We have finally come to that time of year in the swampy DC area when most of us choose to subsist on salads, cold sandwiches, and icy, boozy beverages to distract ourselves from the fact that many of us don’t have access to a swimming pool. And then some of us decide, after our air conditioning breaks for the umpteenth time in our tiny top floor apartment in a poorly insulated building, that we absolutely, right now, this instant, must try out an original pizza recipe.
For which we must turn on the oven.
I fought the urge. I really did. I had all the fixings for my favorite salad (recipe forthcoming), or at least meals that involved only turning on the stove for a short period of time. We live around the corner from a delicious and popular Neapolitan pizzeria. I reminded myself that M would be cranky if she came home to an even hotter apartment than the one she left that morning. I then remembered that M loves pizza and would immediately forgive me if turning our apartment into even more of a Blazing Inferno than it already was at least resulted in something remarkably delicious.
This is what I have learned about making pizza:
1) Pizza dough is pretty easy, even if you are the kind of person who is afraid of yeasted dough. (Sidenote: Buy a jar of yeast and keep it in the freezer, it’s more likely to still be active than those packets of yeast that sit on supermarket shelves for who knows how long.)
2) Strained tomatoes cooked down with a little garlic, oregano, and a generous helping of salt and pepper is way better than anything you can buy in a jar. Also, white pizza is delicious and easy.
3) Go heavier on the toppings than you think you need to, since the pizza dough will rise and expand in the oven. Also, lumps of cheese that fall off the pizza onto the baking sheet will become charred and crisp. You are to eat them with your fingers before anyone else notices they are there.
4) Grated fontina and fresh mozzarella is the Most Magical, Perfect, Ethereally Delicious Pizza Cheese Combination of All Time, and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.
(Note: Parmesan, pecorino, goat cheese, smoked cheddar, or any combination of the above are also acceptable, because yeah. Cheese.)
- Pizza dough (I use this easy recipe from Smitten Kitchen. You can also use store-bought dough if you feel like being lame.)
- 1 large ball fresh mozzarella (the kind that comes immersed in water)
- 1 ½ – 2 cups grated fontina cheese
- ½ cup olive oil
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (depending on your love of garlic)
- ½ small zucchini, thinly sliced (a mandolin slicer is great for this)
- 6-8 squash blossoms (zucchini flowers)
1) Make pizza dough (see above recipe). While pizza dough is rising, put fresh mozzarella in a fine mesh sieve over a bowl to let drain. Smoosh it around with your fingers or a spoon every so often to make sure most of the excess moisture comes out.
2) Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking sheet or pizza stone with parchment paper, dust with flour or cornmeal. Roll out pizza dough to desired thickness. (Keep in mind that pizza will rise and expand in the oven.) During its second rising, make the garlicky olive oil. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant and starting to brown a bit. Quickly remove from heat and pour onto pizza, using a brush or a spoon to spread mixture evenly over the dough.
3) Spread grated fontina cheese over pizza. Top with sliced zucchini and squash blossoms. Add pieces of fresh mozzarella between the toppings.
4) Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until edges of pizza crust are golden and cheese is starting to brown and bubble.
5) Eat in front of the air conditioning with a cold, cold glass of sauvignon blanc or a Belgian beer. Or whatever you want, because you just made homemade pizza.
More temperature-appropriate recipes coming soon. Stay cool!