As crazy as North Americans are for their pie, few ever dare to make it at home.
That's truly a shame, because the alternative we turn to is overpriced, awash in empty calories, and ultimately not all that delicious.
Anyone can do better in their home by combining a handful of fresh, premium ingredients and following a few simple steps.
For us, it's a delicious edible canvas for a casual but artful combination of flavors and textures, shapes and colors.
First and foremost, the art comes in selecting ingredients, in the right proportion, that complement each other and, in doing so, add up to a whole taste experience that's greater than the sum of the parts.
The dough itself, freshly made and yeast-leavened; the sauce that lightly moistens it and adds an aromatic base; the cheeses that, singly or in combination, bring creamy and chewy richness with tangy, salty, or nutty notes.
The other toppings, from vegetables to all kinds of freshly cooked or cured meats, poultry, or seafood; and other subtle yet important embellishments, such as fresh or dried herbs or crushed red pepper flakes.
Each element makes its own contribution to the experience of a well-made pizza.
The choices reflect the culture from which the pie comes.
That's why the pizzas of Italy traditionally feature items like tomatoes or tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan, cured meats like pepperoni or Italian sausage, vegetables like roasted peppers or mushrooms, and herbs like basil or oregano.
And believe it or not, made the right way can make for a truly well-balanced meal.
Preheat your oven and follow me;
Rule #1 ~ The Hotter, the Better
The higher the heat, the better.
True Italian pies are cooked in about 2 minutes in 1,000 degree Fahrenheit ovens.
Preheat your oven for 30 minutes at 500 degrees Fahrenheit (the max temp for most home ovens) for a light, crispy crust.
Rule #2 ~ Fire Up the Grill
Or the BBQ in your backyard and you'll make pies that rivals the best parlors in town
Nothing better approximates the smoky char of a wood-burning oven, than a grill.
Have your ingredients ready, slide the raw dough directly onto the hot grates, and grill until lightly charred, about 4 minutes.
Flip and immediately add sauce and cheese, then cover the grill and wait for the cheese to melt.
Rule #3 ~ Go Easy on the Toppings
It's not about how much cheese you can cram onto a slice; it's about the subtle interplay of bread, sauce, cheese, and topping.
You really shouldn't use more than 2 ounces of cheese and a few pieces of meat and/or vegetables per slice.
Rule #4 ~ Break Out of the Box
Non traditional ingredients, barbecue sauce, chorizo, pistachios, chicken, can elevate a humble pie, to a new high.
Rule #5 ~ Use a Stone
The idea behind a stone is to distribute the heat evenly across the base and secondly to extract the moisture, so that your dough is crispy.
Heat is important in the cooking process: all breads need a high temperature to cook.
The theory is that because the stone is made from natural clay it is porous it is capable of extracting the moisture from the dough to ensure a crisp base
The pizza can stick, but a little cornmeal rubbed on the stone before it gets heated can prevent the finished dough from sticking.
Always place your stone in a cold oven and then turn the oven on.
The purpose of this is to allow the stone to absorb the heat evenly.
The best tool to get a stone out of the oven is a pizza-paddle which is a large wooden handle that looks like a paddle which slides underneath the pizza and can bring the stone out.
Part of the trick of using a pizza-stone successfully is to season the stone properly.
In this context seasoning means ensuring that when the oil seeps into it, it's cleaned so that it encourages a non stick patina which can only be acquired over time.
Rule #6 ~ Cleaning your Stone
Use a knife or a fork to take off the obvious pieces of pizza stuck to your stone and wash it in warm water without soap.
Any form of detergent or soap will seep into the material and it will make an unwelcome addition to your next creation.
Grilled Tomato and Olive Pizza
1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c. olive oil
3 Tbs. pitted Kalamata olives, drained,
3 Tbs. chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 package unbaked pizza dough, stretched into 12-inch round, or prepared (12-inch) crust (see note)
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 to 1/2 c. shredded Fontina cheese
2 Tbs. torn basil leaves,
2 Tbs.shredded Parmesan cheese
Heat your grill to high.
Combine the tomatoes, onion, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste in a bowl, tossing to coat with your hands.
Brush the remaining 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over both sides of the crust.
Place the dough over a direct heat on grill; cook until puffy, about 2 minutes; turn over.
Cook 2 minutes.
Move crust to a cooler part of the grill; top with the tomato-olive mixture.
Sprinkle the parsley, Fontina and basil over the top.
Cover grill; cook until cheese melts, about 8 minutes.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Cover and cook until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.
Remove from grill and cut into wedges.
Cook's Note: If you are using a prepared crust, follow directions on the package for cooking instructions.
50 percent of calories from fat,
35 grams fat (7 grams saturated),
13 milligrams cholesterol,
63 grams carbohydrates,
17 grams protein,
1,045 milligrams sodium,
4 grams fiber.Tweet
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