Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Delicious food for you! Part I.

As some of you know, Will and I watched Ringu the other night, so I am likely to be dead in about five days. So I thought I'd get a move on with the posting of recipes.

The first thing you need to know is that I don't really follow recipes. Oops. I mean, I follow them for baked goods, because you have to, but not for 'stovetop' food. That said, I'll do my best to list amounts and such.

Mother-in-Law Pizza

(I do not recommend actually cooking your - or my - mother-in-law. It's just that she gave me this recipe.)

Thin crust (makes three 12-14")

1.25 cups water, heated to about 110° f.
2 packets active dry yeast, or about 2 teaspoons
2 teaspoons sugar

mix above and let sit for around 10 minutes

3.25 c flour (I use all purpose or better for bread)
1.5 t salt

put flour and salt in food processor or mixer bowl. While mixing, add water/yeast/sugar mixture. Process/mix for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Add two to three tablespoons oil - I prefer good olive oil, but vegetable would work too - and process for about a minute, until the dough is smooth and begins to form a ball without any assistance on your part. If it is too dry you can add a little more oil. In the unlikely event that it is too wet (you do want it fairly sticky) add a teaspoon of flour at a time until it's right; you can also knead it slightly on a floured board.

Remove dough and divide into three parts. Form each into a ball, pinching at the bottom if necessary to keep dough smooth.

If you have time, flour some plastic wrap, wrap the dough balls, and refrigerate for half an hour. If starving, it is OK to proceed with dough straight out of mixer, but it will be slightly tougher to work with.

Starting from the center, flatten each ball with your fingers until it is approximately pizza crust shaped. Lightly oil your pans (I have pizza pans from Smart & Final, but you could use a cookie sheet) and dust them generously with corn meal (optional, but very helpful). Lay the dough onto the pans and finish stretching it if necessary. The edges should be thicker than the center. If the dough gets too thin or breaks, just pinch it back together. Magic!


I like Roma tomatoes, but you can use whatever variety is handy. You'll need about two per pie (one if particularly large). Chop them to about 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. Saute with small amount of olive oil until soft, add salt and herbs - fresh is always better, but I use dried all the time. Basil, oregano and thyme are my favorites. I can't give you amounts because it depends on what you like, but I'd say no more than a handful, total. Cook for another minute or so, then spread thinly over crusts.

Alternately, you can de-seed the tomatoes (cut in half and squeeze over sink or trash) and chop them in the food processor with onions and basil. This is the recipe I was given, and requires no cooking, but I don't like it as much.


Even moreso than the sauce, this really is a matter of personal preference. The one thing I always do if possible is pre-cook some thinly sliced red onions in an olive oil-butter mixture. I cook them to almost-browned; they should be very soft and starting to color, and have lost their shape. I am also a big fan of bell peppers, uncooked or roasted (preferably both), kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and fresh basil. Sometimes I also use sundried tomatoes, or thinly sliced fresh tomatoes (I put sundried in the sauce and fresh on top of the cheese to cook more thoroughly). Will loves spicy Italian sausage. I brown it in a saucepan with a small amount of oil, then add about 1/4 inch of water and cover the pan, cooking until the water has evaporated. You can use a frying pan, but they are greasy and tend to splatter, so I recommend something with high sides for the sake of your stove/skin. They don't need to cook completely, but should be almost done. Slice thinly.

Anyway. Add your toppings in as thin a layer as possible (mine usually aren't very thin, but I try) and top with a generous amount of grated mozzerella. I add a small amount of grated parmesan as well, and slices of fresh mozzerella if I'm feeling cheeky. A really lovely pizza is just fresh and grated mozzerella and fresh tomatoes, sauce and fresh basil optional.

Bake in a 425° oven, in the lower third if you can manage it (if cooking more than one pie I just switch racks halfway through), for 18 to 22 minutes, until everything is crispy and beautiful.

Now the hard part: Let sit for five minutes.

And the fun part: Eat. I always need a knife and fork for the first slice or two, because of a combination of too many toppings and impatience for the previous step.