If Will has a tough day at work, I know there is one food that always makes him feel better – pizza. The same goes for me, too. We’re pizza junkies. Early in our courtship this became a problem since the one thing growing faster than my love for Will was the size of my ass.
Since New York City has a pizzeria on every block, it is a horrible place to call home if you’re trying to kick a slice-a-night habit. YES, I was eating pizza every night (for about a month). The routine was this: Will would wait for me at Per Se’s backdoor, and the moment I was freed from the kitchen we’d wander over to Mariella Pizza on the 8th Avenue and share a perfectly greasy slice, sprinkled with red peper flakes and crappy Parmesan. The slice would be devoured in an instant, but we’d stay and chat and giggle about our days over a shared beer, then wander home to his corporate apartment. Sleep. Wake up. Repeat.
When I got into work one day and noticed my elastic waistband chef pants (trendy, I know) were stretched to the max, I knew I needed to re-think our love affair with pizza. Will and I agreed that we’d cut back to once-a-week. And, in an effort to decrease the amount of cheese and increase the amount of vegetables per slice, I’d have to make our pie.
I struggled most with finding the perfect pizza dough recipe. I like my crust thin and crisp, and many recipes make soft, chewy doughs. It was in my notes from chef school where I found a killer recipe and foolproof technique (see below). Sure, you can buy dough, but making an entire pizza for someone, including the crust, is a grand gesture. I swear, the first time I served Will a totally-from-scratch pizza (his eyes widened and he exclaimed, “you made this?!”), I sealed the deal.
I like to make one full dough recipe, divide it into four small balls, and freeze three for another time. In the morning, pop one of the frozen dough balls into the refrigerator and by the time dinner rolls around, you can whip up a 100% homemade pizza in less than 30 minutes. That’s faster than Dominos.
The kale and fennel topping below is my go-to, but you can use anything you like. Pizza is a great thing to make when you’ve got leftovers (think roasted vegetables, scraps from a cheese platter, extra pasta sauce) you’d like to re-purpose.
Kale Flat Bread Pizza
- Pizza dough to make one 10″ x 15″ (or similar sized) pizza (see recipe below)
- 2-3 cups of kale leaves and stems, roughly chopped
- 1/2 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
- 1-2 cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 cups of fresh mozzarella, sliced or cubed (you can use more or less cheese if you want)
- 1 cup of shredded parmesan
Pre-bake the pizza dough (see directions below) until the edges are brown and it starts to crisp. While the dough is baking, toss all the vegetables with the olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes until they are thoroughly seasoned.
Turn the oven down to 375 degrees after the dough is pre-cooked. Cover the pre-cooked crust with the cheese and seasoned vegetables. Bake for 15-25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and vegetables are roasted to your satisfaction.
Transfer to a cutting board, slice, and serve.
Enough for four 9″ x 13″ pizza crusts
- 2 cups of barely warm water
- 2 teaspoons of dry yeast
- Pinch of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 4-5 cups of bread flour
- Cornmeal and olive oil for baking
To make the dough:
In a small bowl (or in a mixer that has both a whisk and dough hook attachement), combine the water, yeast and sugar and whisk together. Let the yeast proof for about 3 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil and the egg. Finally, add the salt.
If you’re using a mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment. Incorporate the flour, one cup at a time. If you’re doing this by hand, it might be easier to put the fifth cup of flour on your work surface, and incorporate it into the dough while kneading. Knead the dough for about 6 minutes. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for about one hour.
Punch down the dough and divide into four pieces. Shape into balls and freeze individually. When you need pizza dough, defrost a dough ball in the refrigerator for about 12 hours. If you’re want to use a piece immediately, cover the dough ball and let it rest for at least 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator).
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle a pizza stone, cookie sheet or a jelly roll pan turned upside down (this is what I use) with a teeny bit of olive oil. Use a paper towel to evenly rub the olive oil all over the surface. Sprinkle the surface with a thin layer of cornmeal.
Roll out or stretch the rested dough to your desired shape and thickness. I like to make a 10″ x 15″ rectangle that is about 1/4″ thick. Don’t worry if it tears or if it is too think or too thin in some spots. It will still taste good. Set the stretched dough onto your greased pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Pre-bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes or until the edges start to brown. If you like really crisp dough go for 10-12 minutes.
Top the pre-cooked crust with your favorite toppings, bake again, and serve.