This one’s in the running for summer’s most perfect bite. You can get quite creative and fancy with bruschetta, but sometimes simplicity rules. A slab of ciabatta layered with the best ricotta you can find (or make your own — it’s easy) and a simple salad of juicy farmers’ market tomatoes dressed liberally with balsamic vinegar, jewel green olive oil, freshly cracked pepper and flakey sea salt. We could eat this everyday and twice on Sunday.
Homemade pizza — It’s my cheap, fun and easy go-to meal when we have friends over and it’s becoming somewhat of a Friday night family dinner tradition, too. My husband is always so impressed that I make my own dough but in truth, it’s really simple and takes only about 10 minutes to put together. To me, that always seems a lot quicker and easier than running to the store (finding a parking space and shuttling 2 kids) to pick some up, so I guess it’s all in how you look at it. I think I’ll let him continue to be impressed.
Lately I’ve been kind of obsessed with this very simple zucchini flatbread version. It’s the same old pizza dough, rolled as thinly as possible and topped with paper thin slices of zucchini, a scattering of whatever herbs I have in my garden (I like rosemary, oregano, parsley and thyme), a grating of parmegiano reggiano, a drizzle of good olive oil and seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. The version above included some caramelized shallots too. I have learned through experience to make one corner a little less herb-y for Luca and you might try that if you’re making it for a little one. It’s perhaps not substantial enough to make a full meal, but it’s a fantastic appetizer, lunch or snack. For dinner, we’ve been serving it up along with a simple pureed vegetable soup and an antipasto platter for a mostly vegetarian meal.
I’ve become so obsessed with this flatbread that whenever I make pizza I save a little extra dough (and make sure to buy a zucchini) so I can make this the next day… I’m particularly loving this zucchini-herb combination at the moment, but the possibilities are truly endless. You could absolutely trick this one out, but this no-frills version has reminded me that simplicity has its place too.
Luca loves to help me with any dough project and this is no exception. At the mere sight of the stand mixer he runs to pull up a chair. In addition to helping me measure and supervise the mixer, I save a glob of dough for him play with which is another good reason to make a little extra.
Thin Crust Pizza: The Roman Way
(Adapted from Marco Flavio Marinucci from the Cook Here and Now blog. Here’s his original post that includes his recipe and lots of other great pizza info.) Makes 2 large pizzas.
- 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup “00 Pizza Flour” (available in bulk at Rainbow Grocery), or substitute Pastry Flour
- 1/8 cup semolina flour
- 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
- 3/4 teaspoons sea salt
- 3/4 cups of lukewarm water (more if needed)
- Mix yeast and lukewarm water in your mixing bowl (the water should be about the temperature of a baby bottle). Let sit five minutes to foam and activate while you set up the rest of your ingredients.
- Add flours, salt and semolina to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix just until a ball forms. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides a few times. Adjust the flour and/or water as needed, a little bit at a time. [If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use the “well method”. Mix the dry ingredients in mound and make a crater in the center for the wet ingredients.]
- Let rest 5 minutes.
- Knead for 2-3 minutes by machine (or 4-5 minutes by hand) — don’t over knead. Marco says the dough should be tacky like used tape.
- Shape the dough into a ball and drizzle and coat with olive oil. Place in a bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature for a half hour, then refrigerate it overnight. You can also make it a few hours before and leave it at room temperature.
Baking your pizza:
- Let the dough come to room temperature. Place a pizza stone in your oven and heat at 500 degrees for about 30 minutes to get it nice and hot. [A pizza stone is a must for any pizza lover.]
- Divide the room temperature dough into two pieces (or more pieces if you want small, individual/kid-sized pizzas).
- On top of a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil, roll the pizzas 1/16” thick or as thin as you can. Using the parchment or foil will help you transport the pizza from your counter to the oven.
- Lightly spread with toppings. If using sauce it should almost be transparent since the crust is so thin. If using fresh mozzarella, Marco suggests cutting the cheese into small dice so you get nice pools of cheese.
- Use the parchment or foil to lift your pizza into the oven. Cook 5-7 minutes until golden and bubbly. You can slide the parchment/foil out from underneath halfway through so that the bottom of the pizza can cook directly on the pizza stone, the parchment/foil should slide right out. Take the pizza out using a peel, a rimless baking sheet or a couple of large spatulas.
- Top finished pizza with a drizzle of good olive oil and some fresh herbs.