Tuesday, February 17, 2009

pizza: it's what's for dinner

Every now and then, I run into a bit of a rut. A cooking rut.
I don’t know what to make, I don’t know what to do with anything I’ve got on hand, and worst of all - I have no idea what I’m in the mood to eat.
So I grabbed hold of my recipe folder that is still in tact after all these years, but just exploding with possibilities. (Or really, just exploding).
And the first thing to slide out was a photocopied recipe my brother had given me. A recipe for pizza dough.
It clicked.

My brother makes the best pizza.
A friend of mine once mentioned "I think the more toppings on a pizza, the better". I couldn’t agree. I’m such a pizza purist at heart. I love the simplicity of a little bit of sauce and a good handful of cheese.
My brother’s pizza is so far from that.
For my pizza, I took inspiration from my brother’s delicious pizza and an old pizza we used to make at my job years ago. The underlying sweetness of the tomatoes and onions goes so wonderfully with the briny quality of the olives and the soft spinach. Turkey adds a little meaty element, but this could easily be vegetarian.
Working with yeast dough has always resulted in a bit of tragedy for me, but this is such a simple recipe - you can’t screw the thing up. The dough is fluffy and soft, not thin and crisp. So if you’re a thin-and-crisp fan, this recipe may not be for you. But give it a shot anyway. It’s such a light dough and it’s just so, so good.
This is a good pizza. This is a great pizza. A bit of work, yes. But worth it? Oh, you have no idea.

Pizza á L’homage
how witty and clever, no? this is essentially my version of my brother’s pizza, with the volume turned up a bit. Dough recipe adapted from Basic Italian. Serve this up with a nice little salad (perhaps some lettuces growing in the backyard, some orange segments and juice, some olive oil, and a good grind of black pepper). What a fabulous dinner.

2-3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ c olive oil
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
salt, pepper, oregano

pizza dough:
2 c all-purpose flour (plus more for shaping)
1/4 c olive oil
1 (1/4oz) packet yeast
2/3 c lukewarm water

1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded mozzarella or Italian-blend cheese
8-10 slices deli turkey
a good handful of spinach
1 (3 oz) jar manzanilla olives, halved

1. In a small saucepan, heat up olive oil and garlic gently on low. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, constantly stirring not to burn the garlic. Let cool.
2. Lay the tomato slices in a single layer and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and oregano. Spoon some of the garlic oil (with garlic slices) onto the tomatoes and let marinate.
3. For the dough: Add flour, a good pinch of salt, and oil to a mixing bowl. Separately, stir yeast into water and mix until fairly smooth.
4. Turn mixer on and slowly add in yeast-water to flour mixture. (If you don’t have a mixer, get right in there with your hands). If dough is a little too sticky, add in some more flour. Mix on medium speed with dough hook until it pulls away from the sides and looks smooth - about 5-7 minutes. (Or knead vigorously for a good bit).
5. Grease a bowl and place dough inside. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a fairly warm place for 30-45 minutes until doubled in size.
6. Meanwhile: Preheat the oven to 450º F. Heat up some of the garlic oil in a saute pan and saute the onions until caramelized. Be careful not to burn them. Set aside.
7. Once the dough is ready, punch it down and roll out on a floured surface. This recipe works for a half-sheet pan or 2 pizza pans.
8. Grease your pan of choice with the garlic oil and press the dough onto the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and brush some more garlic oil on the dough. Begin with the tomatoes then the caramelized onions. Sprinkle 3/4 of the cheese and throw on the turkey slices and spinach. Sprinkle on the olives and the remaining cheese and stick in the oven for about 10-15 minutes - or until the edges are a light brown and the crust is nice and crisp.

Slice up and enjoy. You won’t have any leftovers.

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