Tuesday, November 28, 2006

A Purist Dreams

Three groups of people walk into a pizza parlor.

There are the, let’s call them the purists, for whom pepperoni, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil are the necessary and exclusive components to even consider calling something a pizza. Maybe an olive or an anchovy could appear on occasion. But that’s it.

Then there’s the indulgers. Who pile the pies high with long lists of diverse ingredients on top of the poor crust, until the thing is so tall, it is hardly edible in a practical sense. Not satisfied with pepperoni, they add sausage, ham, meatballs, everything they can think of. Along with any number of different vegetables, mushrooms, who knows what all. Better to have some of everything than risk leaving anything out, is the motto.

Then there are the ones who dare to put unheard of things on top of a crust and deem it a pizza. The innovators. The dreamers. The crazy ones.

This is nothing new. There is an entire chain restaurant dedicated to offering a few dozen non-traditional ingredients on top of a baked crust, and calling it a pizza. Actually, a California pizza, to be more precise.

Generally speaking, I tend not to be much of a traditionalist. More a break the rules type. Eyes closed and jump is more in line with my motto. So, you might expect to find me in the innovators camp on this topic. And, for the most part, I am when it comes to most types of foods.

Until we get to pizza.

For some reason, well, not some reason, but for a very specific reason, that involves wonderful pizzas made by hand in a small pizza parlor after midnight, with the dough stretched to fantastic diameters, heaped high with mozzarella, spicy tomato sauce, pepperoni, and nothing else, said pizza fresh from the oven and surrounded by a dozen or so friends, for that reason, I tend towards the purists side when it comes to pizza. The memories are too strong.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I understand that pesto pizza is fine. And that teriyaki chicken and tofu and whatever can be baked onto a crust. And that it might even taste good. Good and fine in the sense that such things do not have to be directly outlawed, and that the possibility of the death penalty for even suggesting putting such things on a pizza is maybe just a bit too much. But I have never quite gotten to the point where I, deep in my soul, have agreed that such a thing is a pizza.

So when TeenGirl suggested pizza for dinner, I, of course, envisioned a somewhat purist style pie. Lots of tomatoes, mozzarella, pepperoni, with a pool of molten grease in the center. You know, pizza!

She, however, had an entirely different idea.

Together, we made a very nice whole wheat pizza dough (already a stretch for me to associate anything whole wheat with pizza). Which she baked with just some fresh tomatoes and goat cheese. It actually looked pretty good. Primarily because it very much resembled a purist pizza.

She then took a jump off the cliff by then making a spinach and white bean salad, with a powerful lemon juice and garlic dressing, which she proceeded to place on top of the baked pizza. Along with a few shavings of parmesan cheese.

The result, if not directly something I would deem pizza in my book, was delicious. And dramatic to look at. And, in a sense, practical. You had your carbs (whole grain of course), your protein in the form of cheese and beans, and your salad, all at once.

To balance this novel pizza concept, TeenBoy made a more purist style pie, with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, pepperoni and basil. Albeit on the whole wheat crust. None the less, very good as well.

So after a slice or two of a dreamer’s innovation, which I actually enjoyed very much, I reverted back to my purist obsession. And contemplated the oddly disjointed pizza emotions raging inside me as I sipped my glass of Bordeaux.

Print Recipe

The Dreamer’s Salad Pizza with Goat Cheese
Recipe by surfindaave
Makes 2 large pies

500 grams whole wheat flour, plus extra for kneading
200 grams white flour
2 packets dry yeast
pinch of sugar
1 tsp salt
3-4 tbsp olive oil
12 to 16 ounces of goat cheese
8 fresh roma tomatoes, cut into slices
1 large bunch of baby spinach
2 15 ounce cans of white beans, such as cannelloni, drained well
2-3 cloves garlic
juice of one lemon
salt, pepper
parmesan curls, for garnish

Make the pizza dough:
In a large bowl, combine the flours. Mound the flour, and make a depression in the center. Pour the yeast into the depression, add some lukewarm water, a pinch of sugar, and a punch of flour. Stir gently to moisten yeast, and let proof for 10 minutes. When yeast is foamy, sprinkle salt and olive oil around outside of flour mound. Add some lukewarm water to the bowl and begin mixing with a wooden spoon. Continue adding just as much water as necessary and mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and all the flour is incorporated. Move the dough to a floured board and knead briskly for 15 minutes. Place in a warm oven to rise for 1 hour.

When the dough has risen, divide into two equal pieces. On a flat surface lined with parchment paper, roll or press dough into the desired pizza shape (round or rectangle), pushing up the edges.

Brush the bottom (only!) of the shaped dough with some olive oil.

Preheat the oven to the highest temperature it will go – mine goes to 500ºF on a good day. An oven stone is the ideal surface to bake the pizza on, but a baking sheet will do as well.

Make the pizzas:
Line the bottom of the shaped dough with slices of tomato. Crumble the goat cheese and sprinkle the entire bottom of the shaped dough evenly with cheese.

Bake the pizzas for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust and cheese are browned. Remove from oven.

While the pizzas are baking, whisk the lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil, whisking, until the dressing is emulsified.

In a large bowl, toss the baby spinach leaves with the drained beans. Pour the dressing on top, and toss well. Divide the salad between the two pizzas, heaping the salad directly in the center of the hot pizzas. Garnish with a few parmesan curls. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

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