Nick Martinkovic, co-owner and chef at Noah’s Cupboard, may run an elegant and elevated restaurant, but he knows how to make kid-friendly food. The intimate restaurant is named after his 4-year old son, Noah, and is Nick’s answer to having a family and having a farm-to-table restaurant.
Being a chef is usually not the most family-friendly occupation, with late nights and long weekends. So after working abroad in France and Wales and at some of America’s top restaurants, he decided to settle down in his wife’s hometown of Weston, Missouri, opening up the restaurant when Noah was 2.
Because Nick cares so much about that family-work balance, the restaurant is only open three days a week (Thursday-Saturday), and the limited seating makes reservations highly coveted so dining is a unique and special experience. When Noah’s Cupboard isn’t open for dining, you can sometimes walk by their storefront on Weston’s Main Street and see them inside prepping the restaurant for the week, with Noah coloring nearby or helping his mom Andrea with dishes, and their other son, JJ, popping in and out to meet friends at the city park.
Noah’s Cupboard doesn’t have a kid’s menu, but Nick has perfected prepping and making food in bulk for his own family, serving as head chef in his personal kitchen on nights he isn’t in the restaurant.
“It looks nuts after I do a barbecue,” says Nick. “The goal is to have leftovers.”
Nick finds it hard to scale back on his cooking, always going all-out even for a simple weeknight meal, and you can tell every dish is thoughtfully made, whether it’s for his 4-year old or his customers. He likes to make food in large batches that can be eaten in different meals, which is how the chicken spiedie pizza came to be.
Nick makes the chicken spiedie — an American-Italian chicken skewer — on the grill, and then grills his pizza dough. The chicken spiedie can be eaten as is or topped on the pizza with fresh ricotta and mozzarella (Nick makes his own ricotta, but you can obviously use storebought). The kids have fun making their own pizza — choosing their own adventure with the toppings and whether or not they want sauce.
He also makes pizza dough in bulk, and whatever isn’t made into pizza dough is tomorrow’s focaccia, which is how focaccia was actually invented in Italy. He serves the focaccia as is, or slices it in half and makes the best leftover sandwich you’ve ever eaten (Nick’s favorite way is to style it like a New Orleans' muffaletta).
Nick remembers leftover nights growing up, having a dedicated night where everyone fended for themselves and made something out of the fridge remnants. One of his cooking philosophies is Mottainai, a Japanese style of making sure that every ingredient is respected and that there is no waste. While leftover night might not seem like the most luxurious thing, Nick thinks it teaches his kids how to be resourceful, creative, and less wasteful.
“I think that’s important for kids to see,” he says.
CHICKEN SPIEDIE & MARINADE
1 ¾ Cup olive oil or blended oil
1 cup white vinegar
2-4 lemons depending on size and amount of juice you get from each one
2 tsp salt
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp dried basil
3 Tbsp dried mint
2 tsp onion powder
1 ½ tsp garlic powder
1 ½ tsp black pepper, fresh ground
Pinch of red chili flake
Two lbs of chicken
1. In a glass jar or medium mixing bowl combine all ingredients except chicken and mix well.
2. Pour over chicken diced in 1-inch cubes and mix to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for up to 1 week but at least 1-2 days for best results. You will have extra marinade – store in fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
3. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (you may also cook directly on grill, with chicken on skewers)
4. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray
5. Spread onto baking sheet and cook for 7-12 minutes.
PIZZA DOUGH RECIPE
1 tsp sugar
1 packet or ¼ oz active dry yeast
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 ¼ cup pizza flour, bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
1. Pour 1 cup warm water into a medium bowl. Add sugar and sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Whisk oil into yeast mixture. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until liquid is incorporated. Cover with plastic and let sit 5 minutes (dough may appear dry). Turn out onto a floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together in an elastic ball, 2 minutes or so. Transfer to an oiled medium bowl; brush top lightly with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; set in a warm, draft-free place until dough has doubled in size, approximately 45 minutes.
3. Punch down dough and divide into balls. 10-ounce ball = 12 inch pizza. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again approximately 45 min to 1 hour.
4. Preheat grill to high heat. Oil your dough and gently press out to 12 inches or desired size. Carefully grill 45 seconds to 1 minute on one side and 15-20 seconds on the other side.
Grilled pizza dough
Other desired toppings (herbs, sauce, etc)
1. Make pizza dough and chicken spiedie according to instructions.
2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Bring pizza dough in from grill and set on a pizza peel or baking sheet.
4. Assemble pizza with ricotta, chicken spiedie, olive oil and mozzarella. Bake in oven for 5-7 minutes.
5. Remove from oven and fnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese, lemon zest and fresh herbs
Leftover pizza dough
1. Spray a baking sheet with pan spray. Oil bottom with extra virgin olive oil. Press dough into baking sheet, creating divots for the oil to pool. Heavily oil on top of dough and sprinkle with sea salt, sprinkle with rosemary or other herbs of your choice.
2. Let rise for 45 minutes. Preheat oven 475 degrees.
3. Bake approximately 12-15 minutes until golden brown.