Real talk: I didn’t want to move to Portland.
When I think back to the moment I chose to uproot my life and relocate back to the West Coast, I would be lying if I said it was a moment of excitement. Mostly it felt stressful and uncertain and my heart was heavy. I knew it was the right decision — hell, it was an easy one once the reality of my father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis sunk in — but it wasn’t a happy one. I dragged my feet when it came to planning the details of the move, and I had to completely fake a smile when others asked me to ‘share the exciting details’. I was all smiles on the outside, all ho hum on the inside. The morning I left New York, I sobbed all the way to the airport; in such dramatic fashion that at one point my Uber driver handed me a tissue and turned the radio up to drown out the sound of my crying.
It wasn’t that I didn’t love Portland when I lived here before, I truly did. My time in Portland is the reason my life since that time has been so incredible. But still, the entire venture, even with an incredible job and an instant set of friends who were more like family and the close proximity of my actual family; it all felt like one giant step backwards. I had lived all over the world, accomplished amazing things, and my next big thing was a move…to Portland? I was heartbroken in a number of ways, not the least of which was feeling like my life was headed in a direction I didn’t want.
Flash forward five months and I’m standing in the middle of the farmers’ market at Portland State University. It’s an overcast but warm Saturday morning, and the market is a-buzz with locals hunting for the freshest the farm can offer. And it was there, standing over a basket bursting with green garlic and microgreens that I realized, I. LOVE. IT. HERE. I’m so goddamn happy I could scream.
Is my life different than it was in New York? Absolutely. But that’s OK. My job is incredible. My friendships are strong and mature and even better than they were before (that goes for my friends in Portland AND my friends in New York). I’m closer (physically and emotionally) to my family, which brings me peace of mind. And I have completely fallen back in love with the city of Portland. It has given me the balance I so dearly needed, and I’ve been able to slow down a bit and really enjoy life. Turns out, all of the anxiety was complete rubbish, but it took moving across the country and making a go of it to figure that out. I still miss New York; I always will, it’s in my bones. But the idea that I made the wrong decision or that I have any shred of regret is completely out of my head. This is my home, and I am gloriously happy to be here.
So. In a bit of a tribute to my farmers’ market revelation, this recipe is made up of only ingredients from the market (except the pizza dough and the cheese). It’s something I’ve been tossing around in my head for awhile, and I’m excited to finally put in on the plate. And it’s seasonal as all get out and a perfect meal to celebrate all the beauty of Spring. Salty, spicy, herby, delicious.
I’ll be enjoying this on the balcony of my new Portland abode (I can afford a balcony now! Take that, NYC.), relishing the fact that it all worked out and I’ll be OK. Moving to Portland certainly wasn’t the step forward I had imagined, but it definitely wasn’t a step backward either.
You ready? OK, let’s do this.
Sausage & Green Garlic Flatbread with Seasoned Ricotta
You will need:
2 links fresh, uncooked sausage, removed from the casing
3 stalks green garlic, thinly sliced, white & green parts separated (you can substitute 3-4 green onions if you can’t find green garlic)
5 spears asparagus, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 pound pizza dough, divided in two
1 small ball fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
3 tablespoons grated parmesan or pecorino romano
½ cup fresh ricotta
1 meyer lemon, zested and cut into 4 wedges
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1 bunch microgreens or baby arugula
Kitchen equipment: large baking sheet or pizza stone, sauté pan, zester, parchment paper
Prep the dough. First things first, remove your pizza dough from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature. I typically do this about an hour before I start cooking. By bringing to room temp, the dough will be much easier to work with, will stretch nicely, and won’t seize up in the oven and create a weird thick, doughy center. Nobody wants that.
OK, now that’s taken care of, place your baking sheet or pizza stone in your oven and preheat to 475 degrees. It’s getting hot in herrrrre…
Prep the toppings. While the oven is preheating, prep your veggies and set aside. Cook the sausage in a sauté pan over medium heat until nicely browned, breaking up into small pieces with a spoon, about 6 minutes. Remove from the pan to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Wipe out the pan, add a touch of olive oil, then add the white parts of the green garlic. Season with salt and pepper and sauté over medium heat until softened and translucent, about 4 minutes, then add them to the plate with the sausage.
Prep the flatbread. Next, lay down a piece of parchment paper on your countertop and stretch each of the pizza dough halves to about 1/4 inch thick, drizzling each with a little bit of olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. Toppings are next, but a word of warning first: less is more when it comes to flatbread. You want to distribute toppings in thin layers — this will ensure everything cooks evenly, and it will allow the flatbread to cook crisply all the way through. Too many toppings equals soggy middle crust, not a desirable outcome in my book. OK, you’ve been warned, on with the show!
Distribute the mozzarella, parmesan, and asparagus slices evenly over both pizzas, leaving about a 1 inch border on all sides. Top with the sausage and green garlic mixture, the green garlic tops, and another dusting of parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.
Now the tricky part. Once your oven is fully preheated and your baking sheet or pizza stone is nice and toasty, remove it from the oven and transfer (carefully please, safety first!) the flatbread onto the hot surface. This shouldn’t be too difficult to do with the aid of the parchment, but still, look alive.
Cook the flatbread. Cook the flatbread for about 10 minutes, rotating once and watching semi-closely to ensure nothing is burning. At the 10-minute mark, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler. Move the pizza to the top shelf and broil for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling and the crust is golden brown.
Prep the garnish. While the flatbread is cooking, combine the ricotta, the lemon zest and juice from 2 lemon wedges. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Place the microgreens in a large bowl and add juice of one lemon wedge and a drizzle of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
Bring it all together. When the pizza is finished cooking, remove from the oven, and set aside to rest for a few minutes. Just before serving, top the pizza with the seasoned ricotta in whatever way suits your fancy, a smattering of the red pepper flakes if you’re using them, and garnish with the dressed microgreens.
This little ditty is best eaten immediately (let’s be honest, I won’t actually make it all the way to my fancy balcony because I can’t wait to sit down to eat), and pairs beautifully with whatever is your favorite wine of the moment (mine’s a toss up between Elk Cove Pinot Gris or Mandrarossa Nero D’avola).
It’s salty and cheesy and herby with just the right amount of spice, and it allows the farmers’ market ingredients to really shine. Delicious all around, a perfect celebration of Spring, and for me, a perfect celebration of Portland. Enjoy!