June 5, 2011

We were watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution the other day. I love him. He is so empassioned, determined, and committed to what he’s doing, not to mention spot on in terms of wanting people to reconnect to their food and foster healthier diets. It got me flipping through his cookbooks again which I own but don’t often use. In Jamie’s Italy, the section on pizza had me salivating so we did Saturday night pizza night. Big batch of dough. Tonnes of toppings including grilled asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, grilled peppers, sauteed mushrooms, olives, pesto etc. Everyone made their own. Mine was, of course, cheese-less and thus vegan. Everyone else’s had a good sprinkling of mozzarella. Dive in. Bottom’s up.

basic pizza dough

1 1/2 pounds strong white bread flour

1 1/2 cups find ground semolina flour

1 level tbsp fine sea salt

1/4 oz active dry yeast

1 tbsp organic cane sugar

2 cups lukewarm water

Pile the flour and salt onto a clean surface and make a 7-inch well in the centre. Add you yeast and sugar to the lukewarm water, mix up with a fork, and leave for a few minutes,, then pour into the well. Using a fork and a circular movement, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix into the water. It will look like stodgy porridge – continue to mix, bringing in all the flour. When the dough comes together and becomes too hard to mix with your fork, flour your hands and begin to pat into a ball. Knead the dough by rolling it backward and forward, using your left hand to stretch the dough toward you and your right hand to push the dough away from you at the same time. Repeat this for 10 minutes, until you have a smooth, springy, soft dough.

Flour the top of your dough, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes at room temperature. This will make it easier to roll it thinly. Now divide the dough into as many balls as you want to make pizzas, i.e. lot of small ones or a few larger ones.

basic pizza sauce

extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

a bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked

1 14 oz can of good quality plum tomatoes or 4 large fresh tomatoes

2 tbsps tomato paste

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a saucepan, add a splash of oil and the sliced garlic and cook gently. When the garlic has turned a light golden, add half the basil, the tomatoes, and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Cook gently for about 20 minutes, mashing the tomatoes until smooth. Add tomato paste and mix in well. Then taste, season again, and put to one side.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Take a piece of dough, dust your surface and the dough with a little flour or semolina, and roll it out into a rough circle about 1/4 inch thick. Place it on a pizza stone or cookie sheet. Spread with pizza sauce. Apply your toppings. Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the pizzas are golden and crispy.

The original inspiration for this dish came from Jamie Oliver but I can’t remember if it was from one of his TV shows or cookbooks. Whatever the case, it’s become one of our staples as it’s quick, delicious, and versatile. I started making it with cherry tomatoes instead of fennel but one day¬† I didn’t have cherry tomatoes, tried the fennel instead, and everyone liked it better. I still make it both ways, and sometimes I use thyme instead of basil. However you make it, it looks great, tastes great, and is an easy addition to any meal.

2 peppers, cleaned, sliced in half, seeds removed

1 fennel bulb, cleaned, and sliced into thin strips

several basil leaves, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

olive oil

sea salt and pepper

Clean the peppers, cut in half, and place in the bottom of a cast-iron pan. Fill the peppers with sliced fennel, garlic, and basil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and a couple of turns of the pepper mill. Bake in the oven at 400 for 20 or 30 minutes until they are cooked to your liking.