Monday, June 2, 2008

Pear and Potato Pizza with Mint-Oregano Pesto

Here I am in action, so fast I can hardly be seen!


"Peace"-a pizza!

This is an older recipe, first dating from November of 2002! I've made it three times since then, and each time, this has been a winner.

This sounds odd, but it is a great pizza. The mint oregano pesto plays with the starchiness of the potato and the sweetness of the pear. The cheese compliments both. It was assembled out of leftover bits from our pantry when I was trying to avoid going to the store for groceries, and it was so good that we made it again, to see if it was a fluke. It wasn't.
The crust:
(This makes two crusts, freeze one, or make another pizza or cinnamon rolls. Halving the crust recipe has NEVER worked for me, the crust comes out horribly.) I've taken to using a focaccia dough for this, it has more oil, and gets crispier. For a less fattening crust, use a third of the oil... It isn't absolutely necessary for the chemistry of the bread, but it sure tastes good. By the way, a good olive oil is essential, I recommend a strong, flavorful estate bottled olive oil.)

1 and 1/3 cup of warm water (115 degrees or so.)
a packet of baker's yeast (about a tablespoon)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 and 1/2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of salt

Place water, yeast and oil in the work bowl of a food processor, blend for a few seconds. add the flour and salt, run for thirty secnds or until the dough comes together in a ball. Turn out onto a floured surface, separate into two balls, and knead for about a minute. place each into an oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place (about 80 degrees) for an hour. (If you lack an 80 degree place, put the bowls in an oven that was been heated to warm, (generally, this is 200 degrees) and then turned off, and let sit for about five minutes, so that the temp inside the oven is no greater than about 115 degrees farenheit. Any hotter than this, and you will kill the yeast. Let this sit in the warm oven for forty-five minutes.) If you lack a food processor, you can mix the ingredients in a bowl, then turn out onto a floured surface, and knead by hand for five to ten minutes, until the dough is soft and firm, but yeilding about the texture of an earlobe. Let rise as before.

The Potatoes:
two medium new potatoes (yukon gold are good)
a tablespoon of fresh rosemary, diced
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cracked black pepper
a half a tablespoon of olive oil

Slice two medium new potatoes into very thin slices, put in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and rosemary, drizzle the oil over, and toss.
You have a couple of optins for cooking. You can grill these potatoes over high heat for 5 minutes per side on a grill pan or BBQ. This is fantastic and by far the recommended method. You can also opt to bake them:
Spread the potaotes out on a baking sheet, and if you don't have the dough in there, bake in a 350 degree oven for ten minutes or so, or until they have lost most of thier crispiness.

Once the potatoes or dough come out of it, the oven will need to be ramped up to five hundred degrees for at least a half hour before you put the pizza in. If you have a pizza stone, put it in before you heat up the oven.

The pesto:
1/4 loose cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 loose cup fresh mint leaves
5 to 10 peppercorns
A pinch of salt
3 cloves garlic, diced
A dash of olive oil

Put the oregano, mint, garlic, peppercorns, and a pinch of salt into a mortar. Grind to a rough paste. The salt should pull the oils from the mint and garlic and make it a wet mix, if you have trouble, add a little of the olive oil to make a loose paste, but nothing runny. This pizza has enough oil as it is. You will only have about a tablespoon of pesto, do not be alarmed. This is plenty.

The onion base:
One half of a large sweet onion, such as a bermuda or vedalia or walla walla
A bit of olive oil for the pan
A sprinkle of salt
A half tablespoon of stone ground dijon mustard
A half tablespoon of cream sherry, mirin, sake, sweet vermouth or white wine

Slice the onion thin. Heat oil over a medium flame, and then add the onion and salt. The salt will pull the water from the onion, and it will begin to go clear, and then to brown, add the mustard and sherry , stir until the mustard wine sauce covers the onions, be careful, this may burn.

The rest of the assembly:
Three small seckle pears or one large bosc pear
A good cheese for pears and potatoes, like a blue cheese or goat cheese. In this incarnation, it was plain old goat cheese. I've used both a gorgonzola and "drunken goat" cheese, with fantastic results.
A dash of olive oil
Some salt.

Take the crust, and carefully stretch it out until it makes a 12 to 18 inch round (depending upon how thin you like the crust.) Add no more flour, and if the pizza is wonkily shaped, live with it! Don't ball it up and re-stretch, unless you plan on letting it rise in-between. Both of these things (extra flour after the last rise, and over-working the dough,) will make the pizza too tough. Place on a pie pan or pizza stone. If you want, you can let the crust rise again for about a half hour at this point. It makes the crust breadier. If you leave it as is, it will be thin, almost crackerlike. Regardless of your choice, after the bread has risen again or no, spread the onions evenly over the crust, arrange the potatoes in a a thin layer over the onions. (You may have some left over, after the pizza is done, put them back into the oven on the cookie sheet until they brown, they make a good snack.) Slice the pears into coin sized chunks and spread over the potatoes. You want about half to three quarters as many pears as potatoes. Take your pesto and put a dab here, a dab there, in little bits no larger than a penny, all over the pizza... use it all. Using a brush, brush the crust of the pizza with olive oil, and sprinkle a tiny bit of salt all the way around.
Put your pizza into a 500 degree oven for at least ten minutes, but more like 12, until the potatoes and crust are browning. Add your cheese at the end, after you remove it from the oven.

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