11 July 2010

Zucchini+pizza=joy

We arrived home (again) to find our garden not only alive, but thriving and producing our first real harvest of the season. We did grab a few serranos before we left, but this harvest yielded two of those bigger-than-your-head zucchini that haunted our childhood nightmares and caused supper time theatrics that could have earned gastronomic Tony awards. Because we had been so very blessed by these olympian zucchini, I made the most of them for today's meal and dessert: Pizza and Zucchini bread. All that effort, and I still only managed to use one of them. What's on the menu for tomorrow? Um, zucchini, of course.

I rolled out some whole grain pizza crust dough that's been waiting in the freezer for a few weeks and spread it with a home made tomato sauce (onions+garlic+thyme sautéed until soft, add 1 Tbsp tomato paste, cook 1 minute, add 1 can tomatoes, cook, blend, season with salt and pepper, reduce. Tada!) I took the star of our meal (that was zucchini, remember?) and sautéed it with a cup of great northern beans and some chopped kalamata olives, spread that over the sauce, sprinkled on fresh sweet basil and topped with a thin layer of shredded (not grated) parmesan cheese. That was it.

I've recently come into my own in the pizza making department, and I thought I'd share my ultimate secret. It works for thick crust or thin, loaded or plain, meat or veggie. It's so simple you'll wish you'd been doing it forever. It does, however, require 2 bits of special equipment: Abaking stone and parchment paper. If you don't have those things, run out and get them now, and I'll wait until you get back.

Ready? Okay, here's how you make the greatest pizza even better. Put your stone in the oventhen preheat it to 450˚. Preheat the stone? Yes. 450˚? Oh baby, yes. Some even broil their pizzas, although I've not had great luck with it. Roll your dough out on the parchment and prepare it there instead of on the stone because, well, it's in the oven getting toasty warm. When your pizzas look too good to be true and your oven is plenty hot, slide the pizza, parchment and all, onto the preheated stone. How does one do this? For a not-overly-laden pizza I can generally just pick up the parchment and do it that way. For the monster sized one you may need to use a cutting board to slide it on and off. Notice that I'm completely discounting the use of an actual pizza peel. Who has one of these in their kitchen anyway? Well, we all should, but none of us do. Bake that puppy until the cheese is golden and bubbly and the crust is brown and crisp. I can cook two large pizzas in 7 minutes flat using this method and my handy dandy new convection oven.

Questions that may arise:

Q: Isn't that too hot to cook the inside of the pizza before burning the outside?
A: Nope. The preheated stone takes care of that and enables the crust to cook from the bottom while the topping cook from the top. It's how brick ovens work in pizza joints.

Q: Does this work for thick and thin crust both? It seems like it would only do thin ones.
A: It works for both, although a thick crust might take a (very) little longer. Instead of being pillowy and mushy, your thick crust will have a bottom crust that not only crunches pleasantly, but also holds your toppings with confidence.

Q: 7 minutes? 2 pizzas? That can't be right, can it?
A: OK, I cheated with my new convection oven and I really did cook two entire large size pizzas at the same time and both were done in 7 minutes. I've actually done it twice in the last four days and the results were the same (=amazing.)



Oh, and we served the pizza with fresh Rainier cherries. Hello, summer.


4 comments:

Mom said...

yummm...never had cherries on pizza. Did they go on the pizza or were they the side :)

James said...

Oh mom, you're so funny. On the side, of course!

Jodi said...

Sounds and looks amazing! I'll admit, I'm more than a bit nervous to slide the pizza into the oven on parchment paper. I'm afraid all the toppings with end up on the bottom of the oven.

Amy Elizabeth said...

did I tell you that I'm loving the new layout? or did I just think that in my head last time? and your pizza looks uh-may-zing! I may have to make some myself.

( :