Saturday, May 21, 2011

For the Love of Carbs

Last night's dinner was a fairly typical Friday night in our house.  I'm a few-marathons-a-year distance runner and Brad's an avid cyclist.  We both do our longest training distances on Saturday mornings, so we tend to eat a carb-heavy meal on Friday night.  And that's a-ok with me.  In a nutshell, I'm a runner because I love carbs; because I'm a runner, I need to eat a lot of carbs.  I love how that works.

Pizza with Salami, Fennel & Asiago Cheese
This is based on a recipe from Pizza and other savory pies by Brigit Binns, which is a fantastic cookbook to have in your library if you like to make pizza.

With this pizza we drank a malbec from hope & grace, a great little Napa valley winery with a tasting room in Yountville.  By the way, if you've not yet been to Yountville, you must leave this blog immediately and make plans to do so.  Trust me.  Just make sure you come back and tell me how you liked it.

Now, for the pizza you will need:

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough
We like to make our own dough, but you could just as easily skip this step by purchasing pizza dough (Whole Foods sells good pizza dough), or use a pizza shell such as Boboli.  The recipe below makes enough dough for two pizzas, and it freezes very well.

Simple Tomato Sauce
Again, we like to make our own.  But if you're pressed for time, or just don't feel like making the sauce, feel free to substitute some good quality jarred sauce.


Assembly and Baking Instructions

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 package (2 1/2 tsp) quick-rise yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees), plus extra as needed
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra as needed

In food processor, combine the flours, yeast, salt and honey.  Pulse to mix.  With the motor running, add the water and olive oil in a steady stream, and then pulse until the dough comes together in a rough mass, about 12 seconds.  If the dough does not form into a ball, sprinkle with 1-2 tsp water and pulse again until a rough mass forms.  Let rest for 5-10 minutes.  Process again for 25-30 seconds, steadying the top of the food processor with your hand so it doesn't jump off the counter to the floor.  The dough should be tacky to the touch but not sticky.  Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and form it into a smooth ball.  Place the dough into a large oiled bowl, turn to coat the dough with oil, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk and spongy, about 1 1/2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down, and knead into a smooth cylinder.  Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces.  Shape each piece into a smooth ball, dusting with flour only if the dough becomes too sticky to handle.  Cover both balls of dough with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 10 minutes before proceeding with your chosen pizza recipe.  If you are using only one ball of dough, place the second ball in a gallon-size zipper-lock bag and freeze for up to 2 months.  (When ready to use, thaw the frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator or 3-4 hours at room temperature.  If thawed in the fridge, take out an hour or so before using so it can come to room temperature.)

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Simple Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 can (15 oz) crushed tomatoes (we prefer San Marzano)
1 tsp dried basil
3/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 - 2 tsp red wine vinegar

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the garlic, onion, and red pepper, lower heat to low and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.  Be careful not to let it scorch or the garlic will taste bitter.

Add the tomatoes, dried basil, dried oregano, dried thyme, pepper, 1/3 cup water, and 1 1/2 Tablespoons of the vinegar to the sauce pan.  Bring it to a slow boil over low heat, then simmer, stirring occasionally until it reduces down to whatever thickness you prefer.  We simmered ours for about 30 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and additional vineger.  Use right away or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Pizza Toppings
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus extra for shaping and brushing
1 small fennel bulb, quartered, cored and thinly sliced crosswise (reserve fronds)
2 oz Genoa-style salami, sliced
2 oz Asiago cheese, torn into bite-sized pieces
Kosher salt
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

In a frying pan over low heat, warm the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the fennel and season lightly with kosher salt.  Cover and cook until softened, stirring only occasionally, about 14 minutes.  Remove the cover and cook, stirring frequently now, until much of the liquid has evaporated and the fennel is tender and translucent, 5-10 minutes ore.  Be careful not to let it scorch.

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Assembly and Baking Instructions
Place pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450.  Ideally you should let the pizza stone heat for 45 minutes to an hour, but we've heated it for less time and still had ok results.

Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a pizza peel or large rimless baking sheet and place the ball of dough in the center.  Coat your fingers with olive oil and press the dough from the center outward into a 12-inch round with a slightly raised edge.  If the dough springs back, it is not quite ready to work.  Cover it with a clean kitchen towel, pour yourself a glass of wine, and let it rest a few minutes before continuing.  Patience is key here, as the thinner the dough is, the cripier the crust will be.  And the dough will not let you work it until it is good and ready.  It's kind of stubborn that way.

Brush the raised edge of the dough with a light coating of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.  For this pizza we used Red Alae Hawaiian Kai sea salt.  You don't want to put a lot of salt on the crust, think about how much salt you'd sprinkle on a soft pretzel.  Spread the dough evenly with the tomato sauce, leaving a 1/2 inch border uncovered.  Scatter a bit of the Asiago cheese over the sauce, then top with the fennel, salami and the rest of the cheese.  Season to taste with pepper.

Carefully slide the pizza-topped parchment paper from the peel or baking sheet onto the hot pizza stone.  Bake until done.  Just kidding.  Bake until the edges are golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, 9-12 minutes.  Using the pizza peel or rimless baking sheet, remove the pizza from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board.  Let stand for 1 minute, sprinkle with some of the reserved fronds, and then slice and serve.

Mangiamo Pronto!

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