This summer we have introduced a new tradition in the Amazing Sandwich home – Pizza Cook-off Fridays. What started as dinner with a friend who came over to show us how to make pizza on the grill, has morphed into my new favorite evening of the week. The basic concept is this: get some friends together, Anders and I provide the dough and competitors bring their favorite wines and toppings for 3-4 hours of trash talking, ardent pizza making, even more ardent eating, and just a wonderfully good time. So far, we’ve had some awesome creations: classic margarita with fresh tomatoes from our respective gardens; pesto with grilled mushrooms; feta with hummus, grilled pork and finished with tahini drizzle; smoked salmon with thin lemon slivers; apricots with prosciutto and arugula. But my favorite so far was one entry from last weekend: sautéed leeks with garlic, grilled oyster and shimeji mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella and then topped with dollops of a whipped goat cheese/lemon zest blend and sprinkled with fresh thyme. It was divine. I mean really…it was soo good it bears repeating – it was divine! We whipped the goat cheese with a fork, added some lemon zest and bit of olive oil. After baking in the oven, it was so light and creamy and the lemon just gave it the perfect amount of tang. I can’t wait till Friday – we might just make this one again.
- We often make our own pizza dough recipe, but there are those evenings when we just don’t have enough time for the 2 hour rise time that my recipe requires. On those Friday evenings, we are saved by Trader Joes which has three great pizza dough selections; wheat, plain and garlic herb. BTW, the recipe I use for my homemade dough comes from Foodie Farmgirl – one of the first food blogs I fell in love with. You can get the recipe here. This recipe makes enough for two 15-oz doughs so use half and freeze the rest if you must. Anders uses his own recipe of pizza dough with honey.
- You’ll note the very small amount of pizza sauce used. I hadn’t planned on using any sauce but after sautéing the leeks I thought I didn’t have as much liquid as I might need. So I used 2 tbs of Anders’ pizza sauce – just enough to provide some liquid without overpowering the mild flavors from the leeks and mushrooms. As it turned out it was not necessary. It is for this same reason that I would advise against using pesto sauce. I love pesto on pizza, but it is an ingredient with such a dominant and assertive flavor that it can overwhelm everything else. The beauty of this pizza is how all the other subtle flavors get accented by the goat cheese topping, enhancing without overwhelming them. Pesto would just deny you this taste experience.
- 1 16 oz pizza dough
- 2 large leeks ( ~1 1/2 lbs)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 lb combination of oyster and shimeji mushrooms
- 8 oz buffalo mozzarella
- whipped goat cheese with lemon (recipe below)
- olive oil
- kosher salt
- 2 tbs fresh thyme leaves (no twigs or stems)
- flaky sea salt
- 1 handful arugula
- 2 tbs durum
- At least 30 minutes before you are ready to bake, place a pizza stone into the oven and heat oven at 500F (450F if you are doing convection bake). As a warning, you should never put a cold pizza stone into a hot oven. Let’s just say that if you do, it’s the last time you’ll use that pizza stone. Think along the lines of, “Pop goes the weasel”. I had my own mistake in this department some time ago when I was a pizza making newbie. Fun times!
- Thinly slice the buffalo mozzarella. Don’t do this too soon before you need to use it as this cheese tends to leak a fair amount of liquid. I have no evidence of this but I am sure that as it does that it takes away some of the flavor with it. So just slice a few minutes or so before you need to apply the cheese.
- Wash and dry the arugula.
- Discard the green tops of the leeks. Slice the bottom (white and yellow) sections in 1/4 inch thick circles. Add to a medium sized bowl and rinse to clean thoroughly. Drain well.
- Place a large sauté pan on the stove on medium high heat. When the pan is warm, add about 1 tbs olive oil and then add the leeks. Sauté for about 10 minutes, seasoning with salt to taste. When the leeks are about 2 minutes from finishing, finely mince the garlic cloves and add to the leeks.
- Place the mushrooms in a large bowl and clean with a damp towel. Lightly season with salt, pepper and olive oil. Place the mushrooms on a hot grill and grill for about 5 minutes, flipping half way through. Remove from grill and chop them roughly.
Making the Pizza
- Stretch the dough to roughly 14 oz diameter. You don’t have to try and achieve a perfectly circular shape. Remember this is your own homemade creation and it tastes no worst for not having perfection in shape. Personally, I like the rustic look of a misshapen pizza. It’s a pizza with personality 🙂
- Place the dough on a similarly sized piece of parchment paper or a pizza peel sprinkled liberally with durum. This is critical. You need to have the dough on the surface that will be used to transfer it to the oven BEFORE you start adding toppings. If you haven’t prepared it for its oven relocation IN ADVANCE of topping it, that pizza is just not going anywhere…at least not as a pizza. Trust us – more than once, we’ve forgotten this and ended up with some weird calzone-gallette mutant. Not to say it wasn’t tasty but, alas, it was no pizza. We love using a pizza peel since it makes it really easy to place the pizza on the hot stone without risking life and limb. If you’ve ever opened a 500 degree oven and later reached frantically for your eyebrows to confirm their survival, you will appreciate the distance provided by the pizza peel’s handle. Besides, it just makes you feel that much more like a pizza making maestro. Anders loves his. When it comes to cooking, he espouses the philosophy that one must dress the part to be the part.
- Top the dough with the sautéed leeks, spreading to within 1/2 and inch or so from the edge of the crust. Cover with the mozzarella slices. Next, add the chopped grilled mushrooms.
- Using a teaspoon, drop dollops of the whipped goat cheese mix on top of the grilled mushrooms. Don’t panic that you don’t get complete coverage – you are not supposed to.
- Sprinkle the pizza with the thyme leaves and transfer to the hot stone in the oven.
- Bake until crust becomes golden brown (12-15 minutes) and remove from oven.
- While the pizza is baking, dress the arugula with about 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice, freshly cracked pepper seeds and 1/4 tsp sea salt.
- When the pizza has cooled enough to eat, add the dressed arugula and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Slice and serve. (We didn’t get a photo with the arugula, sorry, we were hungry)
Whipped Goat Cheese with Lemon Zest
- 4 oz goat cheese
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
If the goat cheese is in the refrigerator, remove and leave on the counter allowing it to come to room temperature. When that is done, add the lemon zest, garlic and olive oil. Using a fork, until all the ingredients are well combined.