Love Pizza

Pizza is amazing. I love it’s versatility. The ability to be sweet, salty or both. It is so easy to prepare homemade pizza and we can eat it with our hands. What is there not to love about pizza?

Valentines day is just around the corner. I know what your thinking…..do we really need a specific date to celebrate our love for one another? And my answer is …probably yes. In today’s society we literally run ourselves amuck juggling jobs, going back to school, kids, sports, etc. Unfortunately we often leave little time to take the time to appreciate our close friends and partners and tell them how important they are in our lives.

I read that in Japan Valentines day is usually celebrated with gifts of chocolate. However store-bought chocolate is not considered to be a gift of true love so the chocolate is usually made by hand. What a great idea! When I was a young girl, my father took me to see the Mexican film Like Water for Chocolate. The main character is constantly cooking the most wonderful mexican dishes but she also has a gift. Every meal is made with her heart and all who enjoy her food are undeniably filled with the passion and emotions that she used to prepare her dishes.

There is no better day than Valentines day to test this theory out. Sure going out to fancy restaurants can be absolutely fabulous, but what better way to really show appreciation than to spend some time in the kitchen to make something that will nurture the body and soul of the people we love.  It does not take much to create our own perfect little romantic dinner at home with a candle and great bottle of wine to go along with it.

caramelizing the shallots

With just a touch of sea salt, cane sugar, oil and red wine, these caramelized shallots make all the difference.

Caramelized shallots, goat cheese and arugula pizza

I love making these little mini heat-shaped pizzas and they are small enough that each person can choose their own toppings. A few years ago in Krakow Poland, I discovered caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza when a friend from Argentina prepared them for a dinner party. Since then, I’ve been hooked on this sweet and savory deliciousness. In my version I use caramelized shallots, fresh goat cheese and top it with spicy arugula.

The Crust

If you already have a favorite pizza crust recipe, stick with it. If you don’t, I encourage you to try this one from Jamie Oliver! If you are gluten-free, one of my favorite gluten-free blogs gluten-free girl and the chef makes a fantastic crust and is one I make very regularly in my home.

RECIPE 

  • 5 cups high gluten bread flour (or 1 kilo)
  • 2 cups semolina flour (or 200 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 (1/4 ounce) dried yeast packets (or a 14 gram in 2 sachets)
  • 1 tablespoon raw cane sugar
  • 4 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water (or 640 mL)

Directions:

Sift the flours and salt onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a large measuring cup, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.

Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about 1 hour until the dough has doubled in size.

Now remove the dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it around a bit to push the air out with your hands – this is called punching down the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using straightaway, divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas.

Timing-wise, it’s a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Don’t roll them out and leave them hanging around for a few hours, though – if you are working in advance like this it’s better to leave your dough, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator. However, if you want to get them rolled out so there’s 1 less thing to do when your guests are round, simply roll the dough out into rough circles, about 1/4-inch thick, and place them on slightly larger pieces of olive-oil-rubbed and flour-dusted aluminum foil. You can then stack the pizzas, cover them with plastic wrap, and pop them into the refrigerator.

The Toppings (for one medium size pizza)

  • About 10 golden shallots
  • Fresh goat cheese
  • A couple handfuls of arugula
  • 2-3 tablespoons of red wine
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Directions: Start by preheating your oven to 200 C/400 F. Chop your shallots into thin slices but leaving them round and sauté them in a pan for about 15 minutes with the olive oil, salt and sugar until they become a soft and translucent and begin to caramelize. Then add in your wine. When the onions are done set them aside and get your pizza dough ready for toppings (I prefer to pre-cook my pizza crusts for about 5 minutes before adding the toppings because I like a firm crust but I’ll leave that up to you). First spread on the caramelized onions. Then add your slices of goat cheese. Add as much or as less as you like. Then pop in the oven until the crust is firm and cheese melting. Finish by topping with some delicious arugula that will give a fresh and peppered flavor to your pizza.

Now find a nice bottle of red wine and enjoy.

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