pizza with brussels sprouts, bacon, and goat cheese

brussels sprouts pizza 3

Does it seem like this holiday season has been a lot crazier than normal? It’s must be because Thanksgiving was late this year, which meant that all of the shopping, baking, and socializing had to be squished into about four weeks instead of five like last year. Even if you’re organized enough to start shopping and baking ahead of time, there’s still the parties – the office party, the other office party, the cookie decorating party, the cookie exchange, and on and on.

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In addition to all that, we ended up being part of yet another office party, this one at the Big Boss’s house, which is not an invitation you turn down. I wasn’t feeling like I had time for the party and definitely not for the baking I’d agreed to do for the party, so I had some relief when it got postponed and I got to stay home and make this pizza instead.

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It sounds weird, I know. But it’s my favorite vegetable and one of my favorite cheeses, plus bacon, plus bread, so I knew it couldn’t be bad. The bacon, it turns out, really makes it, adding an element of sweetness to go with the nutty vegetables and tangy cheese. This pizza and a quiet night at home was exactly what I needed this holiday season.

brussels sprouts pizza 1

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Brussels Sprout, Bacon, and Goat Cheese Pizza (from Shutterbean via Pink Parsley)

1 pound pizza dough (⅓ of this recipe)
4 slices of bacon, diced
6 ounces (about 6) Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ cup (2 ounces) shredded mozzarella
¼ cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, crumbled
¼ cup (½ ounce) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place a pizza stone on a rack about 3 inches below the broiler and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Shape the dough into a ball; cover and set aside for 10 to 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.

2. In a medium skillet, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until it’s just barely crisp, about 8 minutes; use a slotted spoon to transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate. Remove all but about a thin coating of fat in the pan. Add the Brussels sprouts and shallots and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vinegar.  Set aside.

3. Flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots.

4. Line a pizza peel (or the back of a baking sheet) with parchment paper and transfer the round of dough to the peel, rearranging it to something reasonably circular. Top with the mozzarella, then the Brussels sprouts mixture, goat cheese, and parmesan. Transfer the pizza to the hot pizza stone.

5. Immediately turn the oven off and the broiler on (to high, if yours has settings). Bake the pizza for about 5 minutes, until the bottom is spotty browned and the cheese is bubbling. Transfer the pizza to a cooling rack; cool about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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pizza with ricotta, caramelized onions, and prosciutto

ricotta prosciutto pizza 5

My pizza making goes in phases. I’ll go through long stretches where, every other Friday, I’m arranging turkey pepperoni over green chile-spiked tomato sauce. If I want to get fancy, I’ll add sliced mushrooms.

ricotta prosciutto pizza 2

And then that will turn around, and each pizza for months will be different from last. Rarely do these varied pizzas have tomato sauce and mozzarella; it seems that if I’m choosing anything resembling a traditional pizza, it’s going to be topped with that pepperoni and green chile. In fact, of the last few pizzas I’ve made, this is the only one that even uses predominately Italian ingredients.

ricotta prosciutto pizza 3

But those ingredients make it a safe bet, because you can never go wrong with creamy fresh ricotta, salty prosciutto, and sweet onions. The original recipe made the onions into a marmalade with sugar and balsamic vinegar, but I think caramelized onions are plenty sweet on their own. I chose to add the prosciutto after removing the pizza from the oven, instead of before baking, because I find the baked prosciutto turns into little more than crisp bits of salt. Letting the heat of the pizza soften the bite-sized pieces of ham leaves their meaty flavor. Altogether, it makes for a worthy departure from pepperoni and green chile.

ricotta prosciutto pizza 4

One year ago: Turkey Ricotta Meatloaf
Two years ago: Red Kidney Bean Curry
Three years ago: Brown Rice with Black Beans
Four years ago: Mulled Cider

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Pizza with Ricotta, Caramelized Onions, and Prosciutto (adapted from The New York Times via Smitten Kitchen)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
salt
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 ounces prosciutto, cut or torn into approximately 1-inch pieces
1 cup ricotta cheese (made from 4 cups milk, if homemade)
1 pound pizza dough, fully risen and at room temperature (⅓ of this recipe)

1. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and heat the oven to 500 degrees.

2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering; stir in the onions and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions just begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the crushed red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened and are medium golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.

3. Meanwhile, shape the dough into a ball. Set it aside for 10 to 30 minutes, loosely covered, to allow the gluten to relax.

4. Working on a lightly floured surface or a damp cloth, flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots. Transfer the round of dough to a large square of parchment paper; slide the parchment with the dough onto a pizza peel.

5. Spread the ricotta evenly over the dough, then evenly disperse the onions over the ricotta. Slide the pizza with the parchment onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is browned around the edges. Transfer the pizza to a cooling rack without the parchment. Top with the prosciutto. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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chocolate oreo blackberry cake

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I know there are bakers out there who are sad when their birthday rolls around and none of their friends offer to bake them a cake, because their friends are all used to the baker making the cakes. Or maybe their friends don’t feel like their cake could ever live up to one of the baker’s cakes. But even if the baker is the one known for their delicious and beautiful birthday cakes, a birthday cake is more than dessert, it’s a gift, so I understand why people are disappointed when no one makes them one.

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But I am not one of those bakers. Without family or a large group of friends nearby, my opportunities to make dramatic layer cakes are few and far between. My birthday is one of those rare chances, and I soak it up for all its worth. For me, letting me bake my own cake is the gift.

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This year, I did have someone to share that cake with, when my family celebrated my birthday on vacation last week on the beach in Mexico. Vacation baking holds its own challenges, but I can adapt. I did as much as possible at home – mixing up the dry ingredients, measuring and crushing the oreos, and making and freezing the buttercream. The cake itself is an easy one to mix up, no mixer required, but the swiss meringue buttercream needed to be re-whipped after defrosting to restore its smooth and airy texture. My original intention was to smooth the buttercream over the top and sides of the cake and coat the cake with a glossy and dramatic chocolate glaze, but with the scalloped edges of the disposable pans I baked the cakes in, that seemed like a messy prospect. Fortunately, I love the look of an open-sided cake like this.

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With eight people to share it with, this cake went fast! It probably doesn’t hurt that chocolate and berries are such a great flavor combination, not to mention that everyone loves moist cake and fluffy frosting. And the best part is that, since my family celebrated early and this cake was gone by my actual birthday, I get to make another cake just for me!

blackberry oreo cake 5

One year ago: Pesto
Two years ago: Banana Peanut Butter Muffins
Three years ago: Lemon Meringue Cake
Four years ago: Black (and Pink) and White Chocolate Cake

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Chocolate Oreo Blackberry Cake (cake adapted from Dessert for Breakfast; buttercream adapted from Martha Stewart)

Makes one three-layer 8-inch cake

Note that the 8 ounces of blackberries is before straining. You should end up with about ¾ cup (which is 6 ounces both by weight and volume) of puree.

Cake:
2 cups (8 ounces) cake flour
2 cups (14 ounces) sugar
1 cup (4 ounces) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, room temperature
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk, room temperature
1 cup hot coffee

Buttercream:
8 ounces (by weight; about 1¼ cups) blackberries, pureed and strained
3 egg whites
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
pinch salt
18 tablespoons (2¼ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For assembly:
18 Oreos, coarsely chopped or crumbled

1. For the cake: Adjust a rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8-inch round pans.

2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, and baking powder, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, oil, and milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until evenly distributed. Pour in the coffee and mix until smooth.

3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let the cakes cool for 10 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the sides of the cakes from the pans, then invert the cakes onto the wire rack and remove the pans. Cool completely before frosting.

4. For the buttercream: Combine the egg whites, sugar, and salt in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the bowl from heat and attach it to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition. With the mixer on low, add the strained blackberry puree, mixing just until incorporated. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)

5. To assemble the cake: If necessary, trim the top of each layer to make a flat, even surface. Transfer one layer to a cake plate or large platter. Spread one-third of the buttercream over the cake, then distribute one-third of the crushed cookies evenly over the buttercream. Repeat the layering of cake, buttercream, and oreos twice more. Serve immediately or loosely cover for up to 8 hours.

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pizza with lamb meatballs, caramelized onions, and parsley

lamb meatball pizza 7

The disadvantage of only working every other Friday is that the longer 5-day weeks seem like an eternity. When will it end? How can it be only Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday? I have to wake up to an alarm again? Torture! It’s not that I don’t like my job, it’s just that I like the weekends so much more.

lamb meatball pizza 1

I get by by keeping my eye on the prize, and by “prize”, I mean when I come home from work on Friday afternoon, grab my book and a beer, and go sit in the backyard. I plan the rest of my week so that Friday after work is a No Chore Zone. The groceries should be shopped for, the dishwasher should be emptied, the house should not be a pigsty. I don’t want any detours between putting down my work bag and heading out to the backyard to read in the sun.

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An hour or two later, refreshed, I’ll come in to make dinner. These long weeks always call for pizza on Friday. If I lived somewhere with a good takeout option, I would welcome that, but instead, I make my own, which has the added advantage of whole wheat crust and skim milk cheese (I think it melts better anyway). Not to mention – when was the last time you saw lamb meatballs on a pizza menu?

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This pizza, one of the best I’ve made recently, is a perfect example of my pizza formula, with savory lamb, sweet onions, bitter parsley, and the traditional acidic tomato sauce and salty cheese. It’s more work than your average pizza, what with the onions needing to be cooked and, most tediously, the tiny meatballs, but it’s worth the extra effort, even on a Friday night after a long workweek – provided that I get my beer and book in the backyard first.

lamb meatball pizza 5

One year ago: Marbled Loaf Cake
Two years ago: Corned Beef Hash
Three years ago: Roasted Baby Artichokes
Four years ago: Rice and Beans

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Pizza with Lamb Meatballs, Caramelized Onions, and Parsley (inspired by Bon Appétit)

Serves 6

I tried this with both fresh mozzarella and the firmer type, and while they were equally tasty, the firmer cheese did a better job of gluing the meatballs to the pizza. Lamb meatballs that roll onto the floor to get coated in cat hair are sad.

12 ounces ground lamb
1 egg
salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 onions, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 pounds pizza dough (⅔ of this recipe), fully risen
1 (14-ounce) can whole or diced tomatoes packed in juice (not puree), drained
8 ounces (2 cup) shredded mozzarella
1 ounce (½ cup) grated parmesan
¼ cup minced parsley

1. Use your hands to evenly combine the lamb, egg, ½ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Form the mixture into balls about ½-inch in diameter. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Add the meatballs and cook until well browned on a couple sides, about 4 minutes, turning about once a minute with a spatula. Wipe out the skillet.

2. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the now-empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering; stir in the onions and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions just begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions have softened and are medium golden brown, about 15 minutes longer.

3. Meanwhile, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Divide the dough in half; shape each portion into a ball. Let the balls of dough relax for 10 to 30 minutes.

4. Pulse the tomatoes in a food processor 10-12 times, until they’re pureed. Transfer them to a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl and let them drain, stirring occasionally, for at least 10 minutes. Discard the liquid in the bowl, transfer the tomatoes from the strainer to the now-empty bowl, and stir in a pinch of pepper and ⅛ teaspoon of salt.

5. Flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots.

6. Line a pizza peel (or the back of a baking sheet) with parchment paper and transfer the round of dough to the peel, rearranging it to something reasonably circular. Spread half of the sauce over the dough, then top with half of the mozzarella, meatballs, onions, and parmesan. Transfer the pizza to the hot pizza stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the bottom of the crust is spotty brown. Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle half of the parsley over it, and let it cool on cooling rack for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

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pizza with prosciutto, goat cheese, and roasted tomatoes

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I wrote out a formula for pizza. And I realize that for some people, that takes the fun out of developing recipes, but I’m a scientist, so what do you expect from me? And here’s what I decided:

prosciutto goat cheese pizza 4

Many of my favorite foods have a balance of the five basic flavors – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, umami, and then I’m going to add heat or spice to this as well. A traditional pizza incorporates most of these; tomato sauce is acidic and rich in umani, the crust is often just a bit sweet, the cheese is salty, and a sprinkling of red chile flakes adds heat. Beyond the flavors, I like pizza best when there’s some sort of sauce (like tomato sauce, obviously), a glue (this would be the mozzarella in a traditional pizza), and toppings.

prosciutto goat cheese pizza 1

For this pizza, I started with goat cheese, because I hadn’t had it in a while and I love it. Goat cheese is tart, or sour, so that takes care of that flavor, but unlike many other cheeses, it doesn’t make a very good glue, so it would be incorporated as either the sauce or a topping. I wanted something sweet, and caramelized onions would be great, but slow-roasted tomatoes could work as well. Tomatoes have umami, but I thought meaty prosciutto would also go particularly well with the goat cheese. And I liked prosciutto better with tomatoes than onions. Prosciutto is salty, as was the dusting of parmesan I couldn’t resist sprinkling on top.

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That gave me a bunch of toppings, and I could make the goat cheese into a sauce, but I still needed glue. I decided to stick to good ol’ mozzarella. You can never go wrong with putting mozzarella on pizza. And I still felt like the pizza might be missing something, especially something with light, fresh flavors, so I mixed pesto into the goat cheese, which also made it into a more spreadable sauce-like consistency. Red pepper flakes, common on pizza, added spicy heat.

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And then after all my pizza math, I realized that I had hardly varied from traditional pizza, with tomatoes, mozzarella, and cured meat. All I did was change the order of layering – that, and develop an infallible formula for an infinite number of future pizza recipes. I’ll call that a success on all counts.

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One year ago: Protein Waffles
Two years ago: Cherry Tomato Salad
Three years ago: Coconut Butter Thins
Four years ago: Perfect Party Cake

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Pizza with Prosciutto, Goat Cheese, and Roasted Tomatoes

Makes one 12-inch pizza, serving about 3 people

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
salt
cooking spray
1 pound pizza dough (⅓ of this recipe)
2 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons pesto
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup (½ ounce) freshly grated parmesan
2 ounces prosciutto, sliced

1. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Adjust another rack to the middle oven position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Arrange the tomatoes, cut-side up, on the baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with salt and spray with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes, until shriveled.  Remove the tomatoes from the oven, set aside, and increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees.

2. Shape the dough into a ball. Set it aside for 10 to 30 minutes, loosely covered, to allow the gluten to relax. In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, pesto, and red pepper flakes.

3. Working on a lightly floured surface or a damp cloth, flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots. Transfer the round of dough to a large square of parchment paper; slide onto a pizza peel.

4. Spread the goat cheese mixture over the dough, then evenly disperse the mozzarella, tomatoes, and parmesan over the goat cheese. Slide the pizza with the parchment onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is browned around the edges. Transfer the pizza to a cooling rack without the parchment. Top with the prosciutto. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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squash kale pizza

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This recipe knocked me out of a months-long pizza rut. At about two homemade pizza dinners a month, that’s a lot of green chile-turkey pepperoni-mushroom pizza. Not that anyone around here was complaining.

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It’s the complimentary earthy flavor that squash and kale both have, combined with the contrasting sweetness of the squash and slight bitterness of the kale that make this pizza work so well. Onions with savory centers and caramelized tips bridge the gap, then the whole thing is topped with plenty of cheese, which is what really matters. I don’t know if it’s going to rival green chile-turkey pepperoni-mushroom for our next rut, but it was definitely a nice diversion.

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One year ago: Beef in Barolo
Two years ago: Steak au Poivre
Three years ago: Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

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Kale and Butternut Squash Pizza (from Bev Cooks via Cate’s World Kitchen)

I used acorn squash the first time I made this and delicata squash the second time. So technically, I haven’t made butternut squash and kale pizza yet!

Dough for two 10-inch pizza crusts (half of this recipe)
1½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized cubes
2 small red onions, cut into wedges
3 cups kale (from about 1 bunch), cut in thin ribbons
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Divide the dough in two and shape each portion into a ball. Set the balls of dough aside for 10 to 30 minutes, loosely covered, to allow the gluten to relax.

2. Transfer the squash and onions to a large baking sheet; season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and coat with 1 tablespoon of oil. Bake, stirring once halfway through, until softened and browned, about 30 minutes.

3. Heat the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil with the garlic in a large skillet; add the kale and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

4. Work with one ball of dough at a time on a lightly floured surface or a damp cloth. Flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots. Transfer the round of dough to a large square of parchment paper; slide onto a pizza peel.

5. Top the dough with half of each of the roasted vegetables, kale, and cheese. Slide the pizza with the parchment onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is browned around the edges. Transfer the pizza to a cooling rack without the parchment. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before serving. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

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pizza bianca with goat cheese and greens

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When it comes to grilled pizza, I’m a slow learner. We’ve made crusts so burned that we had to chip flakes of blackened bread off before we could eat it. We’ve also made pizza with doughy undercooked crusts and with unmelted cheese and raw toppings. About the only problem we haven’t had is the dough sticking to the grate, so at least there’s that.

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This was my most successful attempt at grilling pizza so far, but even so, it’ll be a while before there’s any kind of grilled pizza tutorial from me. Instead, I will provide my standard foolproof oven method for a very non-standard pizza. My ears perk up whenever anyone mentions goat cheese, which is no surprise since it’s so creamy and tangy. But I like kale almost as much, which is maybe more surprising.

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This is the first time I’ve eaten them together, but it’s a combination that makes good sense, because the tart goat cheese will balance the earthy kale. With crushed red pepper spicing things up and mozzarella holding everything together, this was one different and delicious pizza – with charcoal flavor or not. It was almost as good as the pizza margherita we made to go with it, and that’s really saying something.

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One year ago: Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Two years ago: Sourdough Bagels
Three years ago: Salmon Clubs with Avocado Butter

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Pizza Bianca with Goat Cheese and Greens (adapted from Love and Olive Oil)

1 pound pizza dough (½ of this recipe), fully risen and at room temperature
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed
salt
4 ounces (½ cup) part-skim mozzarella, shredded
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500ºF. Divide the dough in two and shape each portion into a ball. Set the balls of dough aside, loosely covered, to allow the gluten to relax.

2. Heat the oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a Dutch oven over medium heat until the garlic sizzles. Add the kale, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons of water; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking and stirring until the water evaporates, about 1 minute.

3. Work with one ball of dough at a time on a lightly floured surface or a damp cloth. Flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots. Transfer the round of dough to a large square of parchment paper; slide onto a pizza peel.

4. Top one round of dough with half of each of the kale mixture and cheeses. Slide the pizza with the parchment onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is browned around the edges. Transfer the pizza to a cooling rack without the parchment. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before serving. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

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pizza with caramelized onions and fennel

After a year and a half living in a small town, I still haven’t fully adjusted to the grocery store situation. I don’t think I’ve walked out of the store here once without thinking wistfully of Wegman’s. My new store isn’t a bad place; I’m just spoiled. They do occasionally stock random items, and I’ve learned to jump on those opportunities and worry about finding recipes later.

Sometimes I buy the item just to encourage the store to keep it up. In the last few months, we’ve eaten haricot vert, Copper River salmon, yellow carrots, and now fennel. Since I moved here, I’ve bitterly overlooked fennel recipes, thinking my fennel days were over, and then once I found fennel, I could only remember one of those recipes.

It’s a memorable recipe because it has a lot going for it. For one thing, it’s pizza, which is always good, but it’s even better since I’ve started playing with a new crust recipe recently (which will be the next blog entry). For another, the onions and fennel are caramelized, and who doesn’t like turning vegetables into candy?

Lindsay laments that this pizza was pale and homely, so I added some color in the form of black forest ham (ideally prosciutto, but my store was out of it) and a sprinkle of parsley. Not only is the splatter of pink and scattering of green welcome, but the salty bites of ham and bitter bits of parsley complimented the sweet onions and the licorice of the fennel. It’s too bad I don’t know when the next time I’ll find fennel is, because I’d love to make this one again.

One year ago: Quinoa Tabbouleh
Two years ago: Croissants
Three years ago: Franks and Beans

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Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Fennel, and Fresh Mozzarella (adapted from Love and Olive Oil)

Serves 6

I cooked the onions and fennel separately (not because I love doing dishes and wanted to use more than necessary; I had leftover caramelized onions to be used), and I found that the fennel didn’t caramelize, it just browned slightly. It may behave differently if onions are around.

1 pound pizza dough, fully risen and at room temperature (½ of this recipe)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
Salt
8 ounces whole-milk fresh mozzarella cheese, coarsely grated
4 ounces prosciutto, cut into slivers
freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
sprinkling parsley

1. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500ºF. Divide the dough in two and shape each portion into a ball. Set the balls of dough aside, loosely covered, to allow the gluten to relax.

2. Heat the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, fennel, and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue cooking and occasionally stirring until the onions are golden brown, about 15 minutes.

3. Work with one ball of dough at a time on a lightly floured surface or a damp cloth. Flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots. Transfer the round of dough to a large square of parchment paper; slide onto a pizza peel.

4. Top the dough with half of each of the caramelized vegetables, cheese, and prosciutto. Slide the pizza with the parchment onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the crust is browned around the edges. Transfer the pizza to a cooling rack without the parchment; top with parmesan slivers and a sprinkle of parsley. Let the pizza rest for 5 minutes before serving. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

stromboli

If you roll your dough and toppings into a spiral instead of keeping them flat, it’s a whole new recipe and totally different from the normal Friday night pizza routine!

Friday evenings are pretty much my favorite part of the week. It’s one of the only times I just STOP. I don’t worry about chores, or exercise, or even hobbies. I just hang out in the kitchen with a beer, rolling out dough, shredding cheese, slicing toppings.

I’m not too interested in varying from this routine. I’m occasionally willing to get takeout sushi instead of make pizza, and, sometimes, I might really get wild and change the shape of the pizza. Usually that means calzones and this time it was stromboli, but let’s face it, it’s all basically the same thing.

You can certainly roll anything you want up in pizza dough, but sometimes I like to let other people do the thinking for me, so I follow a specific recipe. Emeril’s stromboli has three kinds of pork, green peppers (gross!), and jalapenos, so I was pretty sure I could get away with some paring down of ingredients. With only two kinds of meat and one type of pepper, plus three types of cheese, there were still plenty of flavors for me. Oh Friday. How I love your carbs, cheese, and freedom.

One year ago: Maple Oatmeal Scones
Two years ago: Twice-Baked Potatoes with Broccoli, Cheddar, and Scallions
Three years ago: Country Crust Bread

Printer Friendly Recipe
Stromboli (adapted from Emeril)

Serves 6

Based on the pictures, it appears I sautéed some sliced mushrooms with the peppers. Yum!

1 recipe pizza dough
1 tablespoon milk
⅛ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
8 ounces hot Italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
8 ounces ham, diced
1 large red onion, chopped fine
1 red pepper, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces (2 cups) provolone, shredded
8 ounces (2 cups) mozzarella, shredded
2 ounce (1 cup) finely grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. In a small bowl, mix the milk, salt, and sugar; set aside.

2. In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until it’s browned and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Add the ham, onions, and bell peppers; cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft and slightly browned, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool.

3. Divide the dough in half. On the prepared baking sheet, stretch out one half of the dough to a large rectangle, about 10 by 14 inches. (If it becomes too elastic, let it rest for a few minutes, lightly covered.) Spread half of the cooled sausage mixture across the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Top with half of each of the mozzarella and provolone. Using a pastry brush, paint the border of a long edge with the milk mixture. Starting at the other long end, roll up the dough into a cylinder, pinching the edges to seal. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Let the dough rise for 20 to 30 minutes.

4. Brush the top of each stromboli with the milk mixture. Bake, one at a time, until nearly completely golden brown and starting to crisp, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the stromboli with parmesan cheese and return to the oven until the cheese is melted and the dough is golden brown, about 5 minutes.

5. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Slice thickly and serve with your favorite sauce.

spinach artichoke pizza

I learned a fun fact at work the other day. The word bikini comes from Bikini Atoll, where a nuclear test bomb had recently been dropped. The designer of the bikini expected his new fashion to be “explosive”, and nuclear anything was all the rage back then. Yes, only sixty years ago, bikinis were nonexistent.

Now that they are available, I have a few, and they’re cute, and I want to wear them. So spinach artichoke dip, always tempting me from restaurant menus, generally has to be avoided. Dipping bread into a bubbling pot of cream cheese, mayonnaise and mozzarella will have me exploding right out of my bikini.

The flavors, however, are a natural for pizza. Keep the bread, but make it whole wheat with my favorite whole wheat adaptation trick. Replace the cream cheese and mayonnaise with a thick béchamel, and the rest of the ingredients – spinach, artichoke, mozzarella, parmesan – are reasonably healthy and adapt perfectly for pizza.

Okay, so here’s the problem with my “make healthier food –> wear bikini” philosophy. If the healthy food is this good, I’m going to end up eating more of it than I should! I mean, bread topped with cheese, artichokes and spinach? Of course that was irresistible. Of course I’m going to need several slices to be satisfied, and of course I’ll still look longingly at the leftovers. Okay, so maybe I’ll end up looking longingly at my bikinis this summer, but at least I’ll be satisfied with my one-pieces suits.

One year ago: Potato Galette
Two years ago: Orange Vanilla Opera Cake

Printer Friendly Recipe
Spinach Artichoke Pizza

Makes 2 12-inch pizzas or about 6 servings

You can use frozen artichokes instead (they’re not available in my town), although I’ve never been sure if those need pre-cooking before they’re added to pizza. If you used canned artichokes, I recommend rinsing them, because they’re canned in citric acid, and the acidity was a little distracting.

Of course you can make pizza without a pizza stone. Just use a baking sheet (possibly preheated). However, if you make pizza or rustic breads often, a pizza stone is a small investment for a large increase in perfectly crisp crusts.

2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cup milk (any fat content)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ ounce (¼ cup) parmesan plus 1 ounce (½ cup)
7 ounces fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped
½ recipe (whole wheat, if you want) pizza dough or 1 pound of your favorite pizza dough
6 ounces (1½ cup) shredded mozzarella (skim works great)
1 (14-ounce) can artichokes, drained, rinsed and dried, quartered

1. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 525ºF.

2. In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the foaming subsides, add the garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, 30 to 60 seconds. Add the flour; continue cooking and stirring for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Stir in the salt and ¼ cup (½ ounce) of the parmesan.

3. Meanwhile, add the spinach (if the spinach isn’t damp from being washed, also add a couple tablespoons of water) to a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat. Cook and stir until the spinach just wilts, about 1 minute. Remove the spinach from the pan and place it in a clean kitchen towel. Squeeze the spinach as dry as possible, then add it to the béchamel from step 1.

4. Divide the dough and shape each portion into a ball. Let the balls of dough relax for 10-30 minutes. Work with one ball of dough at a time on a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough, then pick it up and gently stretch it out, trying to keep it as circular as possible. Curl your fingers and let the dough hang on your knuckles, moving and rotating the dough so it stretches evenly. If it tears, just piece it together. If the dough stretches too much, put it down and gently tug on the thick spots.

5. Dust a pizza peel (or the back of a large baking sheet) generously with cornmeal and transfer the round of dough to the peel. Rearrange the dough to something reasonably circular; stab it several times with a fork. Spread ½ of the spinach mixture over the dough, then top with half of the mozzarella, half the artichokes, and half of the remaining parmesan.

6. Transfer the pizza to the hot baking stone, and bake for about 6-10 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is spotty brown. Let the pizza cool on the peel for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.