Saturday, January 5, 2013

Easy Pizza for Tough Times

Back to Apron Anxiety.  Back again in NY but feeling miserable, Alyssa has exiled herself from the kitchen, only to find her way back again while on the mend from being sick.  She's regained her appetite and instinctively knows that nothing can quell her hunger pangs more than her own cooking.  What does she make?  Pizza, of course!  Since she's just recovering from the flu, she decides to "cheat a little" and gets some dough and marinara from a nearby pizza shop.  She then caramelizes some onions, shreds mozzarella and cheddar, grabs a handful of basil leaves from her parents' window box, and adorns the dough with all of it.  Twenty minutes later, she pulls the pizza out of the oven; it is exactly what she needed.  She names the recipe "Easy Pizza After a Tough Time."

I'm sitting at my kitchen counter, feeling a bit melancholy.  And tired.  My tea (I am sipping almond cookie rooibos) is helping.  (How can it not?  It's quite literally a cookie in liquid form.)  The slice of apple pie I just ate is helping, too.  Then I think back to last weekend, when I tried out the pizza recipe, and that helps, too.

I've never made pizza before, so despite the simplicity of the recipe, I am excited to try my hand at it.  I caramelize some onions and chop up some basil leaves.  To give the pizza my own flair, I also roast some eggplant and slice some chorizo and salami that I have on hand to serve at my New Year's Eve party.  Along with some shredded mozzarella, I have its rich, luscious, cream-filled cousin burrata (it aptly translates to "buttery" in Italian).  When all of the ingredients are assembled, I roll out some ready-made pizza dough.  Preferring less sauce to more, so as not to have it overpower the other ingredients, I ladle only a few small spoonfuls of marinara onto the dough.  (I cheated too; I got my dough and marinara from FreshDirect).  Then I top the dough with everything but the basil and burrata.  These I add at the very last.

The pizza looks and tastes amazing.  Rustic is the first word that comes to mind.  The crust is golden, the veggies and meats are cooked to perfection, and the burrata has coated everything with a rich, creamy layer.  The only slight disappointment is the basil, which is wilted, although not burnt.  I decide it only needs to be in the oven for 1-2 minutes at most.  It is a simple, hearty meal.  Even thinking about it makes a tough time easier to get through.  I think Alyssa is onto something.

Easy Pizza After a Tough Time
Adapted from Apron Anxiety.  Serves 2.

1 ball pizza dough
1/4 cup flour, or enough for dusting the surface
3 tablespoons tomato sauce (or more, if desired)
1 ball of fresh burrata cheese (you will only need about 4 oz.)
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 small eggplant
a few slices of cured meats of your choice
1/2 cup fresh herbs (such as basil leaves)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to broil.

Peel the eggplant, and slice into 1/2-inch thick rounds.  Sprinkle with a bit of salt and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes.  (This is done to draw out the eggplant's moisture.)  Rinse and gently pat dry.  Place eggplant slices on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Brush each slice of eggplant with olive oil.  Broil for 4-5 minutes.  This can be done a few hours ahead or even the day before.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Grease a non-stick pizza pan, or line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, and dust with flour.  Roll out the dough with a rolling pin.  Transfer the dough to the pan or cookie sheet.

Heat a skillet over medium heat, then add 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Saute onion slices until very soft, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.

Slice the burrata.  Set aside.

Ladle the tomato sauce over the dough.  Spread it evenly with the back of a spoon.  Scatter the cured meats on top of the sauce, then layer the onion and eggplant slices.  Season with salt and pepper.

Place the pizza on the middle rack in the oven.  Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees.  After about 10-12 minutes, before the crust gets to be a golden brown, add the burrata slices to the pizza in the oven, so that it gets just melted.  A minute afterwards, sprinkle some basil leaves onto the pizza.

Remove the pizza from the oven, and let rest a few minutes.

Serve hot.

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