Saturday, July 24, 2010

Patriotism and Pizza!

I would definitely qualify myself as patriotic. I think part of why I love being lawyer is because I am amazed that there was a group of men who put together such a radical form of government and that 200+ years later, it continues to function well. I also think it is critical that people question government and debate about the country's structure, because that is what continues to make the country great. (For real - the summer I studied for the bar, I studied Constitutional Law on the Fourth of July in honor of the country. Yep - I'm a dork.)

And yet, I'm not a huge fan of the Fourth of July.

Say what now?

Here's the thing: I like the Fourth of July for its historic reasons, obviously. And in theory, I like how the country celebrates, with relaxed parties, bbqs, tasty eats, and fireworks. (Okay, maybe not fireworks if you're a Sheila the Dog, but she just crawls between Lucy and Molly, who protect her from the loud noises outside.) So what's the problem? I tend not to get to actually celebrate the holiday. The Fourth is one of Greg's busiest flying days, so he's gone; my friends tend to go home; and my family is elsewhere with other plans. Which pretty much means I'm in the city, on the couch, kinda bored and bummed out.

But not this year! The Fourth was rescued! The night before, I found out my friend Katie D. was also abandoned on the Fourth, and so she came over - we had a blast! We decided to put together a menu on the holiday and then go shopping. At the time, this seemed like a good plan, until we realized we had put together a menu of pizza, watermelon, and three desserts.

Check that. We made the most awesome Fourth of July menu of all time.

The pizza, although not a traditional Fourth choice, was just fun to make. Greg and I have been getting into pizza making lately because it is cheap, easy, and tasty. Now that I have kicked my fear of proofing yeast, we make pizza a bunch. We have experimented with a bunch of ingredients and finally settled on a recipe we love. I hope to have a gluten free version soon, but I'm not there yet - I tried to make a gluten-free hybrid dough, and I felt like I had personally dined at a gravel buffet...blecch! But I'll keep working at it.

Anyway, this pizza crust is ridiculously easy and it pretty much does its own thing all day. Or, alternatively, it's super easy to freeze and thaw, which is also a bonus. The recipe actually makes two crusts, so it's great to have a pizza one night and freeze the other crust for a quick dinner later. We do love the crust as pizza, but I've doctored it a bit so it has more of a focaccia flavor with a crust texture. I wonder if you can bake the crust by itself and cut up the crust as flatbread...but for another time!

Pizza Crust (adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance)
Yields: 2 pizza crusts

1 c. warm water (I go to the point where it is hot but I can still comfortably touch it)
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1 package of active dry yeast
2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil, separated
3 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
Dried rosemary

1) Proof the yeast: combine water, sugar, and yeast and mix well. Let sit for 10 minutes. If the water is any of the following, the yeast is good to go: smells like beer, bubbling, frothy on top. If not, toss it and try again - your yeast is kaput.

2) Mix together flour and salt. Mix 2 Tbsp. olive oil into the yeast mixture, and slowly mix into the flour combination, until a dough ball starts to form. Not all of the flour will ultimately get incorporated, but that's okay.

3) Take the ball and place on a clean surface. (I leave whatever flour didn't make it into the ball in the bowl, but I know others try to incorporate it into the ball.) Knead for ten minutes. I personally have never had a problem with stickiness, but if yours starts to stick, just add a touch of flour onto your work surface. No need to knead too hard. (Wow, isn't that a sentence.) Just kind of play around with the dough for ten minutes.

4) At the end of ten minutes, the dough should be a smooth ball. Rub it in the two tsp. of olive oil and then sprinkle with the dried rosemary. Really, no need to measure; just sprinkle until it makes a cute pattern. Pop the rosemary ball into a bowl and cover with a towel. Let sit for an hour (or longer - seriously, don't sweat this too much).

5) At the end of the hour, gently punch the dough so it deflates. Knead again for about a minute. If you plan on freezing a crust, cut half the ball in half, wrap in plastic wrap and foil, and pop in the freezer (I'll give freezer directions at the end of the recipe). Anything you're eating that day, go ahead and make another ball, put back in the bowl, and cover for at least two hours, but again, don't knock yourself out if you're late getting back to it.

6) After the two hours is up, remove the dough ball. If you did not previously cut the dough in half, do that now. Go ahead and stretch the dough into a crust in the greased pan you will use. I personally use a metal pan with holes punched in the bottom, but that's because I registered for one when Greg and I got married. We also have a metal pizza stone which is good. Or, you can also use a rimmed baking sheet. Seriously, don't buy something special just for pizza if you don't already have it. Also, you will stretch the dough pretty darn thin, to the point you will probably be afraid it will rip. It won't, don't worry. And if it does, just take some dough from a thicker part of the pizza, patch the hole, and keep going, no big whoop.
**I realize this part can be tricky, but don't worry about it too much. Moskowitz has a great attitude about this, though; if it looks funky, just tell people it's rustic, and they'll think you're very gourmet.

7) Now - the fun part! Add sauce, toppings, the whole 9 yards. Put in a 500 degree oven; check after 8-10 minutes. Just bake until it is the texture you like, and enjoy!

Thaw the dough ball in the fridge. When you are ready to make pizza, spray a bowl with cooking spray and put the ball in. Cover with a towel and let sit for at least two hours. Start with step 6 above, and you're good to go.

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