The best things in life are free. Take pizza toppings, for instance. Right now is the perfect time to make one of the best-tasting pizzas anywhere.
If you’re fond of spinach pizza, you can take that taste experience to a whole different, heavenly level.
Introducing: Dandelion-fireweed pizza. It is such a tasty concoction, you may never want to bore your taste buds with spinach pizza again. At least, that’s how we feel about it. Here’s how to make it.
Pick a beautiful early summer day and head out of town, to a lovely spot in the open woods or meadows where you remember having seen dandelions and fireweed grow before, far from all car exhaust fumes.
Take plenty of time to wander around, listen to the bird songs and leisurely pick the youngest, smallest dandelion leaves you can find—roughly two to three large coffee mugs full. The more, the better. Look around for the fresh stalks of fireweed and pick a couple of big handfuls. The tips of fireweed with new, unfurling leaves, are even better.
Once you have collected your pizza toppings, revel in the fact that you live in a place where you can harvest these goodies with such ease and in such beauty.
At home, you don’t want to let the dandelion leaves and firewood wilt and wither away: it’s pizza night. Here is our recipe for a thin-crust, Italian-Yukon style dandelion-fireweed pizza.
To make the dough for one pizza, combine one cup of wrist-temperature water, one and a half teaspoons of dry yeast, a couple pinches of rosemary, one tablespoon of sugar and one and a half teaspoons of salt. Slowly mix in about two and a half to three cups of white flour and knead until you have soft, smooth dough.
While the covered dough rises for a good hour in a warm and comfy place, you can start preparing the sauce and toppings in the meantime. For the sauce, we generally saute a small onion and a lot of garlic in olive oil, then add a small can of tomato paste and enough water to give it a smooth, creamy consistence. Your pantry almost certainly looks better than ours, so you could also use a can of crushed tomatoes or even the real thing—fresh tomatoes, only a dim memory for us at this time of the year.
To whatever tomato product you end up using, add a generous helping of salt, pepper, rosemary, oregano, basil and sage, until the sauce is on the strong-tasting side without being too overpowering.
Our top secret ingredients include a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce and a bit of Kashmiri masala to give it a nice tang. Once you begin to eat more of the sauce than can be rectified for tasting it, it’s perfect.
Now it’s time to prepare the dandelion leaves and fireweed. Chop the fireweed into bite-sized pieces and rinse these, as well as the dandelion, with water. Put about a finger’s thickness (meaning just a bit) of water into a pot big enough for the greens and bring to a boil. As soon as it’s boiling, throw in your wild harvest for a minute or two and put the pot’s lid on. Then drain the water and with a fork or by throwing the now soggy greens around in a sieve, try and get most of the water out of them again. Otherwise it will be a wet pizza.
Any garlic aficionado will want to chop a nice amount of it to sprinkle on top, otherwise the only other thing to prepare is the cheese. We always use cheddar, primarily because we don’t have anything else around. Grate a heaping supply of it or of mozzarella, then oil the baking sheet and wait until the dough is done with doing its thing.
I’d highly recommend not putting on any other toppings, to get the full unimpeded yummy Yukon taste of this pizza. You can always add other stuff the second time around, if you want.
To assemble the pizza, punch down the dough and give it a brief knead, then pull and roll it out on the baking sheet. Ladle on the sauce, lovingly distribute the dandelion and fireweed, sprinkle on the extra garlic if desired and smother it all with the cheese. This culinary treasure bakes at 450F (230C) for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Enjoy with your significant other, best friend or (even better) a Southerner. Weed pizza! And if you have any dandelion and fireweed left over, they make an almost equally delicious pesto sauce for pasta.
Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon
River south of Whitehorse.