Wine should leave you with the best memories. Without a doubt, the best party I’ve attended was the 2004 California-themed Vancouver International Wine Festival at which a lively band comprised of winemaker/musicians from the Golden State played in the lobby of the Pan Pacific Hotel until hotel guests complained they weren’t getting any shut-eye.
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I mention that memorable event because this year, at the first festival since 2019, California is hosting a food and wine event titled Beach Party on Granville Island on May 18. This party is a walk-around, play-around evening with a variety of exciting California wines, games, some of California’s favourite nibbles, such as Surfboard sushi, and cool tunes. No one will have to worry about noise complaints on Granville Island.
This recipe for pizza from Wine Country Table: With Recipes that Celebrate California’s Sustainable Harvest will become a year-round favourite.
If you’re in a hurry, you can substitute store-bought pesto and frozen pizza shells.
Pizza with Artichokes and Arugula Pesto
Pesto is slathered on the hot out-of-the-oven pizza, giving it a burst of garlicky aroma. You will use only half of the pesto, so save the rest for pasta the next day.
Fresh Pizza Dough
Store-bought fresh pizza dough ball (I buy Whole Foods’ pizza dough)
1 jar (398 g) quartered natural artichokes (available at Bosa Foods)
1 tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp (2 mL) dried oregano, finely crumbled
Kosher or sea salt
Pat artichokes dry and toss with olive oil, oregano, and salt to taste.
2 cups tightly-packed arugula leaves, thick stems removed
2 tbsp blanched and toasted whole almonds, cooled
1 small clove garlic, thinly sliced
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or more if needed
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino romano
Kosher or sea salt
Cornmeal or semolina, for dusting
6 oz (170 g) low-moisture mozzarella, coarsely grated
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, for brushing the dough
Make the pesto
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Add arugula to boiling water and blanch for 15 seconds, then drain and plunge immediately into ice water. When cool, drain again and squeeze to remove excess water.
Place arugula, almonds and garlic in a food processor and pulse until well chopped. With the motor running, add the olive oil through the food tube and purée until nearly smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer to a bowl and stir in Parmigiano and salt to taste. Add a little more olive oil if the pesto seems too thick to spread.
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat at its highest setting for at least 30 minutes. Fifteen minutes before you are ready to bake the pizza, turn on the broiler.
Generously dust a rimless baking sheet with cornmeal. Transfer dough to a well-floured surface and flatten into a round. Pick it up with floured fingertips and stretch it into a 13-14-inch round by rotating the dough between your fingertips and letting the weight of the dough stretch it. Try to keep it evenly thin, with no tears. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Working quickly, top with mozzarella, scattering it evenly and keeping it about 1-inch from the edge. Scatter the artichokes on top of the cheese. Brush the rim with olive oil.
Turn broiler off and return the oven to the highest bake setting. Bake until the crust is puffy and browned and the topping is bubbled, about six minutes. Transfer to a cutting board or serving platter. With a rubber spatula, gently daub half of the pesto on top. Reserve remaining pesto for another use. Cut into wedges with a knife or kitchen scissors and serve immediately.
Makes one 13-to 14-inch pizza. To Serve 2
Kitchen hack: Preserving homemade pesto
Blanching arugula helps keep the fresh pesto from browning.
Store in a small container and press plastic wrap onto the surface.
Cover and refrigerate up to two days.