fresh perspective: pesto, fig and blue cheese pizza

A couple of years ago, a friend who is a poet and retired Queen’s English professor, suggested I attend a week-long writing workshop at Wintergreen Studios led by acclaimed writer Helen Humphreys.

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.

In my third year of volunteering in the kitchen at Wintergreen, I cooked lunch for a cordwood building workshop. Twenty hungry participants and friends of Wintergreen attended the lunch.

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, healthy menu designed to make use of the outdoor wood-bake oven – it cooks pizzas from scratch in three minutes.

This is my absolute favourite pizza. If you don’t love pizza, substitute chevre or even feta. You need a big flavoured cheese to stand up to the pesto and figs.

Pesto, Fig and Blue Cheese Pizza

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

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.

Pizza Dough

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 rise 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 rise again for at least 30 minutes before baking.