What began as a vehicle for sharing family recipes has become an online journal chronicling what brought us all together in the first place- food that is homemade, homegrown, homespun. I can't recreate our legendary family fruit cellar in my little apartment in DC. But piece by piece I can put the fruit cellar online and bring it to my new hometown.
Friday was always pizza night in our house. When everyone is tired from the week, there is no better way to placate your household than with fresh, hot pizza, especially if you lived in Buffalo.
I have fond memories of going with mom or dad to Anjon's or Bocce's or my favorite, Nino's to pick up a large pepperoni with either onions or peppers on half for mom and dad. We'd trudge through a dark, snowy night to get to the car; the prize was a hot, steaming and fragrant pizza warming your lap as you drive home. There were always warnings from the driver's seat: "don't tip it! The cheese will run!"
I think DC friends will agree that we don't drive to pick up pizza anymore (we don't really have cars anyways). If we did, where would we go? Papa Johns? I don't think so. DC has a surprisingly poor selection of good pizza, unless you've had a few drinks. Thus there are two solutions:
1) have a few drinks
2) make your own
Pizza can be daunting because you think "I have to work with YEAST?" but I promise, its simple. You don't need fancy equipment like a pizza stone, peel or rolling pin. A wine bottle and cookie sheet work just fine. And the best part about pizza is the vast amount of room you have to be creative.
PIZZA DOUGH (recipe from Smitten Kitchen, tested by moi. I always double the recipe).
1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Put all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and use a wooden spoon to stir it up. Dump the dough in a clump onto a clean work surface and begin to knead for just a minute. Once it is all in a homogenous ball, cover it will a clean towel and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Return to the dough and knead it for about 5 minutes until it is elastic and smooth, like baby bottom. Return it to a bowl coated with olive oil, cover with the clean towel again, and let it rise in a warm place for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.
Once you are ready to use it, dump it out and start rolling. If you double the recipe as I always do, you can either cut it in half and make two really thin pizzas, or one doughy, crusty one. Roll it out and transfer it either to your cookie sheet covered with cornmeal or olive oil, or if you have a pizza stone, transfer it to parchment paper and slide it and the parchment onto the preheated pizza stone. The trick here is not to burn yourself: putting the pizza on parchment gives your something else to grab onto other than hot pizza. See the photo of the two pizzas in the oven for a parchment illustration.
For the thin pizza, bake for 10 min on 400. For the thicker one, give it about 15 minutes.
To get that bubbly look on top, turn the broiler on for just a minute and keep an eye on it.
IDEAS: I had a pizza party last year and went a little overboard with the topping combos. As evidenced in this photo, there were a *few* leftovers. Here are a few ideas for what to put on your pizza aside from just pizza sauce and cheese.
Thai pizza- peanut sauce, shredded carrot, tofu and a smattering of fresh cilantro after its out of the oven
Mexican- Use an adobo sauce or add pureed adobo chilies and a little cumin to your red sauce. Top with jalepenos, onions, queso fresco or cheddar.
Hot and Smokey- puree some roasted red peppers in with your tomato sauce and add hot pepper flakes. Layer with smoked gouda cheese. (this pizza is inspired by Matchbox's "Fire and Smoke" pizza)
Greek- Use pesto sauce as your base and top with feta, kalamata olives and roasted grape tomatoes
White pizza- Make an alfredo or bechamel sauce and top with roasted garlic puree, shrimp and fontina cheese. This also works great if you take off the shrimp and add portabella mushrooms.
Speaking of mushrooms- Grab a little bag of dried porcini or shitake mushrooms from the store. When you reconstitute them with hot water, save the mushroom-y water and make a bechamel sauce from that. Top with a variety of fresh mushrooms and just lightly sprinkle with mozzarella
My favorite- Tomato-basil sauce with lots of garlic and big slices of fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle it with fresh basil leaves after it comes out of the oven.