Tiburón -Shark- Žralok

Tiburón -Shark- Žralok: Writing Cooking Traveling

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Easy Pizza at Home

My Dad is an honest man. He's I-want-to-hit-you-over-the-head honest. Yes-you-look-fat-in-that-dress honest. So I value his input on the things that I make because I know he's not going to sugar coat his opinion or take into consideration my, you know, feelings or obsessive desire to please. So here's a recap of my culinary exploits and my dad's subsecuent review of them:

- Libyan Spaghetti-- "I don't like it, it tastes weird."
- Fried Rice-- "Its too spicy, why did you make it spicy?"
- Salad-- "Doesn't taste like much."
- Cassoulet-- "You added way too many beans." (He repeated this to me at least ten times over the next day or two.)
- Moroccan Stew-- "I don't like that it has a sweet smell, I'm going to have a steak."

So you can imagine my relief and feeling of utter triumph when last night he finally, really, truly, without reservations or critiques liked something I made: Pizza.

I've been making pizza ever since I got over my fear of Dry Active Yeast. Its actually very simple, though time-consuming, but that never stopped me from making it for dinner on a weekday. One of those 10 pm dinners... But even when I would overheat my already overheated Brooklyn Kitchen with poor air circulation, the result never failed to please. I've made it about a dozen times with toppings from just plain mozzarella to blue cheese-butternut squash-arugula.

I found the recipes for the dough and some of the more interesting variations of toppings on the site smittenkitchen.com, shortly after the homemade pizza-making craze of last summer (you didn't hear about that?) that made the food blogs useless for me because I didn't think I could make pizza. This is a common misconception, specially considering pizza's humble beginnings.

Putting tomato sauce and cheese on a flat bread is considered to have originated in Naples, Italy. Originally peasant food (the dough was used to test the temperature of the oven and then sold to poor people), its toppings were simple, either cheese or tomatoes or fish or just oil. Eventually it became popular among tourists who would buy it from open-air stands by the slice-- much like now in most mayor cities. The most popular variation was the pizza with tomato. But pizza only really took off in the Italian court when Queen Margherita of Savoy tried some and fell absolutely in love with it. A Neapolitan baker then named a style of pizza after her, one carrying tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil in honor of the Italian flag. And there you have the Margherita Pizza. (Source: the Una Pizza Neapolitana menu and Wikipedia).

Today, pizza is the ultimate comfort food and the variations are endless-- Brick Oven, Neapolitan, Deep-Dish, Thin Crust, Flatbread-- and the types of toppings sweep the spectrum from nothing but sauce (the pizza Marinara, which when well-made is absolutely amazing) to goat cheese with herbs, summer squash, and lemon. When it comes to putting stuff on top of bread, there are no rule. What's basic is the dough.

For a homemade pizza, here's a really simple recipe for the dough, my recipe of the sauce, and I'll include the specific mix of ingredients I used to create the pizza that actually got my Dad to finally say, "That was really good, honey."

Easy Homemade Pizza (with Mushrooms and Onions)
Dough recipe adapted from SmittenKitchen

Serves 4


For Dough:

3 cups flour (I split the difference between whole wheat and all-purpose)
1 packet Dry Active Yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

For Sauce: (Bonus: you will have leftovers so you can use them for pasta)

1 16 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 white onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional (Disclaimer: I used a North African spice mix RX gave me for Christmas so I know cayenne is included but not sure what else, you can also use crushed red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
Splash of red wine
Salt and Pepper
Oliver Oil

For Mushrooms and Onions:

1/2 cup buffalo mozzarella, shredded
2/3 cup smoked mozzarella, shredded
1 can sliced mushrooms, drained (you can also use one packet of fresh mushrooms sliced, I was working with what I had)
1/2 white onion, sliced into half moons
1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil


Starting with the dough, mix together all dry ingredients then slowly add the water, mixing as you go. Add more water is necessary. When dough is sticky, place on floured surface and knead for a minute or so. If its too sticky, let it sit on the counter for a few minutes under a mixing bowl.

When the dough is soft and malleable, roll into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Make sure all sides of the dough are coated in oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 1-2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat up olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and add the onions, salt lightly. Sweat them until they are soft then add Italian seasoning, cayenne, if using, and garlic, allow to cook for a few more minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, some more salt and pepper and the sugar, and stir. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer. While its simmering add the wine. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally, for at least twenty minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

During this time, start on the topping. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan or skillet, add the onions. Sweat them until the become limp then add the mushrooms and balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 15 minutes.

When the dough has risen, place on a floured surface and flatten it to get all the air out. Knead it gently once again, roll into a ball, and allow to rise under the plastic wrap for another twenty minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a pizza pan or cookie sheet by sprinkling cornmeal evenly over it. If no cornmeal, I find oiling it has also worked.

When the dough is ready, use your hands to stretch it out then place on the pizza pan or cookie sheet and gently spread it out with your hands. This can get greasy. When the dough is sufficiently spread out, cover the surface with sauce then top with both cheeses. Add the mushrooms and onions. Sprinkle a little more salt and pepper over everything and glide it into the oven. Allow to cook for about 20 minutes (check it occasionally depending on how hot your oven gets). The crust should be golden brown and the cheese melted and slightly seared.

1 comment:

  1. I can attest to the pizza, because I tasted it at your house Andrea, when we visited you last April while in Puerto Rico for the Family Reunion. Great pizza, better than most I've had in a long time. The dough was incredibly soft, yet with the crunchiness one is used to have in thin dough pizza. The filling...mmmm....I had my favorite with the mushrooms...so good, I still can relish in the awesome flavor. Great pizza, Miss Andi!