Lately, most of my recipe ideas have sprung from remnants of the battle to get our son, Jack, to transition to solid foods. He's a little late to the game, now 11 months old, but he has good reason to be skeptical, having been diagnosed with "severe" reflux pretty much at birth, and needing an NG feeding tube around his heart surgery when he was 4 months old. Three times a day, I make a new plate to entice him: steamed broccoli, cottage cheese, and cherry tomatoes; penne with marinara, sliced mozzarella, and cucumber spears; peanut butter toast, banana pieces, and halved grapes. (These are some of my better days. Sometimes it's just teething wafers and kale stems.) Keep trying, the specialists say. He'll be eating solid foods before you know it, they say. And Jack picks up the food and rubs it in his hair. Then laughs.
This week's pizza night inspiration began with a zip-top bag of halved black grapes that Jack had been rejecting for days. The Flavor Bible told me they'd go well with Camembert, and voila! Our taste buds were going for a jaunt en France.
I seasoned the dough with herbes de Provence before topping it, to accentuate Camembert's French flair, and I added a big handful of peppery arugula when the pizza came out of the oven, to brighten it up a bit, both in taste and in appearance.
Out of exasperation, I dropped a whole slice on Jack's high chair tray while John and I at ours, and this happened. (!!!) He swiped it up in one hand, smashed it to his face, and nibbled happily on the crust, then the toppings (even arugula). Meanwhile, John and I ate our meal in silence (exchanging bug-eyed looks), trying our hardest not to pay attention to the miracle that was taking place inches away. Like we learned from Planet Earth—do not disturb the animal in its natural habitat.
Poor little dude. Was he waiting for a slice of homemade, fancy-pants pizza this whole time?
Grape and Camembert Pizza with Arugula
- 1 (14- to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough
- extra-virgin olive oil
- herbes de Provence
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 to 1½ cups black or red seedless grapes halved
- 4 ounces Camembert cheese cut into thin wedges
- 1 or 2 handfuls baby arugula
- Place your pizza stone or steel (if using) on an oven rack in the middle of your oven. If you plan to cook your pizza on a baking sheet, just place a rack in the middle of the oven (you do not need to preheat the baking sheet). Preheat the oven to 500°F (or the highest temperature your oven will allow, if using a pizza stone/steel) and let it heat up for at least 30 minutes while you make the dough and/or prep the toppings.
To stretch or roll out the dough
- Place the dough on a clean work surface and, using your hands, gently stretch it into a 12-inch circle or square, making sure that it retains an even thickness throughout. Alternatively, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 12-inch circle or square.
- If you’re using a pizza stone or steel: Dust a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet lightly with flour or cornmeal. Place the dough disk on the prepared peel.
- If you’re using a baking sheet: Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the dough disk on the prepared baking sheet.
To top the pizza
- Brush the dough with olive oil, and season with some herbes de Provence, salt, and pepper. Scatter the grapes evenly over the pizza, then arrange the cheese on top.
To bake the pizza
- If you’re using a pizza stone or steel, 20 minutes before you are ready to cook the pizza, increase the oven heat to broil. Slide the pizza from the peel (or inverted baking sheet) to the hot stone or steel using quick shimmying movements. Broil the pizza until the crust is golden and the cheese begins to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Using the peel or inverted baking sheet, transfer the cooked pizza to a cutting board. If you are making more than one pizza, allow the pizza stone or steel to reheat under the broiler for 10 minutes before you cook the next one.
- If you’re using a baking sheet, do not increase the oven to broil. Place the baking sheet on the rack in the middle of the oven and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese begins to brown, about 10 minutes.
- Immediately after you take the pizza out of the oven, top with a handful or two of baby arugula, drizzle with a little olive oil, and season with some salt and pepper. Slice and serve.
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