Lemon Basil Ricotta and Veggie Flatbread
Simplicity without sacrificing beauty is how I tend to approach cooking. I used to think that cooking was so mathematical and defined that I kept to microwaving, only approaching the stove to make boxed macaroni or prepackaged oatmeal, each with one ingredient to add—milk or water. Since then I've come to understand and enjoy the flexibility to cooking and have become less quick to welcome my preconceived precision. My nonchalant approach to cooking can now be summed up as “a dab of this, a splash of that,” which is exactly what fueled my flatbread.
Velvety ricotta on lightly charred, crispy flatbread sets the tone for this quick dinner or lovely appetizer. Initially defined as unleavened bread, the idea of flatbread has evolved into a whole new dish. It appears as pizza, but really, it’s more akin to a thinned out bruschetta.
Beginning as a ball of dough, the soon-to-be flatbread is baked on its own with nothing but a light drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. A scorching ceramic pizza stone allows the crust to sear, readying itself for the juicy vegetables. If you don’t own a pizza stone, they are the foundation of brick-oven baking and the secret to heavenly crispy crust; I highly recommend them if you’re a pizza lover. If not, a regular baking sheet will do, and the grill will assist in the crisping instead. Once baked on its own, the crust is joined by a generous slather of lemon basil ricotta. The lemon zest brightens up the overall flavor, bringing the right amount of zing to the smoky flatbread. In continued efforts to trim down my basil haul, I quickly sliced up basil ribbons to liven the ricotta spread. Soon after, a colorful palette of red onions, juicy, summer-ripened tomatoes and artichoke hearts completed this flatbread beauty. This no-stress dish is pretty enough to serve while entertaining guests without the pressure of disappointing them. Once topped off with the last sprinkling of veggies, place it on the grill and watch the crust beautifully char, a necessary ingredient to this stunner of a dish.
Yield: 1 flatbread
1 12-oz ball of pizza dough
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
8 basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
Zest from 1 lemon
1 cup artichoke hearts, rinsed and pat dry
1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400. If applicable, place pizza stone on oven rack. Remove dough from fridge to warm up until oven is preheated. Roll out dough to about ¼ – ⅛ inch thick. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle a dash of salt.
Bake for 7–8 minutes, or until crust begins to turn golden. While baking, in a small bowl mix ricotta cheese, basil ribbons and lemon zest.
Set aside. In another bowl add artichoke hearts, red onion and tomato. Toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Once the crust has just turned golden, remove the flatbread from the oven, and spread on a generous layer of the ricotta cheese mixture.
Scatter the vegetable medley on top. Place flatbread back into oven for another 7 minutes. Lastly, transfer flatbread to grill over medium low heat for 6 minutes.
Allow to cool for a few minutes, slice and serve immediately.