Saturday, March 20, 2010

Pizza night!

One batch of dough makes 4 pizzas, which is the perfect amount of pizza for 4 people. (Unless you invite my stepmother, then you can invite a fifth). I joke that pizza night is really easy and relaxing. It kind of is for me, JustAwesome does all the work. I usually get the ingredients. The trick is great ingredients. Thankyouverymuch.

Margherita ala JA

The History of Pizza (in our house)
JA took a class with pizza legend Mark Bello, pie pro and founder of Pizza A Casa, which was held at our local Whole Foods. Usually he hosts classes in his apartment but starting on April 15, he’ll be opening a school on our block. He’ll teach you how to make great dough, in a regular house oven, as opposed to a pro oven that goes up to a bazillion degrees. You’ll never order in again. Take this class, it is a tasty and fun way to spend an afternoon and it’ll change your life.

Pizza in Thoiry, homemade peel

The Competition
JA’s whole family is really into making pizza. From Edinburgh to Thoiry, France to San Francisco, great pizza is being made. JA made a batch in France last Easter, for which Cousin Dan made a peel in his private wood shop (in about 15 minutes!). These people mean business.


On the Menu
We always serve a Margherita — fresh mozzarella, a simple, uncooked red sauce, pecorino and finished with basil. One of the pies is often a smoked mozzarella with sun-dried tomato and a spritz of balsamic. Usually, we have one or two “experimental pies.” My favorite is a white pie of sauteed potato and leek with pecorino, rosemary and finished with truffle oil. Last night JA went all Mario Batali and threw an egg on top (and fresh oregano). It was rich and yummy tasting. We’ll be doing this again. Our fourth had fresh ricotta with basil and the “good” olive oil. The ricotta hails from Salvatore Brooklyn. You MUST try. And try their smoked version. Anne sells it.

I like to throw arugula on my slices.

Wash down with wine or beer. Chase with gelato from the Lab. (The caramel was made 10 minutes before I bought it!)

Any ideas for future experimental pies?


  1. Two thumbs up, this is just awesome. Tell JA I'm still in awe. Now that we've been induced to home made pizza the downside is we can't eat take out pizza any more and the kids complain if we don't do a family pizza night at weekends (they help just so that they can say they cut the cheese).

    Although I normally favour the simpler combinations, my experimental favourite is: a smear of red sauce just to change the colour of the base, dribbles of caramelised red onions (I caramelise them in a nice fig balsamic from Napa), pancetta, thinly sliced pear and dabs of crumbly goats cheese. Benissimo.

  2. Oh...homemade how do you make something that works out without having an oven that goes up to a bazillion degrees? Don't be shy.

  3. @Gareth, why do you not have your own pizza oven in the yard? Covered in mosaic? JA found plans online and looks at them longingly every other day or so...

    @Candace, really, no secret. Pre-heat the oven and pizza stone. We have a thermometer which gages the exterior temperature of any surface, but that's just for fun. Just pre-heat for an hour as high as the oven goes (500?).

  4. I had the pleasure of eating one of Jodi's pizzas (actually made by JA). It was truly delicious. And I especially loved the crispy texture of the crust.

  5. I like this....! Keep it going!!

  6. Delicious! If you can make pizza base you can make bread. I have been baking whole-wheat bread as it is difficult to come by here in the ol' France but yesterday tried it with Italian foccacia bread flour as I'd run out of whole-wheat. Here's the recipe I use from You can cut the loaves in half and freeze them.
    1.4kg/3lbs organic wholewheat flour (or strong white bread flour)
    50g/2oz fresh yeast or 25g/1oz of dried yeast (look in the health food shop for small blocks of fresh yeast in the chilled cabinet)
    1 tbsp concentrated apple juice
    1 dessert spoon salt
    850ml/1.5 pints lukewarm water
    2tblsp sunflower oil (I used olive oil for the white bread)
    1. Preheat oven to 200C/400F/Gas mark 6
    2. Mix apple juice into the water and dissolve the yeast. Stand in a warm place until froth starts to rise to the top. Add the oil.
    3. Put most of the flour into a basin with the salt and add the liquid ingredients. Mix thoroughly adding more flour as necessary until a fairly stiff and not too sticky dough has been formed.
    4. Remove from bowl and knead on a floured surface until the dough is firm but smooth and elastic. Add more flour if necessary. The dough should be kneaded for between 5 and 10 minutes.
    5. Cut dough into 2 and shape into oblongs. Place each piece of dough into a well-oiled loaf tin (2 x 800g/1lb loaf tins).
    6. Leave in a warm place to rise for about half an hour or until it has doubled in size.
    7. Bake for approx. 45 mins. The loaves should be golden brown on top and sound hollow when tapped.
    8. Remove bread from tins and place on a cooling rack. Yum!