Posts Tagged With: pizza

supper tonight – 6.5.12 – leek & mushroom pizza

Vision:

Musing, wishing, dreaming…

     …conception, imagination, anticipation…

…an overall idea of how you hope something will turn out.

Sometimes, if you’re lucky, a prophecy.

Some written recipes include an indication of their creator’s vision. Maybe a grab-you-by-the-tastebuds blurb at the top of the page, a charming anecdote that invites and entices you, a photo that captures one stylized representation of what your mouthwatering result should look like.

But mostly, the recipe is a plan–a straightforward description of ingredients and materials, steps and procedures.

A recipe is the map that helps you navigate to your cabin in the woods, not the relaxing thrill of the forested hike you look forward to taking when you get there, not the buzzing and chirping and humming of nature all around you, not the sweet warmth of the hot cocoa you’ll sip on the porch when the evening chill sets in.

The recipe is not what makes your mouth water, not what you’ll look forward to.

The recipe is concrete, explicating (hopefully in careful detail) the very real process of creating your vision or someone else’s. But it is abstract, too, because you as you’re reading, you don’t yet smell it, taste it, experience it in any tangible way. It is only a string of words and numbers, measurements and imperative sentences, that can lead you through–and to–that sensory experience.

The vision blurs these lines, too. It is abstract because it does not exist yet–it is only your dream of what will be (or what could or should be), not what actually is. But it is concrete, too, because the vision is what you can smell and taste, see steaming, hear sizzling–even if only in your mind.

When I cook, I might follow a recipe. But I’m more likely to adapt a recipe, ignore a recipe, forget a recipe, create a recipe as I go along.

Recipe or not, I almost always have a vision. I know what I want my food to look like on the plate, to taste like when it touches my tongue, to feel like as I chew.

I know how I want to feel when I eat it.

But when you’re cooking with someone else, someone you love, and you have a vision but no recipe, how do you communicate that vision to the person cooking with you?

*      *      *      *      *

Tuesday night, Micah and I cataloged the contents of our refrigerator, brainstorming pizza topping combinations. Some items–the squash and peppers, the ham and brie–were off-limits, already earmarked for other purposes. What was left?

For several minutes, we stood, stared, chatted, considered.

I saw the creamy-white button mushrooms, round and plump, still dotted with specks of dark soil. I saw the young, slender leeks, their stalks delicately stretching from small ivory bulbs to sleek green leaves. I saw a deli tub of fresh mozzarella, moist and elastic, floating in cloudy, salty brine, ready and waiting and eager to melt.

And then, I had a vision.

Brown and beige and shades of green. Warm, mellow, earthy flavors. Nothing bright and flashy, nothing showy, no punch-in-the-mouth heat or tang or bite.

I didn’t have a map, but I knew where this pizza was going and what it would do when it arrived. I pulled the mushrooms, leeks, and mozzarella out of the refrigerator, plucked garlic powder and thyme from the spice rack, gathered flour and salt and yeast for the crust.

Micah greased a pizza pan with olive oil while I mixed the dough. Then I pressed the dough into the pan, thinner and thinner, spreading it to the very edges.

As the crust prebaked on its own, unadorned, for maximum crispiness, Micah melted butter in a skillet. I cut up the mushrooms and leeks, which Micah sauteed while I sliced the cheese. The recipe was created as we worked, every ingredient and action working together towards the vision I had in mind.

When our crispy crust came out of the oven and off of the pan, I spread the softened, buttery vegetables over it.

Micah looked again into the fridge. “How about some of these?” he asked, picking up a tub of mixed green, kalamata, and oil-cured black olives.

I love olives. We both do. But I thought about my vision and decided: not on this pizza.

“No,” I said as I worked, eyeing my distribution of leeks and mushrooms, looking for spots that still needed to be filled in. “I don’t really want olives.”

“But what if I do? Could we put olives on half?”

“Olives don’t go on this pizza,” I said. “I’ve got a vision.”

“I think they’d go just fine.”

“But I don’t want olives.”

“I do,” Micah said, clearly exasperated.

With good reason.

I was being stubborn. Of course I knew that. Even then, I realized I wasn’t communicating my vision very well, wasn’t justifying my choices, definitely wasn’t convincing Micah that olives were a topping for another pizza, another time.

“No olives,” I said. I carefully placed the wobbly ovals of sliced mozzarella, spacing them evenly, tweaking the design as I went along.

Micah, sweet and patient as he is, compromised. And by compromised, I mean that he let me have my way.

Micah isn’t what you’d call whipped, isn’t a doormat, doesn’t just give in to my whims any time. But he does pick his battles, and he knew this one wasn’t worth fighting.

I, on the other hand, am hard-headed enough that I would’ve argued about it, not for the sake of fighting, not even because it was that important to me, but just because I wanted to be right (and, of course, I felt sure I was).

The pizza, now dressed, went into the oven. Without olives.

Soon, scents of crisping crust and bubbling cheese, garlic, herbs, sweet leeks and warm mushrooms diffused through the kitchen.

A few minutes later, the pizza was done.

a vision, realized

We sliced. We tasted. The crust crunched between our teeth. The mushrooms and leeks were buttery, delicate, and tender. Each bite was warm and mellow, brown and green, earthy and rustic and exactly what I had envisioned.

“Do you still think it needs olives?” I asked Micah.

“No,” he said. “It’s good.”

“Like I said, I had a vision.”

What’s in it:

  • For the crust:
    • 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
    • 1/2 cup warm water (about 100-110°F)
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • For the toppings:
    • 1  tablespoon butter
    • 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
    • 4 leeks, washed and sliced, white and light green parts only
    • 6-8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    • salt and pepper

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F.
  • Put the yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Dissolve the sugar into the water, then pour over the yeast. Let stand for about 5 minutes.
  • Add both flours, salt, garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. Mix until the dough comes together into a ball, then knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes (or use the dough hook on your stand mixer). Flatten the dough into a disc.
  • Brush 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil on a large pizza pan.
  • Put the disc of dough in the center of your pan. Press it with your fingers to spread it all the way to the edges of the pan. (It will be very thin! If you accidentally tear the dough like I did several times, just do your best to smoosh it back together. :))
  • Brush the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil over the top of the dough.
  • Bake the crust for 7-8 minutes.
  • While the crust is baking, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the mushrooms, leeks, and dried thyme. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and the leeks are slightly translucent. Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  • Once the crust has baked for 7-8 minutes, remove it from the oven and slide it off the pizza pan and onto a large cutting board (or your kitchen counter, if it’s clean enough–mine never is!).
  • Top the pizza with the vegetables, then the mozzarella.
  • Return the pizza to the oven and bake it directly on the rack for another 8-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to bubble a little bit.
  • While the pizza cools for a few minutes, sprinkle it with just a tad more salt and pepper. Then slice and enjoy.

the vision, close-up

If When your dinner turns out amazing (it will), please don’t gloat and say “I told you so.”

Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to be sharing this pizza with someone who understands your vision, or (more importantly) someone who understands your stubborn need to be right all the time–and loves you anyway.

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Categories: musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

supper tonight – 5.10.12 – pizza margherita

a delicious mosaic of red, white, and green

So the story goes, Queen Margherita of Italy was journeying with her husband Umberto around her kingdom’s countryside around 1889 and observed the peasants enjoying tasty flatbreads that they called pizzas. She tried and loved this rustic food (much to the disdain of her peers in the nobility), and she commissioned a pizza chef named Rafaelle Esposito to make the humble delicacy for her. Chef Rafaelle not only made Queen Margherita the pizza she asked for, but he specially created a pie that incorporated the red, white, and green of the Italian flag using tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Thus, the traditional “pizza margherita” was born.

I first tried pizza margherita on a trip to Sicily my senior year of college. I’d grown up eating the Americanized pies peddled by chains like Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Papa Johns, and Dominoes, plus the fancy pizza offerings at the college-kid favorite around here, the Georgia-based Mellow Mushroom. But pizza in Italy was different. The crust was warm and doughy, like good bread. The sauce was minimal or nonexistent, and cheese was included, but not a greasy blanket of it. The toppings were simple–no pizzas with names like “super supreme” or “kitchen sink.” And my favorite was the simplest of all, the pizza margherita.

love pizza? you’ll love this!

So Thursday night, when we needed a quick dinner, and we just happened to have fresh tomatoes, some beautiful basil, and a little deli tub of mozzarella floating in salty brine, it was pretty easy to figure out our course of action.

Step-by-step:

  • Make your pizza crust. Micah liked the crust recipe we used last time, but this time he asked if we could make it thinner and crispier. So we did. We only mixed up half as much dough, but we spread the dough extra thin over the same big pizza pan. Then, we pre-baked it for about 8 minutes at 450°F to get it good and crispy before we added the toppings.
  • Once your crust is ready, spread on a very thin layer of pizza or pasta sauce (we just happened to get a jar of Cugino’s Classic Marinara in our wine club bag from Shiraz last week, which was perfect!). Top the sauce with thin slices of mozzarella and fresh tomato.
  • Bake at 450°F directly on the oven rack for about 10 minutes, or until your crust is extra crispy and your cheese is nice and melty.
  • While the pizza bakes, chop some fresh basil. (To make a pretty chiffonade/ribbon cut, take a stack of basil leaves, roll them up like a sleeping bag, and then slice the roll of leaves like a jellyroll. When you let go, you’ll have a big, pretty pile of basil streamers!)
  • Top the finished pizza with the basil, then sprinkle with a little salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  • Slice and enjoy! You’ll probably want to eat the whole thing, and that’s totally okay.

see how thin and crispy that is?

Thanks, Chef Rafaelle, for inventing this pizza! It is truly fit for a queen. Or a couple of hungry peasants like Micah and me. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

supper tonight – 4.3.12 – arugula, goat cheese, and tomato pizza

Last night, I wanted to make Growandcook’s cauliflower soup for dinner.

Micah said he wanted something heartier than soup.

I said I could make grilled cheese sandwiches to go with it.

Micah said he wanted something heartier than soup and sandwiches.

I said I could save the soup recipe for later and make some nice, hearty pasta with arugula, goat cheese, and tomatoes.

Micah thought about it for a minute, agreed that pasta would be okay…but then said, “Just make the soup. I’ll eat something else if I’m still hungry.”

Argghh!

At this point, I was already a bit hangry (hungry+angry, see previous post about this here), and no matter how whole-heck-of-a-lot-much I love Micah, one thing that drives me absolutely bonkers is when he disagrees with me until I change my mind…and then decides to change his.

“So what are you in the mood for, anyway?”

“I don’t know. Pizza or something?”

Eureka! This conversation might’ve only taken you a minute to read, but I’m transcribing the condensed version. The actual exchange took at least five or six excruciating minutes.

My normal recipe for pizza dough (and bread, and dinner rolls, and calzones) takes a good three to four hours, as do many yeasty-dough-type procedures with mixing, rising, shaping, rising, and (finally) baking. No way in hell was that going to work.

So, my good friend Google helped me find many, many recipes with titles that combined the words “quick” and “pizza dough.” Some that required instant yeast (which I don’t keep around), and several that weren’t as expedient as advertised. Then, I found this little gem at Oven Love and decided to give it a shot.

The verdict? Although not quite as chewy-crispy-crusty as the long-rising recipe I know and love, this pizza was freaking awesome. And just as quick and easy as Natalie promised it would be.

I might've gone a tad OCD with the spacing of the toppings...

If you ever need to make a pizza from scratch in an hour or less, I highly recommend this recipe. Or even if you’ve got all the time in the world and just want to make a pizza really fast….well, this recipe rocks.

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm (105-115°F) water
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, separated
  • 4 ounces fresh arugula (we used whole leaves, but would chop it next time for easier biting)
  • 4 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on how big they are
  • 6 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F. Grease a pizza pan.
  • Put the yeast, sugar, and water in a large bowl (if you have a stand mixer, use the bowl for that).
  • Add the flour, salt, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix until the dough comes together, then knead for 5 minutes (by way of your stand mixer’s dough hook, or by hand on a lightly floured surface).

The dough really does turn out this beautiful! (image by Natalie from Oven Love - click to visit)

  • Press the dough onto your greased pizza pan, spreading it all the way to the edges. 
  • Brush with the 3rd tablespoon of olive oil.
  • If you like a not-so-crispy crust:
    • Go ahead and add your toppings (arugula, tomatoes, goat cheese) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    • Bake for about 15 minutes.
  • If you like a crispy crust: 
    • Slide your pizza pan in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes. 
    • Remove the partially baked crust to a cutting board. 
    • Top with the arugula, tomatoes, and goat cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    • Bake for 8-10 more minutes directly on the oven rack. 
  • Stuff your face with piping hot, delicious pizza! 

The last step: give your husband a big hug and apologize for being so cranky earlier about cooking dinner. And plan to cook the cauliflower soup the day after tomorrow, because tomorrow night, you’ll want to eat the rest of this pizza. 🙂

Categories: links, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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