herb-crust pizza with charred tomatoes

herb crust pizza

Although I am yet to make my own pizza dough from scratch, I’ve been playing around with a local pizzeria’s dough and this experiment turned out quite tasty.

As mentioned in this post, I place the dough balls in a coating of olive oil and let them sit in the fridge for several days, up to a week.  This time I sprinkled a generous pinch of Mediterranean seasoning into the oil before adding the dough.  After a flip in the oil bath and a cover for each bowl, into the refrigerator they went.

herb-infused pizza dough

As also mentioned in the earlier pizza entry, one of the main issues with oiling up the dough as I do is stickiness.  Flouring the pizza peel very generously helps, and as the dough sits for those days the top of the ball is less oily so that goes face-down onto the peel.

Hands floured, peel floured and once the dough is on the peel, work quickly with the toppings.  A great trick I was taught is to lift an edge of the pie and blow under it to loosen it from the peel ~ it really works!

herb-crust pizza with charred tomatoes

Most of this recipe is the same as my previous pizza post linked above.  But this time I charred some grape tomatoes, a technique I picked up from an episode of Alex’s Day Off.

Just heat a bit of oil in a cast iron skillet, add your grape tomatoes in a single layer ~ my large skillet could hold 2 pints ~ then sprinkle them with a tablespoon of dark brown sugar and a pinch or so of salt.  Allow the skins to blister, stirring frequently to keep them moving.

After the skins start to blister and break open, pour in 1/2-cup of dry sherry {or wine of your choice} and turn heat down to low.  Cook for about 10 minutes and you’re done!

margherita pizza with balsamic reduction

margherita pizza Like most cheese-lovers, I’ve made lots of versions of pizza at home using everything from english muffins to tortillas ~ and recently a cast iron skillet ~ but for me nothing beats the traditional pizzeria pie.  Since there was an extra ball of dough hanging around the fridge, I decided to go for it.

A few basic ingredients were at hand:  hydroponic tomatoes sitting on the window sill; some basil in olive oil that I’d frozen several months ago, ready to be thawed; even a bunch of mozzarella was already shredded and waiting.  For these things I am grateful because I needed to focus on the whole pizza-peel-to-baking-stone transfer challenge.

I’ve heard of many different options for turning an oven into a pizza-oven.  Some flip over a baking sheet, others use parchment paper and some prefer a pizza screen.  Since I have a baking stone in the house that’s what I used and, along with a pizza peel, it works out fine.

At first it was a bit scary because I hadn’t floured the peel well enough, but with a few adjustments the pie was soon bubbling away on the stone.

These directions are based on a recipe found on Emile Henry’s website, which is the brand of baking stone I used.  I can’t say whether or not this temperature would work using a different baking surface.

ingredients:

  • 1 large-pie ball of pizza dough **
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced crosswise
  • 10 or so fresh basil leaves
  • pinch each s&p
  • about 3/4 pound mozzarella, shredded
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

directions:

  • Set pizza stone in oven and preheat to 550F
  • In a small saucepan, heat vinegar over medium-high heat until bubbly; while preparing pizza turn heat down and leave vinegar uncovered and barely simmering until reduced by half, then turn off heat
  • Generously flour a pizza peel and set aside; on a well-floured counter, roll or hand-stretch the dough into about a 14-inch circle
  • Transfer dough to the pizza peel and check to see that the dough isn’t sticking; if it is, lift and sprinkle more flour on surface of peel
  • If needed, brush dough lightly with olive oil {see dough storage recommendation below}
  • Add the slices of tomato; sprinkle with s&p, then most of the cheese; top with the basil, then the rest of cheese
  • Check again to see if pie is sticking to peel; if it is, lift and sprinkle more flour beneath it, and gently use a spatula to loosen any stuck areas
  • Option One {which does not work for me} — open oven door and slide pie from pizza peel onto stone
  • Option Two — using heavy-duty oven mitts, carefully take stone out of oven and set on stove top; using spatula and free hand, gently jiggle pie off peel and onto stone; return stone to oven
  • Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly
  • Transfer from the stone to a cutting board or platter
  • Drizzle with the balsamic reduction

margherita pizza with balsamic reductionYum!  I like the classic combination of flavors on this pie.  Using quality tomatoes was key and the balsamic reduction added its unique sweet-tart depth.

One way to keep the dough from sticking to the peel is to dust with a medium-grain corn meal.  I prefer flour only because I don’t like the crunch of the corn meal.  The other reasons why my dough tends to stick are again personal preferences on my part:

**I store the dough covered in a thin layer of olive oil for several days {which I recommend; it gives the crust a nice texture and flavor}.  Also, I prefer to hand toss rather than roll it out on a floured surface, so the dough retains the layer of oil on it.  It makes stickiness a bit of an issue but the taste is worth it.

Hopefully, with some more practice I’ll discover the right amount of flour to have the best of both worlds.

stromboli ~ vegetarian style

stromboli

Stromboli traditionally has a very distinct flavor.  Salty meats predominate and add a particular savoriness that might be considered essential.  I do feel that saltiness is partly what makes a stromboli so tasty, so when it came to making up a vegetarian version, salty ingredients were what I focused on.

The first time I made veggie stromboli I used a lot of salty cheeses, like provolone and asiago, along with well seasoned roasted vegetables.  I was happy with how it turned out and felt encouraged to continue experimenting.  This time I added a delicious and versatile product to the mix.

Field Roast Sausages are a vegan product out of Seattle.  With three amazing flavors to choose from ~ Mexican chipotle, smoked apple sage, and Italian ~ they adapt to many dishes.  The spices used as well as a perfect amount of salt make these sausages a great substitute for pork and other meats.  Highly recommended!

I love the dough from our local pizzeria so that’s what I use.  Most pizzerias will sell you a ball of their dough for a dollar or two; I have also seen it in the refrigerator section of the co-op.  To make it from scratch, there are lots of recipes online that I’m sure one day I will try.

ingredients:

  • 2 small or medium-pie balls of pizza dough
  • 2 packages frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed
  • 1 jar artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 large jar roasted red or yellow peppers, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, sliced and sauteed
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced and sauteed with onion
  • 2 links Field Roast Italian Sausage, crumbled and sauteed
  • 8 ounces ricotta, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 cup extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon each s&p
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon garam masala or Persian spice mix
  • 6 or so grates fresh nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon each onion & garlic powders
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 pound aged provolone, sliced
  • 1/2 pound mozzarella, shredded
  • 1/2 pound asiago or romano, grated
  • Egg wash:  1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • Sesame topping:  1/4 cup sesame seeds with 1 teaspoon each garlic and onion powders + pinch paprika

directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375F
  • In a large bowl mix together all the ingredients ~ except for the egg wash, sesame topping and provolone, mozzarella and asiago cheeses
  • Roll or hand-stretch each of the two pizza doughs into rectangles ~ about 10″x14″ ~ and place them on lined and oiled baking sheets
  • Cover with slices of the provolone, leaving an inch of border all around
  • Spread the veggie-cheese filling over provolone, again leaving an inch of border
  • Sprinkle mozzarella and asiago and/or romano cheeses over the filling
  • Roll up each rectangle by the longer side, tucking in the ends as you go; slide to center of baking sheets
  • Brush with the egg wash, then gently make a few one-inch slits on top to allow steam to escape
  • Place in oven for 15 minutes, then sprinkle with the sesame topping and continue for another 10 to 15 minutes, until crust is golden brown

vegetarian stromboli

This recipe is very easy to break up into two days by mixing up the veggie-cheese filling the day before; then just take it out of the fridge to let it come to room temperature a few hours before assemble and bake time.

Once again there is so much room for personal taste; if spinach isn’t your thing just add a different vegetable.  A great way to use up produce hanging around the fridge.

cast iron skillet pizza

cast iron deep dish pizza

I was born in Queens so I’m a bit biased when it comes to pizza.  As a kid my rule of thumb was if you can’t fold the slice in half — and there’s not a line of oil dripping down your arm — then it’s not really pizza.

But I’m not a New Yorker anymore, and last week on The Chew they made deep dish pizza in a large 14-inch cast iron skillet.  For various reasons I decided to try my own version:   first, I have the very skillet they used on the show; second, I looove cheese; third, I love our local pizzeria’s dough, which can be purchased for an insanely great deal of $2.

So here’s what I did…

ingredients/prep:

  • 2 balls large-size pizza dough
  • 1/2-pound thinly sliced provolone
  • 1 pound shredded mozzarella
  • chop for roasting:   2 onions, 1 head garlic, 1 red pepper, 2 medium zucchini, small box mushrooms — and/or whatever veggies you like
  • roasting liquid:  3/4-cup white wine, 1/4-cup olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon herbs de Provence, pinch each s&p
  • combine:  16 ounces ricotta, 1/2-cup grated parmesan, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 beaten egg, 1/4-cup heavy cream, 1 pinch each s&p
  • 1 beaten egg + 2 tablespoons cream {egg wash}
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil {for greasing pan}
  • fresh basil, optional

directions:

  • Roast vegetables in roasting liquid mixture, in a large lasagne-type pan, at 375F for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally
  • While vegetables are roasting, combine ricotta, parmesan, garlic & onion powders, egg, heavy cream and s&p in a large bowl; set aside
  • When vegetables are done and set on counter, turn oven up to 400F
  • Brush melted butter/olive oil mixture inside entire cast iron skillet, including top edge
  • Roll out one of the pizza doughs {or toss if you’re feeling daring} large enough so it easily conforms to sides of pan and drapes generously over edge
  • Prick a few holes on bottom of dough with a fork
  • Using a large spoon, thinly cover bottom of crust with ricotta mixture
  • Using a slotted spoon, cover ricotta with roasted vegetables, using 1/2 of total mixture
  • Cover vegetables with a double layer of sliced provolone
  • Cover provolone with remainder of ricotta mix
  • Cover ricotta with remainder of vegetables
  • Add several basil leaves if desired
  • Cover with most of shredded mozzarella, leaving some for topping
  • Cover with a single layer of sliced provolone, then the rest of mozzarella
  • Roll out or toss second pizza dough; cover skillet with dough generously, draping over sides of skillet at least halfway between top and bottom of skillet
  • With a sharp knife, cut several 1-inch slits on top for venting
  • Fold crust edges and pinch/roll together, as you would with top/bottom pie crusts
  • Brush with egg wash
  • Bake at 400F  for 35 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.  If crust browns too early, cover loosely with foil

cast iron pizza

cast iron deep dish pizza

Enjoy!