Monday: Penne with Sautéed Corn, Tomatoes, Red Onion and Parmigiano
Tuesday: Prosciutto-wrapped Asparagus , Summer Vegetable and Burrata Salad, Ricotta Gnocchi with Summer Herbs
Wednesday: Dunnings at the Union Grill
Thursday: Salad of Tomato, Haricots Verts and Potatoes, Pizza with Prosciutto, Arugula and Sheep’s Milk Cheese
Friday: Bermudan Fish Chowder with Green Salad and Grilled Bread
Saturday: Bacon wrapped avocado and cocktails, Risotto Style Penne with Tomatoes (add some zucchini blossoms, if you have them)
Sunday: Dinner at Katie and Dave’s
Why would you spend time in the kitchen, scrubbing pots and pans, chopping onions or butchering a chicken, if you didn’t have to? I have never been asked this question, but friends of mine, by implication, pose it regularly. People who will spend an hour tying a fly, a day to fly to a remote stream, and endure black flies, heat, primitive sanitation and the possibility of being eaten by a bear in order to catch a rainbow trout and throw it back into the stream, cannot understand my involvement with food. Let me attempt an explanation.
Have you had a moments during a meal when you look at your dinner companions and everyone’s eyes said “this food is amazing”? We’re not talking here about the fairly regular, “that’s a great salad or steak” moment, or “Keepers” as we call them in my small circle. We’re talking about those moments when your head turns around on your neck, you have a strong urge to sing that wonderful aria from “I Pagliaci,” and your spouse, that most objective and indifferent of critics says, calmly, “make sure you keep that recipe.”
We had such a moment two Mondays ago when we cooked Mark Vetri’s Potato Gnocchi with Corn Salad and Crema. You can find the recipe in Vetri’s beautiful, comprehensive and quite daunting Mastering Pasta or in my adaptation in last week’s post. The Vetri dish was hard work. I was, as Chaucer would have put it, “in a muckle sweat” making the gnocchi dough, then cutting the gnocchi and boiling them. The corn crema was a task as well. In short – well, in medium, I suppose, at this point – the meal took a great deal of sweat, but I was repaid with that look all around the table, requests to “please cook this again,” and a feeling that I had brought some measure of happiness and familial cohesion into the world. That is why I scrub pots and pans and chop onions.
It was another week of superb food – and I wish I had a photo of the wonderful linguini with pesto that Katie and Dave served on Sunday – or of Artie the wonder dog (no longer, in his maturity, insisting on a good tug of war with one of his toys). The risotto-style penne with tomatoes and the ricotta gnocchi were super and the Bermuda Fish Chowder took us back to the islands, but . . .
. . . this week, I’m going to share with you a recipe we’ve developed over the years for great pizza from a regular oven. How old are you? Well, you should know how to do this at your age. It’s simple – takes just a little forethought and the possibilities for dressing the pizza are endless. This pizza even passes muster with SWMBO, that most elegant and sensible of eaters. (The advantage of cooking for her is that she will trade you her prosciutto for your arugula. Smiles all around.)
This is easy. Swear*
*I am quoting from my friend and classmate Jan Sloman who recently e-mailed: ‘Have you tried Caorunn gin (Scottish)? It makes the best martini ever. Swear.’
The basic recipe here comes from Lynn Rosetto Kasper – a national treasure – but I’ve tweaked it a bit to produce the pizza we like – thin, with just a little chew.
Timing – This is important. You need 2 hours for the dough to rise, another 20 after a bit of kneading and then 15 minutes to roll it out, place in on the pan or stone and let it rest. You can let the first rise go for up to 4 hours, so you need to make the dough 3 – 5 hours before you plan to serve the pizza. Note: there are 24 hour and 2 day doughs that will be ready to use when you get home from work. None of the ones I’ve tried produce the perfect Neapolitan style this dough does – but they are all good.
This will yield enough dough For 2 medium pizzas – you can halve all of the quantities if you want to make just one pizza, BUT YOU CANNOT DOUBLE TO MAKE FOUR because the liquid to dry ratios will drift and your food processor won’t hold all this stuff. For more than 2 pizzas, just clean out the processor, dry it, and make another batch.
2 Cups All-Purpose flour and a bit more for blooming the yeast and dusting your cutting board
1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
A good pinch of Sugar
1 rounded Teaspoon of Active Dry Yeast (the Quick Rise works best)
1 Cup of Warm water (let your tap run until it’s hot)
Making the Dough:
Put 2 cups of A-P Flour and the salt into a food processor and pulse to mix.
Into ½ Cup of hot water, stir the yeast, the pinch of sugar and the 2 Teaspoons of Flour. Let sit for about 8 minutes, until the yeast is nicely bloomed. If nothing happens, you need to buy new yeast. Here is what it should look like:
Pour the yeast mixture into the flour in the processor and then pour in another ½ cup of hot water.
Pulse the processor, briefly, about 10 times and then pulse for 5 seconds straight. The dough should have come together at this point. If it has not – if it is crumbly or pebbly, add some water and pulse until it comes together in a ball. If it’s too sticky when you take it from the processor (sticks in strings to your hands, the side of the processor, etc.), add some more flour. Lightly oil a large bowl, put the dough into it, cover with a tea towel and find a warm, draft-free place for the dough to rise for 2 to 4 hours. In summer I use an un-insulated coat closet. In winter, I use the powder room, after turning the heat up to get it warmer (close the door to keep it warm).
After 2-4 hours, take the dough into your floured hands and knead for about 1 minute – it will get a bit glossy. Place the dough back into the bowl and let it rise for another 20 minutes.
Making the Pizza – (Heat your oven to 500 F)
Dust a cutting board or work surface with flour. Cut the dough in half and roll one half into a ball and place in on the board. Flatten it into a disk with your hand and then roll it out with a floured rolling pin. Generally, roll in one direction, then turn the dough 90 degrees and roll again. Flip the dough from time to time. You may need to dust with some more flour.
You’re looking for about 10 inches of diameter here – but you will find your dough going oval or irregular on you. We like our dough fairly thin – you’ll figure it out.
Place the rolled-out dough on an oiled sheet pan. Roll out the second piece and do the same. At this point you want the dough to rest about 10 minutes (yes, Floyd, one of the pieces will rest longer – it’s okay big guy). During this time you’ll want to top the pizza. Below – as an Extra – I’ll give you just two of my favorites. But use anything you have on hand that appeals to you.
EXTRA – TOPPING THE PIZZA
Margherita – We thought we knew Margherita pizza when we went to Italy after Billy’s graduation from college. In a luncheonette attached to a parking lot in Pompeii we had the Platonic Idea of a Margherita and have been trying to recreate it ever since. Here’s a good approach.
For the tomato sauce – Can of good quality, diced tomatoes or equivalent in ripe, homegrown tomatoes plus 1 Tablespoon of good olive oil, pepper and salt. Process the tomatoes until you have a chunky pureé. Season with salt and pepper until it tastes good. This is a light sauce which, believe me, is what you want.
For the topping – the tomato sauce you just made, some sliced mozzarella (if your mozzarella is really wet, dry it off with paper towels), a handful of basil leaves, plus more for final garnish.
Cooking the Pizza
Using a brush, brush some olive oil onto the outer rim of the dough and crumble some sea salt (or lightly sprinkle some kosher salt) around the rim.
Using a spoon, spread a layer of sauce from the center of the pizza out to the rim.
Place slices of mozzarella strategically around the pizza – covering may 1/5 of its surface. Scatter basil leaves on top.
Place the pizza in the oven and look at it after about 8 minutes. It might take 10 or 12, depending on the real (not the nominal temperature of your oven). If you’ve rolled the pizza a bit thick, you may want to take it off the baking sheet for the last 2 minutes of cooking to brown the bottom of the crust.
Let rest for a few minutes before slicing and top it with a few more basil leaves. Welcome to Pompeii.
Sausage and Shallot Pizza with Fontinella and/or Provalone
(this is so good, we were lucky to have half of it left to photograph just after getting it out of the oven)
Supplies – Shredded fontinella or thin-sliced provolone (3 ounces or so)
Cooked Italian bulk sausage (sweet or hot) and cooked, chopped shallots)
Optional – blue cheese
Prepare the pie as above with the oiled and salted rim.
Spread the sausage and shallots across the pie.
Scatter the cheese across it (cover with the shredded fontinella – or cover about ½ of the pie with the provolone).
Put the pie in the oven and watch it and time it as note in the recipe for the Margherita.
Variations for the Margherita – try about 2 oz. of goat cheese sparsley dotted about the pie over the tomato sauce. When it comes out of the oven top with baby arugula and a bit of prosciutto.
Note: We don’t like goopy cheese on our pizzas. If you do, you’ll figure out the quantities you want. This is one case where that over-used slacker phrase, “it’s all good,” really does apply.