How to Cook Pizza Better Than a Restaurant

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I’M here — back in the Dining section with a new column — to insist once again that not only can you cook it at home, but you can likely cook it better.

“It,” in this case, is pizza, and the impetus for today’s installment was a visit to a highly acclaimed pizza joint in Manhattan, where I was served (for $15, or about four times the cost of the ingredients in a supermarket) a perfectly ordinary, overly poofy, drearily sauced pizza. Granted, the mozzarella was first rate. Big deal.

Read the rest of this column, watch the video, and get the recipes here.

Posted in Italian, Recipes

Flatbread Pizza with Figs, Goat Cheese, and Balsamic

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By Alaina Sullivan

There is nothing quite like a fresh fig. It’s delicate and sweet, with dark, chewy skin encasing a pulpy flesh that swims with tiny seeds. Fresh figs are best with simple, bold flavor pairings, and using them as a pizza topping is a genius way to savor the last of the season’s crop. Here, fig crescents are spread across a flatbread crust and baked at high heat until their flesh oozes out, warm and sweet. Dabs of creamy goat cheese melt alongside, the tang a pretty perfect complement to the figs. A splash of balsamic is the final touch. Sometimes only something this simple can be so insanely delicious. Recipe from Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express.

Flatbread Pizza with Figs, Goat Cheese, and Balsamic

Slice a couple of handfuls of figs into quarters. Brush olive oil on lavash or other flatbread and dot generously with goat cheese; spread the figs evenly on top of the cheese. Bake in a 450 degree oven until the cheese melts and the figs soften. Drizzle with a tiny bit of balsamic and serve.  

 

Posted in Italian, Recipes

8th Day of HTCE: Pizza Dough

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I’m giving away copies of the new How to Cook Everything iPad App, one every day until new year’s eve. Just sign up for the newsletter (look to your left) to enter the running. I’ll pick an email address at random and send you the App.

Pizza Dough

Makes: Enough for 1 large or 2 or more small pies

Time: 1 hour or more

You won’t believe how simple it is to make pizza dough at home. And because the dough freezes very well (at least for a couple of weeks), it’s even practical to whip up a batch for one or two people and tuck the rest away for another day.

To make pizza dough by hand or with a standing mixer, follow the directions, but use a bowl and a heavy wooden spoon or the mixer’s bowl and the paddle attachment instead of the food processor. When the dough becomes too heavy to stir, use your hands or exchange the mixer’s paddle for the dough hook and proceed with the recipe.

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Posted in Behind The Scenes, Italian

More Cheese, Please. Wait! That’s Enough!!!

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When I was a kid we used to get pizza with extra cheese; I get it. Cheese is gooey and fun; against the sauce, it’s very very nice.

Of course that was real mozzarella, not flown in from Naples but at least made in Little Italy.

Now we have this, two awful pizza chains putting as much cheese (and bacon, why not) as can possibly fit on their pizzas. The cheeses – in Papa John’s case mozzarella, “parmesan,” romano, asiago, provolone, and “Fontina” – no doubt are indistinguishable from each other. (The quotes because those two cheeses, at least, are DOC in Italy and there is really only one Parmesan, made in Parma, and one Fontina, made in the Val d’Aosta, and everything else is a shabby imitation.) They’re made god knows where and how, but no doubt at least half of them would qualify as “pasteurized processed cheese food.”

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Posted in Food Politics

Dinner with Bittman: Pizza Dough

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Recipe from How to Cook Everything.

Pizza Dough

Makes: Enough for 1 large or 2 or more small pies

Time: 1 hour or more

You won’t believe how simple it is to make pizza dough at home. And because the dough freezes very well (at least for a couple of weeks), it’s even practical to whip up a batch for one or two people and tuck the rest away for another day.

To make pizza dough by hand or with a standing mixer, follow the directions, but use a bowl and a heavy wooden spoon or the mixer’s bowl and the paddle attachment instead of the food processor. When the dough becomes too heavy to stir, use your hands or exchange the mixer’s paddle for the dough hook and proceed with the recipe.

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the oil through the feed tube.

2. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is still dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time.)

3. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. (You can cut this rising time short if you’re in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.) Proceed to Step 4 or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap or a zipper bag and freeze for up to a month. (Defrost in the bag or a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature; bring to room temperature before shaping.)

4. When the dough is ready, form it into a ball and divide it into 2 or more pieces if you like; roll each piece into a round ball. Put each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rest until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.

 

Posted in Italian, Recipes

Smokin’ Hot White Pizza

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By Edward Schneider

Saturday was pizza night at our house. One regular Margherita (we even had basil in the house), and one not so regular, but delicious if you like smoky flavors. Onto a semi-baked crust (I find that this initial pre-baking is necessary in a regular oven with a maximum temperature of 500 or even 550 degrees F), I spread a mixture of about 1/4 nice fluffy, not watery, ricotta and 3/4 smoked mozzarella cut into little pieces, into which was mixed a generous ounce of chopped speck (smoked dry-cured ham, in this instance from Italy), a few slivered leaves of sage, some olive oil and salt and pepper. Watch out for the salt – there’s no predicting how much will be in your mozzarella.

The only danger with this – as, come to think of it, with any pizza – is that, for safety’s sake, it needs to cool a bit before the first bite. So pour a glass of wine, eat an olive or some of that mozzarella and be patient.

Posted in Italian, Recipes

On a Dare: Ramp Pizza

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By Edward Schneider

[Ed Schneider is a friend of mine, a contributor to the Times and the Washington Post, and among the best home cooks I’ve ever known. I love him, even if he does write about ramps. I remain unconvinced, but I'm going to try it - next spring. – mb]

I happen to agree with New York’s Newspaper of Record that Motorino’s is the best pizza in New York. I haven’t actually been to many of its competitors, but, since for Jackie and me pizza is a meal rather than a hobby, I’m happy to accept that as fact. Anyway, it is wonderful pizza.

Right at the very beginning of spring, however, they served a ramp pizza that we didn’t much like. For one thing, the chopped ramps were chewy and harsh-tasting, and for another it was a tomato-sauce-based pie, which I thought was a bad idea – I rarely like greens cooked with tomato, though I’m more open to the concept than I used to be. When I told Mark about this, he dared me (his word) to devise a ramp pizza that wasn’t a bad idea. I’m not one to rise to a dare merely to save face: I’ll do it only if I’m confident I can actually perform the stunt in question.

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Posted in Italian, Produce