Salty. Like the sea.
Craig was standing behind me, watching as I prepared potatoes for dinner. Red skins scrubbed, diced and in a pot covered with cold water. Set on the stove, I sprinkled in a generous pinch of salt.
“You use more salt than I do.” I turned to look at him. Salty, I said. You want the water to taste salty like the sea.
The squid ink was a gift to him for Valentine’s Day, with a hand-crank pasta machine. And then the jar sat, intimidating in its dark simplicity, in our refrigerator. It was the one thing from our fridge that traveled with us across the country when we moved from Atlanta to Seattle.
The ink is the darkest black I’ve ever known. It’s too difficult to describe the darkness in that jar, other than to simply say it was inky.
Even that is a misnomer. It was thick, thicker than I was really anticipating. I thought of the ink in a pen but this is viscous, like molasses but less sticky, and smells (of course) of the sea.
I’ve never been the sort to just leave well enough alone. In the kitchen, in writing, in relationships. The squid ink was meant for pasta, sure. But surely it would work just as well in other dough, I reasoned. Lately, my favorite dough has been pizza.
Gluten-free pizza is a struggle, but this dough is a true joy. A testament to recipes well written and the power of flour, water and yeast. It’s soft, supple, dough that you can knead. I submit to you here that kneading holds true power. This is dough that relaxes beneath your hands and your rolling pin. One that puffs with air when baked and doesn’t fall apart. Not ever.
The jar’s label, in semi-broken English translated from Italian, specifies one gram of ink should be used for every 100 grams. Cautious, unfamiliar with the flavor, I used only four grams in this recipe, which is roughly one teaspoon. I definitely think this amount could be increased.
I love the marbled effect of the ink in the dough. Even though I mixed the ingredients with my hands, I didn’t evenly distribute the ink through the flour. While rolling out the dough, I fell in love with the way the colors swirl and play, not unlike waves sweeping over the shore. In this dough I found an analogy for this new life I am living in this beautiful new place, a marriage of mountains and bustling city.
(Truth be told, I almost missed out on playing with squid ink and creating the dough this week. Home alone, I couldn’t get the jar open. I was tempted to start knocking on neighbors’ doors when I remembered an old trick a former boss taught me using rubber bands. I wrapped a headband around the jar’s lid and with a quick twist it popped. So simple, this saving grace.)
I wanted these pictures to be dark and moody. Moody food photography is so “in” right now. But I couldn’t deny this light.
The creation of this blog has been a journey. It feels cliché to admit, but it’s true, even in the most literal sense — it moved, with us, across the country. I was just days away from an official launch in Atlanta when we learned that we would need to relocate. My dedication to sourcing and eating locally made me feel guilty — it didn’t feel right to write about Georgia ingredients when I’d be leaving so soon. So, I waited. And now, after all this time, I am happy to be here. Happy to introduce you to new ingredients, including one of my favorites. I promise these Brussels sprouts don’t taste like feet.
If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.
— Paulo Coehlo
Hello. To Seattle. To you. To the start of so many beautiful somethings.
- Brussels sprouts
- Preserved lemons
- Smoked salmon
- Milk (ricotta)
Making ricotta is so simple and satisfying. Heat four cups of milk with a pinch of salt to 190 degrees. (You can use a blend of milk and cream; since I used full-fat grassfed milk with a cream top, I stuck with just milk. If you’re using a less fatty or conventional milk, substituting some cream will yield a wetter and more rich cheese.) Remove from the heat and add three tablespoons lemon juice. I squeezed in the juice of two lemons. Stir gently and let it sit for about five minutes. You should see the curds and whey separate almost immediately. Drape cheesecloth over a fine mesh strainer and strain the whey; don’t let it sit too long, or the cheese will dry out. If you don’t have the time (or the milk on hand), substitute fresh mozzarella or a good quality ricotta from the store.
Squid Ink Gluten-Free Pizza with Ricotta, Smoked Salmon and Preserved Lemon Brussels Sprouts
For the dough: (makes enough for two 10-12 inch pizzas)
390 grams gluten-free all purpose flour
4 grams squid ink (about 1 teaspoon; add a bit more if you want the crust to be darker black)
1¼ – 1½ cups warm water (about 110-115 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
2½ teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
Small filet of smoked salmon (add as much or as little as you’d like)
2 links spicy sausage (optional)
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup ricotta cheese (homemade directions above, or store bought)
Shredded Parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes, for serving, to taste
1 pint fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and leaves separated
¼ of a preserved lemon, minced and any seeds removed
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried herbes de provence
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Weigh out your flour. For this particular recipe, I used Namaste brand gluten-free all-purpose flour. This blend includes xanthan gum. I’ve made my own blend using the same ratios before with a variety of different flours and have never had an issue. (This is the beauty of baking by weight.) If you’re not using xanthan gum, add one tablespoon of psyllium husk. (If you are not gluten-free, substitute with 390 grams, or 3 cups, of regular wheat flour.)
Start with the lesser amount of warm water and swirl in the sugar or honey and sprinkle on the yeast. Let sit until it is foamy, about 5 minutes. Reserve the extra warm water. This dough and the amount of water needed will depend on the flours you use (each flour requires different hydration), the binder (xanthan gum or psyllium), and the humidity in your kitchen.
Make a well in your bowl of flour. Pour in the yeasty water, olive oil and squid ink. Mix by hand with a wooden spoon. The dough should come together in a ball and be slightly sticky. If it is too dry, add your reserved water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is completely wet and sticks together.
Oil a bowl and place the dough inside. Roll the dough around so all sides are coated in the oil. Cover with a dry tea towel and set in a warm place to rest and rise for at least 1 hour.
While the dough is rising, you can make the ricotta. If you’re using sausage: place a pan on medium heat and add a dollop of pastured pork lard (or coconut oil or olive oil). Remove the sausage from the casing and cook, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat, until all the fat is rendered and the sausage is crispy (like bacon).
Shred or dice the smoked salmon and chop the garlic, if using.
Remove any discolored or wilted outer leaves and the stems from the Brussels sprouts. Separate the leaves and place them in a bowl. You can then thinly slice the hearts and add them with the leaves, or reserve them for another use. If your sprouts are sandy, give the leaves a quick rinse and pat dry. To make the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a blender or small food processor and blend until combined. With the motor and blade running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Toss the Brussels sprout leaves with the vinaigrette and set aside.
Gluten-free pizza dough won’t rise like traditional gluten-filled dough. It should expand, and be soft and malleable to the touch. If it’s still a bit wet, you can knead in some extra flour. This dough is extremely easy to work with.
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven now to warm up. You can also cook the pizza on a preheated stone on the grill, or use the cast iron skillet method.
Separate the dough in to 2 equal portions. (You can roll out and bake two pizzas now, reserve one ball of dough for later, or roll out a larger single pizza.) Dust a Silpat baking mat, a sheet of unbleached parchment paper or some plastic wrap with flour. (This makes the dough easier to transfer on to a pizza peel.) Roll out the dough to the desired thickness and size. Thinner is generally better.
Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Lift the Silpat or parchment and gently flip the dough onto a pizza peel. (An upside-down sheet pan works well in a pinch, too.) Spread the ricotta on top of the dough. Sprinkle on the crunchy sausage, the smoked salmon and the minced garlic.
Once your oven is preheated, let the stone remain in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Then, carefully shimmy the pizza on to the stone. Bake for 7-8 minutes until the cheese is golden and the toppings are beginning to brown.
Let the pizza cool for a few minutes before slicing. Top with the Brussels sprouts and shredded Parmesan cheese.