A longer version of this post also appeared in Kingston This Week p. 14 (September 20, 2012) in my monthly column, Fresh Perspective
Much as I hate to use those over-worked words – life changing – it was.
It’s hard to say why exactly. A combination of factors were at play. I was at one of those cross roads in life – making decisions about what to do with myself (still working on that) and then there was the workshop led by one of the most generous and gifted writers in Canada– and finally there was the place itself – an off-grid, eco-retreat on a couple of hundred pristine acres of Canadian Shield.
I found my way into the kitchen on the first night of the workshop and never really left. I love cooking and I like the kitchen ethos at Wintergreen. It’s pretty straightforward – cook really good food with quality, fresh ingredients and a lot of care.
I’m now into my third year of volunteering at Wintergreen. Recently we cooked lunch for a cordwood building workshop. Twenty hungry participants and friends of Wintergreen attended the lunch. One of the participants was a chef who had formerly worked at Rideau Hall and is now working for a Supreme Court judge.
I had the task of planning the menu; three different pizzas – pesto, fig and blue cheese; vegan curried potato; and sausage, olive and fresh tomato. A large salad of organic greens, walnuts and cranberries with a maple-balsamic vinaigrette. And for dessert – gluten-free dark chocolate peanut butter squares. A fun, trendy and healthy menu designed to make use of the outdoor wood-bake oven – it cooks pizzas from scratch in three minutes.
The former Rideau-Hall-turned-Supreme-Court-judge’s-chef, I’m happy to report, came back for seconds, of everything.
Wintergreen’s Pesto, Fig and Blue Cheese Pizza
This is a Wintergreen special and my all-time favourite pizza – a gorgeous combination of flavours.
I lb of uncooked pizza dough (use frozen or make your own – recipe follows)
1 cup of pesto – basil or arugula
200 g or 7 ounce package of dried figs, stalks removed, chopped roughly
125 g Blue cheese, crumbled (if you’re not a fan – you can substitute a combination of 1 cup of freshly grated Asiago and ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan – use the good stuff)
Set oven to 400°F. Grease two round 30cm or 12 inch round pizza pans.
Divide dough in two and roll or pat to fit the pizza pans.
Spread ½ cup of pesto on each pizza. Sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese and chopped figs.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until crust is cooked and browned.
I package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
Add sugar and salt to warm water. Sprinkle with yeast. Allow to stand five minutes. Add flour and olive oil and beat vigorously for 20 strokes. Let stand five minutes then turn out on a floured board and knead lightly. Let raise in warm place until doubled in size (40 minutes to one hour depending on temperature and humidity). Divide dough into dough and roll or pat into pizza pans, add topping and allow to raise again for at least 30 minutes before baking.