tomato basil pizza (for winter)

Martin came back! Hurray! It’s too bad that he only came for a few days and now has to head off to his next destination. While he was away enjoying English cuisine,  I tried to think of foods that he would miss at home. Fortunately for me, the bar was low. As long as I avoided fish and chips I could out-do London. I decided one of our favorite pizzas would be perfect, but with some modifications. We absolutely LOVE tomato basil pizza in the summer. Now that it’s cold and delicious tomatoes are nowhere to be found, I tried a homemade tomato sauce, with buffalo mozzarella and basil. I think we found our winter alternative for tomato basil pizza.

Also, if you were wondering, the name of this blog came about when making tomato basil pizza. However delicious the pizza would be the dough would always end up a little soft from all the watery ingredients. Martin would reassure me that the pizza was still amazing, but I’d always think it’s just too bad that I don’t have a professional brick oven that can reach 900 degrees. Alas, with my standard ol’ oven, I’ll always be 400 degrees from perfection…

Pizza Dough
Serves 3 (or 2 very full adults)

2 ¼ cups flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 heaping tsp active dry yeast
¾ cup lukewarm water (may need 1-2 tablespoons more)
1 ½ tsp olive oil

Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Knead everything into a ball for about a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl and turn the dough over to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it for an hour or two until it has doubled in size.

Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the dough into roughly a ball and let it sit under the plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, top with whatever toppings and seasonings you like. Bake for about 10 minutes.

Pizza Sauce

This is actually a tomato sauce to be eaten with pasta, but I liked how thick and textured it ends up being. Instead of a runny smooth sauce, I liked this thick and chunky sauce better for pizza. It’s also simple and doesn’t disrupt the simplicity of a traditional tomato basil pizza.

1 cup whole, peeled, canned plum tomatoes
2 ½ tbsp butter
½ of an onion
salt to taste
.
Combine the tomatoes, their juices, butter and onion half in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a stead simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Break up large chunks of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and salt as needed. Discard onion half before serving.

Recipe Notes: There ended up being a lot of notes, so I’ve divided them into categories for easier reading. Apologies for the dissertation on pizza.

1. Refrigerating pizza dough: I have read that if you plan to let pizza dough sit for a while it is best to refrigerate it, bring it to room temperature and then proceed. However, I have never had good luck with refrigerated pizza dough. I find that it is not as pliable and is harder to work with. Generally, I avoid refrigerating dough. If you’ve had better luck, please do share!

2. Pizza stones: I know that there are good stones out there, I just don’t have one. I’ve been fine with using a baking sheet, but I know the results will be better with a stone. My mother has a Pampered Chef baking stone which I love and hope to inherit. I’ve also heard of people using  anything from ceramic tiles on the floor of their oven, to the bottom of clay pots. I haven’t tried these methods, so I can’t really say how well they work. Again, your insights are welcome!

3.  Pre-baking the dough: This has become my work around. If I’m making pizza with very moist/wet toppings such as tomato basil, I usually pre-bake the dough on it’s own for about 5-7 minutes. I’ll take the dough out, add toppings and continue to bake for another 5-7 minutes or until it’s bubbling, melty and irresistible.

4. Tomato sauce: This tomato sauce has been raved about, and I was expecting… more. Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful and perfect for this pizza. However, next time I’d add some garlic into the mix. I might also find higher quality canned tomatoes. Martin said the sauce tasted “earthy.” I have no idea what that means. He did however like it more than the store bought, overly sweetened variety.

5. Buffalo mozzarella: This is amazing! I know, it’s like $8.00 for a ball of cheese, but it is oh so good. It has a sharper flavor than… cow mozzarella, but is much softer and creamier. The sauce isn’t what shined in this pizza, it was the cheese. I’m pretty sure we’re going to go with buffalo mozzarella on our summer tomato basil pizzas as well. Also, I used the entire 8oz ball of mozzarella on the pizza.

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Spicy Gyro Pizza

Chicago.

Chicago holds a special place in my heart for many reasons. But most significantly, it’s the city that conjures up so many wonderful memories of adventures as a single lady with amazing friends. And of course, food was always involved. A trip to Chicago was never complete without a pilgrimage to Italian Express home of the Spicy Gyro Pizza. The most delicious pizza creation ever. You think chicken tikka pizza is good? Just wait till you you meet Italian Express. It will change you.

In fact, it changed me (and my friends, hi Fouzia & Farah) to the point that we recreated the pizza when driving to Chicago was out of question/we were lazy. Using gyro meat and a pizza from Papa Murphy’s (a take-home and bake pizza joint) we would reminisce about forts, stupid boys, and Chicago.

Martin has never had Spicy Gyro Pizza. Indeed, it is a tragedy. Thus I set out to recreate the famous Spicy Gyro Pizza. But. with modifications. Rather than using red sauce, I wanted to create a white sauce – think Chicken Cart Guy and extra white sauce, without the rice and all the other filler. Here’s what I came up with:

Serving Size – 2

I made my own pizza dough using a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Though I’m sure a pre-made dough would work just fine.

Add white sauce and top with
9 oz of provolone
gyro meat – I asked for quantity of gyro meat that would be served in one shwarma
jalapeno peppers – I was modest with the peppers, ours are exceptionally spicy

White Sauce:

1 cup sour cream
2 generous tablespoons mayonnaise
7 cloves of garlic grated

Gut Reaction: So indulgent, I don’t think that we can ever eat this again.

Recipe notes: okay maybe adding mayonnaise to sour cream was a bit much and 9 oz of provolone overkill. I think it would still taste awesome without the mayonnaise and a bit less cheese. I also recommend eating this with Tums.