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Celebrate spring with a local favorite

The Hotel Donaldson's Signature Lavosh is topped with freshly roasted vegetables like arugula, radish and zucchini. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 3
Hotel Donaldson Pastry chef Dana Swanson flattens the lavosh dough in a pastry roller to achieve a crisp cracker base. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 3
The lavosh needs to be cooked first to stablize the cracker before adding ingredients like roasted vegetables and marinated onions. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 3

The Hotel Donaldson debuted their new spring menu last week, just as Tony marked his first anniversary as The Hotel's general manager. Over the past year, Tony has watched several menu items come and go, but there is at least one specialty guaranteed to make it through each season: The Hotel Donaldson's Signature Lavosh.

This popular appetizer has been a mainstay on the HoDo's Lounge menu since opening in 2003, and it's been a favorite of mine ever since. I love the versatility of their lavosh — this giant cracker's preparation changes each week, showcasing various seasonal ingredients, and I don't think I've ever had the same version twice in all these years.

Lavosh, also called lavash or lahvosh, is a traditional Armenian flatbread that has become popular in American cuisine over the past few decades. Like its name, it has many iterations, with some versions being unleavened, and others incorporating yeast for body and flavor. While Armenia may take credit for its creation, this bread is widespread throughout the region.

The hotel's pastry chef, Dana Swanson, is responsible for making the lavosh, which is so popular that she makes several large batches of dough each week. Fortunately, she was able to find time between kneading and rolling to visit with me about the process and share a few key tips to ensure the best outcome at home.

According to Dana, the HoDo's lavosh is easy to make and the dough can be refrigerated for a week, or frozen for at least one month. You could make this recipe completely by hand, but Dana recommends using a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment for best results.

For efficiency, she uses a pasta roller to transform the chilled dough into thin

sheets for baking. She passes the dough through the roller several times, from high to low settings, until it is about one-eighth of an inch or thinner.

Chilling the dough first helps it to hold its structure as it passes through the roller; however, if you plan to roll the dough by hand, Dana recommends letting it come to room temperature first, to make it more pliable.

The HoDo's lavosh is baked in two short intervals: once without toppings, to firm up the cracker, and then again with toppings to ensure that everything is hot when served. Lavosh is extremely versatile and can be enjoyed with a variety of toppings, or in smaller pieces, as a cracker.

Today's version is one of Dana's favorites and features both roasted and marinated spring vegetables.

The Hotel Donaldson's Signature Lavosh

Yields: 32 ounces of dough or 8 4-ounce servings

Ingredients:

1 cup water, lukewarm (not hot)

1 teaspoon instant dry yeast

1 ½ teaspoons honey

1 ½ teaspoons butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour

½ cup semolina flour

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

Recommended toppings:

Dana's Roasted Spring Vegetables

Dana's Marinated Spring Onions

Shredded Parmesan Cheese

Arugula

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 for convection ovens). If using a pizza stone, place it in the oven now. Otherwise, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If using a lot of cheese on the topping, lightly grease paper with cooking spray to prevent sticking.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, or a large mixing bowl, place the yeast on the bottom and then add the water. Allow the water to fully saturate the yeast, then add the honey, followed by the melted butter (make sure it is not hot).

Add the dry ingredients one at a time starting with the flour, then the semolina and adding the salt and pepper on top. Use the dough hook attachment to knead the dough until all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough becomes soft and pliable, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Portion dough into desired serving size, making sure they will fit on a baking sheet or pizza stone. (The Hotel Donaldson uses 4-ounce portions to create a single serving approximately 4 inches wide and 12 to 14 inches long, and you can vary the size according to your need.)

Gently knead each portion into a ball, then lightly flatten into a disk. Use dough immediately or wrap each portion in plastic and refrigerate for up to one week. To freeze, place wrapped disks in a plastic freezer bag or airtight container and freeze for at least one month. Allow dough to thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

If using a pasta roller, the dough performs best when chilled first, so refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. If rolling by hand with a rolling pin, room temperature dough is best.

To make the lavosh, run each disk of dough through a pasta roller, starting on the #3 or #4 setting, and then decrease the setting and run through again until it is thin enough to run through the lowest setting, until the sheet of dough achieves a desired thinness of 1/8-inch or lower.

Place each dough sheet on pizza stone or baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between each. Before placing in the oven, run a dough docker across each sheet, or use a fork to gently create holes evenly over the dough.

Bake at 375 degrees for 6 to 9 minutes until lightly golden on the edges.

To make Dana's Springtime Lavosh, lightly brush each sheet of lavosh with olive oil, then evenly distribute a layer of roasted vegetables on top. Add the marinated spring onions and lightly coat top with shredded parmesan cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 5 to 7 minutes, until cheese is melted. As the lavosh bakes, lightly toss 2 cups of arugula with 1 teaspoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt and a pinch of black pepper.

When lavosh is ready, garnish with the arugula, then cut into pieces, if desired. Serve immediately.

Dana's Roasted Spring Vegetables

Makes: 1 to 2 four-ounce portions

Ingredients:

2 cups assorted spring vegetables (such as zucchini, radish and asparagus), thinly sliced

½ teaspoon garlic, minced

1 to 1 ½ teaspoons oil (olive or vegetable)

Pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, lightly toss sliced vegetables with garlic, oil, salt and pepper until evenly coated. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roast at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until softened but with a bit of crunch remaining.

Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for 2 to 3 days.

Dana's Marinated Spring Onions

Makes: 1 to 2 four-ounce portions

Ingredients:

2 green onions, cut into thirds and thinly sliced, lengthwise

1 tablespoon oil (olive or vegetable)

1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons honey

½ teaspoon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together, except the onions, until combined. Add the onions and let marinate for 5 to 10 minutes, or up to 30 minutes. Remove onions from liquids and use as desired.

Use immediately or refrigerate for 2 to 3 days.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello's in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 12-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

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