Love & Field Peas, A Summer Romance

Friday, August 5th, 2016

photo by Emily Hall
photo by Emily Hall

I didn’t know, regretfully so, about field peas until I was in my 20’s. My husband grew up in the South. His childhood memories of food largely revolved around his Grandmother’s kitchen. Cracklin’ cornbread, turnip greens, fat back, and sweet tea were just a few constants in his life. Every year his family would plant a summer garden with tomatoes, corn, and field peas. His summer memories recount days of shelling peas and watching Wheel of Fortune. Ah, to be young again!

My first field peas came straight from his Grandmas freezer. One day we were visiting, and she offered him some of her supply. Ben accepted and my culinary education on peas began. He took those peas home (I think they were pink eye purple hulls), cooked them up and served them with some cornbread. I was in love…. with the peas and the man! Henceforth, when we visit the Wheatley farm, I usually try to convince him to raid his Grandma’s pea supply.

Pink eyes peas, crowders peas, zipper peas, lady peas, and butter beans are a few of my favorites. Peas are in fact a labor of love, it takes time to shuck fresh peas from the garden, and that can be half the fun. I may not have been raised in the South, but I now have memories of summertime, shelling peas, and being with the ones I love.

Marinated White Acre Peas with Georgia Peaches & Burrata

Serves 6

To Assemble the Salad
8 cups cooked white acre peas, room temperature
½ cup pot liquor vinaigrette
1 cup of diced sweet peppers, small dice
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon basil, torn
1 tablespoon tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon chive, chopped
4 oz. of burrata cheese
1 fresh ripe peach, sliced into wedges

In a bowl toss the cooked peas, potlikker vinaigrette, sweet peppers, parley, basil, tarragon, and chives. Check seasoning. Add in the sliced peaches and torn burrata. Enjoy!

Cooking the Peas
Yields 8 cups cooked peas

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 ½ pounds of shelled peas, we used white acre but feel free to substitute
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons kosher salt

In a medium sized pot heat olive oil. Add in the shallot and garlic, cook for 1 minute. Add in the peas, bay leaf and enough water to cover the peas by two inches. Bring to a simmer and cook 35-40 minuets or until peas are tender, but not mushy. Cooking times will vary based on what kind of pea you are using. Add in the salt and let peas cool in liquid until room temperature. Drain the peas and reserve 2 cups of the liquid for the vinaigrette.

Potlikker Vinaigrette
Yields ½ a cup

2 cups reserved potlikker from cooking peas
1 teaspoon Tabasco
2 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil

Over medium heat, reduce the pea liquid until only ½ cup remains. Cool to room temperature. In a bowl mix all ingredients and whisk together. Check seasoning.

 

 

Heritage Radio Network- Sharp & Hot

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

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Today I had the pleasure of being interviewed on Heritage Radio Network program, Sharp & Hot. The show is hosted by Chef Emily Peterson and features profiles on Chefs, including yours truly, and “life advice through the lens of food”. I shared a bit of my own “origin” story and an awesome recipe for squash escabeche.

To learn more about heritage radio and their programming check out their site: Heritage Radio Network

To listen to my interview click here: Sharp & Hot with Whitney Otawka

When they asked me for a recipe for the piece they wanted to focus on something approachable and influenced by Spring. Spring on the barrier islands of Georgia & North Florida is one of the most prolific times of the year. Radish, kale, cabbage, leeks, and snap peas of early spring begin to push into baby squash and the first round of tomatoes. Menus overflow with endless combinations and possibility. When I get to cook at home and the weather is good, I prefer to cook outside over an open fire. This recipe would make a great light lunch or a perfect side for dinner. The acidic marinade on the squash would be it a perfect pairing for a marbled steak or some lovely buratta.

Squash Escabeche

Yields 4-6 servings

1½ pounds squash, preferable baby
¼ cup evoo
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup escabeche marinade
1 cup arugula
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons marcona almonds

Wash and cut the squash into various shapes. Set aside and build a fire in a grill. While the coals are burning down make escabeche marinade (see recipe below). When the grill is ready, toss the squash in the olive oil and kosher salt. Place the squash in a single layer on the grill. The grill should be at a medium- high heat with a low flame. You are looking to mark the squash, about 4 minuets on each side. Remove from heat. When ready to serve toss the squash in ½ cup of escabeche marinade, lightly torn arugula, cilantro leaves, and marcona almonds. Garnish with a sprinkle of sea salt. This dish is excellent served hot, room temperature, or cold. Enjoy!

Escabeche Marinade

Yields ½ cup

1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of ground black pepper
pinch of smoked Spanish paprika
1 Tablespoon minced white spring onion
2 teaspoon minced and deseeded jalapeno
¼ teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoon minced cilantro
2 teaspoon minced parsley

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Allow mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes before using.

 

The Power of Acid

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

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In the early days of my cooking career, butter was king. I was cooking on the line, many years ago, and the Sous Chef asked me “Did you add butter to this?” I can not tell you today what the “this” was but my answer was no. His response was “Why do you think everything tastes so good here? Always add butter!”

So my career pushes forward and I believe in the power of butter. Butter makes everything great! Butter is the secret ingredient Chefs have been using that elevates cooking! More butter! I learn the cuisine of the Chef’s I work for. I believed in the French techniques that are the building blocks of every culinary students education.

But as things so often do, something changed. The change started with lemons. We all know a little squeeze of lemon on seafood is divine. But watch what happens when you add a little lemon juice to cooked greens. It changes the way they taste. It can take the edge off of bitter notes. It can brighten the flavors of any dish. What about other citrus; limes, grapefruit, oranges? What can they do to a dish? Then one day, I read in Thomas Keller’s landmark The French Laundry Cookbook that he adds a small amount of vinegar to his cream based soups to round them out. Vinegar!

So it goes, as the years move ahead I am exposed to more and more cooking techniques that maximize acids in cooking. In the world famous Blue Hill at Stone Barns, I am exposed to a pantry that stocks beautiful French tarragon vinegar and I see why acid is king. It was such a powerful element in Dan Barber’ s cooking. My understanding of flavors had changed, and my food has been better for it. Throw in my travels to Mexico and my studies in Latin cooking, and the transformation was complete. I still love butter, but to say the least, it is not how I approach crafting a delicious dish.

There is no dish that highlights the power of acid better than ceviche. The high acid dish transforms raw fish into a bright, complex, easy to make meal. Origins of ceviche are debated (almost as much as it’s spelling’s) but Peru is the capital of ceviche today and variations can be found though Central and South America. When making ceviche look for high quality fish.

Spring Halibut Ceviche with
Pico de Gallo Agua & Avocado

Serves 2-4 People

6 ounces of Halibut Filet (most mild white fish will work)
1 cup Pico de Gallo Agua, recipe follows
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon cucumber, small dice
1 Tablespoon jalapeno, small diced
½ Tablespoon cilantro, minced
Half of an avocado, diced

Cut the halibut into small bite size pieces and place in a non-reactive bowl . Pour ½ cup of the Pico de Gallo Agua over the halibut and mix together. You want to make sure the fish is just submerged by the marinade, so use extra of the Pico Agua if needed. Place mixture in the refrigerator and let the fish marinate for about 15 minutes. Stirring a few times throughout to insure that all of the fish gets marinated.

To assemble the ceviche I like to drain the marinade from the fish and replace with fresh ½ cup of Pico de Gallo Aqua. Mix in the salt and avocado. Place ceviche into your serving container. Top with fresh cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips and margaritas.

Pico de Gallo Agua

Yields about two cups

2 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 Tablespoon of white onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 Tablespoon of jalapeno, seeds left in and chopped
6 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice
1 sprig of cilantro
¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until only small chunks remain. You just want the juice from the ingredients so don’t let it become a smooth puree. Pour mixture into a strainer set over a bowl and gently press on the solids to release all the liquid. Discard the solids that remain. Pico de Gallo Agua will keep for 5 days in the refrigerator, and when mixed with beer makes a delicious michelada!

 

Southern Shrimp Roll

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

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Spring on the Georgia coast is a beautiful thing. The daytime weather seems to linger around a perfect 74 degrees with cool nighttime temps around 62 degrees. It’s the kind of weather that makes a girl think she is back on the California coast and not the semi tropical next door neighbor to Florida. When the weather is this good I start cooking food that is made to be eaten outside. On a bench, under a tree, or on a blanket, all meals must be portable and picnic worthy.

I have been making a variation of this recipe for over 5 years now. A cousin to the New England lobster roll, I make a shrimp salad and pile it high on a soft roll garnished with crunchy butterhead lettuce. Cumberland was my original muse in creating this dish. Cumberland Island sits north of Amelia Island Florida, which some say was the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry. It is home of the annual shrimp festival which takes place on the first weekend of May. Wild caught white shrimp are some of the best in the world and I am usually trying to find a way to work them into every dish come shrimp season.

This is a meal that can be used for lunch or dinner, for an outdoor picnic or indoor movie night. Look for wild caught Georgia or Florida shrimp if your in the South or substitute with a high quality domestic shrimp.

Southern Shrimp Roll

Yields 3 cups Shrimp Salad/ Around 6 shrimp rolls

1 pound medium sized shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lemon
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons celery, small diced
2 tablespoons, fennel small diced
1 tablespoons shallot, small diced
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
3/4 teaspoon tabasco
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon minced chive
1/2 teaspoon minced parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 soft rolls or hotdog buns
1 head butterhead lettuce or romaine

In a medium sized pot add 2 quarts of water, bay leaf, and 1 lemon cut in half and squeezed into the water. Bring the water to a simmer. Add in the shrimp and poach over medium heat until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp and place in an ice water bath to stop them from cooking further. Drain shrimp and dice into small, bite size pieces. In a bowl add diced shrimp and the remaining ingredients. Mix until combined.

To assemble, stuff each roll with a few leaves of bibb lettuce and about 1/2 cup of the shrimp salad. Garnish with chives and serve with your favorite potato chip.

How to Cook for a Legend

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

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One week ago I had the opportunity to cook for a legend. I had one weeks notice. When I heard that Jacques Pépin was coming to Cumberland Island for a visit I was thrilled and focused. The big question was what would the menu be?

When cooking for a legend, how do you write a menu? In a world of 20 course tasting menus, avant-garde plating, and foraging for rare ingredients it can be overwhelming for me as a Chef to focus on how to create a memorable meal. How do we define good food in our culture? Do the best restaurants have to be the most expensive, the most exclusive mausoleums that suspend the reality of what food is? I think not. The older I get, the more confident I become with my cooking, and I realize that so much of my industry relies on smoke and mirrors. The best food, most often times, is the simplest food. Good ingredients, good technique, and a sense of place are the key components for the best restaurants. Food is welcoming and nourishing.

In writing the menu I knew right of the bat what the focal point would be, chicken thighs. I wanted to cook for Jacques Pépin what I would cook for friends and family. The type of food I wish I could find in more restaurants. I knew the best way for me to prepare for this meal was to not over think the menu. So I went with what was in season and what was fresh out of the garden. To cook such a straight- forward meal for a legend comes down to the details.

 

Lunch for Jacques Pépin

Roasted Chicken Thighs with braised hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, green garlic, and chervil

Roasted Baby Beet and Mokum Carrots with petit lettuces, sorrel, ice lettuce, and green goddess

Crispy Potatoes tossed in salsa verde and preserved lemon

Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes with chamomile cream

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The menu was not finalized until the morning that I stepped into the kitchen on the day we would execute this lunch. To be honest, it was one of the most focused services I had ever lead. The meal was served on large platters, family style. Dessert was plated individually. We cooked for Jacques Pepin, his lovely wife Gloria, and his close friend and photographer Tom Hopkins and his wife Christine Hopkins.

At the end of the meal, I was invited to sit down at the table and have a glass of wine. The words exchanged at that table will forever impact me. Jacques Pépin was truly complementary of the meal and went so far as to relate my cooking to that of his mothers and aunts. For me, there is no greater compliment.

The world of the Chef is crazy. We work insane hours under high stress and intense heat. Often times there is little to no balance for personal time and family. But for those of us that chose this path, and stick with it through the success and the failures, there are great rewards and no reward is greater than to be able to do what we love, and have it be appreciated and understood.

There is no doubt, that cooking for Jacques Pépin was and will always be a landmark moment in my career.

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Thank you to Ben Wheatley, Alejandro Tamez, Alberto Gonzalez, and Christopher Becerra for helping to execute this memorable meal. And thank you to Tom Hopkins for documenting the afternoon and sharing these beautiful photos with us.

After the lunch we hosted I had a chance to watch a great interview of Jacques Pépin by Anthony Bourdain, click on the link below to watch.

Anthony Bourdain interviews Jacques Pepin

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The Nacho Challenge

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

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I like to think that I am a healthy eater. As a Chef I eat a lot of different things through the course of the day, so I try to keep my meals simple. Roasted vegetable, whole grains, fresh fruits, big salads… you get the picture. I also like to think that this allows me two big rewards.

  1. To eat anything I want when I travel.
  2. To indulge a little here and there.

This week is about number two. Indulgence. I am sorry to open a post about eating nachos with how I like to eat healthy foods, but I needed to justify this weeks craving. I wanted to create awesome nachos. It was as simple as that.

So here we go. Below I share a recipe, of sorts. I will outline what I put on my nachos, and how to make some of the toppings, but the rest is up to you. Build the nachos the way you want to. Nachos are not nearly as fun if you are following a recipe. I would love to hear more about what you like to put on your nachos!

 

My Best Ever Nachos

Toppings:IMG_4822
homemade chips,
santa maria piquinto beans,
chipotle beer cheese,
pico de gallo,
hot sauce spiked sour cream,
avocado,
radish,
marinated cabbage,
chopped cilantro

Homemade Chips

15 corn tortillas (I use El Milagro)
4 cups of neutral cooking oil (corn, canola, etc.)

Cut and quarter the corn tortillas. Fill a medium pot with 4 cups of cooking oil. The amount of oil will depend on the size of your pot. Make sure you do not fill your pot more than half way full. Heat oil to 325 over medium heat. Fry your tortillas in small batches. Gently lower the tortillas into the oil. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the chips are golden and crunchy. Use a slotted spoon to remove from the oil and lay on a plate lined with a paper towel. Lightly season with kosher salt.

Hot Sauce Spiked Sour Cream

1 cup sour cream
4 teaspoons hot sauce (I use Cholula)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Add all ingredients to a bowl. Stir to fully mix. Can be saved in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Marinated Cabbage

4 cups finely shredded green cabbage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cilantro, roughly chopped
juice of 1 lime

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Use the same day it is made.

Chipotle Beer Cheese

1 cup beer ( I like Pacifico)
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon cornstarch
8 oz. grated Cheddar cheese
4 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 chipotles in adobo, finely chopped
pinch of salt

Bring the beer and milk to a simmer together in a small pot over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of water to the cornstarch to form a slurry and add to the beer/milk mixture. Remove pot from heat and begin whisking in the cheese slowly. When all the cheese is incorporated add in the chopped chipotles and salt. Taste and adjust with more salt or chipotle to your liking.

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

Friday, February 19th, 2016

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I am a sucker for peanut butter cookies. As a child I loved nutter butters. Those peanut shaped cookies that sandwiched a peanut butter filling were a perfect, and rare treat. Sugary snacks were not a common sight in my childhood home, so I learned to really appreciate the rare opportunity to indulge in such decadence. This experience has carried with me as an adult. I tend to indulge in sweets when they are made from scratch and really worth it.

So imagine my excitement the very first time I visited Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. Of course the case of treats rivaled that of any Parisian patisserie but the assortment went above and beyond. There were childhood indulgences made from scratch, perfect versions of my imagination. His “Oh-Ohs” were clearly inspired by the hostess “Ho-Hos”. But, even better, there in the case sat two giant peanut butter cookies housing a sort of peanut butter butter buttercream. The grown-up version of nutter butters! It took me about two days to eat that cookie, and I loved every minuet.

Here at the Inn, we make cookies on a daily basis for our guests. Ben has adapted the Bouchon Bakery recipe for peanut butter cookies that is a perfect indulgence for any age.

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery Cookbook

Yields 36 Cookies
1 cup All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups quick cooking oats, such as Quaker Oats
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup white granulated sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

Begin by grinding the oatmeal in a blender until it becomes finely ground, place oatmeal in a bowl. Sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in the bowl with the oatmeal. Add in kosher salt and mix ingredients together. Set aside. In a stand mixer bowl add butter and peanut butter together. Beat on medium speed with a paddle attachment until creamed, about 3 minutes. Add in white granulated sugar and brown sugar and mix on medium speed for 1 minute, scarping down the sides of the bowl afterwards. Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix for 30 seconds on medium speed. Add in the combined dry ingredients slowly with the machine on low speed. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure no dry ingredients have settled there. Turn machine on again to low speed for 10 seconds to fully combine all ingredients. Prepare a sheet tray with parchment paper. Using a ¾ ounce scoop, begin portioning cookies about 2 ½ inches away from each other. When the tray is full, place in oven and bake for 10 minutes rotating half way thru. Allow cookies to cool to room temperature, if you can resist the temptation, before eating.

* This dough can be frozen. Simply scoop cookies onto a parchment lined sheet tray and place in freezer. When fully frozen they can be transferred to a Ziploc bag and stored in freezer for about 2 months. To cook frozen cookies just remove how many you want to bake, place on parchment lined sheet tray, allow dough to come to room temperature and bake for 10-12 minutes.

 

 

The Delights of Winter, Cooking with Bitter Greens

Friday, February 5th, 2016

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The best discovers come from the ingredients that are less “obvious”. Learning to work with , and truly utilizing vegetables that are in season can be challenging. Give a Chef a hundred pounds of potatoes, easy. Even the pickiest of guests eat potatoes and there are a million and one popular ways to prepare a potato. Give a Chef  belgian endive, frisee, radicchio, turnip greens, or dandelion greens in bulk and watch the magic happen. It takes creativity and imagination to take less common, and sadly less popular ingredients, and make them the star of the plate. “Bitter” Greens are one the best ingredients of the winter season. Its learning how to work with their bitter profile that takes time.

The first trick of the trade is acid. If you want to experiment with simple sautéed greens, try using fresh lemon juice. Lemon juice will balance and brighten even the most simple greens, such as spinach or kale. Another great way to bring bitter greens onto the plate is to serve them with a more rich side kick. A great steak such as a rib eye or new york strip pairs perfectly with bitter greens. The Italians are masters at working with winter greens and you will find that the bitterness of radicchio all but disappears when folded into an unctions pasta dish. Flat bread has been a go to for me this season because, lets be honest, everyone will eat a dish that looks like a pizza. Its delicious and comforting and a great way to eat in season.

Radicchio & Shiitake Flatbread

Flatbread Dough
Yields 24 oz, enough for 4 flatbreads or 2 -14 inch rounds

1 cup of warm water
¼ teaspoon of sugar
¼ oz active dry yeast
14 oz “00” flour
1 teaspoon of salt
1½ olive oil
*I used Anson Mills pizza flour, available online

In a mixing bowl add water, sugar, and yeast. Set aside in a warm spot in your kitchen and allow to bloom, about 5 minuets. In a bowl add flour, salt, and olive oil. Add the yeast mix to the flour. Using a mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix on low for 3-5 minutes. Turn out the dough into a floured surface and knead for about 30 seconds, shape into a ball. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm spot in your kitchen for 45 minuets to rise. After the dough was risen, punch down and reshape into a ball. Proceed with flatbread recipe, or wrap and place in fridge and save for up to 24 hours.

Turnip Green Salsa Verde
Yields around 1 cup
1 oz turnip greens (around 1 small bunch)
1 oz parsley (around 1 bunch)
1 oz of pea shoots*
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
½ cup of olive oil
½ teaspoon of kosher salt
*Can substitute with arugula or watercress as needed.

In a medium sauce pot bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add in turnip greens and parsley and blanch for 45 seconds. Remove from boiling water and submerge in ice water to cool. Remove from water and squeeze to remove any excess water. Place in a blender with fresh pea shoots, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, olive oil, and salt. Blend on high for 10-20 seconds until pureed.

Radicchio & Shitake Flatbread
Yields 1- 18 inch rectangular shaped flatbread

6 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms
2 oz maitake mushrooms
5 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tsp of salt
6 oz of flatbread dough
¼ cup turnip green salsa verde
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
3 oz chopped radicchio (around 1 small head)
fresh black pepper

For the mushrooms:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl toss shiitake mushrooms, maitake mushrooms, 4 tablespoons of olive oil and ½ teaspoon of salt. Spread evenly on sheet tray and bake for 12 minuets or until lightly golden brown. Set aside. Adjust heat of oven to 400 degrees.

For the Flatbread:

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface using a wooden rolling pin. You can shape it how you like, I tend to gear towards a rectangular shape. The dough will spring back slightly. Make sure to roll it thin, about 1/8 inch thick for this recipe. Transfer the dough to the baking sheet. Drizzle ½ teaspoon of olive oil on the flatbread. Spread the turnip green salsa verde over the dough. Using a teaspoon, drop rustic piles of ricotta where you see fit. Scatter the roasted mushroom and radicchio over the dough. Drizzle with a little more olive oil, a pinch of kosher salt, and cracked black pepper. Place in a 400 degree oven and bake for 16 minuets. The thickness of your dough will impact you baking time, so keep an eye on it. Enjoy immediately.