The other day, I bought a pre-made sourdough pizza crust with the intention of having an easy meal option during my hectic summer break. Puttering between playing Candy Crush Saga, harvesting my crops on Farmville 2, and reading the entire list of Santa Maria news items (3 minutes, tops) can be daunting, to be sure, but I somehow manage to make it to cocktail hour every day.
Anyhow, the crust wasn’t a Boboli, which is not too bad in a pinch, and I noticed that the “use by” date was September 2013, three months from now. “Hmmmm,” I pondered, “Comment est-il possible?” (I ponder often in French). According to this company, it is possible, and I am guessing that chemicals are involved somehow, the perceptive guy that I am. What the package doesn’t say is that, once you remove the crust from the bag, you have thirty seconds before it goes bad and shrivels up like that dude’s face at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when he chose…poorly.
So as I admired this crust’s “use by” date, I began mentally paging through the possibilities. BBQ Chicken? Nah. Regular ol’ pepperoni? Nope. Pesto…yes, pesto and fresh mozzarella. And then I started thinking that, if I make my own pesto, I can’t possibly use a pre-made crust. Pizza dough is an easy item to make and the payoff is huge. So that’s what I did and that’s what’s below.
On a taste note, I almost had to physically restrain myself from polishing off all of it, it’s so goddamn good. This would make an excellent and pleasing appetizer for a summer party, too. We had a small, unobtrusive herb salad with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing with it. I have already written my family’s pizza dough recipe on Dinner with Jonny, but I wrote it again below to make it easier. If you need to use a Boboli or the pre-made Trader Joe’s pizza dough, I am sure nobody will think the less of you, either, because the fresh pesto is the key. It’s a nut-buster.
The Pesto Ingredients (based on a Food Network Kitchens recipe):
2 cups packed, fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 cup raw pine nuts
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
1/4 tsp. black pepper or to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
Makin’ the Pesto:
Put the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse it until it’s chopped. Add in the olive oil and process this until it’s smooth, scraping the sides if you need to. Add in the salt and pepper. Transfer this to a bowl and stir in the cheese. You’re good to go.
The Dough Ingredients:
1 package active dry yeast
2 cups warm water, divided
2 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. salt
4 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)
Makin’ the Dough:
Dissolve the yeast in one cup of the warm water. In a large mixing bowl, add the other cup of water, the oil, the salt, and 1 cup of the flour. Mix this together and add then add in the yeast water. Continue to stir in the flour gradually until the dough gets to be a good kneading consistency. Place the dough on a floured board and let it rest under a bowl for about 5 minutes.
Next, knead the dough for about 5 minutes, adding flour as you need it to keep the dough from sticking. It’ll be elastic-y and dense when it’s ready (like Jessica Simpson). Form it into a ball. Place this in a warm, oiled bowl and then oil the dough all over. Cover this and keep it in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 1 to 2 hours. Punch it down and let it rise again. Divide it in half and now you have enough dough for two cookie sheet size pizzas. Stretch it out over a greased cookie sheet (any shape you have) and top it with your heart’s desire. You can save the other half in an oiled bag in the fridge.
The Pizza Ingredients:
Dough enough for 1 pizza (1/2 of the above recipe)
3/4 to 1 cup fresh pesto
1 8 oz. ball fresh mozzarella cheese (in other words, not the dry stuff)
3-4 slices of ham cut into thin strips
Makin’ the Pizza:
Preheat the over to 450°
After you’ve stretched out the dough, spread a good layer of the pesto over it evenly, leaving a 1/2″ edge on the pizza. Slice the mozzarella as thinly as possible so you have 9 or 10 pieces. Layer this on top of the pesto. Take a few strips of the ham and top each slice of mozzarella with them. Grind some pepper over it if you want.
Bake this for 20 to 30 minutes, checking it until the crust is brown and firmed up (like Beyonce).
Remove from the oven, slice, and serve. Pass the vino. Say it loud and say it proud:
Acqua Fresca, Vino Puro
Fica stretta, cazzo duro.
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino 2013