Our backyard came complete with hundreds of ill-placed decorative rocks, a mysterious pile of crumbled concrete pieces inside of a rotted tree stump, a patch of persistent and ever-spreading weeds, a rusty-ugly metal shed, out of control plants/trees of all kinds, creepy angel and toad statues, a pond buried somewhere in a back corner, and just a general lumpy/unevenness. I’ve spent a lot of time out there cleaning up and moving the rocks, planting some new things, reseeding the lawn, making plans for new additions. Most often though, I’ve been cursing the previous owners like it was my day job, which is to say I’ve been wasting a lot of time getting angry’d up.
I went to the passport office with my mum recently for a renewal and the woman ahead of us was seriously mean mugging. Her son wasn’t prepared with the documents, the whole thing was a waste of time, they’d have to wait forever, and when the clerk sent her over to the waiting area, her frown went deeper into scowl territory. Her passing “This is bullshit” comment was heard by anyone within a 10 foot radius. It probably goes without saying that witnessing this sort of thing bums me out. I’m an avid avoider of the comments section of any popular news/current events website. I’m all dismissive hand waves when a conversation spirals towards the pointless stewing over of certifiable crap. So it’s all the more annoying that I’ve been slipping into a discouraged funk with our dwellings.
Mark and I were treating some weeds before dark the other day, just doing the spray thing and having a little hang. We went over the massive patches and spiky scary things twice and were taking turns bemoaning the pervasive nature of it all when he said “This is kind of fun though…” We hadn’t quaffed the obligatory post-yard work beer yet, so naturally I was confused. But his point was that one day we could be out there, looking at the literal and figurative fruits of our labour, full to the brim with pride because we did it ourselves. “It’s way better than just walking into something new that’s ready to go, right?”
And ooobviously he’s right. Trying to positively shift the mind away from notions of drudgery and over towards conceptions of adventure has proven to be a difficult daily meditation of sorts. It’s been easier with the warmer days and more frequent opportunities to make some progress, so a little cheers to spring’s unavoidable vibe of opportunity seems just right today. Celebrations with pizza are decidedly in order.
I saw this beauty of a pie on Pinterest and was immediately pulled in by the idea of a crust composed of essentially soaked grains. I did some rooting around and eventually settled on the idea of combining millet and quinoa for mine. The process of making it and the end result reminded me of socca big time, so I definitely loved it. The density of the crust makes this so satiating, and as far as figuring and mixing goes, this is a fairly easy gluten-free maneuver for delicious pizza. No flour figurin’ and replacement-oriented math, you know? I topped it with a savoury and rich caramelized onion cream that will blow your mind, seriously. I’m prone to exaggeration on most days, but this pizza is so crucial.
A few other spring-y add-ons:
I have a recipe for pea shoot, mint and walnut pesto up on BuzzFeed Food, and I humbly offer you 4 tasty ways to use it.
This article/collection of resources on proper harvesting and cultivating a sense of “enough” when approaching ramp season should be useful for some of you. Leave it better than you found it, peeps.
My bud Jessica Murnane from One Part Plant made a gorgeous e-cookbook of vegan and delicious cookies to span a whole year. I contributed April’s raw oreo recipe and for that reason, she’s letting me give away a copy of A Year of Cookies! on Facebook. Click here to enter + also honk if you love cookies.
Oh and! The First Mess was selected by the editors of SAVEUR Magazine as the best special diets blog this year! Thanks for supportin’ a lady and for getting me so excited about creating and sharing in this space. Good things on the up and up :)
Last thing. Spring tunes? Yes, you got to. This album has been on repeat ’round here.
GF + vegan spring veg pizza with caramelized onion cream recipe
crust recipe barely adapted from For Life!/Café Johnsonia
notes: You could use all quinoa or all millet instead of a mix if you’re lacking one of the two. I topped this pizza with a little lemony salad of sliced black radishes and whole parsley leaves for a fresh bite, but that’s strictly optional since I know mixing salad and pizza is a little weird for some people. Also, the caramelized onion cream (along with a nice squeeze of lemon juice) makes an excellent veggie/cracker dip situation once it’s been chilled for about an hour or so–very much a classic french onion dip vibe :)
3/4 cup quinoa, soaked overnight
3/4 cup millet, soaked overnight
1/2 cup filtered water
1 tbsp olive oil
salt + pepper
optional: chopped herbs, minced garlic, minced chilies
caramelized onion cream ingredients:
1 tbsp oil + extra if needed
1 medium cooking onion, sliced into thin half moons
1-2 sprigs of thyme, leaves chopped (optional)
1-2 cloves of garlic, sliced
big splash of sherry vinegar
salt + pepper
1 can of full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight
pizza + assembly:
5-6 spears of asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces or quartered lengthwise
2-3 green onions, sliced crosswise or down the middle lengthwise
1 artichoke, trimmed of tough outer leaves
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. On the counter near your oven, set up 2 8-inch cake pans, some heat-tolerant oil (like grapeseed or refined coconut oil), two trivets/hot plates, a paring knife, oven mitts and a spatula for batter-spreading/flipping.
Rinse the soaked grains in a fine meshed sieve and then scrape them into the pitcher of your blender. Add the 1/2 cup of water, oil, salt and pepper. Blend this mixture until you have a thick, pancake batter-like consistency (if you have to add a bit more water to get the batter moving, go for it). Stir in any chopped herbs, garlic etc at this point.
Place your cake pans in the oven to heat up for about 5 minutes. Carefully remove them and place them on your trivets. Pour about 1-2 tablespoons of oil into each and then place them back in the oven for 3-5 minutes. You want the oil to move fluidly across the pan and shimmer a bit (but avoid a smoking point!). Remove the pans and divide the quinoa batter between the two pans. Quickly spread the batter out a bit with a spatula and return the pans to the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the pans, flip the crusts over and return them to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool crusts in the pans or on a rack. Lower your oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
For the caramelized onion cream, heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion slices and thyme leaves, if using. Sauté the onions, stirring here and there, until they’ve become soft and golden brown (but not crisped on the edges). Lower the heat if they seem to be cooking to quickly. Add the garlic and sauté for another few minutes. Add the sherry vinegar, some salt, and pepper. Stir until all of the vinegar has been absorbed/evaporated. Open the can of coconut milk and scoop the top layer of cream (all of it) into the pan with the onions. Let it melt and bring the whole mix to a simmer. Once the liquid has thickened a bit, remove it from the heat. Carefully purée the coconut cream and onion mixture in a blender until mostly smooth. Cover the cream and set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment and place the quinoa millet crusts on top. Spread the caramelized onion cream on the crusts and top the cream with the asparagus and green onion pieces. Gently tear away the tender leaves from the trimmed artichoke and place them on top of the pizzas. Drizzle a bit of oil on top and season with salt and pepper. Slide the tray into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and the cream has browned/bubbled a bit. Garnish the pizza with the chopped chives and serve hot.