The month of August has been a quiet one for us. Expected guests had to cancel at the last minute, plans changed and, while you’d think this would be the sort of thing to discourage us, in fact, it’s been the opposite. We’ve been dealing with the wide-open weekends of Tim’s homemade pancakes, afternoons spent writing, evening walks in the park, impromptu trips to thrift stores or out for tacos. The weather’s even cooperated, moving from the abrasive 100s to more reasonable upper 80s, making it a little easier to enjoy cooking in the kitchen again. For years, Tim’s told me about his homemade Chinese food, and this August has been his chance to take a few hours in the kitchen to show me. I’ve baked cookies without recipes. We’ve slow-cooked vegetables via Marcella Hazan. And not once, not twice, but three times, we’ve made homemade kefir-soaked spelt pizza crusts, topped by peaches and spinach and goat cheese.
In so many ways, August has been a contrast to the months before it, in which we’ve hosted out-of-town guests or traveled ourselves, and, to make up for the hours we’d be missing, worked double-time beforehand. In the same way that you appreciate your sophomore English teacher so much more because you disliked your freshman one, we’ve been basking in the beauty of this August and its slow, steady schedules.
Most Tuesday nights, we share dinner with Tim’s brother, Nathan, who lives about a mile or two away, in the house where Tim lived before October. Every other week, by the time he arrives, we’re also unpacking our biweekly CSA haul, a tightly packed bushel box of yellow squash and watermelon and sweet corn and tomatoes and so on, which we pick up from the 12 South Farmers Market held late Tuesday afternoons. On one particular week, we’re pulling away from the market, not yet home, when I catch an image on Instagram of a peach-topped pizza. Despite the loot in our back seat, we beeline for the grocery.
At home, we launch into our biweekly routine, Tim slicing up watermelon that we snack on while we divvy up the goods. Meanwhile, I mix together a pizza crust, letting it soak in the warmest spot above our oven.
By the time Nathan arrives, the August sun is lowering, the house enjoying that late-summer twilight that turns everything golden and dim, and two pizzas are in the oven, one on a stone and one on a baking sheet.
That first time is magic: crackery crust, sweet and soft peaches, the tang of goat cheese mixed with drizzles of honey. We eat it on the sofa, piece after piece after piece, the three of us flipping through channels on TV, occasionally interrupting the programming to marvel at the way the crust holds up or the way the edges have a faint hint of Saltine.
When Nathan leaves, it’s barely 8 p.m., so Tim and I clean up the dishes and put away the leftovers and take a drive, headed nowhere in particular, off to enjoy a lazy summer night, with nothing to do. I say to him, This August has been like one long date!, enough that I almost feel guilty!, and he says to me, I know.
Spinach, Peach and Goat Cheese Pizza on Kefir-Soaked Spelt Crust
Makes two pizzas
All three times that we’ve made this crust, we’ve used kefir as the soaking medium; however, yogurt should also work—you just may find the dough needs extra or less flour, depending on the thickness of the yogurt you use.
Also, we used a mandarin olive oil we received from O&Co because we liked the fruity flavor it added, but another olive oil should work just fine.
2 spelt pizza crusts (recipe below)
Mandarin olive oil (see note above)
A couple handfuls fresh baby spinach (for us, about a quarter of a five-ounce container)
3 peaches, pitted and sliced thinly
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, minced
4 or 5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper
Pecorino cheese, grated (as much as you like)
A couple teaspoons of honey
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If using a stone, place it inside now. Once pizza crusts are stretched out onto parchment paper, drizzle mandarin olive oil over the tops of each. Toss torn baby spinach all over the tops and generously salt and pepper it. Next arrange the sliced peaches throughout. Top with garlic and goat cheese. Salt and pepper again. Grate Pecorino all over the tops. (Optional: drizzle more olive oil) Bake for about 20 minutes if using a stone, 30 if baking on a cookie sheet or traditional pan.
Kefir-Soaked Spelt Pizza Crust
Makes 2 freestyle pizza crusts
2.5 cups white spelt flour, plus up to 1/2 cup extra
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 packet dry instant yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup plain kefir (or yogurt might work)
1/2 cup warm water (i.e., not hot to the touch but warm enough to activate the yeast)
In a medium bowl, stir together 2.5 cups spelt flour, olive oil, salt, yeast and kefir. Add warm water, and stir until it starts to come together well. Using your hands, knead dough in bowl until it forms a nice dough. I add 1/4 cup more flour at this point, but you can adjust to your liking. You want the dough to be soft and pliable, but to not stick to your hands too much. Form into a ball. Drizzle a little more olive oil on top; roll the dough in oil it’s covered. Cover and leave in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to use, split the dough in half and stretch each one out onto parchment paper, flouring your hands and the dough as necessary, freeforming the dough into two crusts.