February 10, 2012

from a February Kitchen

Thursday night. Temperatures dipping, wind howling, running late. February breaks your heart with harsh beauty. The morning's brilliant cardinal and then the full moon on a silver lake. On a freezing and hostile night, our hungers were ranging and I was out of time and the will to get to the store. Down to a few potatoes, a little salami, scraps of cheese, several great onions, good olive oil and some tired parsley, plus yeast, salt and flour, what could I make?   Pizza! 

As a cook, the only rule I cling to is that recipe rules were made to break. When it comes to pizza dough, forget the rising times and the endless kneading. No doubt you'll get a richer flavor and denser crust, but, such nuance doesn't matter for this carrier of cheese, vegetables, herbs and such. Here's the recipe for speedy, rich crust with suggestions for toppings. 

with Caramelized Onions, Roasted Potatoes,
and Parmesan Cheese

Makes 2 to 3 crusts

1/2 package dry active yeast (about 1/8 ounce)
3 cups white flour
2 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons olive oil
12 to 16 ounces warm water

In a large bowl, stir together the yeast, flour, and salt. Stir in the oil and enough water to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead for about 1 to 2 minutes. Shape into a ball and set in a bowl greased with olive oil while you continue with the rest of the ingredients.

Caramelized Onions
It's ok to put onion slices on raw, but if you saute them first a little while, they'll provide a mellow, sweet base for the pizza.

2 onions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons olive oil
pinch salt and pepper
pinch brown sugar

Heat the oil in a medium skillet and saute the onions over medium-high heat until they soften, and keep cooking and stirring occasionally until they begin to brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper and a pinch of brown sugar.

Roasted Potatoes
Do this while the onions are cooking. It doesn't take long. Again, it's nice to have the potatoes a little crisped before topping the pizza.

1 large potato, scrubbed and sliced thin
1 teaspoon olive oil

Lay the potato slices out on a roasting pan and roast in a 400 degree oven (you'll want the oven preheated for the pizza anyway). Roast until the tops begin to turn a light caramel brown, about 15 minutes.

To Assemble the Pizza

Divide the dough in half. If you're only making one pizza, wrap the 2nd half and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. It's will develop mellow, sour dough flavors.

Roll out the dough and then lift it onto a lightly floured pan and stretch the dough to fit the pan.

Top the pizza with the Caramelized Onions, Roasted Potatoes, strips of salami or whatever cured meat you have, shredded cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and chopped parsley (or dried herbs are ok, too, but use a light hand).

Bake the pizza for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the pie is throughly cooked through.

OTHER TOPPERS: Roasted squash, roasted garlic, chopped green or black olives, sliced kumquats (really interesting with sharp cheese), cooked chickpeas or white beans ... 


  1. Nice. Perfect indeed. I'm gonna try it with a gluten free crust.

    Also, any thoughts on pizza without cheese?

    1. Great question. Yes. Delete the cheese and add more of the potatoes, some chopped black olives (they give heft) and a few pine nuts or slivered almonds. Rice flour makes a nice pizza crust.

  2. What a terrific idea for a chilly evening, Beth. I'm going to keep it in mind for next week. Thanks!