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Friday, April 1, 2011

Another Meatless Friday

It must be some sort of a "forbidden fruit" dynamic, each friday during lent I crave bacon cheeseburgers all day.

I think I have only had one bacon cheeseburger in my whole life, I really don't care for them.  By tomorrow, the craving will be gone.

But today--I can see it, practically smell it.  It drives me crazy. 

Another friday, another pizza.  It's not a bacon cheeseburger, but it'll have to do.

Make Your Own Pizza

For each pizza, you will need:
  • 1 pizza dough (use your favorite homemade recipe OR dough purchased from the refrigerator case of your supermarket bakery OR thawed, frozen dough from the frozen food dept. OR--my favorite-- if you live near Bertucci's you can purchase dough there(they will even stretch it out for you for an additional cost)
  • corn meal (if you're using a pizza stone) or non-stick cooking spray (if you're using a metal pan)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, about 1 tablespoon
  • 1 crushed clove of garlic
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce (or 5 chopped fresh plum tomatoes)
  • 8 oz shredded cheese (I use a combo of mozzarella, Monterey Jack, Parmesan)
  • dried oregano (optional)
  • YOUR FAVORITE TOPPINGS!!--mushrooms, peppers onions, basil, olives;  pepperoni and pre-cooked sausage for the meat eaters

I usually make my own dough, but due to time constraints today I used fresh dough from the bakery dept. at the supermarket.  I buy it the day I'm going to use it, and when I get home I take it out of the package and put it into a large bowl (oil the bowl or spray with non-stick cooking spray first, so the dough will not stick to the bowl) so that it can rise to its full potential.

If you're using frozen dough you will also put it into a bowl to rise, but you have to remember to take it out of your freezer in the morning, as it needs 6 to 8 hours to thaw and rise.

I don't use frozen dough, 1. because I think it is too thick and doughy for pizza, 2. I don't like the taste and 3. I can never remember to take it out ahead of time and then need to run to the store to purchase fresh dough.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

If you're using a pizza stone, spread a layer of corn meal on the stone.

If you're using a metal pan, generously spray the pan with Pam (or other non-stick cooking spray).

Stretch the dough in the pan.  Try to keep it as thin as possible in the center, and a little thicker around the edges.
I will be making two pizzas.
Drizzle the olive oil onto the crust.  Spread it around with a pastry brush.

Or use your hands, like my Italian grandmother taught me to do.

Crush a clove of garlic onto the crust. and spread that around as well.

Next, decide whether you want to use sauce or tomatoes.  This sauce has seasonings in it already.

You can use any type of sauce that you like, but thin, runny sauces work best. 

Therefore, I used canned sauce.  Sorry, Hunts.  It's a back-handed compliment at best.
If you're using fresh tomatoes, cut off the stem end (nobody wants to get stuck with a piece of tomato with the hard, unchewable stem), cut the tomatoes in half......

........and scoop out the innards with a spoon.  This will leave you with only the firm flesh.  No seeds or slimyness.
Dice up the tomatoes into 1/2-inch dice.

If you will be topping your pizza with fresh vegetables, microwave them for a minute or two so that they release their liquid.
I am using sliced shitake mushrooms, but you should do this with peppers or onions as well.
I placed the mushrooms on a double layer of paper towels, rolled them up and gently squeezed the liquid out of them.

There have been times when I omitted this step, cooked a pizza with fresh veggies on top and it was a waterlogged mess. 

I wonder how the pizza joints do it?  I doubt they take the time to semi-dehydrate their veggies.

They must have magic.
Cover your pizza with sauce and cheese.  I used a blend of about 2/3 mozzarella, 1/3 Monterey Jack and a generous sprinkling of shredded Parmigiano Reggiano.  If you used unseasoned tomato sauce, you might want to sprinkle some dried oregano on top of the cheese.  This pizza will simply be a cheese pizza, no toppings.

The next one, however........
One of my girls has requested "just cheese, no sauce."  The other half has plum tomatoes and shredded basil, and half of that side has the mushrooms.

Place the pizza in your preheated 450 degree oven.

Set the timer for 12 minutes.  That's about how long it takes to cook the cheese pizza.

Pizza with toppings will take a bit longer, so if you put toppings on your pizza, take a peek after 12 minutes.  If the cheese has not started to bubble, reset your timer for an additional 2 or 3 minutes.  Keep checking every 2 or 3 minutes until it is done.

The cheese pizza was done after 12 minutes.
This pizza took an additional 3 minutes......but it was sooooo worth the wait!

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