Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Amazing Homemade Pizza: Summer Edition

It's time to discuss one of life's greatest pleasures.  No, not that.  This...

The homegrown tomato.  Picked fresh off the vine and eaten while still warm from the sun.

I'm not a natural born gardener.  In fact, I wouldn't be a gardener at all if I wasn't a homeowner.  That's the thing about homes, they come with yards.  It took me a few years to figure out that instead of planting flowers like the previous owners, I could!  And a surplus of tomatoes lead me to the exquisite wonders of fresh tomato pizza.

Ingredients for one 14" pizza
  • Crust (from our previous discussion)
  • 3 large tomatoes, homegrown only.
  • 5-6 fresh picked basil leaves
  • Fresh rosemary, optional
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Canned black olives
  • 4-6 oz cheese (I use a mix of mozzarella and muenster)
  • Olive oil for spraying
We've already discussed homemade pizza, so refer back there for your crust recipe.  If you're pressed for time, you can make it at the last minute, but for your maximum dining pleasure, I suggest making the crust ahead of time.  Like in the morning before you go to work, just place in a (very large) covered bowl in the fridge and leave it.  If you're within an hour or two of pizza time, just leave it out in the covered bowl.

 Another improvement you can add to your pizza making is to use a pizza stone.  I'd always avoided these because I'd heard they were expensive, difficult to care for, and a lot of talk about having to heat them for a few hours before baking...something that just sounded like way too much trouble.  But forget all that.  I picked up a $15 stone from Target and seasoned it by spraying with oil and keeping it in the oven.  After the pizza comes off it, just wipe it off and put it back in the oven.  No further action required.

When you're ready to start making pizza, set the oven to 425°.  Don't do anything to preheat the stone, it's good to go.  If the dough has been in the fridge, let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to loosen up. 

Spread the dough out and loosely form a crust at the edges.  Don't force it, just press it out as far as it will go.  
 Come back in a few minutes and the dough will have relaxed a little further, allowing you to get pretty close to the edge of the stone.  Bake the plain crust for 10 minutes while you turn your attention to the star of the show.

As mentioned in the ingredients, you only need 3 tomatoes, but I picked a few extra to snack on.

Get your sharpest knife, resharpen it, and then slice the tomatoes into paper thin slices.

Cut the slices into quarters and then place the quarters into a strainer basket to drain a little.  Don't force anything, just shake a little to let the excess juice drain off.  Drain and slice the olives, and sliver the garlic and herbs.

After the 10 minute pre-bake is up, lightly spray the crust with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper

Arrange the tomato pieces over the crust.

Add the olives, basil, rosemary, and garlic slivers.

And of course the try to be an adult and use as little as possible.  Because the tomatoes are so spectacular that the cheese is just an afterthought for this pizza.  Put it back in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted to your liking.

And when that gorgeous little pie finally comes out of the oven...step away from the pizza!!!  Leave it alone for 15-20 minutes to cool down and fully develop its wonderful flavor.  And try not to think about the fact that summer is almost over and soon all the tomatoes will be gone and you'll have to go back to canned tomato sauce.