Thoughts on making pizza

Pizza is my favorite food in the world. We’ve been really into making pizza for a few years now, and as it turns out, making pizza is really fun and not all that difficult!

I will say, however, that the process is even easier and the pizza is even more delicious with the right tools. Thankfully, these tools aren’t terribly expensive, and if you really like pizza (like me and my husband), then they’ll be worth the purchase.

We still regularly pay the pros for the really really good pizza (i.e., the restaurants with the ovens that go up to 900 degrees or whatever), and we still order in from the not-as-fancy pizza places when the mood strikes, but making pizza at home is still awesome.

Helpful equipment:

  • Food processor (more expensive, but this will be used beyond just pizza) or stand mixer (even more expensive, but again, will be used for many things besides pizza) for making dough.
  • Pizza stone! We have a cast iron stone that our friends gave to us for our wedding, and it’s awesome.
  • Pizza peel! This has made a big difference. In order to take advantage of everything a pizza stone has to offer, it needs to be preheated in the oven until it’s really freaking hot. Transferring your prepared, unbaked pizza to the hot stone can be tricky. The pizza peel takes care of this for you. While it might take a couple of tries to get right, it’s not too difficult and totally worth it. We have a pizza peel from Crate & Barrel, but there are others out there.

Other stuff:

  • There are like, a billion recipes out there for pizza dough. Everyone has an opinion on pizza dough. We’ve tried a bunch as well. The one we keep coming back to, however, because it’s both simple and tasty, is Mark Bittman’s pizza dough recipe. My favorite part is that we can throw the dough together in the morning and let it rise all day in the refrigerator. The recipe makes one super thick crust (pictured above), or two thinner crusts. The dough freezes perfectly. We’re trying to experiment with reducing this recipe down by a third.
  • Favorite mozzarella cheese: Trader Joe’s brand. It’s stretchy and flavorful and awesome.
  • Favorite pizza sauces:
    • Pesto (store-bought or homemade; we’ve had success with kale pesto as well as classic basil pesto in the past).
    • Tomato sauce: This fresh pizza sauce is really good and easy. However, these days, we’re more likely to make a regular tomato sauce to use on pasta, and then use the leftover sauce on pizza (or freeze to use later). I prefer to blend the tomato sauce with our immersion blender after cooking (I’m not a huge fan of chunky tomato sauce).
  • Favorite toppings (pictured above is pesto, mozzarella, goat cheese, and zucchini, plus basil and chives from our little herb garden):
    • Really good sausage (lightly browned before adding to pizza).
    • Mushrooms (also cooked/browned beforehand, otherwise they’ll make the pizza all watery).
    • Canned artichokes (drained and chopped up).
    • Kale (rubbed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then added to the pizza towards the end of the baking time).
    • Goat cheese, chorizo (or soyrizo) and avocado (avocado added after the pizza is baked).

Spaghetti squash and black bean tacos with queso fresco

squash-tacos

This might actually be one of the best uses of spaghetti squash I’ve ever encountered. I like spaghetti squash for the most part, but I have a hard time enjoying it as a substitute for, well, spaghetti. So, tacos! Much better option.

What worked: The spices were awesome and balanced out the slight sweetness of the squash, they fed me and my husband and a friend who had come over to play video games, and they made great leftovers (always a plus).

What didn’t work: Maybe I just didn’t get the good stuff, but this was my first time having queso fresco in a long time, and I found it be pretty flavorless. Nice texture, but flavorless. Deb mentions in the book that feta could work as a substitute, which I kinda wish I’d used instead.

Would I make it again?: Definitely! I occasionally get spaghetti squash in my CSA, so I would re-create for those times (and use feta instead!).

Leek fritters with garlic and lemon

leek-fritters

These are pretty! I like pretty veggies.

What worked: The lemon and garlic flavors were great, and the whole dish was filling without feeling heavy.

What didn’t work: Nothing in particular, but I will fully admit that I’ve never been a big fan of making fritters. They always taste good – I’ve just often found the process to be a bit tedious.

Would I make it again?: Maybe not, for the above reasons, although they were awfully tasty. So, maybe.

Honey and harissa farro salad

farro-salad

Farro is awesome, and I’m glad this recipe reminded me to keep farro around in my pantry. It has a heftier chew than rice, and paired very nicely with the softer root vegetables in this dish.

What worked: Everything! Overall, a good hearty salad that made good leftovers as well.

What didn’t work: I actually think it could have used a bit more harissa, which is easily fixed for future renditions.

Would I make it again?: For sure. I love big grain/veggie salads, since they make for awesome and easy lunches.

Big breakfast latkes

breakfast-latkes

These latkes make for a very satisfying breakfast – and might I add, a good hangover cure.

What worked: Pretty much everything! I overcooked mine just a smidge, I think. I also think the fried egg on top is pretty much mandatory. Additionally, the tip in the cookbook about how these can be made ahead definitely works and is recommended. We had more latkes for dinner the next day.

What didn’t work: Nada.

Would I make it again?: Maybe. They’d be fun as a treat, and when I have potatoes around (which I often don’t, to be honest).

Salted brown butter crispy treats

crispy-treats

In which I get to make and consume one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten, and it’s also insanely easy: The salted brown butter crispy treats story.

What worked: As soon as I cut these treats into squares and put into tupperware to bring to a friend’s party, the insane smell overtook me and made me see stars. Then I tasted one, and was a new person as a result. This is exaggeration, but everyone needs to know how delicious these are. Not only that, but these were so easy to make.

What didn’t work: Absolutely nothing. Make these now.

Would I make it again?: DUH. In fact, I really want some right now.

Shaved asparagus pizza and leisurely pizza dough

shaved-asparagus

This is a story in which we made a tasty pizza that was really annoying to prepare.

Shaved asparagus pizza

What worked: This pizza tastes very, very good. The cheese, the asparagus, the green onions – everything was fresh and satisfying.

What didn’t work: Shaving the asparagus was a royal pain in the butt. Deb made it sound so simple, and it really wasn’t. I tried the method of laying the asparagus down on the counter and using my vegetable peeler to do the shaving, and could only get a couple of strips out of the deal. My husband and I resorted to a combination of peeling, using the mandoline (very carefully), and using a regular knife to make thin pieces. It took quite awhile and in the end, we couldn’t help but wonder if it was worth it.

Would I make it again?: Probably not. It was very tasty (as mentioned), but was too much work (as also mentioned).

Leisurely pizza dough

What worked: Everything! I love making pizza dough in the morning and letting rise all day in the fridge. It’s easy, makes dinner prep even easier after work, and in my experience, the all-day slow rise makes the crust bake up beautifully and taste even better.

What didn’t: Nothing wrong here. Sometimes we prefer a thicker crust, but for those thin crust days, this crust is great.

Would I make it again?: It’s quite likely. I’ll admit that I’m pretty partial to Mark Bittman’s pizza dough recipe (it’s one of those that I have almost committed to memory at this point, and it always comes out well), but I will aim to put this Smitten Kitchen crust in the rotation.