09 February 2009

Delicious combination

This post is about a pizza, but really, it's not about pizza. It's about what happens when you bring salty, sweet and tangy together in one bite. It's also about taking a few ordinary foods and making something that tastes extraordinary.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a pizza snob. I'll dig into a pepperoni pizza with red sauce and tons of cheese any day of the week. It's just that I make pizza at home about once a week, and I never seem to have the traditional pizza ingredients on hand. So instead, I top my pizza with whatever I've got around -- olive oil and parm are always in my kitchen, and that's a good start for any pizza, right?

The most recent pizza I made was topped with olive oil, parm, crumbled bacon, caramelized onions, pear and blue cheese. If that didn't sound good, then go call Domino's because I cannot help you.

The combination is delicious. Salty bacon and parmesan balance the sweet, ripe pear and caramelized onions, and the blue just adds enough of a bite to make the entire thing come together. These ingredients also pair nicely over pasta or even sandwiched between two pieces of good bread.

I hope this encourages other home cooks to think outside of the Pizza Supreme box. Getting creative with pizza isn't about taco pizzas or the 5-pounds-of-meat variety. It's about using what you have and being confident to try something a little bold. Try apple instead of pear or roasted red grapes. Add pesto instead of olive oil. Leave off the blue and add some argula instead for a little bite. Heck, good pizza dough, olive oil, parm and red pepper flakes is good -- I call 'em breadsticks!

Do what sounds good. And the only real rule to remember is to not use the Pizza Big Guys as the guide. A delicious pizza doesn't have to weigh in at 10 pounds or be covered in gooey cheese. In fact, the more simple it looks, the better it will probably taste. Red sauce and mozerella are not a requirement.

Try it just once. I bet you'll be hooked, too.

Here's the crust recipe I always use. It was given to me by my former neighbor Kim Mahan who owns a cooking school and catering business. I use it to either make two thin-crust pizzas (think pizza and bread sticks). If you don't need both crusts as once, you can freeze one.

Pizza Crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup of warm water
1 package (or 2 1/2 teaspoons) yeast
Olive Oil

The dough is easiest made in a food processor fitted with a dough blade. It can be made by hand, but expect a more consistent crust with food processor.

Combine flour and salt in the food processor. Add yeast to the warm water and stir to combine. Turn the processor on and pour the water mixture in slowly followed by a light drizzle of olive oil. Process until the dough forms a ball, then process for about 1 more minute. Remove dough from processor work bowl and place in a bowl at least double its size. Drizzle olive oil over top and smear around with your fingers. This will keep the dough from getting an outer crust on the dough ball. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a dish towel. Let the dough rise for approximately 1 to 2 hours, until it has doubled in size. Once dough has risen, use quickly or store in the refrigerator in tightly-wrapped plastic for about 1 day or freeze.

Bake crust (topped with pizza ingredients) for about 10 to 14 minutes (depending on the thickness) in a 450 degree oven. A pizza stone is best, but a cookie sheet would do.

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