.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is light golden brown and the cheese is melted.
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*New to foraging and don’t know where to start? Check out this blog post on Foraging 101!