We recently went on a short weekend getaway to Santa Barbara, and on the way home we decided to stop by the Mario Batali pizzeria in Los Angeles called “Mozza.” We shared a Fried squash blossoms with ricotta pizza which was excellent, but did lack a little bit of oomph. It was bland I guess, but good. We were sitting at the bar, watching the chefs prepare the dough, and learned a new technique to keep the bubbles in the edge. So we thought we would give it a try, and make a similar pizza in style, but with much more taste in it.
Continuing our tradition of declaring pizzas ‘a kind of sandwich,’ we present this shrimp pizza with pesto sauce and smoked paprika. Like the pizzas that went before it, it descends from our 15 week pizz-off Friday end-of-week celebration stint. We’ve come to love these Fridays, and hope to start anew soon albeit with a different theme (Yet to be determined, maybe tapas?).
On a recent Pizz-Off!, we had three amazing pizzas. Two were made by our friends, and this one was our entry into our competition. If you are looking for a new way to enjoy the abundance of butternut squash now making its appearance in fall farmers markets, this is it! I love butternut squash. I have got to find a new way of expressing my pleasure about foods, since I seem to ‘love’ everything. But it really is true. There are very few foods that I don’t absolutely delight it and can’t find a way to work into a tasty meal. That has served me well since I’ve managed to quiet some of Anders initial protests and converted him to many foods that he had previously sworn off: Swiss chard, oxtail, sweet potatoes. Anyway, back to the butternut squash. I think it was about our 7th or 8th pizza night and I was racking my brain trying to come up with a new recipe to serve. When you have a pizza competition with friends every Friday, with each friend making a different pizza, you begin to stretch creativity. Then I remembered my birthday gift to Anders last year – a cooking class at Sur la Table. For that class, we prepared butternut squash ravioli with fried sage. It was wonderful-so much so that the following weekend we made our own homemade version. We haven’t made it since then (an oversight I will have to remedy soon!) So this pizza for me is reminiscent of that meal and combines all the flavors of that meal on a pizza : Butternut squash with fried sage and caramelized onions.
Note: This pizza is a little involved but it’s so worth it. You can prepare some of the ingredients (the squash and the onions) in advance to save time on the day of. I unfortunately thought up this recipe while at work. With two hours to prepare the ingredients before the guests arrived, I had to shop, roast squash, caramelize onions and the most critical thing – clean the kitchen! I needed every second of those 2 hours.
As one of our guests said when I won the weekly pizz-off pizza dinner with this pizza: “It’s not fair, no one can loose with seared tuna!” To be fair I have to concede the point I suppose, as even breakfast cereal with seared tuna would probably be awesome (someone try and let us know). The dough was new for us as our friends at Rossi Pasta sent us a few samples to cook with (Thanks guys). Probably one of our best tasting pizza’s ever.
This was a pizza Anders put together during one of our weekly pizz-off’s, where we wave goodbye to the old week… with a friendly pizza competition amongst friends. The goal is not to win, but to have a great time (and win). Our newfound love for smoked paprika once again manifested itself in a generous sprinkle on top, which has the odd side effect of producing some rather red-tinted photos (for which we apologize). As we were all sitting around the table, sipping red wine like the pro’s, we reminisced about our childhood cardboard-pizzas from the nearby Domino’s or local pizza pusher, and wondered why we didn’t make our own pizzas while in college when it’s really not that hard and so much better.
Reason number 1099 why I love living in Southern California: fig season! We don’t have our own fig tree – a gardening oversight that we plan on remedying soon. We have the perfect spot picked out and Wendie has done her research to determine which variety to grow. More on that later. Between the local farmers markets and generous friends we’ve eaten more figs this season than in our entire lives. We love eating them fresh from the tree and have also experimented with making preserves, jams, sandwiches and this latest use – on pizzas. This little configuration was served as dessert in a recent pizza party: fig and goat cheese pizza with caramelized figs and onions.
As we promised, we will be posting pizza recipes from all of our Pizza Cookoff Fridays. Actually, I should confess that that title is the more sanitized and hence publishable version of the actual title. Here’s another of our creations – this was week 2. This is a sauce less pizza (distinct from the saucy pizza with all her insolence and impertinent attitudes :-)) that we find works best early in the evening of pizza debauchery. Light and pleasing, it was a nice introduction and palate opener to the heavier pizzas that were to follow that night.
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.
A great tasting pizza for every occasion. This is fairly simple to make except for the dough, but places like Trader Joe’s now sell pizza dough which should make this super easy. We made this pizza as part of a giant birthday party involving 8 other pizzas which you can find elsewhere on amazing sandwiches.
Caramelized onions are such a treat but requires good quality sweet and savory onions to really bring out the best taste of the food. They go extremely well with mild blue cheese, such as the Roquefort we used here. The first time we really discovered the joy of caramelized onions was at a visit to the farmers market in Temecula, Ca. The ‘strawberry lady’ had brought some gigantic onions that she was raving about. She told us to go home and slow-cook them (caramelize), and basically just eat onion for dinner. We did almost that, but added a steak too (man must eat). However, since then we regularly enjoy this often overlooked treat in our cooking. Most people probably don’t realize how easy it is to make amazing food with something as cheap and simple as onions, so hopefully this can server as inspiration.
After a night of excess featuring Alton Brown’s “Who Loves Ya Baby-Back?” ribs, we were lucky enough to have a few leftover. Neither myself nor Wendie have ever has a rib-pizza, so we thought we would give it a try. We cleaned the meat of the ribs, and basically used it as one of the ingredients. This pizza was one of 9 we made for Wendie’s 39 years birthday (Surprise!!). That was the last big cooking day in the old kitchen (notice the brown tiles – all gone now), and one day we can’t wait to reconstruct in the new kitchen when it’s ready in a few weeks. For now we will struggle on without a kitchen, dust all over, and a hole in the floor where the drain will connect our island to the ‘mainland.’ Sigh, life’s hard with no kitchen.
The Little Pizza That Could!
This is a pizza made from leftovers in all aspects. The dough is actually from our lavash crackers, so it’s a little bit sweet from the Jamaican honey. The Italian Salsa Verde is from a tasting we did with a caterer for our upcoming wedding. The ham is the last of our Jamaican pineapple Christmas ham. Basically we got one of those inexplicable pizza-cravings while making lavash crackers and quickly improvised the little pizza that could.
“Pizza!” you may be saying with increduility as you wonder at the seeming incongruity of providing pizza recipes on a sandwich blog. Well, please bear with us while we provide this rather plausible and very convincing rationale.
In Scandinavia, there is a long tradition of open-faced sandwiches (or smørrebrød as they are called in Denmark). Open-faced sandwiches are essentially bread, with layered toppings. So it’s not much of a stretch to call a pizza, a sandwich. After all, it is just that: bread with layered toppings. For the pizza purists among the readers, this might seem like too much of a stretch, but we say that pizza by any other name is still an open faced sandwich. Convinced yet?