While Eric and I were living in Korea, cooking what we could on our two burners, this girl came to teach at our school. And I think it was over a steaming pot of shabu-shabu, as we got to know each other, that I casually mentioned that I enjoyed trying to cook new things; she lightly pounded the table, leaned in excitedly, and asked,
“Oh! Do you read food blogs?”
I responded, “…”
I’ll be honest, folks. There it was, 2009, and I wasn’t completely sure what a blog was.
I explained this to her, trying to maintain as much dignity as I could, and within a minute or so, she had written down the urls for Smitten Kitchen and a few of her other favorites. I thanked her politely; after all, she was a new friend, and went home to check out what this blog thing was all about.
What I didn’t know is that Smitten Kitchen would ended up being my gateway drug…I spent hours reading through the stories and recipes, drooling over meals that contained ingredients I would never find in Korea. And with her Good Reads list…Deb of Smitten Kitchen eventually became my dealer, getting me hooked on the likes of 101 Cookbooks and Joy the Baker, which in turn led me to gems like How Sweet It Is and Crepes of Wrath and about 25 others. Within three years, I have become a user and a dealer, and on most days, I probably say, “Oh…have you checked out this blog? I think you’d really like it,” to at least two different people.
I’m kind of surprised each time I walk into our house, and Eric has not staged an intervention for me in the living room.
I’m never quite sure whether I should be eternally grateful to Andrea for introducing me to the world of food blogs or to send her small, anonymous hate notes with clocks drawn all over them to represent all of the time I’ve spent reading food-related writing in the past few years.
But for this pizza recipe, I should probably send her a bouquet of flowers. The thought of making my own pizza had seemed overwhelming to me until I read this dough recipe on Smitten Kitchen. A couple years ago, I was drooling over her asparagus pizza recipe and determined to make it. I could not believe it worked (this was during my stage of great bread-making insecurity); it was possibly the best pizza of my life.
And so, inspired, I began making homemade pizza quite often, endlessly playing around with topping combinations and sauce recipes. This pizza features a truly simple dough recipe, that is pretty much fail-proof. It takes about 20 minutes of actual work, and only about 2 hours of rise-time. Friends, you can do this.
The sauce recipe we’re currently hooked on also comes together quickly (about 30 minutes total); it’s a little on the sweet side, with a hint of brown sugar, but gets its Italian kick from plenty of garlic and basil.(P.S. It’s delicious with fresh, canned, or frozen tomatoes – we’ve tried it all three ways).
Finally, this is truly a farmers market pizza. I found peppers, broccoli, onions, and fresh basil at the market this week, so that’s what went on our pizza. Zucchinis in season? Saute some up and add them! Up to your ears in eggplant? Roast and plop them on top! We often add Italian sausage or sauteed chicken to our pizzas as well.
I tend to go overboard with the toppings and soggify my crusts. Don’t be like me. But do make your own pizza – it’s a great way to use up farmers market or CSA goodies. And please, for the love, tell me I’m not alone:
What was your gateway blog?
(yields 8 good-sized triangle pieces)
I adapted the sauce recipe by using frozen tomatoes, less oil and brown sugar, and fresh basil instead of dried. The beauty of pizza is that it can be all yours! Try any veggie that you love...add chicken or Italian sausage...give different cheeses a whirl.
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour*
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil
(*You can also use only all-purpose flour instead of the combination.)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
4 c. fresh or frozen tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped OR one (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1-2 tbsp. brown sugar (start with 1, add more to taste)
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped OR 1 tsp. dried
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
3 oz. feta, crumbled or chopped
2 c. mozzarella, shredded
1/4 of a large red onion, thinly sliced
1-2 c. fresh veggies, chopped (I used broccoli and red pepper, but any pizza-faring veggie will do!)
2 tbsp. (or app. 8 leaves) fresh basil, thinly sliced
FOR THE DOUGH:
Stir dry ingredients, including room-temperature yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can with a wooden spoon. Dump all clumps and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a ball.
Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl (I use cooking spray and spread it around with a paper towel). Place dough in bowl, rolling it around to coat it with the cooking spray. Cover it in (oiled) plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size. In the winter, I turn my oven onto 200* and let the dough sit on top of the stove; in summer, I put it in a sunny window.
After it's doubled in size, dump it back onto a floured counter, and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.
Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal. Roll out the pizza (pretty thin!) and place it on your stone or sheet.
FOR THE SAUCE:
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and stir until lightly golden. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until sauce reaches desired thickness. Sauce may be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
FOR THE PIZZA:
Once the dough is in place on the stone or sheet, spoon sauce onto the dough, thinly and evenly spreading it to about a 1/2 inch from the edge.
Cover the sauce with feta and half of the onions and veggies.
Sprinkle the mozzarella over the entire pizza.
Top the mozzarella with the remaining onions and veggies.
Bake pizza in a preheated oven at 500* for 8 minutes.
Sprinkle basil over the top and bake for an additional 2 minutes until pizza is golden and bubbly.