Greenhouse Season + RECIPE: Deep Dish Pizza with Cilantro Pesto, Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

You guys!? We start growing things indoors in the greenhouse in a week! This is always such an exciting/frantic time of the year for us.

The skies are all gray and the ground is so muddy and even though temps are sporadically jumping above 50 from time to time, we all know the real spring (you know, the beautiful spring with green grass and flowers and consistently warm temperatures) is still far, far away. But not in the greenhouse. The greenhouse is always warm, humid and filled with life. Its not quite the tropical vacation we Wisconsinites all need this time of year, but it is damn close.

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Plus, another greenhouse season signals the start of another year down the road of this crazy whirlwind farming life we’ve chosen.Which is definitely always equal parts motivating and humbling (and, luckily, also always met with a little less intimidation than the year before).

This particular year the greenhouse season is met with extra enthusiasm because (in case you hadn’t heard here, here and here), my Carrot built a greenhouse!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m not sure I can quite put into words how big this is for us.

For the past three years of farming we have grown seedlings in our home, in our farmer friends’ greenhouses, in rented space at a commercial greenhouse or some combination there of (or all of the above). No really, some years we had seedlings in all three places. Imagine hauling flats of vegetables back and forth from place to place all spring long and never remembering which thing is in which place when it comes time to transplant. Our Subaru evolved into a seedling transport vehicle and it did a swell job, but let’s just say I’m so happy it won’t have to anymore.

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With the addition of a greenhouse, this is the first year we won’t be have any vegetable plants growing inside the house which means no need to vacuum soil off the floor daily, chase Luka our cat off of young onion plants or avoid seedlings when I need to get something out of the pantry.

Yes, no seedlings in the pantry seems to me like a step in the right direction for our business.

I could probably tell you another 93 reasons why it’s so fantastic to have our own greenhouse but I’ll stop here. Especially since there is technically still one step to go until the greenhouse is finished and I really don’t want to jinx it. Plus I think you are all most likely here for the pizza recipe and not my greenhouse ramblings.

So, let’s get to it.

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This pizza I made for the Super Bowl party we hosted a few weeks back is absolutely fantastic. I brought it down during the third quarter (after ample amounts of snacking) and it flew out of the pan so quickly I didn’t even get a piece. I’m not kidding. Thank god I made two!

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I can’t remember where I saw the idea for making deep dish pizza in a cast-iron skillet but I can tell you one thing: I am never ever going back! I already knew this Pioneer Woman pizza crust was pure wonderment. Getting better the longer it sits in your fridge, it’s the perfect pizza crust for entertaining. When you put the perfectly risen, oily crust into a cast-iron skillet it is transformed into something somehow even greater. We’ve made too many deep dish pizzas to admit since that Super Bowl party (you know, to test out different flavor combinations of course) and this Brussels Sprout, Bacon & Cilantro Pesto beaut is still the best. Bar none.

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I really don’t know if it’s the cilantro pesto (bright, fresh and earthy), the thinly sliced Brussels Sprouts (robust, bitter and just perfectly softened), the bacon (rich, salty and crisp) or all that cheese, but I’m in love.

Enjoy it guys! And get thinking spring!

Love,
Leek

P.S. Read more about the exciting/frantic month of February to a vegetable farmer in my first Edible Madison Farmer Voices article!

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BRUSSELS SPROUTS, BACON & CILANTRO PESTO
I like to make this pizza dough on Sundays (a full batch) and stick it in the fridge. You don’t need to let it rise before or after you place it in the fridge so it is just the simplest dough available whenever you may need it! I like to have dough on hand for a busy weeknight.
I also tend to have cilantro pesto on hand a lot. I’m not sure why. I made some last year and I just haven’t been able to look back. I prefer it to all other pestos (but feel free to use plain ol’ basil pesto!). 

Takes 1 hour if pizza dough is made the day ahead (which it should be!)
Serves 4-6 depending how many hungry sports-watching men you have in your home

4 slices thick-cut bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 batch Pioneer Woman Favorite Pizza dough
Flour, for dusting
1 batch my cilantro pesto (below)
1/2 pound Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
Pickled sliced jalapenos, optional
2 cups shredded mozzarella (or 1 cup each mozzarella and a slightly spicy cheese that melts well)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Add bacon and place in oven. If oven is not preheated, set the timer for 20 minutes. If the oven is preheated, set the timer for 10 minutes. You may need to adjust the baking time but bake until bacon is crisp and has rendered it’s fat. Chop bacon, pour rendered fat over bacon and set aside.
If you don’t already have cilantro pesto made, make it while the bacon cooks.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Drizzle a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with olive oil. Remove pizza dough from the fridge. Sprinkle with flour. Dust hands with flour. Pull the dough until it’s about 8 inches in diameter. Place in cast-iron skillet and press so it covers the whole base of the pan. Using a spatula, spread cilantro pesto over the crust. Cover with half of the cheese. Add Brussels sprouts and chopped bacon (and pickled sliced jalapenos, if using). Top with remaining cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes until crust is golden and cheese is browned and bubbly.

CILANTRO PESTO:
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup parmesan
1 cup cilantro (stems and leaves are fine; it was just about 1 bunch for me)
1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh if you’ve got it
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Prepare the pesto by pulsing garlic and almonds in a food processor until very fine. Add cilantro. Pulse until the mixture resembles a course meal. Add lemon juice, salt, red pepper flakes and pepper. Turn the food processor on and slowly add the olive oil. You may need to scrape down the sides of the food processor occasionally. If it seems like it isn’t coming together well, add additional olive oil slowly. Taste and adjust salt, lemon juice or red pepper flakes to your preference!

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