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Pizza Pizza!

July 18, 2008

Who on this earth does not like pizza? The crispy crust, melted cheese, spicy sauce, and scrumptious delectables — it’s one of life’s no-brainers for instant gastronomic pleasure. While I’ve always enjoyed pizza out in the world — John’s slices on Bleeker Street in my old New York hood, Grimalidi’s coal fired pies in Brooklyn, Zachary’s over-stuffed deep dishes in Berkeley, Peppe’s and Sally’s where pizza was born in New Haven, Silverton and Batali’s West Coast bravado at Mozza in LA — I wasn’t a big at-home pizza slinger. Back in New York I used to buy the dough from the pizza shop around the corner and when we moved, I’d pick it up at the market. But I was always disappointed. My oven couldn’t get hot enough, the pizza stone wasn’t big enough, I’d come up with a litany of excuses to convince myself. Sure I could dress up a pizza, but as you probably know, it’s all in the crust. So one hungry evening a few years ago, the heavens opened and Mark Bittman whispered in my ear, Make it yourself, Stupid!

And so we set out to make pizza dough from scratch. I think our reservations had to do with playing with yeast, but the wife and I decided to stop babying around and just give it the old college try. And if by chance we created a yeast fueled dough monster like in Ghostbusters, we’d have one our Henckels ready and sharpened to do battle before it left our kitchen and stormed LA. We started with Bittman’s basic dough recipe and thus our addiction to pizza-from-scratch was born.  Now the point of this blog is to find ways to consume our weekly farmer’s market bounty and I’m starting to think that’s why those crazy Italians invented pizza in the first place — as a flavor explosion vehicle. After wrestling the dough enough times to tame the leavening process, pizza-from-scratch became a staple in our diet (don’t tell my cholesterol watching doctor about this one). We’d make it on a stone or just in a baking sheet, we’d try a tomato spread one night, a pesto spread the next. Or maybe it would be naked with a light drizzle of olive oil. The adventure was in the dressing — what vegetables and meats could we combine?

When our old friends Gabriel and Peggy stopped through this weekend en route to Fiji (where they’re currently sipping mai tais while you’re stuck reading this in your cubicle), we cleaned out the fridge for this week’s Pizza-From-Scratch Improv #96. For a sauce, we settled on a white bean-garlic-rosemary puree, also complements of Mr. Bittman (Last time we made a garlic scape-white bean puree). Then came the farmer’s market veggies — some cipollini onions, which we sweated until sweet and tender, some tomatoes, a sliced red onion, a bell pepper, a bunch of garlicky sautéed chard, and loads of fresh basil. For the carnivore pizza, we threw in some sweet and hot sausages and fried them out of the casings. Then came mighty mozzarella and peppy parmesan.  Twenty minutes in the very hot oven later… Pizza Pegriel was born (a combo of their names — their idea, not mine).

While I’m not advocating skipping out on your favorite pizza joints, I’d love to hear your favorite combinations for pizza made from scratch.

For recipes…

Mark Bittman’s Basic Pizza Dough (for one cookie-sheet size pizza)

3 cups flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast (1 package)

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

In food processor, combine flour, yeast and salt. While processor is running, add olive oil and up to 1 cup warm water a little at a time until the mixture starts to form a ball. (The wife says be careful not to add too much water.) Place dough on a floured work surface and knead into a ball. (The wife says if you’re lazy and don’t want to clean a floured work surface, you can just flour your hands and knead in the air.) Place dough in bowl and cover until dough rises to about twice its original size (one to two hours).

Mark Bittman’s White Bean Puree (Doctored slightly)

1 can or 2 cups cooked cannelini beans, rinsed thoroughly if from a can and drained.

2 garlic cloves

Kosher salt in and fresh black pepper to taste

1/3 cup olive oil or more to taste

3 teaspoons fresh rosemary

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Puree everything in the food processor and doctor to your tastes.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2008 9:30 am

    Oh, that’s absolutely beautiful! Yum.

    Haven’t done it yet, but I’m planning on making my own crusts, too.

  2. josh permalink
    July 18, 2008 6:15 pm

    you’ve inspired me to give it the old college try…and to think of an equally appetizing name for my little pizza-monster! yummy…

  3. Bruce permalink
    July 19, 2008 1:26 am

    Wow! … this is beyond post post modern (and I’m not talkin’ about Modern Apizza either). A gastronomic reordering of the sauce and toppings cosmos, built on a traditional crust foundation. I’m ready to cook it up – knock it out – though point out one factual error in the thread: New York is the original, not New Haven, though New Haven does better in general. Bon appetite!

  4. Amy permalink
    July 20, 2008 4:19 am

    Holy cow!!! You guys are unstoppable! It’s hard to read this blog without developing a whopping appetite. What I want to know is, when will the strawberry rhubarb combo make it on a pizza….

  5. July 20, 2008 12:35 pm

    Oh, does that looks terrific! I confess; I do not make my own crusts but really must try. Yours looks just perfect!

  6. Gabe permalink
    July 24, 2008 7:56 pm

    Back from Fiji! Saw the pizza entry and despite my island haze, can still clearly recall how delicious these pies turned out. The sausage and onion was my favorite, though I am more of the carnivore-type. Once I re-orient to being back in real life, Peggy and I will have to try to reproduce this blissful dining experience. We’ll let you know how it turns out!

  7. Christy permalink
    July 24, 2008 8:19 pm

    My favorite Market-Bounty-centric pizza topping.

    Tomato base: Thin vertically-sliced romas (5-7) and garlic (5 cloves minimum) mixed with olive oil, salt and pepper. I like to let this marinate while the dough rises. Spread this evenly on your uncooked dough. Almost necessary inclusions: basil and capers.

    Cheese: French (sheep’s milk) feta and/or goat cheese. Not too much though, you should be able to see roughly 40-60% of tomato base.

    I guess the quantities depend on your big your pizza is. Watch out, when eaten straight out of the oven, this will burn your mouth. Ouch!

    I hope you try it and like it.

  8. Nicky permalink
    July 24, 2008 8:50 pm

    The Bittman recipe is what got me hooked on homemade pizza, too! Although I had to start making it out of necessity, as I live out in the booniest of boonies, where even the crappy chain places won’t deliver. But what a blessing in disguise that turned out to be! These days I use a mash-up of Bittman & Giada DeLaurentiis for the dough–2 1/2 C. flour (white & wheat mixed), regular yeast pkg + 1 C. warm water, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. sugar, and a squeeze or two of olive oil. Epicurious has a great vegetarian recipe from Bon Appetit that I use almost every week–the only different is that I lower the temperature & increase the cooking time to keep the sun-dried tomatoes (I don’t use the oil-packed ones) from burning.

    They’ve also got a recipe similar to your Improv #96 which incorporates goat cheese, and which is also great with large-diced porto ‘shrooms. Also, instead of spinach you can toss some arugula after it comes out of the oven & cover for a couple of minutes to let it wilt. Yum!

  9. lastomach permalink*
    July 26, 2008 1:39 am

    Great ideas Nicky! Can’t wait to try them out in the kitchen.

  10. lastomach permalink*
    July 26, 2008 1:49 am

    Christy, we’ll have to try your simple tomato pizza. Great idea to let the tomatoes marinate while the dough rises. I might just have to substitute romas for the beautiful heirlooms at the market this summer.

  11. Christy permalink
    July 30, 2008 7:44 pm

    Roma are cheaper and have their place.
    I wanted to mention, too, that when I say thin, I mean, super thin, as thin as you can, like 12 slices per tom.
    Love the blog. Keep it up.

  12. September 23, 2008 8:46 pm

    LOOKS delish! I cant wait to make in my own test kitchen.


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