September 12, 2011

Slice n' Easy

Zucchini & Red Onion Pizza with Herbed Cheese Spread

Every once in a while, like on a dark, dreary Saturday, I can get a little...manic. I may make, say, six different pizza doughs, three different pie crusts, a quiche, you know, get way ahead of myself, my weeknight dinners, desserts, even holidays. I figure its one-third experimenting, one-third consolidating and one-third procrastination? I like to tell myself that its the ultimate in preparation, but really, 17 pizza doughs, pie crusts and quiches of various flours and textures is meant for the Duggars and all 19 kids and counting, not me.  

Well, after the rain finally stopped and the windows were thrown open, one of those balls of dough would have come in handy this weekend, as John and I decided to crank up the oven and enjoy a long overdue pizza night. During the winter we often had Saturday pizza nights; I would get all the ingredients and pans set up and John would get to work kneading, throwing and cooking up a pie with toppings like burrata cheese from Trader Joe's to fresh squash blossoms from local farmer's markets. No recent manic moments lately on my end (also long overdue though, so stay tuned), therefore we had no dough, so I decided to experiment with a different recipe. We knew the toppings and cheeses we were going to try, but it was the crust we weren't sure about. Thin and crispy, the kind that shatters even as you take hold? Or soft and doughy, with big air bubbles, sliced large and floppy? I realize Jacques Pepin is a frenchman, and perhaps that was our first mistake, but his La Methode recipe looked quick and easy (really all that matters the hungrier one becomes) and we just went with it.

We decided overall, the topping was delicious and one we would make again. Simply a store-bought Boursin herbed cheese spread and some freshly grated parmesan cheese, with large, thin slices of fresh zucchini and red onion spread about. Drizzled with some good olive oil and freshly ground pepper, it was light yet cheesy, and perfect paired simply with a green salad and good wine.

It was that we followed an old bon appetit magazine recipe where half of the herbed cheese is spread over half the dough, the remaining dough is then folded over the herbed cheese and then the toppings are added. That was the step we wish we skipped. The picture looked amazing, the idea seemed great...but the taste did not seem like it was worth the extra effort. No inner cheese layer could be tasted. Again, it could have been the frenchman's crust. It could have been me, as I'm sure I improvised a bit with the crust. Maybe if it weren't folded over at all it would have made for a delicious thin-crust pie. Who knows. I will outline the recipe as is, so if it works for you, please let me know.

Regardless, the Boursin made for a smooth, creamy addition, especially since this was a sauce-less pizza pie, and we were satisfied. And really? Homemade pizza night is always fun, a pizza always smells amazing baking and bubbling away in the oven, and not many people can resist a bready crust with some hot, melty cheese. Now that's amore.

Zucchini & Red Onion Pizza with Herbed Cheese Spread
(adapted from bon appetit)
*pizza dough (see recipe below, or use any refrigerated dough)
*3/4 cup cheese spread, divided
*3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, divided
*3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
*1 small red onion
*1 7 to 8 inch long yellow or green zucchini, cut crosswise into 1/8 inch-thick rounds
*olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out dough on baking sheet or pizza stone sprinkled with corn meal or flour to desired shape. Spread with half of herb cheese over one long half of dough, leaving 1/2-inch plain border.

Sprinkle with half of parmesan and 2 Tbsp. parsley. Fold plain half of dough over filled half (do not seal edges). Spread remaining herb cheese over top; sprinkle with remaining parmesan. Arrange slices of zucchini and red onion on top of cheese as you please. Brush or drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake bread until puffed and deep or golden brown at edges, about 24 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and enjoy while warm.

Pizza Dough
(adapted from Pizzeria Ortica, Los Angeles)
*2 lbs. unbleachd flour (plus more for dusting)
*1 tsp. yeast
*1 Tbsp. salt
*2 cups cold water
*4 Tbsp. good olive oil

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, yeast and salt. Add water and stir until roughly combined. Mix in a mixer with a dough hook attachment for five minutes, or knead continuously for five to ten minutes (we just knead). Cover and set aside in an oiled bowl until doubled in size, about an hour.

Keep as one ball of dough (or seperate into two or even four balls for smaller, personalize sized pies). Refrigerate for one hour or overnight. Bring to room temperature before flattening and using.

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