Thursday, July 16, 2009

A different pizza every night

If you like New York-style pizza, there are plenty of great choices in Houston. I prefer a traditional Italian pizza -- thin crust, not too bready, with a tiny bit of sauce -- and that is harder to find. My favorites would be Dolce Vita or Arcodoro, but neither is a great destination for the family (and David and I never go out these days without the kids). So even though I absolutely love a good pizza, it became a rare part of our diet.

The vegetable garden, combined with a short article in the New York Times Sunday magazine, changed our stance on pizza. The article gave a quick and easy pizza-dough recipe from Jeffrey Steingarten, and admonished all readers to go out immediately to purchase a pizza stone and wheel. David used our restaurant-owners' courtesy discount at Sur La Table to purchase the necessary equipment, spending about $60, and we started experimenting. Steingarten's recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas, and keeps well in the refrigerator for about a week. The only inconvenience is that the dough takes about 3 hours to rise before it can be refrigerated, making it difficult to prepare on a workday, so doughmaking has become part of my Sunday routine.

With the basics of the crust mastered, all that was left was to decide on the toppings. For our first homemade pizza, we used a recipe for a potato, rosemary and fontina pizza. It was amazing, and David and I polished it off quickly. A few days later, it was time to use up the dough in the refrigerator, but we didn't have everything to make the same pizza again. David decided to improvise, and used eggplant from our garden in lieu of the potatoes and caciocavallo cheese instead of fontina. The results were even better this time around, and emboldened David to start creating pizzas based on whatever we had handy in the garden.

We've made a variety of pizzas using senposai, tomatoes, eggplant, mint, basil and rosemary from the garden. Last night, the pizza was topped with eggplant (cloud nine and black beauty), mint, yellow pear tomatoes, and feta. The white and purple eggplant, yellow tomatoes, green herbs and white cheese made a great presentation, and this pizza was David's tastiest creation yet. I've never really bought into the idea of seasonal eating before -- I want brussel sprouts and broccoli rabe all the time, not just in the winter. But, now I understand the beauty of cooking with what's fresh and at hand. And this approach inspires a creativity in the kitchen that has led us to unexpected and amazing results. It's one of the many rewards of having a vegetable garden right outside the kitchen door.

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