Saturday, September 19, 2009

Zucchini Pizza with Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Sunday, September 13, 2009

If you've been frequenting your local farmers' markets this summer, you'll probably not be surprised that I was searching for something to use some of the zucchini and tomatoes that I bought in the morning. I turned to two of my favorite cookbooks--The Italian Baker for the pizza dough and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone for the topping. You could use any pizza dough, of course--both Rose and Peter Reinhart have excellent ones--and figuring out the zucchini topping isn't rocket science. But I'll include both recipes in case you want to try these specific ones.
The pizza dough is simple enough: just yeast, water, flour, olive oil, and salt.

Mixed until the dough becomes "soft and satiny but firm."

Pizza dough is so easy! Why didn't we all grow up eating homemade pizzas? It just has to rise a little bit, get shaped, and rise a bit more. It takes no time. And the beauty of this recipe is that it makes enough dough for two pizzas, each of which is more than enough for two people. Now I have a round of pizza dough in the freezer, which is better than having a bird in the hand. Really, a lot better, as I think of a bird squirming in my hand and pecking me.

I was planning to use a rolling pin to shape the crust, but it didn't work too well.

So I shaped it with my hands, which worked just fine. It was easy to work with, and it didn't develop cracks or holes.

Then I daringly put the dough on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal. No pizza pan, no parchment paper--just the naked pizza dough touching the naked peel. I knew what was coming up soon: slide the unbaked pizza onto the red-hot baking stone. Many, many things could go wrong at this point, which is why I've never tried it before, but I was feeling very devil-may-care, so I did.
Meanwhile, I made the topping, which was also easy. Lightly sauteed zucchini,

quartered cherry tomatoes, mixed with garlic, salt, and olive oil,

and sliced fresh mozzarella and crumbled goat cheese.

and snipped basil.

Amazingly, the step that involves sliding the prepared pizza dough onto the hot baking stone went off without a hitch.

When it's done--in about 15 minutes--you can drizzle on some olive oil and a bit more fresh basil.

Delicious! The crust was crisp, chewy, but still tender. The vegetarian topping was flavorful and very fresh-tasting, with just the right amount of cheese.

Pizza Dough

--from The Italian Baker, by Carol Field
Makes one 15- to 16-inch pizza, 2 medium-size, or 5 or 6 individual pizzas.
1 3/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
3 3/4 cups (500 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. (8 grams) salt

Stir the yeast and sugar into the water in a mixer bowl. Stir in the oil with the paddle attachment. Mix the flour and salt and add to the yeast mixture. Mix until the dough comes together. Change to the dough hook and knead at medium speed until soft and satiny but firm, about 3 minutes. Finish kneading briefly by hand on a lightly floured surface.

(You can also mix the dough by hand or in a food processor).

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until not quite fully doubled, 45 minutes to an hour.

Shape the dough into whatever shape you want, being careful not to tear it. Place it on a peel that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. Finish shaping the dough with your fingers. Cover with a towel and let rise for no longer than 30 minutes. The dough should be puffy and softly risen.

Top with any filling, including:

Zucchini with Cherry Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

--from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison

1/2 recipe pizza dough, above
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced into rounds
Olive oil for sauteing, plus more for the top
Salt and pepper
About 4 ounces cherry tomatoes
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 basil leaves, thinly sliced
2-4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
2 ounces goat cheese, grumbled

Preheat oven to 500.

Saute zucchini in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and beginning to color, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and toss them with the garlic, a little olive oil, freshly ground pepper, and half the basil.

Distribute the cheeses over the prepared dough, then add the tomatoes. Bake on a stone for 5 minutes, then add the goat cheese and bake for another 5-6 minutes. Remove, drizzle with a little more olive oil, and sprinkle on othe rest of the basil.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Peter Reinhart's Corn Bread

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I don't admit that summer is coming to an end. I have to admit that the vegetables at the farmers' market are end-of-the-season vegetables, however, and I wanted to bake something with the lovely corn that's available now. I also had a pound of great-tasting Nueske's bacon. When I ran across this recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice--a cornbread made with fresh corn and bacon, I thought I'd found nirvana. Then I read the recipe--always a good idea--and saw that I was supposed to do Step 1, soaking polenta in buttermilk, the day before baking. Well, this was Sunday, my baking day, and I didn't want to bake on Monday. So I pouted for a while. Then I realized that the only reason to soak the polenta was because it was coarse-grained, so if I just used a fine-grain corn meal, which I had, there would be no reason to soak it. Admittedly, there was the chance that I'd be missing out on something spectacular that the coarse grain would add, but I was willing to take that chance.
Since I didn't have to do Step 1, I could start out with Step 2, baking the bacon.

I wish my mother had told me that if you just lay strips of bacon in a sheet pan and bake them for 20 minutes or thereabouts, you avoid the dreaded attack of the bacon grease and you don't have to turn the pieces and it's just generally a lot easier. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I've told my daughters, neither of whom cooks a lot of bacon.

Step 3 is cutting the corn off the cob.

My mother did tell me that white corn is sweeter and more tender than yellow corn, but usually I can only find this bicolor. Corn in general--whether white or yellow--seems to be sweeter than the corn I remember from childhood, but that may just be my imagination.

The batter is thick and creamy--it's supposed to look and feel like thick pancake batter, and it does. And then, just add the fresh corn, and it's done. I found a 16-ounce bottle of buttermilk, and the recipe takes exactly 16 ounces, so this is a no-guilt, no-waste buttermilk recipe.

Just to make sure it's not too healthy and boring, you grease the pan with leftover bacon fat which you quickly heat up in the oven.

Then bake until it's nice and brown. Serve as soon as possible. Jim says this is the best corn bread he's ever eaten, and I wouldn't disagree. It's possible that it's better if you make it with the more coarse-ground polenta, but I like it so much this way that I don't feel a need to mess with it. People are picky about their cornbread, so be forewarned that this is a pretty sweet cornbread with a finer texture than many.
It also makes a big pan, and it's not as good the second day as the first, so it's a good thing to make when you're serving a lot of people, who may all tell you that it's the best corn bread they've ever eaten.

Have a great Labor Day weekend, and enjoy the last weeks of corn and tomatoes!

This cornbread is on many food blogs, so, rather than typing up the recipe myself, I'm just going to give you a link to one of the blogs that includes the recipe.