Pesto Flatbread: A Tal Ronnen‘s recipe, with my very own pesto.
A few weeks ago, Ben and I had dinner at Crossroads Kitchen, Tal Rennin’s vegan restaurant in West Hollywood — one of my favorite, here in Los Angeles. On that evening, the food was so good that, taken by the pumpkin ravioli, by the flatbread with almond ricotta, and by the spiced mascarpone semifreddo, I bought their cookbook, and I promised myself to try new recipes at home.
A few days later, as I wandered in my garden, I realized that I had to pick the last batch of fresh basil for the season. Its woody stems were at the end of their life, but they were still generously lush, full of green leaves that smelled Italy, summer, tomato and olive oil, the Mediterranean sea, a warm evening at the end of August returning from the beach, tanned, with salt on my skin, happy.
I ended up with a lot of basil!
So with some I made basil oil, some I froze for future use (freezing keeps the aroma much better than drying), and with the rest I made a few jars of pesto.
I gave one to my neighbor, and one to my friend George. The remaining I froze, but I left out just the right amount to use fresh, for supper.
I opened the Crossroads Kitchen cookbook, and as I leafed through its pages for inspiration, I found the recipe for their heavenly flatbread. I still wanted to create something mine, so I ‘joined forces’ with Ronnen, and I put together his perfect recipe for the dough, and my recipe for a traditional Italian pesto.
When you happen to be in Los Angeles, make Crossroads Kitchen a priority culinary stop.
Crossroads Kitchen Flatbread Dough (courtesy of Tal Ronnen):
1/2 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm filtered water
1 teaspoon unrefined cane sugar
2 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the bowl
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with dough hook, combine the yeast, water, and sugar, stirring gently to dissolve the yeast and the sugar. Let the mixture stand until the yeast comes alive and starts to foam, 5 to 10 minutes.
Turn the mixer to low speed and slowly add the flour in 3 batches. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium and add the oil, salt, and pepper. Knead the dough in the mixer, stopping the machine periodically to scrape the dough off the hook, until the dough has come together and is no longer sticky, about 10 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for a few minutes with floured hands: To knead, fold the dough over itself and push it out, not down, with the heel of your hand. Then rotate it a quarter turn and repeat. Continue until you can stretch the dough without it tearing; when you press on the dough with your fingertips, it should spring back quickly.
Form the dough into a round and place into a large oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes. Test the dough by pressing two fingers into it: if the indents remain, the dough is ready.
From the Crossroads Kitchen Cookbook
100 gr. fresh basil
100 gr. Grana Padano cheese
40 gr. pine nuts
100 gr. extra-virgin olive oil
4 gr. sea salt
Place blender and blades in the freezer for at least 10 minutes before making pesto. A cold container will help keep your pesto green and bright.
In the frozen blender, mix a big ice cube, basil, 1/3 of the oil, salt, and pine nuts. Pulse, while slowly adding the remaining oil. The basil must become creamy, one with the other ingredients, so add a little oil, if necessary. When the basil starts to resemble pesto, add the cheese in small pieces, and keep pulsing. Taste and season, in necessary. Place in the fridge while preparing the dough.
Pesto Flatbread with Kite Hill almond ricotta and caramelized shallots:
Preheat oven to 450° F.
While the dough is rising, caramelize the shallots by finely chopping and slowly sautéing themin extra-virgin olive oil until transparent, with beautiful golden edges.
When the dough has risen (approximately 30 minutes) divide the dough unto four-6-ounce portions and shape into balls. If you are not going to bake all 4 balls, tightly wrap each ball of dough in a few layers of plastic wrap (lightly coat the first layer with olive oil). The dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or can be frozen for up to a month. Defrost the dough over-night in the refrigerator before rolling out and baking.
Now, you are ready for the magic to happen.
Place a baking sheet into the oven.
Roll out your flatbread to form an oval about 8 inches long and 6 inches wide. Spread your pesto over the entire surface of the oval (making sure to leave out the very edges), remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the flatbread on it. Now sprinkle with KITE HILL almond ricotta, and top with the caramelized shallots.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust of your pesto flatbread is nicely golden.