Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pesto and Cherry Tomato Pizza

We have a garden! :) A very small garden. I think I might harvest 7 tomatoes from 3 plants in a styrofoam bin- my husband said it looks "ghetto", and I'm trying to do the math and figure out if that would pay for the soil, not to mention the plants... but hey- I did it. :) (My son made sure the lettuce and chard didn't survive by pulling them out by the roots early on.) However, I am totally amazed with the world of difference in flavor from a fresh tomato- that alone made the experience worth it. I just finished reading "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" and I could really identify with her description of the tomato: "We can’t even wait for the right time to eat tomatoes, but instead consume tasteless ones all winter to satisfy a craving for everything now." I also love the way even just barely touching the vines give my hand the strong tomato smell. Oh- the good earth, even from my little apartment! Here is a yummy recipe for your fresh tomatoes. Pile them on! One of my favorite things on the planet. My mother-in-law appropriately calls them "bites of sunshine." (By the way- this is my favorite pizza dough recipe. I've tried MANY and this is the one I've had the most consistent success with.)

Vary the pizza topping by using cured meats such as salami or pepperoni. Or, substitute other quick-cooking, freshly cut vegetables, like bell peppers or mushrooms.

Pesto and Cherry Tomato Pizza (William-Sanoma)

  • 1 Tbs. coarse cornmeal
  • 1 yeast dough ball (see related recipe at left), at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 1/2 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the yeast dough:

  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. (1 packet) instant yeast
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups warm water (110°F)
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil, plus more for bowl
Make the dough
In a food processor, combine the flour, yeast, sugar and salt and pulse to blend. Add the warm water and the 2 Tbs. olive oil and pulse until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 to 2 minutes to form a smooth ball. In an oiled large bowl, place the dough, turn to coat it with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk and very spongy, about 1 1/2 hours.

Divide the dough
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, punch down and knead into a smooth cylinder. Divide into 2 equal pieces and knead again to form 2 smooth balls, dusting with flour if needed. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Store 1 ball for future use (see note above).

Shape the dough
Sprinkle the cornmeal evenly over an 11-by-17-inch rimmed baking sheet. Place the dough on the prepared pan. Very firmly press down on the center and, working from the center outward, push and stretch the dough to the edges of the pan to achieve an even thickness. (If the dough is difficult to handle, set it aside, covered, for 10 minutes.) Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for at least 15 minutes.

Assemble and bake the pizza
Place a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 450°F.

Spread the dough evenly with the pesto, leaving a 1/4-inch border uncovered. Arrange the mozzarella and tomatoes evenly over the pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until the edges are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, 15 to 18 minutes.

Cut the pizza into serving pieces and serve warm. Makes about 8 pieces.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Small Plates, by Brigit L. Binns (Oxmoor House, 2007).
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