It’s hard to believe that it’s already been five years since Dan and I took our first trip over the Cascade Mountains to the Bavarian village of Leavenworth. It was the first autumn that we lived in Washington, just a few months after our wedding, and while we were curious to see what this little tourist town had to offer, we were mostly interested in seeing the beautiful fall foliage that lined the highway to our destination. The western side of the state is dominated by evergreen trees, and we were craving the reds, oranges, and yellows that we had come to appreciate during our college years spent in the Midwest.
As I recall, we were living on a pretty tight budget back in those days, so we opted to pack a lunch for our day trip instead of spending extra money at a restaurant. I thought little of it as I packed up our Greek-inspired meal of pita bread, ground turkey patties, fresh cucumber and tomato salsa, feta cheese, and homemade tzatziki. We had eaten this meal earlier in the week, and leftovers seemed like a convenient choice for our road trip.
We made it to town according to plan, but it wasn’t long after our arrival that our rumbling tummies informed us it was lunchtime. An unoccupied bench located along a row of restaurants welcomed us, and we sat down to enjoy our picnic. We were half way through our meal when we started noticing the comments being made by passersby. “This restaurant smells delicious!” one tourist said. “Let’s stop in here for lunch,” said another, “it smells amazing.” There must have been at least four or five people commenting on how delightful the aroma was emanating from the establishment that we were seated in front of.
What was most unusual about these remarks was that we hadn’t noticed the scent ourselves. Dan in particular has a very sensitive sense of smell, so the fact that it had escaped his attention was confusing. We decided to investigate what the chatter was about and left the area for a moment and then walked by the door of the restaurant, trying to get a whiff of whatever it was that had everyone talking. After 2-3 passes, we realized what had occurred. The scents these folks were talking about weren’t coming from the restaurant at all but rather from a small bench located near its entrance.
The fragrance of spicy garlic and tangy feta filled the sidewalk, originating from our Greek-style picnic lunch and apparently giving hungry lunch-seekers the wrong impression about a certain Bavarian restaurant. I just hope they weren’t too disappointed to discover the truth once they were inside.
Now, five years later, I still chuckle as I remember the laughs Dan and I shared over the buzz we unintentionally created that day. The flavor profile of this Greek pizza mimics the turkey burger pitas that had everyone talking, but the execution is new. Homemade crust forms a chewy and crunchy foundation for this bright pie, and raw vegetables give it an unanticipated burst of freshness. The tzatziki adds loads of flavor that is rich yet light at the same time.
- 1 pound Olive Oil Dough, recipe follows
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, divided
- 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 2 fresh garlic, minced
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Roma tomatoes, seeds removed and medium diced
- Cucumber, medium diced
- Avocado, medium diced
- Feta cheese, crumbled
- Homemade Tzatziki, recipe follows
- Preheat a baking stone in the oven at 550 degrees.
- To prepare the dough, dust a 1-pound piece of Olive Oil Dough (half of the recipe below) with flour and shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all sides, rotating the ball as you go. Using your hands and a flour-dusted rolling pin, gently flatten the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll it out until you have a 12-inch circle. Generously sprinkle a pizza peel (or the back of a cookie sheet or cutting board) with cornmeal, and transfer the prepared dough onto the peel. Using your fingertips or a pastry brush, spread 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil across the surface of the dough and sprinkle with a ½ teaspoon of dried oregano. Use a fork to prick the surface of the dough to prevent large air bubbles from forming during baking.
- Slide the pizza from the peel directly onto the baking stone that is already in the oven. Cornmeal can start to smoke at this high of a temperature, so you may want to turn on the exhaust fan while the dough bakes. Cook for 7-8 minutes until golden brown.
- While the dough is baking, heat ½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add in the chicken breast and season with ¼ teaspoon dried oregano, minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook about 3-4 minutes on each side, until the chicken is golden brown and fully cooked. Transfer the chicken from the pan to a cutting board and cut into bite size pieces.
- To assemble the pizza, place the desired quantity of Roma tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, feta cheese and chicken breast on the prepared crust. Drizzle with Homemade Tzatziki and serve additional sauce on the side for dipping.
Olive Oil Dough
Makes about 2 pounds of dough, enough for two pizzas. Recipe adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. (If you don’t own this book already, I definitely recommend adding it to your personal library. Hands down, it’s my most used cookbook.)
- 1 3/8 cups lukewarm water (should be about 100 degrees)
- 2 ¼ teaspoons granulated yeast (1 packet)
- 2 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
In a 3-quart lidded food container, mix together the water, yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil. Next, stir in the flour until no dry spots remain.
Cover the dough with the lid, but do not seal it completely. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for about 2 hours, until the dough rises and then flattens on top.
The dough can be used immediately following the rise period, or it can be refrigerated and used later. It can be stored in refrigerator for up to 12 days.
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 2/3 cup shredded cucumber
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Add additional lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper to taste.
Tip and Tidbits
- Maybe it’s just me, but for the longest time, I had a fear of pizza dough. I was afraid to overstretch it, thinking I would somehow undo the leavening work of the yeast. While there certainly can be negative side effects to overworking pizza dough, don’t be afraid to be somewhat aggressive with the dough to get it to stretch. It may resist you a bit, but keep rolling and using your hands to stretch it as needed.
- You may have noticed that I didn’t include specific quantities for the various toppings. This is because I think it’s mostly a matter of personal preference, and since the dough is cooked prior to adding the toppings, there is no reason not to pile them as high as you like. To suit my tastes, I used about a half cup each of the cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocado and about a quarter cup of feta.
- If you are making the tzatziki ahead of time, note that the garlic flavor will intensify as the mixture rests, a factor you may want to consider if you are adding additional garlic to taste.
- This basic combination of fresh vegetables, seasoned chicken, feta cheese, and homemade tzatziki is delicious whether eaten on a pizza or in a different form. If you are in a hurry, stuff the toppings in a premade pita pocket or mix them with some cooked whole wheat pasta for a quick meal.