Cheese-less Pizza

Eric and I have started a Friday night pizza ritual. We generally pick up some multigrain pizza dough from Whole Foods, though making your own is just easy (but messier!). It seems crazy that I only recently brought home my first haul from the farmer’s market. My Saturdays have been so busy, I just never had time to go. Nonetheless, we turned Friday night pizza night into Saturday morning pizza day because we wanted to load up our pizza with fresh veg from the market. We also bought baby kale, sorrel, and radishes for a perfect spring salad.

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Radishes are cute, aren’t they?

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We eat most of our pizzas without cheese these days. I already have enough of a cheese habit – I don’t need it on my pizza, also! The key, then, is really good tomatoes. We always buy San Marzano in the can for this pizza, then load on tons of fresh garlic and black pepper. I rarely make an actual sauce – the tomatoes with fresh garlic are enough to make this a great meal.

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And for the salad, I just juice some lemons into a mason jar, put in equal amounts of olive oil, sometimes a splash of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Shake it up and drizzle it on – easy.

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So there’s no real recipe here. For this particular pizza, we chopped asparagus into little discs and sprinkled them all over. Fresh slices of an heirloom tomato went on top, and make sure to sprinkle salt over the whole shebang. And seriously, do not skimp on the garlic. I think I added 5-6 cloves to this pizza. I minced them finely, but sometimes I’ll just do thin slices. Eric and I have been practicing making pizza so that he can make it perfectly while I’m gone all summer. His version will likely include granulated garlic instead of fresh garlic, but even he can handle rolling out the dough and smearing canned tomatoes all over it!

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Friday Night Pizzas

I apologize up front for the really crappy pictures in this post. With these amazing pizzas coming out of the oven, I couldn’t be bothered with taking nicer photos!

I absolutely adore Friday nights spent with good food and wine on the couch. That party bug that used to tell me to go  out every Friday night has apparently died because I no longer have that urge. I haven’t had it, in fact, for a while – ever since I started that 9-5 job a few years ago that required me to get out of bed at the ungodly hour of 7 am on Fridays. Who has the energy to go out after that? Not me, that’s for sure. Plus, I started to really enjoy waking up earl(ier) on Saturdays to do things like go for a run or get work done. Adulthood, I suppose.

So, equipped with some $13 Pinot Noir (which was really quite good), a movie, and these awesome pizzas, my Friday night was destined to be great.

There isn’t really a recipe here… I bought my multi-grain pizza dough (with flax seeds!) from Whole foods and randomly piled on toppings. A few key items for these pizzas: 1) 3-4 toppings, MAX; 2) garlic(!); 3) a super hot oven + pizza stone; and 4) high quality ingredients. I divided my dough into two smaller balls and then made half-and-half pizzas on those two rolled out doughs. I drizzled this spicy olive oil as a base for each pizza, then added toppings.

I think Pizza 1 turned out to be my favorite. Spend the time looking for good quality canned San Marzano tomatoes that have no preservatives – read the label, it should only include tomatoes (and maybe a basil leaf). They taste incredibly fresh… I could have eaten this pizza without the cheese, even!

Pizza 1

hand crushed san marzano tomatoes
kalamata olives
fresh mozzarella balls
garlic slices

Pizza 2

proscuitto
goat cheese (chevre) chunks
garlic slices

Pizza 3

fresh heirloom tomato slices
fresh mozzarella balls
artichoke hearts
kalamata olives

Pizza 4

shitake mushrooms
dinosaur kale shreds
goat cheese (chevre) chunks
garlic slices

To bake, crank up your oven as high as it will go – mine goes to 550 – and let your pizza stone warm up. If you’re not using a pizza stone, crank up the heat anyway. Pop the pizza in the oven for 5-7 minutes depending on your heat levels. To cut them up, I find it helps to let the pizza rest for a few minutes to allow the cheese to set a bit.

Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza

I was about to post a recipe for Creamy Poblano soup when I realized that my last two posts were soup/stew related, so instead I have some pretty awesome pizza to share. I’ve been experimenting with pizza dough, trying to find the best whole wheat recipe.

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Well – most recipes I’ve found for whole wheat pizza dough are pretty similar. Rarely do they call for 100% whole wheat flour; usually it’s somewhere in the range of 3:1 or 1:1 whole wheat flour:bread flour. To up the health factor, I go with the 3:1 ratio and throw in a couple teaspoons of ground flax for good measure. I think I’ve said this before – you’ll never get that light, fluffy dough like you get from white flour, but I think that it’s worth it to feel like you’ve done something good for yourself.

I made a rather large batch of this dough and froze several individual portions. Last week, I failed to photograph our traditional sausage pizza with a spicy, peppery tomato sauce, Italian sausage, and fresh mozzarella, but this week I made a fall special with butternut squash. It’s one of my favorite combinations, which I lifted from some recipe ages ago, and it’s a bit unexpected at first. After the first bite, though, I’m sure you’ll be as hooked as I am.

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Butternut Squash and Gorgonzola Pizza

for the dough:
1 1/2 cups warm tap water
2 packets active dry yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons agave nectar or honey
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons ground flax

for the topping:
1 small to medium sized butternut squash
1/2 cup or more to taste of crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese
1/2 cup or more to taste of mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 small to medium size fennel bulbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
big pinch of fresh ground black pepper

salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup
handful of arugula or spinach

Combine all the dry ingredients in a food processor with the dough blade. Pulse to combine. Meanwhile, combine wet ingredients. While processing, slowly pour the wet ingredients into the food processor, until the dough forms into a ball on top of the blade. Remove and knead on a dry, floured surface for a few minutes. Pour some olive oil in a bowl and place the ball of dough in the center, cover with saran wrap. Let the dough rise for approximately two hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

While the dough is rising, roast the squash in a 450 oven for 30 minutes or so, until soft. I usually place a piece of foil on my baking sheet and pour a cup or two of water in to help steam the squash.

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Slice the fennel bulbs very finely. Over medium-low heat, saute the fennel in olive oil for about 45 minutes, until lightly browned and caramelized. Set aside.

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When the dough has doubled in bulk, cut in half and freeze the other portion (or heck, make it all in one night!). Roll out the dough on parchment and pop in the oven for 5-10 minutes (if you have a pizza stone, use that… it’s on my Christmas list).

To make the topping, scoop the squash out of it’s skin and combine with blue cheese, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper – stir it all together so you have a homogeneous mixture. Spread this mixture on top of the baked pizza dough. Top with the caramelized fennel and mozzarella and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted. When it comes out of the oven, top with a big dose of spinach or arugula.