I have been eating pizza since I was 8 years old and my father instituted Friday pizza night. It was a tradition that lasted all through out my young life. Our house was very popular on Friday nights. My friends would come over. We would watch movies, eat junk food and, of course, pizza. It was a tradition that never faltered. Every single Friday night we ate pizza. It is also a tradition that I carry on today, another one of my father’s legacies. He taught me about pizza.
Pizza is such a comfort food. At least it is for me. I am sure I am not the only one who has many memories involving a slice of pizza. Pizza when you were 15, on the boardwalk in Ocean City, still in your bathing suit. Hot and sunburned, sand stuck to your skin. Those long thin slices that bend and flop as you pick them up. Or going to Pizza Hut when you were young, for your birthday. An ice cold birch beer accompanying that large pie. I still remember those plastic red checkered table cloths. And the salad bar. For some reason, I always loved the salad bar.
I think I have tried every different kind of pizza there is. Potato with cheese and a cracked egg. Prosciutto and fig. Mac and cheese pizza. And while I used to run to the store to buy exotic ingredients for some kind of pizza masterpiece, I recently decided that all this pomp and circumstance was unnecessary. I want to go back to the roots of pizza. Ones made fresh in your kitchen with whatever ingredients you have lying around. Some will tell you that you need all kinds of fancy equipment to make a nice pie. But, from what I can determine, pizza has been made for hundreds of years. It is a food steeped in tradition. And I can assure you, that they were once made without a dough hook or a pizza stone or any other kind of merchandise now being sold.
So now every Friday night, I look into the fridge and pull out whatever I think might taste good on a pizza. Sometimes there are definite winners. And sometimes there are losers. We all have bad days, right? But this pizza was a winner. In fact, hubs said, “This is the best pizza ever!” Well, actually, he had a mouth full of food, so it sounded more like, “fish is fa bresst fizza eva.” But I still took it as a compliment.
This pizza dough is so easy to make. No extra equipment needed. All you need is some flour, yeast and water. And because you make a little yeast slurry in the beginning, you can tell if your yeast is alive. There is nothing worse than making an entire recipe only to find out your yeast won’t rise. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. And it makes you want to throw the flour in the garbage can and go watch How I Met Your Mother. Or drown your sorrows in a glass of milk and a stack of chocolate chip cookies. But I promise your baking skills will be rewarded here. As long as you look for those beloved little yeast bubbles in the beginning.
Next you whip up some pesto, which is really quite easy, and the smell literally overtakes your kitchen. I always forget the smell of pureed basil until I make it again. Then I swear to myself that I am going to make it every week for the rest of the summer. It is delightful. Bright green and garlicky, cheesy and so intense. I love it.
Finally, cut up your vegetables and start layering your pie. I topped my pizza with Burrata cheese, which I think I can say is the best freaking cheese in the entire universe. It is made by taking balls of mozzarella and filling them with, wait for it, cream. Yes cream. But the cream is all thick and curdy and, oh-my-god so good it will pop your buttons! I am not kidding here. It is also pretty widely available. It usually comes in a little container, just like fresh mozzarella.
Pop the whole thing into the oven and a handful of minutes later, you will have the most delicious pizza. And even as I write this, I am eating this pizza from the night before and drinking a root beer. The memories are flooding back and my tummy is in heaven.
Gourmet July 2009
2 (1/4 oz) packages active dry yeast
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups warm water (105 – 115 degrees; F)
2 teaspoons salt
Whisk together yeast, 2 tablespoons flour, and 1/2 cup warm water in bowl and let stand until mixture develops a creamy foam, about 10 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
Stir together salt and 3 cups flour in large bowl. Add yeast mixture and remaining 1 1/2 cups warm water and stir until smooth, then stir in 1 cup more flour. If dough sticks to your fingers, stir in just enough flour (up to 3/4 cup), a little at a time, to make dough just come away from side of bowl. (This dough will be wetter than other pizza doughs you have made.)
Knead dough on a lightly floured surface with floured hands, lightly re-flouring work surface and your hands when dough becomes too sticky, until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Divide dough into three balls, then generously dust all over with flour and put each in a medium bowl. Cover bowls with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubles, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
adapted from the Barefoot Contessa, Barefoot Contessa Parties
1/2 cup almonds
5 cloves garlic
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Place nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 30 seconds, Add basil leaves, salt and cheese. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the processor and run until the pesto is thoroughly pureed.
1 1/2 cups pesto (more or less to taste)
1 cup chopped beans (into 1 in pieces)
1/4 cup fennel frond tops; that furry top of your fresh fennel that you never know what to do with,chopped
1/2 cup sliced squash
2 rounds of Burrata cheese, sliced
Place pizza dough round onto oiled pan and spread out with finger-tips. Leaving indentations in the dough. Really try to spread out the dough, so it is not too thick. This dough puffs up a lot in the oven. Layer beans, squash fennel fronds and cheese on top. Place in 450 degree oven. Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes, until dough is thoroughly crisp. You may have to place foil on top of the pizza to get dough crisp enough. Enjoy!