Summertime seems to find us hosting family, visiting family or meeting family at some intermediate location. Our extended family is large and we are close… we are lucky! Family gatherings generally mean food, and LOTS of it. One of my favorite meals to share, whether at home or otherwise, is pizza.
When it comes to pizza, I am usually pretty traditional in construction: dough + sauce of some sort + cheese (most of the time) + veggies and/or meat. Beyond that, the possibilities are endless. When feeding a crowd, variety is key, as is meeting the dietary preferences/restrictions of said crowd (we have a lot of vegetarians in the family and a few “avoiders” of dairy, but thankfully no major food allergies!).
At our last family pizza fest, I was chef. I often assume this role whether we are at home or away because I feel most at home behind a cutting board, stove top or sink. Also, one of my greatest weaknesses is the inability to be idle, so I step up when something I like to do (cooking) needs doing.
I started out with a basic pizza dough. I made the first batch at my sister- and brother-in-law’s house in the breadmaker. Then, a few miles away in my mother-in-law’s house, I made a second batch of dough by hand and the aioli. Finally, I assembled and baked everything at my father-in-law’s house. Thank goodness for great in-laws… they all let me take over their well equipped kitchen and my awesome SIL even provided refreshments for this chef- frosty margaritas!
dough, mozzarella, ricotta & aioli
red pepper, mushrooms, & chicken sausage
cherry tomatoes, broccoli, & garlic
–Kilpatrick Family Farm CSA–
– local restaurant, Oswego NY-
zucchini, basil, oregano
Dough: Dissolve 1 tablespoon yeast in 1 1/2 cup warm water with 1 tablespoon honey.
Once proofed (foamy on the top, about 2-5 minutes), mix in 2 cups white flour, 2 cups whole wheat flour and 2 tablespoons good olive oil. You could also substitute some of the whole wheat flour with spelt flour or oat flour. I’ve had success with both. Experiment!
Knead for about 5 minutes on a lightly floured counter/board/other clean surface. Put your dough baby back in the bowl (sometimes I oil the bowl, sometimes I forget and it turns out just fine) and cover with a damp towel. Let it sit for an hour or two, depending on how warm it is in your kitchen (if it’s 88 degrees outside it will only take about 45 minutes… did you know we get heat waves here in upstate NY??) until doubled, give or take, in size.
Once risen, punch down the dough and divide into two balls. This recipe is enough for two pizzas. Roll the dough to fit your pan. I generally use a 16 inch baking stone or standard size cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. When using the stone, I dust it with cornmeal first. For a metal pan, oil lightly with good olive oil.
I made four pizzas to feed our crowd.
PIZZA ONE: Aioli + Fresh Tomatoes and Basil
Then, I spread it with fresh garlic scape aioli.
Next, I chopped up some cherry tomatoes and basil, mixed in a splash of balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt.
I topped the aioli-ed crust with the tomatoes. Done. Yum. This was our “appetizer” pizza since it was ready first and everyone was starving because I was trying to take photos while cooking which slowed me down!
PIZZA 2: White (Ricotta) with Garlic and Broccoli
For this one, I topped a rolled dough with homemade ricotta (stay tuned for the recap of our cheesemaking party here on FSC!!), chopped, lightly sauteed broccoli and a drizzle of olive oil. Baked at 450 for about 10 minutes. Next time I’d add SALT AND GARLIC. Kick it up baby. I need more spice in my life than this pie has to offer. On the bright side, my toddlers gobbled it right up.
PIZZA 3: Saucy-Sausage, Mushroom and Homemade Mozzarella
This one was, hands down, my favorite. I’ve actually never purchased chicken sausage before but my father-in-law happened to have this in his refrigerator and we added it at the last minute, thank goodness! Yum!
I started with the standard rolled dough, topped with about* 1 cup tomato sauce, 1 1/2 cups shredded fresh, homemade mozzarella, 1 cup mushrooms (sliced and lightly sauteed just to take the ‘raw’ out) and 4 chicken sausages (these were the mock italian style kind, also sliced and lightly sauteed to warm up, they come already cooked). Baked for about 10 minutes at 450 degrees. Spicy, saucy and ‘shroomy, just the way I like it!
*Apologies again, I have a hard time measuring anything when I cook, especially pizza!
And finally, for the awesome vegetarians in my life,
PIZZA 4: Zucchini-Oregano-Red Pepper with Fresh Mozzarella
You get the drill… dough, 1 cup sauce, fresh mozz (slices this time), thin sliced zucchini and red bell pepper (lightly sauteed) plus a hefty handful of fresh picked chopped oregano. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees. I am ashamed to admit I was too full to try this one. But, I believe the fact that there were no leftovers is a testament to it’s deliciousness. Try it and let me know! I might this weekend now that my garden is OVERFLOWING with zucchini!
If you’ve made it this far into this epic pizza party post, I will leave you with a few final notes:
1) Cook with family, it can be great fun!
2) Make pizza dough. Look in your garden or fridge and find something to throw on top. Someone is bound to find it tasty!
3) Once in a while, liberate yourself from measuring devices. If this is hard for you, pizza is a great place to start. Trust me, it’s fun!