Fresh Herbs

A fresh and fun recipe catalog by a girl who likes to play in the kitchen the "from scratch" way.

|PIZZA FRIDAY: TOPPINGS| 06/29/2011

Filed under: BASIL,cheese,OREGANO,Pizza,Savory,THYME — |FreshHerbs| @ 8:52 pm

Well now, I’ve gone and given you pizza dough without anything to put on it! {hand slap} But before we get to that, a word about the right equipment. I can’t tell you how many times I spent the wee hours scraping blackened, sticky, gooey “piles of would-be-pizza” off my really lovely W-S pizza stone. Ah, the trials and tribulations of the home chef… My mother has always sworn by a well-oiled stone. Not for me. I always found the more I oiled, the more rancid the smell which permeated the kitchen/oven/other baked goods. [If you know that rancid smell of which I speak, and have a high quality stone, you can actually clean the stone quite well by running it through the self-cleaning oven cycle.  The super high temp bakes the crappies right out of the stone. Looks practically new!]

The best way I’ve found to get pizza on and off the stone is to actually assemble the pizza and cook it on tinfoil. I still get the crispy goodness that pizza crust is capable of without the mess and residue on my stone (plus you can wrap leftovers in the foil). The key is to heat the stone up with the oven. Putting cold dough on a cold stone then putting it in the hot oven just fuses the dough to the stone. THAT’S where I was going wrong all these years. You will need to use a peel (that paddle thing that pizzerias use to slide their pizzas in/out of their pizza ovens) to get your tinfoil/pizza combo onto the stone. I don’t have a peel so I use an air bake cookie sheet. Presto!

So rolling out your dough is key. Liberally flour a clean space on your counter, and dust your dough ball. Flatten the dough by hand into a thick disk (or square if you prefer) and then get out your rolling pin. The dough will have a tendency to shrink back into itself as you roll if it’s too cold, so make sure its close to room temp. Roll the dough out into your desired shape, flipping the dough to roll on both sides. Transfer to your peel lined with enough foil to cover your stone and fit your dough. And now, we top…

If I discover a really good recipe for homemade pizza sauce I’ll share it {mental note to look for one} but I’ve found a favorite store bought sauce that I adore so I keep it simple [remember, it’s PIZZA FRIDAY!]. I’ve experimented will all kinds of pizzas flavor combos and that’s the great thing about having pizza every week- experimentation! I sometimes even smear the dough with pesto before I add the sauce.

I like to sprinkle a little grated parmesan  over the sauce and then on top of the pie before it heads into the oven. Gives it a nice, cheesy depth of flavor. I like experimenting with mozzarella (store bought and from-scratch), pizza cheese combos from the market, and goat cheese. Those are my go toos.

As for toppings beyond the basics, I’m all for |Fresh Herbs| like basil, but I make a dried herb topping that I call “pizza shake” that’s an eyeballed mixture of:

dried oregano
garlic powder
dried basil
dried thyme 

I shake that all over every pizza I make. So grab your sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, pepperoni, leftover chicken, artichokes, caramelized onions, peppers, sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers… you get the picture.  Experiment, have fun!

Do I run the risk of eating too much pizza? Of taking the fun out of looking forward to pizza because I know its coming every Friday? Maybe, but I’m willing to take the risk…what are you having for dinner this Friday night? Cook often and eat well!

 

|PIZZA FRIDAY: DOUGH| 06/25/2011

Filed under: BASIL,Pizza,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 10:13 am

Yup, yesterday was Friday and that means pizza was the menu last night. As a kid, I was always envious that some of my friends had pizza EVERY week. We had pizza, sure, but it was a treat — an unpredictable, joyous occasion. When I put it like that, it certainly doesn’t sound like I had a tortured, non-pizza childhood that I perceived at the time, but man I LOVE PIZZA! The cheesy, gooey, crispy, eat-with-your-hands miracle is never an unwelcome meal. I suppose the point is that I just never seemed to get enough of it.

Nothing made this clearer to me than when I started writing this post…yesterday! I was going on…and on… and on… about pizza. It was just silly. So I’ve broken this up into two posts so that you don’t poke your eyes out before you get to the end. A pizza is made up of really two components — DOUGH + TOPPINGS — so that’s how I’m going to lay this down for you.

Because I love pizza so much it’s kind of surprising to me that I literally JUST realized (ok, within the last year, not a minute ago) that I now run my own household, and feed myself, so I CAN declare a weekly pizza night!! {Cheshire grin}

TOP 5 REASONS TO LOVE PIZZA (FRIDAY)

  1. It is (relatively) healthy – especially if you top it with |Fresh Herbs| and veggies.
  2. It’s a great way to use up veggies that are on their way to the compost heap and even cheeses.  You can always experiment with flavors based on what you have.
  3. It’s fast.  I can go from dough ball to dinner in about 15 minutes — and 11 of those that are in the oven so I can set the table, grab a beer, and wrangle my hubs to the kitchen. Multitasking!
  4. I can count on it. I don’t ever have to think/plan/shop specifically for Friday evening’s meal. I know it’s coming so I always have ingredients on hand and it totally fits our energy level on a Friday after a long week of work.
  5. It’s flexible! In the event that an occasional apres work happy hour ensues, I know the dough will keep and I can always make a pizza lunch or dinner on Saturday.

The declaration of Pizza Friday is courtesy of the BREAD MACHINE that I found under the Christmas tree in 2009. It’s a kitchen magician and it’s become a staple appliance in my kitchen. In my ever-expending wisdom, I’ve realized the wonder that is making my own from-scratch pizza dough and I truly do think that it tastes better than anything I can buy. [oh the horror of those pre-flattened, pre-shaped, pre-cooked items that are full of preservatives and taste like cardboard. yeah, you know who you are and I’ve got my eye on you] Homemade dough is, well, fresher. It’s affordable (I’m a girl who loves a bargain) and it doesn’t involve having to get back in my car to go pick it up (we’ve never been a delivery family).

The BEST bread machine ::pizza dough recipe:: that I’ve found is the Williams-Sonoma recipe (courtesy of my mother’s infinite pile of recipes).

Pizza Dough
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

3/4 c warm water
1 Tb EVOO + 1/2 tsp for storing if you’re not using dough immediately
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp yeast
1 Tb |Fresh Herbs| (optional) – think basil, rosemary, oregano

This will make a 1 lb ball of dough (enough for one pizza). Follow your bread machine’s directions. For those of you already turned on to the magic bread machine, and therefore working with yeast, you know that it’s crazy important to keep your salt and your yeast away from each other. They need each other, they just don’t want to admit it. Don’t worry they’ll get along eventually, but when introducing all of the guests to the dough party above let salt hang out with water and keep yeast with flour. So then, it’s important to add the ingredients IN THE ORDER LISTED. Seriously. I really can’t stress that enough. [the salt will kill the yeast if they come in direct contact with each other. rule #647 of throwing a party, no death]

We’ll get to the pizza making part in a later post. {promise} I prefer to make my dough a day ahead. I give it a complete rub down with a drop (1/2 tsp) of EVOO. A little goes a long way. Cover it with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge. I like to take my dough out of the fridge about 30-60 mins. before I’m going to make the pizza. It will have risen and I find that it’s easier to pizzafy if it’s closer to room temperature.

I guarantee that this recipe will keep popping up. It’s really versatile (I’ve got several future posts swirling in my head as I type). I hope you like it as much as hubs and I do. So cook often and eat well!