Welcome to my kitchen

A while ago, I realized I was serious enough about bread baking to stop diddling around with the 3-packs of yeast from the grocery store, or even the small jars for a small fortune. So I pulled up my big girl pants, and ordered "A Pound Of Yeast". It's in my freezer, and I use it regularly, and I guess that makes me "A Baker". Even though I always said "I can't bake". So, join me on my journey, and let's see what that pound of yeast makes, and where we go next....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Quickie, Figgy Pizza

Once again, because of the plethora of wonderful Summer produce flooding the little kitchen right now, there’s not much going on in the way of “planned”, “deliberate”, “well-thought-out” , menus happening right now.  Add to that, we had our first blast of real Summer weather in SoCal for the past week or so, and I haven’t been doing *air-quotes* COOKING as much as I’ve been doing *air-quotes* GRAZING.

Not that that’s a bad way to eat, especially when the fruit and veg are so spectacular, and when the blast furnace plus humidity means turning on any heat source in the kitchen is an exercise in self-abuse (noooooo air conditioning in the little house with the little kitchen, so sad am I).  Sorry, for a moment there, I just channeled Yoda....

Unfortunately, that don’t make for great fodder for a food blog.

But, I don’t want to leave all y’all in the lurch for too long without checking in, and sharing whatever I can.

So, here’s a quickie.  I made this last week with some of the bounty of figs from The Growing Experience.  It’s a pizza, yes, a pizza with figs.  WAIT, DON’T LEAVE.  Cast those doubts aside and just listen and think.  Figs are great with prosciutto.  *This* has prosciutto.  Figs are great with balsamic vinegar.  *This* has balsamic vinegar.  Figs are great with sharp cheese.  *This* has both Parmesan (sharp, for sure) and mozzarella for a creamy, mild background.  PLUS caramelized onions……plus rosemary.  What’s NOT to like.

It’s….trendy !  It’s….savory, yet, sweet !  It’s quick to make and you could totally cook it on your outdoor grill, and not even worry about heating up the oven (and therefore the kitchen).  Give it a try; you’ll be surprised about how much you like it.

Full confession time...

…I cheated !  *Looking very sheepish and contrite*.  I used a par-baked, pre-made, packaged pizza crust for this.  Sowwwwwy.

What can I say, I was hot, I was tired, I was stressed, and I didn’t feel well.  I was in the MegaMart and I saw a Freschetta shelf-stable crust on display, so I went for it.  It was….OK.  It was better than Boboli, which I have used in the past, I think mostly because it was thinner than even the “thin crust” Boboli.  But it was not, not by a long shot, as good as homemade dough, or even as good as the refrigerated pizza dough I can get at Trader Joe’s.  But it was passable.  I’d use it again in a major pinch, but it will never, ever be as good as”real” pizza dough.

So, we want to start by thinly slicing some onion, any kind, red, white, brown or sweet will work.

Again, you’ll note I sliced from top to bottom (pole to pole) and on a slight angle.  That’s to get the nice slices and not the sort of stringy half-moons.

Toss them into a sauté pan with a bit of olive oil and a hint of garlic and salt, and let them go low and slow until they get nice and brown and sweet.  Then set them aside to cool a bit.

If you haven’t already made your balsamic vinegar syrup (see my tomato post from last month), do it now.  Take some balsamic vinegar, pour it into a small saucepan, and gently simmer for at least half an hour to reduce to a syrupy consistency.  Set that aside to cool, or, if you already have some balsamic syrup stashed in the fridge, pull it out to come to room temperature.

If you’re using a raw yeast dough for your crust, form it on a cornmeal dusted pizza peel or the back of a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal.  Take your pizza crust and paint it with some olive oil and sprinkle lightly with some coarse salt.  Layer on some shredded mozzarella

then your caramelized onions and some minced fresh rosemary.  No fresh?  Use some dried that you grind up in a mortar and pestle.

On top of the onions, drape on some thin sliced prosciutto.

No prosciutto?  No problem.  I made this the first time with sliced pepperoni and it rocked as well.  You want something salty, porky and maybe a bit spicy to contrast with the sweet figgys.

Slice up your ripe figs about 1/4-inch thick and layer them on top of the prosciutto.

Sprinkle that with some fresh ground black pepper, then some shredded Parmesan cheese and finally drizzle it with your balsamic reduction.

Bake on a stone for either the commercial bread-type crust (i.e. the Freschetta) or a raw yeast dough.  Follow package directions for the commercial crust.

For the raw yeast dough, preheat your oven and stone for at least an hour to as high a temperature as your oven can reach.  When preheated, slide the pizza onto the stone, using a peel or the back of a cookie sheet.  Check after 5 minutes.  Bake until the crust is brown, and slightly charred in spots, and the cheese is melted.

Let rest for 5 minutes, then serve and swoon.

Roberta’s Fig and Prosciutto/Pepperoni Pizza with Caramelized Onions and Balsamic Reduction
Yields one, 10-12 inch pie, approximately 2 servings

One recipe of your favorite pizza dough (I like the one in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything), or commercial dough or crust
2 medium-size onions
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
1 cup balsamic vinegar (or about 1/4 cup previously made balsamic syrup)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried (ground)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto (or thinly sliced pepperoni)
8-10 fresh figs, sliced about 1/4-inch thick
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

For raw, yeast dough crust, turn oven as high as controller will go, and preheat baking stone and oven for at least an hour.  For commercial bread crust, use stone and follow package directions for preheating and temperature.

Slice onions into thin strands from pole to pole.  Sauté in about 2 tablespoons olive oil, adding garlic and a pinch of salt.  Let cook for about 20 minutes to half an hour on low heat, or until nicely browned and caramelized.  Cool and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour balsamic vinegar into small saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup.  Cool and set aside.

Shape pizza crust into a round and place on cornmeal-dusted peel (if using commercial bread crust, skip this step).

Brush pizza crust with additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.  Spread shredded mozzarella over crust, leaving a boarder around the edge.  Layer cooled caramelized onions over mozzarella.  Sprinkle minced or ground rosemary over onions.

Drape prosciutto slices (or arrange pepperoni slices) over onions evenly, then layer on fig slices evenly.  Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper over to taste.  Top with grated Parmesan cheese, then drizzle the balsamic syrup over all.  You may not use all of the syrup.  Not to worry, it keeps very well in the refrigerator.

Transfer pizza to hot stone (using the cornmeal-dusted peel for yeast dough) and bake.  For commercial bread crust, follow package directions.  For yeast dough, check after 5 minutes.  Bake until crust is golden brown and slightly charry in spots, and cheese is melted.  Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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