we make a lot of pizza in our house. the real kind. not the cardboard box kind (though there is a place for that, believe me. my friend Nanette & I had have a secret, shared weakness for Totino’s Party Pizza, the cheese variety. I can eat a whole one, so there) but the risen dough, hand-stretched, freshly topped, oozing from the oven type. now, I am not a food-traditionalist. never have been, or at least not since I can remember. I believe this is in part, or perhaps fully, a doing of my mother’s. She is a fine cook. Perhaps the best cook I know personally and she is nothing if not blissfully excitable when it comes to the preparation of good food. She has more cookbooks than movies, and I love her for it. And, my palette loves her for it. We eat well and wild when in the midst of her kitchen and those habits have slopped happily over into my own kitchen.
That said, we
rarely never eat a standard red sauce & pepperoni pizza. We eat pizzas with white sauce, bacon and whole eggs learned from this must read food blog. We eat pizza with caramelized onion and goat cheese which always makes me think of my beloved friend Karina who loves food with the same veracity I do. And, of course, we don’t just concern ourselves with the toppings; there are crusts, people. Lots of crusts and I won’t woof down three slices of just any old namby pamby crust. Its got to be thin, but not too thin. Crisp enough that I can hold the piece of pizza high in the air in a gesture of admiration without it getting the embarrassing droops, but not so crisp that I could tile our bathroom floor with it. And it has to have flavor—while the crust’s primary role is to act as a plate for toppings, there is that little ledge at the end of the slice that has no toppings. It stands all alone and that, my friends, is the crust’s true test. If I don’t enjoy the ledge almost as much as the toppings, I may as well use it as a bench scraper.
So. We’ve tried many crusts, a favorite being from the above mentioned blogger’s new cookbook (one that is more than worthy of anyone’s growing collection), another is from this delightful cookbook (also worth the purchase, especially if you like chicken nuggets!!) but the one we used last night was, far and away, the holy grail of crust recipes. Plus, it gives you an excuse to open a bottle of wine which, (thank you mom) I have learned is never a bad thing. Stop what you are doing right now, put that frozen pizza back into the freezer (please!) and make this pizza crust.
Now, a crust this good clearly deserves toppings that are superior, but only slightly. You want your relationship between crust and topping to not be unlike that of a good physical attraction (you perceive the object of interest [andy, in my case] to be only slightly better looking than yourself…lest you start to have low self-esteem.) And, my friends, I am about to share with you an menagerie of toppings that are suited perfectly for the previously mentioned crust. Adapted from yet another cookcook of sheer brilliance, this pizza sings of summer. One bite and you will forget about mosquitos and overly-wet gardens. Bright, sunny days spent behind an office desk will slip into the fading world of bad dreams. Vacations gone horribly awry will suddenly right themselves in your mind and all the children will be holding hands in the back of the minivan singing “someone’s in the kitchen with dina” in perfect, four-part harmony. What I’m saying is that this pizza is summer, perfected.
So. Because this blog post (which was envisioned as very succinct & to-the-point) is getting obnoxiously long, I am going to shut my trap & share the recipe. Go. Make. Eat.
Crust (Mario Batali)
1/4 cup light red or white wine, Fiano di Avellino
3/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
3 1/2 cups flour
Place wine, water and yeast in a large bowl and stir until dissolved. Add the honey, salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil and mix well to combine. Add 1 cup of the flour and mix until it becomes a loose batter. Add 2 more cups of the flour and mix until it comes together and forms a smooth dough. Place in a clean, lightly-oiled bowl, using remaining tablespoon of oil and cover with a towel. Let rise in the warmest part of the kitchen for 45 minutes.
Once risen, roll or stretch into a lovely circle. Ours in usually about 13 inches across.
Preheat your oven and a baking stone to 500. And become assembling the toppings.
Zest from one organic lemon
2 scallions, chopped
1 onion, cut into crescent moons
16 basil leaves, torn
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
salt & pepper
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch think
2 garlic cloves
12 ounces yummy pizza cheese (we like a combo of mozz. and parm.)
extra virgin olive oil
mix the zest, chopped parsley, salt, pepper and one of the minced garlic cloves together in a small bowl. set aside. drizzle the crust with olive oil and place the other minced garlic clove on it and, using your hands, spread it all over the crust with the oil. position the sliced tomatoes next, then the onions (we like a lot of onion so we use an entire onion…use less if you are unsure but, truly, in this case, more is best). Next, sprinkle the zest/garlic mixture over the top, then the torn basil leaves and last (but please, not least) the cheese. Transfer to the preheated baking stone and bake until golden and fabulous (about 15 minutes.) Wait for a few minutes so it cools (so, so hard) and stuff yourself silly. oh sweet summer.
***the cookbooks linked to in this blog post go to my affiliated amazon page. if you should happen to be intrigued and purchase one, I receive a small amount of money to help this blog keep chugging along.