Day 13, Pear Pizzas

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 13

There will be more DIY gifts and desserts to come, but for now, kick back, hang out with the family (or friends, or pets), and make some pizza. Maybe put on a movie and some comfy loungewear and enjoy an evening in.

I was inspired by both the arrival of the new Cup4Cup Pizza Crust Mix in stores and this recipe, though I changed it up pretty significantly. I kept the pear base but played around with nearly everything else.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 13

Pears and gorgonzola are a beautiful thing, but add a drizzle of honey (truffle, if you have it), and the whole thing sings.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 13

If you’re worried about gorgonzola or blue cheese being gluten-free, you need to check into it, but you certainly can find GF versions of them both. This page is old, but lists commercial options for each. Or, if you get the good stuff, your cheesemonger should be able to steer you in the right direction.

recipe after the jump

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Happy New Year!

or, my pre-teen self is looking on with pride

I think most of us could say we’d like to believe we’ve changed for the better in some essential way over the years, whether in quality of character or by simply by growing into our selves. My husband is vexed whenever he’s immediately recognized by someone who hasn’t seen him in 20 years, but with good reason, I’d say. (Proof: Gil then, Gil now.) I have no illusions on that front, but at least the bad perm years have passed me by. Still, some things never change, and as evidence, I’ll point you to my new year’s day breakfast: pizza. If that pimply, awkward girl could’ve eaten pizza every morning for breakfast without hearing a lecture, believe me, she would’ve.

kale, smoked cheddar, prosciutto, egg

But this was a far cry from the Pizza Hut of my youth. I kept it simple, starting with dough already resting in the fridge, then adding whatever I had on hand: kale (sautéed in olive oil), smoked mozzarella, prosciutto and an egg. The egg makes it breakfast-y, you see.

from Beecher's
The smoked mozzarella of my dreams.

But a little more on the mozzarella… I’m sure you’ve been lured by smoked mozzarella at the grocery store and came to regret buying it, as I have. The prepackaged stuff is oddly insipid as part of a larger dish, while the smoke flavor overwhelmes on its own. But this was an entirely different beast, as you probably can tell from the picture above. I saw it in the case at Beecher’s last week and had to give it a try based on looks alone. It tastes of bonfires and woody, ashy smoke and winter in the best way possible, if that doesn’t sound too strange. If you’re around the Flatiron district, please make the trip to Beecher’s (and while you’re at it, Eataly) and enjoy the experience.

gluten-free pizza

The pizza started with a wonderful, complex gluten-free dough from Shooting The Kitchen that had been resting in the fridge overnight. It’s incredibly sticky right out of the bowl, but a liberal dusting of rice flour makes it easily workable. I always form the dough by hand instead of rolling it out because of counter space issues, but you’ll end up with a prettier, more uniform pizza if you take that extra step.

gluten-free

After forming the dough, you can brush it with olive oil (though I forgot to, and it was fine), then add your toppings. Here, I layered smoked mozzarella and sautéed kale before baking it for five minutes at 500 degrees. At that point, I cracked an egg over the top and baked for about six minutes longer, or until the egg was set, but still runny. Once it was out of the oven, I topped the pizza with prosciutto and shaved parmesan, added a little salt & pepper and a drizzle of truffle oil before tearing into it.

gluten-free piazza

I’ll approve of this breakfast at any age.

From the Market — Week 2

This weekend’s farmers’ market was a great example of the early bird getting the worm. We lazed around Saturday morning instead of hitting the market when it opened and by the time I got to the vegetable booth (15 minutes before closing), the only produce available was potatoes and spring garlic. Good thing I overloaded last week and have a crisper drawer that really works; I was still set for a couple of meals this weekend.

Yes indeed, what you see up there is more pizza, but in my defense, I’ve been looking for the definitive gluten-free pizza crust and now have two in my arsenal. The batch from last weekend was featured on Shooting the Kitchen, a blog well worth your time if you’re into gorgeous food photography. The crust had a rich depth and could fool just about anyone into believing it’s the real thing, but it requires a two-hour initial rise and it’s best after spending a full day in the fridge. It’s great for the weekend, but maybe not so practical on weeknights (unless you get home far earlier than I do).

This week’s crust was from Jules Gluten-Free, and took less than an hour to make, but relies on a starchier flour combination and the taste is a little one-note. Still, if you need to turn your pie around right away, it’s a great option.

The toppings were cobbled together from last week’s market haul with minimal grocery store supplementation — sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic and red pepper powder, paper-thin lemon slices (which turned sweet under the high heat of the oven), drained ricotta, grated parmesan and the remaining garlic confit that needed to be used up this weekend. I just love throwing together lunch with whatever’s on hand.

with bacon/cider vinaigrette and toasted slivered almonds

Speaking of, that’s how Sunday’s lunch came about, too. The spinach was robust, but already a week old, so I tossed it together with the juiciest strawberries you can imagine, some toasted slivered almonds and a bit of minced shallot. For the dressing, I heated some of the rendered bacon fat from the bacon jam weekend, added a little neutral oil, cider and sherry vinegars and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s a perfectly delicious and light salad that really lets the seasonal produce shine.

From the Market — The Kickoff

Grilled potatoes, radish green pesto, shaved asparagus

We went straight from winter to summer around here, and not a moment too soon. I’m stuck in an office today instead of out enjoying perfect grilling/hanging out/whatever weather, but at least it gives me time to reflect on last weekend’s fixin’s.

We’re going to have some green on this blog and lots of it now that our local farmers’ market is back for the season! It was a bittersweet opening, as some of you know — our market is now dog-free. Poor Gil looked like a lost soul just wandering around without the boys, while I did what I always do and loaded up on good stuff to carry home. We’ll probably venture out to other markets that are dog-friendly in upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for a full report.

grilled potatoes, radish-green pesto, shaved asparagus

I felt like an appetizer to get the ball rolling, and ended up with one that would be just as good for barbecues as for a light dinner during grilling season — grilled potato rounds with radish-green pesto and shaved asparagus. It’s vegetarian, nutrient-dense and good hot or cold (though I give the nod to hot-off-the-grill because crispy grilled potatoes just can’t be beat).

grilled potatoes, radish-green pesto, shaved asparagus

It’s easily adapted to use what you have in the house. The radish-green pesto came about because I hate throwing anything away, and a pesto is just about the easiest way to use extra greens. If you don’t have radish greens or just don’t like them, use any kind of pesto you prefer. I had some garlic confit in the fridge, so I tossed the asparagus with garlic oil and lemon juice, but go ahead and use olive oil if that’s what you have.

Springtime pie

For lunch, I rejiggered my triple-garlic pizza, adding quick-pickled wild garlic & spring onions and shaved asparagus and radish-green pesto leftovers. Really good stuff.

These quick-pickled wild garlic & spring onions were inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s pickled onions.

after baking

A thin layer of mozzarella and grated parmesan and garlic confit (natch) tied the whole pizza together. We made short work of it, I’m afraid, but I still have the makings for one more pie, which should be just the thing to kick off this next weekend.

recipe after the jump

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Triple-Garlic Pizza

Or, the whole of the pie is greater than the sum of its alliums.

gluten-free white pizza with garlic

We visited the last monthly winter market this weekend to find the very first sign of Spring — wild garlic — at Nina’s booth. She’s my go-to source for fresh eggs and local honey, but she always has some lagniappe I appreciate — last year it was callaloo and micro greens and last month, freshly smoked jalapenos. But as soon as I saw this month’s wild garlic offering, I knew it was destined for spring’s perfect pizza. You can keep your ramps; I’ll stick to locally-grown wild garlic for $1 a bunch! (Sadly, we don’t have any growing in our yard or it’d be even cheaper.)

Locally-grown — a beautiful sign of Spring

Since I’m pathologically incapable of making anything the same way twice, I subbed in a gluten-free crust and added layers of flavor with garlic oil and garlic confit. Frankly, I wouldn’t know where to draw the “too much garlic” line, but this wasn’t even close. On this pie, at least, it’s all mellow and sweet and borderline addictive.

garlic, olive oil, black peppercorns

Garlic confit, like creme fraiche and sofrito, is one of those things that’s nice to have on hand to add a little something to a dish. Whole cloves are slow-cooked in olive oil until they’re soft and sweetly caramelized, which is nice on its own, but as a bonus you get that lovely oil to use for drizzling, dipping, salad dressings, etc.

gluten-free pizza with garlic oil, confit, wild garlic, truffle oil

The gluten-free pizza crust is the best I’ve yet tried, but I’m still on the lookout for something less…squeaky. (Those of you who’ve had the heavily starch-based crusts know what I mean.) Something a little breadier would be really nice in this application.

gluten-free pizza with garlic oil, confit, wild garlic and truffle oil

Not that I’m complaining — far from it. These toppings just deserve the very best base you can give them. I’m doing it for the garlic, you see.

recipe after the jump

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Pizza, My Endless Love

smoked trout & roasted garlic vs. pepperoni & roasted red peppers

Most days, I’ll hit the gym at lunch if I have the time to spare at work. With my commute, it’s the only chance I ever have for a real workout and I always feel better when I manage to do it. But Friday, I just wasn’t feeling it, so I hiked over to Chelsea Market instead. I’ve read great things about the gluten-free offerings at Friedman’s Lunch and wanted to try out one of their sandwiches after picking up some pantry staples at Buon Italia. The reuben from Friedman’s came back to work with me, and it was really, truly delicious, so much so that I didn’t miss the “real” bread one bit. Of course, I was ready to nap within 15 minutes of finishing it, but what a happy food coma it was.

My heavenly sandwich notwithstanding, the best part of my shopping expedition was scoring The Last Package of sheep’s milk ricotta at Buon Italia. They were out the last few times I’ve been, so my search started to feel a little like Woody Harrelson’s eternal quest for Twinkies in Zombieland. But then that lone package appeared before me, like a cream-covered grail.

Ummm yeah, you could say I love the stuff.

Anyway, the wheels started spinning even before I left the building . . . pasta would be good, maybe with some butternut squash. My old standby — ravioli stuffed with ricotta and an egg yolk — wasn’t something I wanted to waste this precious bundle on during my first attempt at making a fresh gluten-free pasta, so that was out. But how about pizza? Gluten-Free Girl‘s pizza crust was just featured on Michael Ruhlman’s blog, so I could share the recipe. And from there, I was off, doing taste tests in my imagination, adding/rejecting toppings based on how they’d play with the ricotta. I finally settled upon a recipe that, while simple, worked perfectly, with roasted garlic, smoked trout, a touch of parmesan and baby arugula. The ingredients married well, without any one component overshadowing the others.

I went with bolder toppings for the second pizza, adding muenster cheese (we had no mozzarella), plum tomatoes, sliced pepperoni, roasted red peppers, more ricotta, parmesan, red pepper flakes and the few remaining leaves of basil from my plant on the deck. Neither Gil nor I could decide which pizza we liked more, even after taste testing until we nearly burst. The only thing I’d change for next time would be to roll out the crust as thin as possible, till it’s almost crackly, but that’s just a personal preference.

So remember, kids:
1. Friedman’s Lunch = awesome, but plan for a nap.
2. Try to take my sheep’s milk ricotta and you’ll lose a hand.

recipes after the jump

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Back in the kitchen

Having cooked only one meal — braised short ribs with pasta — during Christmas vacation with my parents, I was itching to get back into my kitchen to prepare some decidedly non-processed fare. I wanted to keep it fairly light for our first meal back, which I did with caramelized fennel topped with garlic and anchovy bread crumbs.

When I’ve caramelized fennel before, I’ve always grilled it, but that wasn’t an option with the cold and the wind and general winteriness outdoors, so I marinated the fennel slices in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt & pepper, and some whole grain Dijon mustard before caramelizing it in a pan with a touch of olive oil. Once the fennel had some good color and had just started to soften, I added a little water and covered the pan tightly so it would finish cooking through.

While the fennel was steaming, I tore the crust from four pieces of whole wheat bread and whirred the soft insides in a food processor to make fresh breadcrumbs. I stirred about a half tablespoon of olive oil, a small clove of minced garlic, and an anchovy filet in a skillet over medium heat until the anchovy had dissolved and the garlic was just starting to turn golden. At that point, I added the breadcrumbs and a little salt & pepper and tossed the mixture over medium-high heat until the breadcrumbs were toasty and so fragrant I couldn’t help but sample a pinch straight from the pan.

I do think it’ll be better in the summer, when the fennel is even more aggressively caramelized from the grill, but this was quite tasty for a thrown-together dinner. It’d make a nice side dish or even as a topping for pasta if you reduced the marinade into a sauce. Yum.

Today, I thought I’d make something a little more substantial, so I turned to my bookmarks folder to dig up Jennifer’s deep dish pizza recipe. I added my own spin, using what we had in the house — a tiny bit of salami for flavor, Trader Joe’s fire roasted red and yellow peppers (which I find completely addictive), oil marinated sun-dried tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, and a healthy topping of mozzarella.

We spent the morning at the new Corrado’s Family Affair in Wayne, NJ; while I oohed and aahhed over the gorgeous produce, Gil dutifully followed me with the cart. I used Corrado’s brand San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce and was really surprised by how delicious this pizza was, given how tinny the tomatoes tasted straight from the can. I doctored the sauce pretty heavily with extra everything and some sugar and red wine vinegar, though.

But the real reason to try this recipe is for the heavenly crust, which was just perfect, in my decidedly non-authoritative opinion — the crisp base supported a soft, chewy layer and ultimately all of the toppings I piled on. Next time, I’ll probably add even more, now that I know there’s some serious structural integrity to this pie.

P.S. Peter — thank you for the book! I plan to dive in this weekend. Love it. 🙂

Ramping it up

Make this.

Now.

I used dough from our favorite local pizza joint and a bit more cheese than I’m entirely comfortable admitting to, and it was still so good I’m considering purchasing a bigger pizza stone just to make more of these at once.

Why are you still here? You should be hunting down ramps and grating fresh mozzarella!

Scoot!