A blog of hopeful, inspired living: cooking & baking & growing & harvesting & preserving & gleaning & eating & sharing food... while bringing positive change to my kitchen and our food system.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pizza, everyday, everyway.

Bread baking was my first kitchen love.  I no longer make bread as often as I used to, but I have been making pizza dough frequently -- a close bread cousin.  I like to make enough for six 14-inch pizzas and freeze the dough.  Sometimes the dough doesn't make it into the freezer and we eat pizza all week, or sometimes all six pizzas get made in one night, with 12 people reaching for slices.  Preparing pizza toppings can be time consuming.  I like to make toppings that go well with lots of things: salads, omelets or frittata, in soup.  Or I save small bits of other recipes during the week prior to pizza making that will be good toppings.  Examples include roasted root veggies, cut-up peppers or squash, stir fries, cooked meats, part of a cucumber, pear, avocado, etc. Sometimes I have 10 little bowls of things in the fridge, but they all get used up during the week in various recipes.

My sweetheart, Bill has introduced me to a whole new world of grilling.  I was excited to put our talents to work together when I snagged the book, Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas by Craig Priebe and Diane Jacob, at the library.  During the rainy, cold weather we've been making pizza in the oven and it's delicious as ever...but grilled pizza has definitely won us over.  To grill a pizza, preheat your grill to HOT (about 500 - 550 degrees F), roll out the dough, transport it over to the heated grill on the back of a cookie sheet or a pizza pan.  The trick is to have the grill preheated and all your toppings, a bowl of olive oil and oil brush lined up right next to the grill, ready to go.  Once you start, things move quickly and you don't want to be looking around for things.  Place the dough on the grill, close the door, wait for 3 or 4 minutes. The grilled side of the pizza dough should have nice, light grill lines, but not be too dark. Flip the dough over and working quickly, brush the grilled side with olive oil.  Optional (but great with all flavors): sprinkle with a thin layer of fresh Parmesan.  Drop toppings onto your pizza and close the door again for another 4 or so minutes.  Note on toppings:  it's most tasty to drop a small amount of each topping in different sections of the pizza, instead of coating the pizza evenly with each topping.  This makes each bite interesting and keeps the crust from getting heavy and soggy.  See below for some flavor combo recommendations.

In terms of a good crust, I have two dough recipes I use that are delicious and reliable for thin crust.
dough, divided
In college a friend gave me a copy of The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger.  I've used her pizza dough recipe so many times that those particular book pages stick together from an old bad habit of resting dough on them while I make space on my kitchen counter.  Someone else has already posted her recipe online here.  Recently, in my hunt for more grilled pizza recipes, I came across Heidi Swanson's entry on 101cookbooks.com, where she uses a recipes from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.  This recipe has produced an awesome, reliable thin crust.  I also like how much dough the recipe makes.  Another plus: this is where I first read about caramelizing fennel for pizzas -- YUM.

About freezing pizza dough: If you make more than you plan to use in one pizza-making bout, I recommend forming the dough into balls, wrapping individually in plastic-wrap (or re-use a clean plastic veggie bag) and sealing in a freezer container.  When you decide it's pizza night again, move one or more balls in the morning and place in the fridge.  They will de-thaw throughout the day and be ready for pizza-making by evening.  Take them out about 30 minutes prior to shaping so they can warm up, otherwise you'll have a frustrating time trying to stretch them out.  My friend Anne told me how she does it:  Shape all the dough and place on baking sheets.  Place the pans directly into the freezer.  Once they are frozen, you can remove them from the pans and stack them in the freezer, covered.  They are all ready for your next pizza adventure and I'd imagine they thaw quicker.

I occasionally like to put an egg or two on top of our pizzas about halfway through the baking.  The egg cooks to medium soft in about 5 minutes and adds a nice richness.

 If I don't write down what we put on each pizza, I forget.  We've started keeping a list going on the fridge.  It helps with ideas for new pizzas, too.  Bill is good at coming up with combos I never would have dreamed up (smoked fish pizza with dried persimmons, anyone?).  Having a pizza throw down, Bobby Flay style, helps get the creative juices flowing, too.  Believe it or not, those far out ideas are often keepers. 

Here are some favorites:
Combo 1
Crust: brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with fresh Parmesan
Ground lamb -- cooked with onion, garlic, thyme, oregano
Kalamata olives
chopped cucumber (added at the end, after grilling/baking)

Combo 2
Crust: brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with fresh Parmesan
Heidi Swanson's caramelized fennel and olives
goat cheese
walnut pieces or pine nuts

Combo 3
Crust: brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with fresh Parmesan 
caramelized onions, with a splash of balsamic tossed in near the end of cooking
goat cheese
pear, sliced thinly
walnut pieces

Combo 4
tomato sauce on the crust
broccoli florets, blanched
potatoes (red or Yukon gold), thinly sliced, cooked
diced red peppers

Combo 5
pesto on the crust
sauteed summer squash, garlic, mushrooms, thyme
fresh sliced tomato
fresh ricotta cheese

Combo 6
olive oil on the crust, with a sprinkling of Parmesan
caramelized onions
bite-sized pieces of smoked white fish
crumbled goat cheese

Combo 7
olive oil on the crust, with a sprinkling of Parmesan
cubed, roasted butternut squash
caramelized onions
goat cheese
walnut pieces

Combo 8 (inspired by the Purple Cafe and Wine Bar in Seattle)
olive oil on the crust
caramelized onions
Gorgonzola cheese
figs, halved (sliced side up)
walnut pieces

Combo 9 -- some sweet ideas
brush crust with melted butter (optional)
a nice jam (to match the other fruit you choose), spread thinly on crust
sliced strawberries, a mix of berries or sliced, cooked apples
ricotta cheese blended with cinnamon and a bit of sugar, to taste
more honey, drizzled over top
another sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)


  1. these sound amazing. I love the classic olive oil, mozzerella, tomato sauce, mushrooms and green peppers.

  2. I'm alllll over this one Eron. You got my wheels spinning!!

  3. I never realized before just how key the crust is. A great crust makes an amazing pizza. I like it this and almost cracker-like. With some well chosen, not over loaded toppings...Excellent!

  4. u are such a model of independent domesticity! wish i had some of ur homemaking motivations, but i love reading about ur ideas and endeavors. u r awesome, eron! claire