After I read Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life about her family's experiment with growing and buying almost only locally grown food for a year I was definitely inspired. But, my garden was almost done for the year (we had tomatoes on the vine until October, freaky global warming) and I wasn't ready to start such an admirable journey myself. But a lot of the habits her family has appealed to me and one that we adopted was Friday Night Pizza (homemade, that is). I don't actually use her recipe, although I will try it, I use a pizza dough recipe I have been using for a long time for calzones. (recipe to follow)
She writes about the need to unwind at the end of the week and especially for working moms (and dads) to not have to think about what is for dinner. I am not working right now, but my hope is to get really good at making homemade pizza and we can eat it one night a week during the school year until my kids start making dinner for us. I love that Kingsolver is so idealistic and hard-working (processing a couple of hundred pounds of tomatoes in a few weeks), but also realistic. We all know that everyone is not going to switch to locally, more sustainably grown food if it is a ton of work. Pizza is so easy, everyone loves it and it is easy to use whatever is in season as a topping.
Kingsolver uses her own canned or dried tomatoes, she makes her own cheese (I know, who makes their own cheese?) and she tops her pizzas with a lot of interesting seasonal produce. My version is not made of local ingredients, but I like to think that it is somewhat local because I am making it in my own kitchen and not driving to the pizzeria to get it. It is tastier, healthier and a lot cheaper.
A note about pizza dough: it can be refrigerated for a few days, frozen for a couple of weeks and here in NYC pizzerias will even sell it to you for you to make pizzas at home.
My Pizza Dough Recipe
adapted from Vegetarian Planet
Makes a 12 inch pizza and an 8 inch pizza or four smaller pizzas
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1 pinch sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast (get a new pack, don't use old yeast)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1. In a small ceramic or glass bowl, combine 1/3 cup water and the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over top and it will start to multiply and get foamy.
2. After ten minutes, combine the yeast mixture with all of the other ingredients and the rest of the water in a large bowl or a mixer. Mix with a spoon until it forms a ball or use the dough hook attachment on the mixer at a low speed, adding water if necessary.
3. Knead by hand for 5 to 10 minutes or run the mixer on a medium-low speed for 5 to 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
4. Put the dough into a deep, oiled bowl and turn it to coat with the oil. Let the dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place for one hour.
(I put the bowl on top of my pre-heating oven which I use to roast some toppings. On top of a radiator would also be good spot.)
5. Punch down the dough and divide it into 2-4 balls depending on how many and what size pizzas you will make.
Making the Pizza
Jarred Pasta Sauce
Grated Part-Skim Mozzarella Cheese
Roasted Red Peppers
Chopped and Pitted Kalamata Olives
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
1. Roll or hand-stretch out the dough to a uniform thickness. If you can see through it, it is too thin. I make mine somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick.
2. If you want your crust extra crisp, you pre-cook the crust without any toppings for 5 to 8 minutes and then add the toppings.
3. Spread a thin layer of pasta sauce, grated mozzarella and all other toppings.
4. Bake for a total of 15 minutes (if pre-cooking the crust, you need to subtract that time) or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is starting to brown. I bake mine on regular cookie sheets with a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper to keep the pizza from sticking.
Cut and Serve. Yum!!