Thursday, March 31, 2011

The MOST Important Accessory

It's time we sat down and had a serious talk about a very important ingredient in pizza-making.

[ML wants me to write chipotle peppers, but that's not it.]

The pizza stone. Yes, that flat ceramic circle that helps evenly distribute heat, builds a heat mass in your oven, and absorbs moisture so that your crusts are always perfectly cooked and crispy. Pizza is, after all, only as good as its crust.

If you don't have a pizza stone yet but aspire to make pizza, go get one. Now. It will be the best $20 you ever spend in your pizza-making career. And even if you don't end up making much pizza, it also comes in handy for roasting veggies and meats to perfection.

This is a new, unblemished pizza stone. (Our second one, for when we have company.) It's so clean and shiny. Almost immodest.

Some day it will look like this:

THIS is our old, much-used pizza stone. The surface is nicely seasoned, meaning it has absorbed all kinds of oil, giving it a perfect non-stick surface -- much like a cast iron skillet. (The yellow flecks are bits of toasted flour from the last pizza we made.)

We offer a few tips and tricks for working with your new (because you just went and bought one!) pizza stone:
  • Avoid any drastic temperature changes in order to prevent cracking the stone. Always start with it in the cold oven and preheat it along with the oven. Allow it to cool completely before attempting to clean it. Never put anything refrigerator-cold in contact with its hot surface.
  • The stone will season itself over time. However, to prevent sticking in the meantime, rub it with cornmeal before you heat it in the oven. Don't ever (EVER) wash the pizza stone with soap. Dish soaps are designed to dissolve grease, but the whole point of seasoning the stone is to build up oils and grease. Instead, scrape the surface with a spatula, wipe it with a paper towel, or as a last resort, rinse it with plain old water. (Remember, cool water on a cool stone.) 
  • To speed up the seasoning process, we recommend trying out your favorite grilling recipes in the oven. The fats from meats and any oils that you put on vegetables will soak in and give it that slick, black surface in no time. Don't worry about bacteria -- as soon as you preheat that stone it gets far too hot for anything germy to stay alive.
  • On that note, the stone itself gets much hotter than any of the other baking equipment you usually put in your oven and it holds the heat for a long time, so be careful not to burn yourself. Make sure you have a heavy-duty silicone oven mitt. OR spent another $20 and add a pizza peel to your equipment list. The flat wooden or metal paddle is perfect for sliding pizzas onto and off of the stone, or for lifting and moving the entire stone.
Questions? Comments?

Good, now run along.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chipotle-Shrimp & Tomato Pizza

Last week, ML had an intense craving for Mexican food. So intense that our usual spot wasn't good enough. A Google search and some Yelp reviews later we found ourselves deep in the heart of South Philly eating what were, arguably, the best tacos we've had in a long time. But this post is not about those tacos.

Tucked away in a back corner of the restaurant were several bins of dried peppers. We're always on the lookout for quality ingredients and ML is addicted to spicy food, so naturally we walked out of there with a half pound of chipotle peppers. I mean, wouldn't you?

(Chipotles, in case you're wondering, are smoke-dried jalapeƱos with a wonderful smoky aroma and earthy, spicy flavor.)

This week, we've eaten chipotle-marinated chicken, chipotle-chorizo chile, chipotle salsa with tortilla chips, and now - you guessed it - chipotle pizza.

First, we combined all of the following ingredients to make a chipotle marinade:
  • 5 dried chipotle peppers
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1/2 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
This makes way more marinade than what you'll need for the pizza, so be prepared to enjoy chipotle dishes for a while.

The pizza worked like this:
  1. Par-baked crust
  2. Thin spread of salsa verde (read the ingredients on the packaging and look for a brand of of this green tomatillo salsa that doesn't add extra unpronounceable fillers; it tastes much better with just the veggies)
  3. Grated mozzarella & Parmesan
  4. Shelled and deveined raw shrimp tossed with about 2 tablespoons of the chipotle marinade
  5. Sliced fresh tomatoes
  6. Dusting of crushed dried chipotles
Bake at 450 degrees F for about 7 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the crust is browned. Sprinkle on finely chopped cilantro, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and spritz with fresh lime juice.

Oh, and prepare your mouth for burning. It's a spicy one!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thank you for SPAM(ming)!

spam: 1. (v) To flood the Internet with many copies of the same message, in an attempt to force the message on people who would not otherwise choose to receive it. [source] 2. (n) Trademarked name of a canned precooked meat product. [source]

Last week, numerous friends and family spent countless minutes (hours?) voting for us to win a free wedding photography giveaway. And we won!!

So to show our appreciation for all those who spammed the contest blog, typing in our names over 1,000 times, we made a super-star spam pizza. We are so thankful for your support and enthusiasm!

(and YOU should be thankful you didn't have to eat the pizza...)

"I do not like them in a house, I do not like them with a mouse...
I do not like mushrooms & spam, I do not like them, Sam-I-am."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Kale Salad Pizza

Time for an off-the-beaten-path pizza. You'll like it, I promise.

A few months ago, I got to know 101 Cookbook's raw tuscan kale salad recipe. It immediately became one of our favorite dishes and we've made it regularly this winter. I mean FAVORITE and REGULARLY. It's that good.

As it turns out, we often eat it with pizza. So one day I thought, why not put the salad ON the pizza. I mean, pizza is just bread, so anything that's good with bread should be good on a pizza, right?


First, make a batch of kale salad, either following the recipe above, or using our version here. (Omit the bread crumbs from the original recipe; there's enough bread as it is.)

For the dressing, crush 2 garlic cloves with 1/2 tsp. sea salt to make a paste. Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/4 tsp cayenne and a healthy pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Feel free to adjust the amounts to suit your own tastes.

Wash one bunch of raw kale and slice into ribbons. Toss with half to three-quarters of the dressing. The dressing is thick, so it takes a lot of tossing. Save the rest of the dressing for the pizza.

Build the pizza this way:
  1. Whole wheat crust, rolled very thin and par-baked
  2. A very thin layer of the leftover salad dressing. Wait to put on the dressing until you have all of the other ingredients prepped to avoid making the crust soggy.
  3. Dollops of diced tomatoes (fresh tomato slices would be even better when they're in season)
  4. Grated mozzarella
  5. Sliced roasted red peppers
Put all of that in the oven for about 6 minutes at 450 degrees, until the cheese is melted and the crust is just starting to brown. Then layer a generous spread of kale salad on the top and return to the oven for 1 minute. The kale should wilt slightly and get warm, but still basically be raw.

It's a 5-star pizza for sure.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Shrimp & Clam Sauce Pizza

Don't be put off by the seemingly un-pizza-like ingredients. This deeeelicious recipe has become one of our signature pizzas, a favorite of everyone who gets their mouth on it.
  1. Par-baked crust
  2. Half a can (or more) of white clam sauce, available in the pasta sauce aisle of your local grocery store. We usually simmer it in a saucepan for half an hour, while we prepare the rest of the ingredients, to thicken it and concentrate the flavor.
  3. Grated mozzarella
  4. About 20 raw shrimp (51/60 size), cleaned and deveined, and if desired, cut in half lengthwise to make them thinner
  5. Sliced cherry peppers (we use the kind from a jar) or deli-style hot pepper relish
  6. Sliced baby bella mushrooms, which we totally forgot about this time until it was too late, so unfortunately they're missing from the pictures
Bake at 450 degrees F for about 7 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and the crust is browned. Sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

It's so good. So, so good.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dock Street Brewing Company

Not a pizza we've made, but one of my very favorites when we go out. From the ever inspiring Dock Street Brewing Co., their Barbecued Chicken Pizza: spicy homemade barbecue sauce, marinated chicken, mozzarella, rings of red onion, dusting of fresh cilantro and a super thin crust, cooked in a wood-fired oven.