Saturday, June 16, 2012

June 16, 2012

Noelle's Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza

Being home has its perks! Like real food. =D And for those of us who consider culinary undertakings a therapeutic retreat, being able to cook my own food is something I look forward to with great excitement. Especially when the produce is fresh from the farmer's market down the street or pulled from our own kitchen garden.

Friday nights has long since been an O'Brien tradition - pizza, Pepsi, and a movie or boardgame as a family. But unlike the American version, which would entail picked up the phone and calling Papa John's delivery services, the "pizza" phase actually denotes several hours in the kitchen - from three to five, depending on the amount of pizzas being baked up.

It all begins with a little fine flour, fragrant olive oil, and fresh basil. From there the sauce is simmered on the stove - rich chunks of tomato blended with Italian spices and raw garlic. Kendon is the master of sauce for us, and he is not want to disappoint. =)

The dough is made from scratch on an vintage solid wood board, flour and milk blended by hand in a rhythmic massage called kneading. Yeast and sugar, the key ingredients for the sweet, "pillowy" consistency of the crust, are warmed until the yeast begins to puff into a fluffy balm. Combined with the flour into dough, it is left to rise for an hour or two, then punched down, and left to rise again. Keeping the dough warm and moist is essential to attain correcting proofing. The bowl is left near a warm stove, floating in a sink of warm water, or covered with warm towels and placed in the close proximity of a microwave.

In the meantime, the knives come out and fresh vegetables are prepped for toppings. Take your pick - but our selection is usually sweet peppers (yellow and orange), golden onion, black kalamata olives, green olives, white mushrooms, ripe red tomatoes, whole garlic cloves, squash, and pineapple. (yes, pineapple!) Herbs? Fresh basil and cilantro, finely chopped and bruised to release their delicate oils and aroma.
Meat? Well, the guys buff it up with pepperonis from the US, but I prefer seasoned chicken or sardines in oil. Dog tastes decent as well.... okay, just kidding. =P But no giving me a hard time about my seafood! lol
Sharp yellow and orange Russian cheese, grated, is the last of the preparations.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface, pat onto a baking stone prepared with oil. I prefer my pizza to be deep-dish crust, about an inch and a half thick, and placed into a pie pan. Sauce, cheese, and toppings. Bake for twenty blissful minutes as the smell fills the house, and voila - dinner, the O'Brien way.
Compelled by my adventurous spirit from time to time to experiment a little, I took the key ingredients of my favorite Panera Bread panini, tomato and fresh mozzarella, and turned it into a pizza. Atop a bed of sauce and cheese, I spread large slabs of fresh mozzarella and slices of tomato, alternating in a checkered pattern across the whole pizza. Sprinkle fresh basil here and there (be liberal!) and then crush fresh garlic, sprinkling over the tomatoes. Be sure to be liberal with the garlic as well... there are fewer ingredients that produce better taste and aroma!

If you have a camera ready when the first piece is sliced from the oven, hot and bubbly, you can capture the mozzarella stringing in jaw-dropping perfection. =) As the Russians say, Na zdorovye! Enjoy =))

Red Sauce:

1 8oz tomato paste
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp basil
2-3 whole cloves of garlic, crushed

Pizza Dough:

2 tsp vinegar
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup milk
1 tbsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
*microwave for 30 seconds until yeast begins to rise, stir, let sit 15 minutes
4 cups flour
*combine liquids with flour and stir, knead on a floured surface, and place in a lightly-greased, covered bowl for 1-2 hours or until doubled
*punch dough with fist, portion into balls the size of a two fists, and roll out into desired thickness for crust.
*let sit 10 minutes on baking stone, top with ingredients

Bake 20 minutes or until golden on the bottom. Be prepared to fight over who gets second helpings!

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