Monday, January 31, 2011

Give Pizza Chance! ☮

Neapolitan Pizza Margherita
Hethyr:  I don't think I know anyone who doesn't like a good slice of pizza (or two... or three...) in one of its many forms.  There are so many options from which to choose...  gooey, cheesy New York-style, loaded Chicago-style deep-dish, wood-fired Neapolitan-style, thin and crispy crust, vegetarian, meaty, extra-cheesy, etc., etc., etc.  My personal favorites are Neapolitan-style and thin, crispy crust with just about any topping you can name.  Although Jon and I have a couple of favorite wood-fire oven pizzerias in town, we also love to make pizza at home.

Why make pizza when you can just eat out or order in?  There are several reasons!  It's easy and fun to make and if you have kids, this is a great meal that they can get involved in from start to finish.  They'll love rolling out the dough, helping to choose the toppings and putting the toppings on the pizza.  They can even watch through the oven window (as long as they don't get too close!) as the crust crisps-up and the cheese gets bubbly and melts.  Another reason to make your own pizza is value.  When we order in, we usually pay about $20 (minus delivery tip) for an 18-inch pie.  We can make our own for much, much less.  Although our pizzas are about 10 to 12-inches, we can load them up with as many toppings as we want and one of these will easily satisfy us both.  For the following recipe, cost was probably between $3 and $4 total, so if you're on a tight budget, this is a great option.  And pizza is so versatile you could probably eat it a few times a week and not get sick of it.

Everyone loves pizza d'oh!
If you don't feel like making the dough each time, make a double batch and freeze half for later use.  Then just thaw the dough a day or two before you plan to have pizza again.  I have also rolled out the dough, topped it and frozen the whole pizza before wrapping it in plastic wrap and heavy-duty foil and storing it in the freezer.  Then you can just bake it straight from the freezer.  It might take an extra few minutes to cook, but it's convenient for busy nights...  a homemade frozen pizza. Much better (and better for you) than those yucky store-bought ones!  You might also check with your favorite pizzeria to see if they will sell you some of their dough if you don't feel like making your own.  And if you're gluten-sensitive, there are gluten-free pizza dough recipes out there.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, we are currently inundated with apples and winter squash, but I haven't even begun to touch on beets.  As beets will (sort-of) be the topic of an upcoming post, for now let it suffice to say that we are getting beet-en.  If you don't like beets, I would really recommend trying this recipe as I'm not a big fan and I love this pizza.  But you might also want to look at the other ideas for homemade pizzas at the bottom of the recipe.

Make pizza night a weekly event at your house and enjoy getting your whole family involved in the meal preparation.  While the dough rises, you can prepare the other ingredients.  Not only do you end up with a fantastic, inexpensive, home-cooked meal, but your family has had time to chat and bond and what could be more important or enjoyable?

One of the best things about homemade pizza?  You get to pick
your own toppings, which means infinite possibilities!

Roasted Beet and Caramelized Onion Pizza

Makes one 10-12" round pizza
  • 1/2 teaspoon active, dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (about 100°F to 110°F)
  • 4 1/2 ounces (about 1 cup) white whole wheat flour (or a 50/50 mixture of whole wheat flour and white all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons warm water (about 100°F to 110°F)
  • Cornmeal
  • Olive oil
  • 2 to 3 cippolini onions, sliced thin (or substitute sliced sweet onions or shallots)
  • 2 small to medium beets, roasted and sliced 1/8" thick
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 2 ounces goat cheese or feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 to 3 fresh rosemary sprigs, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

1.  In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and let sit for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse flour with salt a couple of times.

2.  Pour yeast mixture through chute while processor is running, then add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough forms a ball (see picture at left).  Process for 30 seconds.

3.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly a few times.  Form dough into a ball and place in a large bowl coated with cooking spray.  Turn to coat. Cover bowl with a tea towel and let it sit in a warm spot, free from drafts, for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.  While dough rises, preheat oven to 500°F.  Place pizza stone in the center of preheated oven about 30 minutes prior to baking pizza (if you don't have a pizza stone, skip this step).  

1.  While dough rises, heat a small amount of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add sliced onions and cook, stirring gently, until softened.  Lower heat to low and cook until soft and sweet.  Set aside to cool until dough is ready.

Beet and Caramelized Onion Pizza
prior to baking
2.  When dough is rolled-out and coated with olive oil, top with caramelized onions and sliced beets.  Drop small spoonfuls of ricotta on top of beets, then top with goat cheese or feta cheese and chopped rosemary.

3.  Carefully slide pizza onto the preheated pizza stone.  Bake for 8 minutes or until crust is golden-brown and crisp and cheese is melted (if you're not using a pizza stone, place the baking sheet with the pizza in the center of the oven and bake for 8 minutes or until crust is golden-brown and crisp and cheese is melted).

4.  Remove from oven with pizza paddle, slice and serve.

Other pizza ideas:
  • Sliced summer squash and zucchini with fresh thyme and goat cheese with red pepper
  • BBQ chicken with onions, green peppers and bacon
  • Taco-style with seasoned ground beef or chicken, salsa, cheddar, black olives and diced green chiles topped with hot sauce and fresh lettuce or other greens (like spicy arugula)
  • Butternut squash, shallots, fresh thyme, feta cheese and toasted walnuts
  • Pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Greek-style with sliced, cooked chicken, Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, oregano and feta cheese topped with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes
  • Shrimp, pineapples and green bell peppers
  • Bacon, onions and ricotta cheese
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Jon:  So many of my life memories are tied to food.  The snoopy cupcakes on my fifth birthday... the pickle on a stick at the Illinois State Fair... the giant biscuit followed by Snickers pie at Lake of the Ozarks...  I think this attachment is especially true with pizza.  Genuinely great pizza-related moments are few and far between, but they are all eternally etched in my brain.

When my friend Av and I were in Australia in 1997, we were dirt poor.  We used to stop at any Pizza Hut we could find because it was an all-you-can-eat buffet for 5 bucks.  We'd stop in, gorge ourselves, sit around for a couple hours, then go back for more.  It was a great way to stuff a few thousand calories in us for almost no money at all.  I feel more than a little embarrassed plugging Pizza Hut, but this is where I first discovered the possibility of chicken and barbecue sauce on a pizza.  It was a true pizza epiphany.  I suppose that would be a pizziphany.

Beau Jo's Mountain Pie
Another pizziphany came during one of the very first nights that Hethyr and I shared in Colorado Springs in 2000.  We stopped at a place called Beau Jo's that serves gigantically fat and unbelievably tasty individual pizzas called "mountain pies."  This pizza actually had the power to justify our move to Colorado.  (Go here to check out the rather sickening Beau Jo's 14er challenge. If you and your friend can finish a 14 pound pizza in one hour or less then you win a prize.  I'm not sure that the prize covers the cost of the stomach pump at the hospital.)

I had another pizziphany when eating the pineapple-shrimp pizza at Moya's in Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica. Yum.  I could probably list many more, but I'm beginning to drown in my own drool so I'll get to the point.  Ultimately, my most significant pizziphany came when Hethyr decided to make her own pizza.  The first one she made was a butternut squash pizza with caramelized onions.  I didn't know that it was possible to develop an emotional attachment to a piece of dough, but I fell deeply in love with that pie.  That was when I realized that homemade pizza can be the best of the best because it can be made exactly the way you want it.


  1. I think I just died. That's all I can say...

  2. Jon, I saw you eat the 1 pound biscuit at Lake of the Ozarks. Then I watched you eat the snickers pie at Shooters 21. What can I say? You are a growing man. I'm sure by now, a large growing man since the chef has taken over. Can't wait to see ya', wouldn't want o be ya'.

    Your favorite father in law(that you tried to run to death), Terry

  3. Ah, Dad! I knew you'd comment on the biscuit/Snickers pie - I can't believe how much Jon used to be able to eat! =)

  4. I think it's gonna be a Pizza night! Yum!

  5. Another good one, a "White Pizza" with grilled chicken, cashews, onions, and mushrooms with an Alfredo Sauce. Yummy!

  6. Dani, that sounds delicious - maybe we'll try that one next time!