Jun 19, 2013

Everybody Loves PIZZA, Even In Hawaii

Artichoke-Kalamata Olive Tortilla Pizza
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One of my favorite chefs is Jacques Pépin. He makes quick pizzas with flatbread instead of pizza dough. He uses pita bread, lavash or flour tortillas. My wife started making burrito size tortilla pizzas for us after reading the recipe in one of Jacques Pépin's cookbooks "Chez Jacques Traditions and Rituals of a Cook". She has mastered his recipe and now I think her recipes are even better than Jacques.

She has learned a couple of tricks which I will pass along to you. First of all, they call it flatbread because it isn't thick like traditional pizza dough. In one way this is good, because you can make the edges of the tortilla crisp, but bad because if your pizza ingredients have a lot of moisture, like using sliced tomatoes, or too much oil, the moisture makes the tortilla soggy. She uses halved cherry tomatoes instead of plum tomatoes, very little oil, and pats her ingredients dry before putting them on the tortilla. 

Another trick is to use as few ingredients as possible. The pizza shown above uses a small amount of olive oil, 2 cheeses (grated Parmesan and mozzarella), garlic powder, tomatoes, sliced red bell pepper, kalamata olives, and finally, pieces of artichoke hearts that were marinated in oil, and then dried off. She baked two burrito size tortilla pizzas on a cookie sheet that had been lightly coated with olive oil, in a 425˚F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tortilla was golden brown on the bottom. It made plenty for two adults. Naturally you can make whatever combinations you like. One time she made shrimp tortilla pizza, using shrimp that had been cut in half lengthwise pre-cooked in butter and olive oil, capers, cheese, etc. "It's a good thing" as Martha Stewart says, give it a try.

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza
One of my favorite skillets is made of cast iron. If you don't own one you should. They last for generations, mine is an antique, made by Griswold about 75 years ago. You can still buy these great old skillet on eBay, but they are a little pricy. I suggest buying a new one from Lodge, All-Clad, or Calphalon. They are great for frying chicken in or you can even make a delicious pizza in it. Here's how to do it:

Ingredients for dough:
1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) active-dry yeast
1-1/2 cups very warm water (110°F)
18 ounces (4 cups) all-purpose flour; more for dusting
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Special equipment: 10-inch cast iron skillet

Procedure To make your dough:
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside (a Pyrex 2-cup measure makes for easy pouring; be sure the cup isn't cold). Meanwhile, put the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the steel blade; process briefly to mix. With the machine running, add the water-yeast mixture in a steady stream. Turn the processor off and add the oil. Pulse a few times to mix in the oil.

Scrape the soft dough out of the processor and onto a lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands, quickly knead the dough into a mass, incorporating any bits of flour or dough from the processor bowl that weren't mixed in. Cut the dough into four equal pieces with a knife or a dough scraper. Roll each piece into a tight, smooth ball, kneading to push the air out.

Rising and storing the dough:
What you do next depends on whether you want to make pizza right way or at a later date.

If you want to bake the pizzas as soon as possible, put the dough balls on a lightly floured surface, cover them with a clean dishtowel, and let them rise until they almost double in size, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, turn your oven on to 500˚F.

If you want to bake the pizzas tomorrow, line a baking sheet with a floured dishtowel, put the dough balls on it, and cover them with plastic wrap, giving them room to expand (they'll almost double in size), and let them rise in the refrigerator overnight.

To use dough that has been refrigerated overnight, simply pull it out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before shaping the dough into a pizza.

To freeze the dough balls, dust each one generously with flour as soon as you've made it, and put each one in a separate zip-top bag. Freeze for up to a month.

It's best to transfer frozen dough from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before (or 10 to 12 hours before) you want to use it. But I've found that dough balls pulled straight from the freezer and left to warm up on the counter will be completely defrosted in about 1-1/2 hours. The dough is practically indestructible.

Shaping your pizza:
Put the proofed or thawed ball of dough on a lightly floured wooden board. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the ball. Using your fingertips, press the ball down into a flat cake about 1/2 inch thick.

Lift the dough and lay it over the back of the fist of one hand. Put your other fist under the dough, right next to your first fist. Now gently stretch the dough by moving your fists away from each other. Each time you do this stretch, rotate the dough. Continue stretching and rotating until the dough is thin, about 1/4 inch, and measures about 9 inches across. Unless your dough is still cold from the freezer, it will be so soft that its own weight will stretch it out. Alternatively, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough thinly on a floured board. If you like a very thin pizza, roll the dough out to a 10-inch round. Be careful not to make it too thin, and remember that the thinner the pizza, the less topping it can handle.

Gently lift the stretched dough onto the 10-inch cast iron skillet that has been thinly coated with olive oil. Top the pizza, scattering the ingredients around to within 1/2 inch of the border.

Topping your pizza:
Start with store bought pizza sauce, or make your own. See my recipe for "Mamma Mia" Marinara Sauce. Just spread the sauce on top of the stretched dough then add your toppings. Use any of these topping combinations to inspire your own creation.
 Sautéed onions, fresh sage leaves, grated pecorino romano, grated Parmesan.
  Basil pesto, toasted pine nuts, slow-cooked garlic, grated Parmesan.
  Sautéed leeks, chopped artichoke hearts, a bit of crushed tomatoes, grated Parmesan.
  Italian Fontina, Gorgonzola, sun-dried tomatoes.
  Garlic, olives, capers, anchovies, and crushed tomatoes.
  Sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil.
  Thinly sliced prosciutto, ricotta, fresh basil, grated Parmesan.
  Cooked Italian sausage, sautéed onions, Italian Fontina, mozzarella.
  Sautéed mushrooms, thinly sliced cooked potatoes, Gorgonzola, crumbled cooked bacon or pancetta.

A generous drizzle of olive oil is a great addition to just about any pizza.

Baking your pizza:
Put the skillet with the topped pizza, on the lowest rack of the preheated oven. Bake from 8 to 15 minutes depending on your oven. Peek underneath and if your pizza is a little pale, you can finish on the stovetop directly over medium heat until it's as dark and crisp as you like it. I like to finish off my pizza with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, but that's up to you.


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