April 22, 2011

Pizza with Asparagus and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Mmmmmm... Pizza night... Would you believe that our little boy ate some asparagus this way?! I couldn't believe it. Usually, vegetables are a hard sell. Come to think of it, most fruit is a hard sell... But the all cheese diet seems to be working out well for us :) Just kidding (sort of).

Have some homemade pizza for dinner tonight! This is a nice variation that has a lot of rich tomato flavor- in both the sauce and the sun dried tomatoes. First, let's get our simple sauce started- it's a snap!

Basic Sauce for Pizza

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. chili flakes

26 oz. container of Pomi tomatoes (chopped)

Heat the oil in a suitable pot. I find that I have become obsessed with my Le Creuset dutch ovens. I seem to use them for everything... If you have a garlic press, you may prepare your garlic using that, or, if you prefer, just chop them finely. Did you know that when you handle garlic and onions, that if you wash your hands with cold water, the smell will go away? Washing your hands with warm water actually makes the smell and oils stay on your hands. Once our oil has heated a little over medium-low heat, add the garlic and enjoy the aroma! After about a minute, add the salt, oregano and chili flakes, stir and cook for about another 1-2 minutes. You don't want the garlic to brown, so if that's happening, turn down the heat and add the tomatoes right away to lower the temp and stop the browning. If they aren't browning and you're cruising along and things are going well, add your tomatoes, stir, and turn the heat down a little, let that cook for a little while (about 10-15 minutes) while you get your pizza dough ready.

This pizza dough recipe might look familiar... it is the same recipe I use for focaccia. (minus the herbs, but hey, if you really like herbs, it probably would be delicious to include them!). Here it is!

Pizza Dough

1 tsp. honey

1/4 cup warm water

1 envelope yeast

1 tsp. sea salt

3 cups flour

3 Tbsp. warm water

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 cup cold water

Fire up your oven to 425. In a small bowl, combine the first 1/4 cup of warm water, the honey, and the yeast. Let that sit and form some small bubbles, the yeast should look kind of sloppy and soft. This can sit for about 8-10 minutes. In a larger bowl, mix the salt and flour together. Add the remaining warm water, the olive oil and the cool water to the smaller bowl with the yeast mixture. Form a well in the flour and salt and pour the liquid into the well. Using a spoon or pretty much any utensil, I used a butter knife recently, stir until a dough starts to come together. Prepare your hands with olive oil (I like this better than flour), and pick up the dough and work it with your hands. You can do this in the bowl or on a cutting board with some flour. Incorporate a little more flour as needed, and knead the dough for at least a minute or two. It will get more smooth and elastic as your work it, this is because you are helping the gluten form stronger bonds. Clean out the bowl and rub the inside with olive oil. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, and put some oil on the exposed top of the dough. Cover with a kitchen towel.

I've been experimenting a little with how to best cook my pizza- the big green egg, which has a 'pizza stone' piece, and the oven. Surprisingly, I've found that I get better results in the oven! I was surprised. My biggest problem was that I like a pretty thin crust, and transferring the thin uncooked pizza onto the pizza stone caused all sorts of distortion to the shape and presentation. (Here is your frankenstein pizza, enjoy!) I guess this is good news, though, to everyone with an oven?

Let's get our toppings together- you'll need:

1/2 cup (loosely packed) sun dried tomatoes (I use julienned, not packed in oil)

1/2 cup asparagus, cut into 3/4" pieces, tough lower stem discarded



These measurements of the toppings are approximate, because they will vary depending on how large your crust is. This dough amount is probably best divided into 3-4 separate pizzas, which will each be roughly 12" x 6"- it will depend on how thin you make them. Just eyeball it- you may want to use less, depending on how you feel about asparagus and sun dried tomatoes. Combine the cut up sun dried tomatoes and asparagus in a small mason jar. Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil and shake to coat (we coat them in olive oil so they don't burn).

Shaping your pizza dough- take either 1/3 or 1/4 of the dough and on a floured surface, like a cutting board or a clean counter, knead a few times, adding flour as needed. Begin, using your fingertips, flattening the dough into a disc. Start at the center and work your way out, being careful not to press down the outer crust. The less you touch the outer crust, the better, it then retains small air pockets. Flip the dough over many times during this process. This will take a few minutes, but you'll see that it will start to get larger and more pliable. When you've reached your desired thinness and size, I like it to be pretty thin, transfer to a baking sheet that has been dusted with flour.

This sauce we've made is a little on the watery side. The best way to combat this and to not use a lot of time is to put a portion in a mesh sieve and press it with the back of a large spoon. Some liquid should drain off. Spread a small amount on the pizza dough, not too heavy, you can get a good idea from this picture. Distribute the asparagus and sun dried tomatoes over the pizza, the oil that may come out of the jar is a great addition. Using a very fine grater, like a micro plane, grate both parmesan and mozzarella (not fresh, use a hard mozzarella) over the pizza. With this pizza, I like to add additional parmesan after it comes out of the oven. It's a visual judgement, with the micro plane, what is actually not a lot of cheese looks like a lot, since it's nice a fluffy.

We're ready to pop it in the oven! Bake at 425 for at least 12 minutes, check and see how browned the edges of the pizza are, maybe leave it in for a few minutes more if you don't see any browned edged. Remove from the oven, grate some more parmesan over it, and enjoy! This would be great with sangria, and eat outside if you can!

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