When people ask me what is my favorite food, I’ve never been able to give them a straight answer because I love variety and the unique flavors of so many cuisines. But, if I HAD to pick a favorite, pizza is certainly at the top of the list, so I was really pleased when it was announced that August’s Five Star Makeover Challenge was, you guessed, it PIZZA!
The true origin of pizza differs depending on the source and whether you’re talking about the etymology of the word “pizza” (Latin), or what culture was the first to start adding toppings to flavor bread (Middle East and Mediterranean), or who invented the edible plate (Greeks). Generally, its agreed that pizza, as we know it, came from humble beginnings; a Galette flat bread with a red sauce, it was a dish of the poor people and sold in the streets of Naples, Italy in the 16th century. Later, after tomatoes were brought to Europe by explorers from the Americas, the sauce was made from oil and tomatoes.
Origins aside, pizza has evolved to gourmet status with a place on the menu of many a fine dining establishment. The pizza’s appeal transcends borders and its versatility knows no bounds – you can have pizza for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert now!
The pizza I created for this challenge speaks to my roots in the South (the S in SXSW), my love of Southwestern flavors (the SW), and the bounty of tomatoes from our garden. This year we planted three varieties of tomatoes: Organic Beefsteak, Heirloom Black Krim, and Sweet Tangerine Hybrid and I used each one in this delicious vegetarian thin crust SXSW Pizza.
We’ve been having a problem with the Beefsteaks developing “blossom rot”, so have been picking them before they mature into their biggest, brightest, beautiful selves – this is the variety I used for the fried green tomatoes. The Black Krim’s have a dark maroon skin with red flesh, they grow to a medium-size which is perfect for bites of pizza, alternated with slices of the extra sweet, golden orange Sweet Tangerine Hybrid. With Marcella Hazan’s dough recipe (thank you, Angela of Spinach Tiger), a sprinkling of aged Asiago cheese and the delightful crunch and Southwestern flavors of toasted pepitas and smoky roasted corn – this was a garden fresh, gourmet pizza bursting with flavor that I think you’ll love and that I’ll be making again and and again.
Basic Pizza Dough Recipe
Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking | Yield: 3 individual or 2 -12″ pizzas
1 1/2 t. active dry yeast
1 cup luke warm water, divided into 1/4 cups
3 1/4 cups unbleached flour (I used 3 cups), divided into 3 one measure cups
Extra virgin olive oil (1 t. for bowl) and some for finished product
1/2 T salt
Pizza stone, or paddle if using oven (or cast iron for grill
Dissolve yeast into 1/4 cup of warm water in large bowl, 10 minutes or less.
Add one cup flour. Stir with wooden spoon
Add in olive oil, salt, 1/4 cup water. Stir.
Add one cup flour. Stir.
Add 1/4 cup water. Stir.
Add one cup flour Stir.
Hold back on water and flour, adding as needed. I added water, but did not add last 1/4 cup of flour. Stir. Dough should be manageable, but not sticky. At this point you can knead by hand for 10 minutes or place in your kitchen aid type mixer with dough hook for about 5 minutes.
Place in oiled bowl. Cover and set in warm place for three hours. Dough cooks and tastes best when chilled overnight. Take out and bring to room temperature. Divide the dough in half and roll out, using cornmeal so that it doesn’t stick. If you can manage it, give it a toss in the air several times to stretch the dough proper.y, or I use a rolling motion with my hands to stretch the dough because I’ve never perfected throwing it in the air Do what works for you!
To Bake, heat pizza stone in oven for 30 minutes in pre-heated oven at 450 degrees.
To Grill, set your grill on highest heat, pre-heat cast iron griddle for 20 minutes
SXSW Pizza Toppings
(for 1 – 12″ pizza)
2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
1 ½ cup asiago cheese
toasted pepitas (about ¼ cup)
kernels from 1 ear roasted corn*
1 roasted red hot cherry pepper, seeded and diced
*I brushed the corn with Gianni’s Chipotle Garlic Balsamic, but extra virgin olive oil with a dash of chili seasoning works fine too.
1. Spread grated cheese on rolled out dough. Alternate fried green and sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with pepitas, roasted corn, and red pepper. Bake in 450 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly.
Fried Green Tomatoes
From Southern Living, June 2011
• 1 large egg, lightly beaten
• 1/2 cup buttermilk
• 1/2 cup self-rising cornmeal mix
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 3 medium-size, firm green tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices (about 1 1/4 lb.)
• Vegetable oil
• 1. Whisk together egg and buttermilk. Combine cornmeal mix, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup flour in a shallow dish. Dredge tomato slices in remaining 1/4 cup flour; dip in egg mixture, and dredge in cornmeal mixture.
• 2. Pour oil to a depth of 1/2 inch in a large cast-iron skillet; heat to 375° over medium-high heat. Drop tomatoes, in batches, into hot oil, and cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle hot tomatoes with salt to taste.
Besides being a catchy acronym for the South by Southwest flavors in this fabulous pizza, SXSW also makes reference to the annual SXSW in Austin, Texas, the mega happening of interactive, media, music, and film festivals that one day I’d like to attend
Cheers to pizza in all its incarnations!