When I first typed out the recipe for this very forgiving flatbread pizza, I added the word “optional” after “freshly grated nutmeg” and “fresh thyme” and then thought long and hard about why. For as long as I’ve been editing recipes I’ve been using “optional” as a way to say “I realize this is an ingredient you might not have on hand” or “I realize this is an extra step you might not want to take on a night that allows for not a single extra step” or “If this is the ingredient that makes dinner a deal-breaker with your kid, by all means omit!”  Have you noticed that you don’t ever come across “optional” in a serious recipe collection? (A quick flip through The Essential New York Times Cookbook, The Babbo Cookbook, and The Classic Italian Cookbook just confirmed this.) I’m guessing their philosophy is: If you’re going to do it, DO it. I love and embrace this philosophy. But I love and embrace it mostly on the weekend.

Here’s what you need to know about any of the Quick recipes on this site: Within reason, almost all the ingredients in any recipe are optional — or at the very least replaceable. This is especially true if not having the ingredient in question derails your plans for what was going to be a home-cooked dinner. The other night I was craving a meatless Monday kind of pizza on a Jim Lahey kind of pizza crust. But I had neither a Jim Lahey crust nor a ball of mozzarella, which, for my kids, is about as “optional” an ingredient for pizza as potatoes are for French Fries. I did have a ball of storebought dough, though, and it turns out, if you use the Jim Lahey thinning-out method on any old dough, well, it’s not Jim Lahey, but it’s still pretty damn tasty. Instead of the mozz, I used a generous scattering of shaved Parmesan and the overall effect was so much lighter and way more flavorful. Turns out, I actually like this version better. No matter that the kids wouldn’t eat the mushrooms on something called mushroom pizza. The point is: in spite of the ill-equipped pantry and refrigerator, we were still sitting down and eating something together. I’m trying to make sure that part is not optional.

PS: Dinner: A Love Story isn’t on sale until June 5, but you can still order it now as a Mother’s Day Gift and get special extras as placeholder gifts like a signed bookplate or a “Make Dinner Not War” bumper sticker. Click here for all the details. Offer is good through May 10.

Flatbread Pizza with Mushrooms & Arugula
You already know about the salad pizza half (the kids’ favorite, though here we replaced the mozzarella with Parm), but the mushroom arugula is new and inspired by one we tried at Boqueria this past weekend. Well, I didn’t actually try it. Everyone else at the table inhaled it (including my five-year-old mushroom-hating nephew) before I could steal a bite. And this post, in large part, is an attempt to make up for that regrettable fact. This recipe makes one full mushroom & arugula pizza. If you are going halvsies, divide all the toppings by two.

1 8-to-12 ounce ball storebought pizza dough
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
1 shallot, chopped finely
1 shake red pepper flakes
olive oil
2 cups mushrooms (such as cremini), chopped into fine dice
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
2 large handfuls arugula
olive oil and a splash of red wine vinegar whisked together
fresh thyme
broccoli flowers (procured over the weekend at the Greenmarket in Union Square with the girls and, in spite of everything I wrote above, I feel the need to point out that these are particularly and ridiculously and extremely optional)

Preheat oven to 500°F. Brush a rectangular cookie sheet with a little olive oil and, using your fingers, press down on pizza dough until it’s about as thin as it can be. Sprinkle Parmesan evenly on top of dough.

In a skillet set over medium heat, cook onions and red pepper flakes in olive oil, about 2 minutes until onions soften. Stir in mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid, about 2-3 more minutes. Add nutmeg and remove from heat.

Bake pizza for 8 minutes, then scatter mushroom mixture on top. Cook another 5 minutes until crust is golden around the edges. While pizza is cooking, toss arugula with a little olive oil and vinegar, salt, and pepper. Remove pizza from oven, top with arugula, and, um, broccoli flowers. Cut into wedges and serve.

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erinn johnson

I have the no-knead bread resting on the counter as I type. I am a huge fan of his pizza dough as well. It really makes the perfect pizza. His flavor combos from his pizza book are to die for.


I can’t wait to add nutmeg to my next mushroom arugula recipe. I LOVE nutmeg and never thought to add it with these two ingredients. Thanks for the inspiration.