Friday, November 5, 2010

Pizza Night


I, like many of you I'm sure, get crazy cravings for pizza. It must be a remnant of my 'mad youth', when my friends and I would stumble drunkenly into pizza shops after a night on the town.... Who am I kidding? Most people who grew up immersed in Western culture love pizza: it's the perfect food to eat out of hand; it combines the starchy goodness of a crispy-crunchy crust, the ooey-gooey-meltiness of cheese, and whatever other toppings you happen to like. It is the college kid's best friend because it encompasses all four food groups, and can be consumed without cutlery or dish-ware, and, it's a cure-all for hangovers.


While there are a few good pizzerias in my neighbourhood, as a general rule, I try to make my pizzas at home. It's not as complicated as one might think it is, and, if one has lots of freezer space, any night can be pizza night. I'm not suggesting you buy frozen pizzas -although I hear they have been much improved of late- but there are a few basics you should have on the ready in the ice-box to simplify things. Raw pizza dough freezes beautifully: in fact, thawed dough is easier to roll out than fresh dough, so make a double batch of dough, and freeze the excess. Grated cheese also keeps very well in the freezer, and the best part is that you don't even need to defrost it to sprinkle it on a pizza. You can buy bags of grated cheese -and sometimes it is less costly than buying a block and grating it yourself- but I'll bet that at this very moment there is a hunk of cheese pining away in your fridge: if you have no plans to consume it before it grows fuzz, you can grate and freeze the cheese for later. I try to keep a box into which I shave any orphan bit of cheese, that way I always have a nice mix ready to go.

If you have dough and cheese, you have pizza. Everything else is optional, which makes pizza another great way to clean out the fridge (the other being soup): any left-overs can be chopped up and sprinkled over the rolled out base, smother with cheese, and you've got a dinner that even a picky eater will love.


My personal favourite pizza at this time of the year is topped with potatoes and kale. Although somewhat uncommon in North America, potato pizza or foccacia di patate is actually an Italian classic. I first encountered these when I went to Florence a couple of years ago for a wedding: just about every pizza stand had them, and they looked divine! A few months later, my boyfriend started working in an Italian bakery, and he came home one evening with nothing but praise for the focaccia. The following version is our twist on the recipe; an Italian friend of mine was shocked when he learnt our recipe (we use mustard), but later admitted that he tried it and thought it was better than the traditional version! I also like to add kale, because it is so lovely with spuds, but you can put any other greens you happen to have on hand.


Recipes for pizza doughs abound, and everyone has their favourite: the following recipe is my old standby. I picked it up from an old issue of Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine. It calls for semolina, which is the hard wheat flour used to make pasta; the semolina makes for a super crunchy crust, so it is best to roll out the dough rather thinly. Semolina can be found in most bulk and health food stores, but if you can't find it, just substitute for the same amount of white or whole wheat flour. You'll have enough dough to make at least two 30cm (12") pizzas; I like my pizzas to be really thin crusted, so I actually manage to stretch out a half recipe  into a cookie-sheet-sized rectangle. The recipe can easily be doubled -if you have the arms or the machine to knead it.


 

Semolina Pizza Crust
Adapted from Harrowsmith Country Life Magazine

2 Tbs active dry yeat
350mL /1¼ c room temperature water
6 Tbs olive oil
320g /2c semolina (fine or medium)
200g/ 1½c unbleached, all-purpose flour
10g/ 2 tsp salt

Mix yeast and water, stirring to dissolve the yeast. Set aside.
Combine semolina, flour and salt in a mixing bowl. 
Add yeast mix and oil to the dry ingredients. This step is easiest with a stand mixer, but can be done by hand: just make sure you've taken off all your rings, and try to use only one hand, you will need the other one to hold the bowl. 
When all the ingredients are combined, continue kneading the dough until it holds together nicely and is no longer sticky: this takes about 15-20 minutes by hand, or 10 minutes by machine.
(The dough can be divided in two at this point, wrapped in two layers of cling film and frozen.
To defrost, simply place dough in the fridge the day before you intend to use it, and roll out when fully defrosted, no need to let it rise.)
Divide the dough into at least two, and roll into a ball. Place each ball in an oiled bowl, cover, and let the dough rest for at least one hour (in a not too warm place, about 20'C/ 75'F) before rolling it out. You can also let the dough rest overnight in the refrigerator. In fact, it will keep in the fridge for about 3 days.
Pre-heat your oven to 275'C/ 525'F.
When the dough has rested, roll it out: gently remove the ball of dough from bowl, placing it in the palm of one hand With the other hand, gently flatten the dough out. Grab the edge with both hands, letting the weight of the dough stretch it out. Move your hands along the edge, all the while stretching it out, it's a little like handling the steering wheel of a car.
You can always roll out the dough on a table, with a rolling pin, but this method requires the addition of extra flour, which will dry out the dough.
Sprinkle baking sheet, or pizza plate with flour before placing dough on it.
Garnish the pizza, place in the oven. Turn heat down to 250'C/ 500'F. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.



Kale and Potato Pizza

Yields enough to garnish a 28x43cm (11"x17") pan pizza

2cups cooked kale
2 cups cooked potatoes
2 cloves garlic
4 Tbs Dijon mustard
4 Tbs cream, optional
salt and pepper
olive oil
cheese, optional

Mix mustard and cream, if using. Spread on pizza dough.
Slice garlic cloves as thinly as possible, scatter on pizza.
Chop kale. Add to pizza.
Cut potatoes into 5mm (¼") slices, scatter on pizza.
Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover with cheese, if desired.(Traditional focaccia di patate does not have cheese, just olive oil)
Bake. 
Serve while piping hot.


Bon app'!



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4 comments:

  1. Oooh, thanks for all the good pizza tips. I had no idea you could freeze shredded cheese! I am so going to do that from now on. Mine always sits in the fridge and end up getting moldy and going to waste. The kale and potato pizza looks awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks Mimi!
    Freezing shredded cheese is a great way to cut down on waste. Depending on your freezer, it might become a block over time, but all you have to do is bash it on the counter to break up the shreds.
    Happy pizza night!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi,

    I' m Alberto from Italy.

    You Have a Best website.

    You have many delicious recipes.

    I have a blog www.realitaliandish.wordpress.com is a blog of real italian recipesof my family, if you wont take some recipes you can take is a honor for me.

    Bye from Italy CIAO.



    Sorry for my english.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Grazie Alberto per i complimenti! Io sarò sicuro di dare un'occhiata al tuo blog.

      Ciao!

      Delete

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