Recipes for Main Courses
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Review of "Recipes for Main Courses"
I suspect we're all craving a bit of comfort right now...a distraction from the news. My therapy sessions usually take place in the kitchen and tonight will be no different. I'll be making one of my favourite comfort foods: homemade pizza. It's surprisingly easy to make from scratch and, therefore, a project that one person can easily manage alone but who wants to be alone right now? Invite a few friends over or round up the kids, the in-laws--whomever--and make it a group effort.******************
This recipe will make one thin-crust 12-inch pizza. It is easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc.THE DOUGH
(adapted from Lynne Rosetto Kasper's recipe in her book "The Italian Country Table")
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. warm water (max. 100 deg. F)
1/2 tsp. dry active yeast or 1 tsp. fresh yeast
a pinch or two of sugar
1 tsp. flour.
While the yeast is dissolving, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl or food processor (with dough blade). Add the yeast mixture and use a fork to bring it all together, then roll up your sleeves (if you haven't already) and work the dough with your hands until it forms a ball. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and continue to knead for about 10-12 minutes. That may sound like a long time but you'll notice the texture of the dough will gradually become more elastic.If you're using a food processor, simply pulse it a few times until the dough comes together. Knead by hand for a few minutes if you like but it usually isn't necessary. (It's a nice therapeutic activity, however.)
Shape the dough into a round.Oil a large bowl and place the dough upside down in the bowl to coat the top with oil. Then turn it rightside up again. Cover the bowl with a damp towel or a sheet of plastic wrap and set it in a warm area to rise for 3-4 hours.
While the dough is rising, make your sauce. It's so easy to do that you may decide never to buy the jarred stuff again! At least, I'm going to try to convince you to do that.
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced (more if you love the stuff, less if you don't. You can also substitute in onion or shallots if you prefer)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
a few leaves of fresh basil (or dried if that's all you have.)
Using a blender or emulsifier puree the tomatoes until smooth. (I suppose you could also buy pureed tomatoes, but I like starting off with whole ones.)In a saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, taking care not to allow the garlic to brown. Add the tomatoes and salt and stir. Add basil. Simmer over low heat until the sauce had thickened a bit, adjusting the salt as needed.
The possibilities for pizza toppings are endless. The most important one, of course, is the cheese. I use only fresh unsalted mozzarella packed in water. It doesn't have to be buffalo mozzarella, though, which is usually much more expensive than the cow's milk version. For a 12-inch pizza, I use about 125 grams of mozzarella, cut up into small cubes or thinly sliced. The thing to remember about this cheese is that it's wet (packed in water, right?). Remove it from the package and gently squeeze it in your hands to release some of the excess water. Then slice or dice away. You'll probably still see some liquid on the pizza while it's baking and even after you've removed it from the oven. Let the pizza rest for a minute or two before slicing and the cheese will set nicely.
Another combination I like is roasted red pepper, carmelised onion and goat cheese.To roasted the red (or yellow or orange) pepper:
* Rub the whole pepper in a little olive oil and place it over a gas flame or under the grill. Turn it so that it blackens evenly all around and then place in a paper bag for a few minutes. Peel the blackened skin off the pepper, cut it open to remove the seeds and veins, and slice into strips.
To carmelise onions:
* Slice a small onion into thin rings (or half rings). Heat a teaspoon or two of butter in a small pot and add the onion. Allow to cook very slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion congeals into a translucent mass (yum!). Add a dash of balsamic vinegar or a pinch of sugar during the carmelisation process, if you like.
Other great pizza toppings: grilled or breaded aubergine, olives, spinach, artichokes, mushrooms, plus--of course--meats and sausages for carnivorous types...getting hungry yet?BAKING EQUIPMENT
I use a 12-inch non-stick pizza pan, the surface of which is perforated with hundreds of small holes. I picked it up in the States and I think it was the best $8 I have spent (ok, $16 now; I have two for the occasions when I'm serving several people and need to keep production rolling). The holes allow air to circulate between the bottom of the pan and the crust so that the crust becomes crisp. It's practically impossible to end up with a soggy crust if you use one of these pans.
Pizza stones have become pretty popular over the last few years but I've never used one personally, so can't really comment on them.PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Set your oven temperature to the highest setting (mine goes up to about 500 degrees F). Note: A 500 degree oven is really going to warm up your kitchen--if not the whole house--so you may not want to endeavour to make pizza at the height of summer. But then again...summer doesn't get all that hot in the UK, does it?
By now the dough should have risen nicely. Press down the center of the dough and fold the sides over and reshape into a ball. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and roll it out to fit your pizza pan or stone.Smooth the sauce over the pizza and add your toppings. DO NOT add the mozzarella or fresh basil (if you're using it) yet!
Bake for about 10 minutes then remove from the oven. NOW place the mozzarella or other cheese on the pizza, along with any fresh herbs. Use a spatula to loosen the pizza from the pan and place it directly on the oven rack for another 3-5 mintues (or until the cheese has melted and the crust is browned to your liking). This last step is especially important if you don't have a perforated pizza pan and want a crisp crust.No matter how tempted you may be to dig in right away, let the pizza to rest for a minute or two before slicing to allow the cheese and other toppings to set.
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Listed on Ciao since: 16/11/2001