For some, it’s the first time they slip on a pair of sandals. For others, it’s the first tulip to pop up in their front yard, or maybe it’s the first time you have to take an umbrella with you as you walk out the door.
Or, if you’re from my family, it’s the first sunny, 40* degree day that has you wrapped up in a blanket, tucked into a windless corner of the yard, Vitamin-D starved face turned towards the sun. (I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that four out of the six members of my family texted everyone else about their first time out in the sun this season. #itmustbegenetic).
Apparently, in Maine, pesky, biting black flies cover the land in plague-like droves to signal the arrival of spring. I know this because a reader of this very blog, D’Arcy, wrote to tell me about a ritual she has with her family of spending a day preparing natural bug sprays to repel these pests from their veggie gardens. And she asked if I’d create a recipe that they could add to their bug-spray ceremony, to make a little more festive.
And I was happy to do so. But I had to wait until now to do it, because up until this point, there’s been very little spring produce to be had. Maybe it’s all the garden-killing-late-season snow...but we’re just starting to see the first of micro-greens and baby spinach around here.
So, I present to you this herbed chicken Mediterranean pizza with feta, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic-olive oil sauce, and of course, fresh spinach. I thought this dough would have the time it needed to rise while Maine-ites (Maine-ians?) make repellents for the fly Maine-ia. (You knew that was coming, right?)
Eric and I sort of have a soft spot for this pizza from Papa Murphy’s. We were hitting up Papa M’s a lot this time last year when I was giganticly pregnant and tired by 5:00 every day, and in no mood to make dinner. And so this is my homemade version, and I have to say it’s pretty close.
There’s a lot of flavor going on with the herbed, sauteed chicken and the sun-dried tomatoes. The pizza is kept light with a simple sauce of minced garlic sauteed in olive oil, then spread together over the homemade crust. Then, the spinach adds that spring-time freshness, with a kick of salty feta. We love this pizza and hope you do too, however you’re celebrating spring.
(A note about the crust: I listed two crust options. At Papa Murphy’s, the pizza we’re copying here comes in a thin, crispy crust, which we think tastes better. However, sometimes we order it with a more chewy, thick crust to fill us up a little more; I’ve included ingredients and directions for both kinds of crust in the recipe below).
(recipe by Carpé Season) (thick crust recipe adapted from Key Ingredient )
We love this homemade version of Papa Murphy's Herb Chicken Mediterranean De-lite pizza. I've included a thick or thin crust option; we like the taste of the thin crust better, but the thick is a little more filling.
Thick Crust Ingredients:
1 1/4 c. warm water
1 pack (2 1/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
3 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Thin Crust Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced fine or put through garlic press
1 4-5 oz. chicken breast, cut into thin slices and then half-inch pieces
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. dried marjoram
pinch dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. salt
pinch (or 2 grinds) black pepper
3 oz. (about 1/4 c.) feta, crumbled
2 oz. (app. 1/3 c.) sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
3 c. mozzarella, shredded
1 handful spinach (leaves torn if large)
1 pinch each of dried oregano, basil, and marjoram for sprinkling over the top of the pizza
1 tbsp. cornmeal - for pizza pan
*optional: 1/4 c. thinly sliced onions, 1/4 c. chopped bell pepper - I didn't use these to stay true to the Papa Murphy's pizza, but I think they'd be excellent additions)
Thick Crust Instructions:
Preheat oven to 200*. In a large glass bowl, mix the warm water, yeast, and sugar together. Let sit for 8 minutes while it bubbles and froths. Gently mix in the flour and salt until dough starts to come together. See below for next steps:
Thin Crust Instructions:
Preheat oven to 200*. Stir dry ingredients, including room-temperature yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can with a wooden spoon. See below for next steps:
For Both Types of Crust:
Dump dough (and any floury bits) onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is elastic - about 5 minutes, adding more flour as needed to keep it from sticking to your hands or the counter. Form dough into a ball. TURN OFF OVEN. Spritz bowl lightly with cooking spray, and place the dough inside the bowl, turning it over to let all surfaces touch the cooking spray. Cover with a lightly floured towel, and place covered bowl in your heated (but offed!) oven for 90 minutes, until it doubles in size. (The thick crust dough will double and more; the thin crust will barely double).
Meanwhile....prepare your sauce and toppings:
For the Sauce:
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a pan. Add minced garlic, and sauté for 2-3 minutes until garlic turns golden. Pour oil and garlic into a bowl and set aside.
For the Toppings (Chicken):
In the same pan as you sauteé the garlic, add 1 more tsp. of olive oil and heat over medium-low heat. Add the chicken pieces, as well as the oregano, marjoram, rosemary, basil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper, and cook for app. 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink. If necessary drain off excess fat. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside (in a fridge if it will be a while before eating).
Assembling the Pizza:
Preheat oven to 500*. (If using a pizza stone, place stone in oven while it preheats.)
For either type of crust, once it has doubled, punch down and roll out (to about a 14-16" circle) on a lightly floured surface. Prick your rolled out dough with a fork several times, cover with floured towel, and let rise for another 20 minutes), making sure the surface beneath it is well-floured so it doesn't stick when you try to transfer it.
Sprinkle cornmeal on your pizza pan. Transfer the rolled out dough to the pan, and use a pastry brush to spread your sauteéd garlic/olive oil sauce over the crust. Top with 2 c. of the shredded mozzarella, then the cooked chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, feta, spinach, and the last cup of mozzarella (plus onions and bell peppers if using). Sprinkle the pinches of oregano, basil, and marjoram over the top of the pizza.
Bake assembled pizza for 10 minutes or until nicely browned and bubbly.
Let cool for about 1 minute and then slice away, and inhale!