Saturday, August 3, 2013

Summer Pizza

Lovely big bunches of fresh basil transform into jars of pesto that lie in wait in our refrigerator. The Pesto is mixed through pasta, spread on toast with goats cheese, becomes a sandwich filling with grilled summer vegetables... and even tops a pizza from time to time. I make it with a big bunch of washed and dried basil, couple of cloves of garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and freshly grated parmesan (or other hard Italian cheese). If I find myself out of pine nuts, then I sometimes use walnuts. This is one of those foods that the kids love to help with - whizzing the blender and having several 'taste tests' along the way. Quantities are totally optional and so no two pestos are ever the same. 
I often slow-roast cherry tomatoes in the oven - especially as it cools after cooking something else. Coated with some olive oil and a light grind of salt (and sometimes pepper), I roast the halved tomatoes at around 350℉ for 30 minutes, then at around 200℉ for another hour or so... depending upon how 'dry' I want them to be. These become sweet and are oh-so-good thrown through pasta (sometimes with pesto), a salad or included on hors d'oeuvres. 

With some pesto and roasted tomatoes on hand, I decided to make a pizza. I was always a little scared of making my own pizza dough... until we got a mixer. Since being somewhat upset after burning out a motor of a handheld mixer, our KitchenAid (with dough hook), makes light work if it! I use a dough recipe from A Cooks Companion

Basic Pizza Dough 
2 sachets dried yeast (8.75g each)
1 tsp Salt 
400g flour
20ml Olive Oil
250ml Water (lukewarm)  

Mix yeast, salt and flour using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix water and oil into dry ingredients and knead for about 8 minutes until smooth and elastic. (Knead for 10-15 minutes if doing by hand). 
Grease a large bowl with olive oil (1 to 2 tsp). Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap or tea towel. Keep in a warm, draught-free place and allow to rise to double size (approx. 90 minutes). 
Knock back dough, gently fold in 4. Cover and allow to rise again for another 30 to 45 minutes. 

I like using a combination of flour - All Purpose / White Wheat / Wholegrain / Bread Flour - dependent upon whim and desired flavor. Paul prefers heavier use of white flour as he likes the 'bready' taste and rise of the dough. I usually compromise with a 50/50 mix of All-Purpose and Wholewheat. 
Pesto Pizza 
I flattened the dough onto a baking tray and spread with Pesto. I then covered the dough with slices of fresh mozzarella cheese and topped with the slow roasted tomatoes. A quick grind of black pepper, drizzled oil (leftover from the tomatoes) and into a very hot oven for 10 minutes. We have a pizza stone - so I transferred the pizza to this to bake for another 5 to 8 minutes. The size was a little too hard to manage - and I ended up cutting the pizza in two to place on pizza stone. 
I topped the finished pizza with some torn basil leaves, slices of fresh tomato from the garden and a very light drizzle of balsamic vinegar. 

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