French lentil, roasted potato and smoked gouda pizza

French lentil and roasted potato pizza

French lentil and roasted potato pizza

Like many, many people, I suspect, I spent some time yesterday watching films and videos of Pete Seeger. In particular, we watched clips from his television show Rainbow Quest, which aired from 1965- 1966. It was videotaped in black and white, and although his wife, Toshi, was credited as “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer,” it happens that she actually directed the show. The program was made on a low budget, funded by Seeger and a co-producer, and though it’s humble and understated by today’s slick standards, it’s full of the generosity and joy that seems to pour out of Seeger. He seems so friendly and kind in a way that makes those ordinary qualities the most weighty and important in the world. Watching him, you can feel that he’s brimming over with the desire to share; to share music and knowledge and love. On his guitar he wrote the words “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” and the whole rich history of Seeger’s political activism just makes sense in this light. Looking back now it seems so easy to decide to be on the side of the oppressed, the poor, the hated. It couldn’t have been easy at the time, and we have the songs and spirit of Seeger to thank for helping to lead us in the direction of generosity and affection. He touched so many people, with his uncalculating unselfconscious enthusiasm. He was a teacher and a disseminator. It seems that his desire to make music and to perform was never about fame or stardom, it was about the joy of making the music and the need to send that music out into the world so that others could hear it as well. He had a curatorial spirit, which is a quality I greatly admire, because it’s so unselfish and giving. You never see him singing when he doesn’t invite others to sing with him, his friends, his colleagues, his audience. We watched a clip of him on Johnny Cash’s TV show in 1970. He sings Worried Man Blues. Cash sets him up a chair at the edge of the stage, because he knows that Seeger needs to get the audience to sing with him. Seeger talks about the worries that we all share, and then he talks about the hope waiting for all of us, “Well I looked down the track just as far as I could see, little bitty hand was waving back at me.” We watched Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash on Seeger’s show as well. They tell stories, they sing together, they talk about friends they’ve loved and lost, and sing their songs as well. They sing folk songs about living and loving and dying and being remembered. Johnny Cash died four months after June, and Pete Seeger died yesterday, six months after his wife, Toshi. Just watching these clips of them, over the years, makes you thankful for enduring love and friendship in the world, wherever we can find it. Pete Seeger sings a song for June and Johnny, “Little birdy, little birdy, what makes your wings so blue, it’s because I’ve been a dreaming, dreaming after you, Little birdy little birdy come sing to me a song, I’ve a short while to be here, and a long time to be gone. Little birdy, little birdy, what makes you fly so high, it’s because I am a true little bird, and I do not fear to die.”

French lentil, roasted potato and smoked gouda pizza

French lentil, roasted potato and smoked gouda pizza

This is a very comforting wintertime pizza. Warm and smoky, soft and crispy.

Here’s Elizabeth Cotten on Rainbow Quest, telling the heartbreaking and hopeful story of how she met the Seegers because she worked for them as a cleaning lady and cook, and Pete Seeger’s step mother discovered that she played the guitar, though she hadn’t played in years.


(enough for two largish pies)

1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups flour
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 t salt
1/3 cup olive oil

Combine the yeast, sugar and half a cup warm water in a small bowl, and leave in a warm place for about ten minutes to get foamy.

In a large bowl combine the flour, pepper, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture and the olive oil. Stir well, and add enough warm water to form a soft dough. You want it to be as wet as it can that you can still comfortably knead it. Knead for about 5 minutes until soft and elastic. Put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Roll the dough in this so that it’s evenly coated. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside for two to five hours, till it’s doubled in size.


4 largish potatoes, washed and cut into 1/3 inch dice
2 clove garlic, skin still on, but pierced
olive oil to coat (a few tablespoons)
2 t rosemary, chopped or crumbled

Preheat the oven to 425. Toss the potatoes and rosemary with the olive oil. Spread them in a single layer on a baking tray, and put the garlic cloves on the side somewhere and roast until the potatoes are browned and starting to get crispy and the garlic cloves are soft inside. About 30 minutes. Watch closely that they don’t burn. Set aside.


In a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. When warm but not sizzling, add the shallot (it has to be very finely diced, or you’ll get big lumps of boiled shallot!). When the shallot starts to brown add the garlic and herbs. When the garlic starts to brown add the…

Lentils. They should be rinsed a few times, and any little non-lentil detritus removed. Let them sizzle in the olive oil for a minute or two, stirring them to coat completely, and then add…

About 5 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low, and simmer until done. Test after 15 minutes, but it might take closer to 20. You want them to be soft, but not mushy, they should still have their own shape, and almost a little crunch.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir it right into the broth. Strain the lentils, but keep the liquid, because it makes a delicious broth to add to soups or stews.

Add a dollop of butter and a dash of balsamic to the lentils, to really bring out their flavor.


2 cups grated sharp gouda
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (or as much cheese as you like!)

Lightly oil to pizza pans or cookie sheets. Divide the crust into two, and roll or stretch each to fit the pans…I tend to press down with my palms to flatten out the dough, rather than roll it out, for pizza.

Let the dough rest while you preheat the oven to 450.

Place the pans in the oven and cook for five or ten minutes till they’re still pale but they’re firm to the touch and they lose their shine.

Remove from the oven. Mush the roasted garlic clove and spread one over each pizza. Sprinkle the cheeses over that to form an even distribution. Spread the lentils in a thin layer over the cheese. You’ll have some lentils left over so use them in a pie or a salad or a soup. Spread the potatoes evenly over the cheese & lentils.

Cook until the crust is golden and the cheese is starting to bubble and turn brown–about fifteen minutes. Season well with salt and plenty of pepper.

Slice and serve.


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