Saturday, March 24, 2007

Friday Night Bites

Why? Because I've been pizza deprived. For years, our family ritual was to get pizza on a Friday night from our favorite local pizza place. When my kids left for college, I felt a bit sheepish getting an entire pizza just for my husband and me. I suppose the pizza guy had no way of counting the actual mouths it was going to feed, but I still felt funny. (Let me make it clear, though, that we had plenty of leftovers.) So, I started making my own pizza - which, to tell you the truth, I quite like doing anyway.

Making pizza dough is incredibly quick IF you have a food processor. But just a warning - this is homemade and FRESH, BUT the crust will never be as crispy and chewy as Luigi's or Giuseppe's, unless you have a special pizza oven at home. You can crank up your oven (an electric oven is an advantage over a gas one), cook the pizza on a pizza screen, put a stone in the oven and spray water at regular intervals, but it's still not going to be like Gianni's.

So, let's just make a really good one that is still heads above the one that you can buy in the supermarket. If you're desperate, buy the dough from your pizza place. Send in your 6 year old. How could they resist? Nice supermarkets sell decent ready-to-bake dough, but the point is that, in a food processor, it takes less than 60 seconds to mix up your own.

The toppings below are just a starting point. Put ANYTHING on, from leftover barbecued chicken and/or pesto to goat cheese or even smoked salmon. And you can make different zones on the pizza for different members of the family or even 4 individual pizzas.

Friday Night Pizza (serves 4, or 3 lavishly)


3/4 cup warm water (hotter than 105 deg. F, cooler than 115 deg F)

1 tsp. honey (or sugar)

1 envelope active dry yeast

2 1/2 cups white and/or whole wheat flour (follow your heart - I commonly use 1 cup of whole wheat and 1 1/2 cups of white flour)

3/4 tsp. salt

2 tbls. olive oil (not the good stuff)


3 tbls. olive oil

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1 lb. mushrooms, thinly sliced

2/3 jar (about) of good tomato sauce

1 lb. part skim mozzarella, sliced

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives,halved

10 sundried tomatoes, blotted on paper towels and sliced thinly

5 anchovies, blotted on paper towels and sliced thinly

For dough, measure water into small bowl. It should be very warm to the touch, but not hot. Stir in honey or sugar until mixed well. Sprinkle in yeast. Stir carefully with teaspoon to dissolve completely. "Proof" the yeast for 4 to 5 minutes, until it starts bubbling. You are literally "proving" the yeast to be working. If nothing happens start over with a new package.

Place 2 cups of flour and salt in food processor. Pour in olive oil. Pulse once or twice. Pour in yeast mixture and process for 15 seconds. Stop, then process for another 15 seconds. The mixture will form a ball. Open processor and touch dough. It should be quite sticky. Add another 1/4 cup flour and process for 15 seconds more. Place a piece of plastic wrap on counter. Place dough on that. Knead in remaining 1/4 cup flour by hand (you'll probably need it all) for less than a minute until dough is smooth. Place in well oiled bowl. Turn over (so that the dough ball is coated top and bottom with oil.) Cover bowl with plastic wrap and then dishtowel. Let rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warm, non-drafty place. Punch down and use now or cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to one day. Before using, punch down and roll out.

Note: Using freshly made dough will give you a light airy crust that will rise fairly high. Refrigerated dough will give you a chewier, more dense crust. Both can be good and better than store-bought.

For the fillings, heat 2 tbls. olive oil over medium high heat in a large non-stick frying pan. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until lightly browned. Add red peppers and saute for one minute. Remove from skillet. Add 1 tbl. oil to pan over medium hot heat. Stir in mushrooms with a pinch of salt. Arrange in one layer in pan. (Cook in 2 batches if you need to.) Leave them alone for at least 2 to 3 minutes to get browned on the bottom. Stir and cook for another minute. Set aside.

Roll out dough. Place on oiled pizza screen or jelly roll pan that has been lined with foil and sprayed with non-stick spray. Sprinkle a bit of the mozzarella on the bottom to prevent the crust from getting soggy. Spread tomato sauce all over leaving an inch border all the way around (less if you're making individual pizzas). Don't put on too much sauce or the crust can get soggy. Spoon over fillings in order given, making sure that excess moisture has been removed.

Bake in a very well preheated 475 deg F oven* for 15 to 18 minutes. Remove, slice and enjoy (even if you still miss your kids).

Note: To make dough in heavy duty mixer, place flour and oil in mixer bowl. Add yeast mixture and beat with dough hook for 5 minutes. To knead by hand, mix ingredients in bowl and knead on cool surface for 10 minutes.

*I admit my choice of oven temperature is a bit of a compromise. I know 500 degrees (mentioned in many recipes) is too hot for my oven, since I haven't done my annual pre-Thanksgiving oven cleaning since, well, before last Thanksgiving. Some recipes say 425 degrees, which I KNOW is too low. 475 degrees works just fine. It's hot, but not so hot that the local hunky firefighters will be called in. Wait a minute...hunky... firefighters? I just might crank up my oven this time...

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