Monday, October 10, 2011

Homemade Pizza and Freezing Vegetables

I am the worst blogger ever!! Almost two weeks since my last post. Time has been flying by lately! So what brought me back today? Well, I fell asleep on my futon last night. My old, metal frame, squished mattress, taken-to-four-different-apartments futon. It is not very comfortable, and my back is killing me. It's the perfect excuse to not clean my house, so here I am!

Last night I made homemade pizza. I almost ordered in, but I spent my "fun money" budget from my last paycheck already, and I'm desperately trying to stick to that plan. So I threw together the dough, and watched an episode of Mad Men while it rose.

I highly recommend investing in a pizza stone. It's really difficult to get a crispy bottom crust without it. You could preheat the sheet pan you're going to bake it on, that should help. But really, I got my pizza stone at a kitchen outlet store for 12 bucks. You can't even get a large pizza for $12 at most places. Do yourself a favor and get one.

Let's talk dough. It's not as scary as some people think. If you have a stand mixer, it basically makes itself. My latest favorite dough recipe is from somewhere on the internet. It's nice and bread-y, with a little bit of chew, and bakes up with a nice crispy outside on the edges.

Homemade Pizza
makes 1 large pizza, or 2 thin crusted pizzas

2 c bread flour
1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 c very warm water

- Gently stir together the yeast, water, and sugar in a small bowl. Let stand until foamy - usually I mix this first then let it hang out while I get everything else in the bowl of the mixer. If it does not get foamy after 5 min or so, either your water was too hot and you killed the yeast, or it has been in your pantry/fridge for a long time and it's dead. Start over. If it's bubbly, proceed.

- Pour the yeast mixture into everything else. Fit your mixer with the dough hook. Start on low speed, until a mostly cohesive dough forms. Then you can turn it up to medium, then medium high. Knead for about 5 min.

- Remove the dough hook, and pick up your dough. Form it into a smooth ball, and drizzle a little olive oil into the mixing bowl. Roll the dough around in it so it's covered. Cover the bowl with a clean towel or plastic wrap, and go do something else for an hour. Don't mess with the dough, just let it rise.

- Now would be a good time to get your toppings ready. If you're using frozen veggies, pull them out of the freezer and spread them out onto a plate lined with a double thickness of paper towels to drain as they thaw. I also took this time to caramelize some onions, because they're way better than raw onions. I also thawed some crushed tomatoes. (I buy a can and portion it into small plastic containers, like the kind you use for jello shots... not that I know anything about those...)

- About 30 min into the rising, put your pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven, and preheat to 425.

- Once your dough is ready, carefully remove the hot stone from the oven (or baking sheet.) Stretch the dough out (I stretched out in the air most of the way, then put it onto the stone and finished pressing it into shape. You could roll it out on a floured surface if you prefer.) The dough will immediately start to cook on the hot stone.

- Spread your sauce on, sprinkle with cheese, then your toppings. (Or toppings then cheese if you like to do things that way.) Pop back in the oven (do NOT forget that your pizza stone is still hot - use an oven mitt or you will be sorry!) and bake until the crust is evenly browned and the cheese is bubbly. I'm not exactly sure how long this takes, but I think it was half an episode of Mad Men - 20 min or so.

- Let cool for 10 min so you can cut it without the cheese going everywhere!

- Leftovers can be reheated in a 350 oven for 5-10 min.

As far as toppings go, obviously pizza is great because you can put whatever the heck you want on it, and it's a great way to use up stuff in the fridge and/or freezer. I love lots of veggies on my pizza, but I rarely have fresh ones since I don't eat as many vegetables as I should. When I do buy fresh, I eat what I can then freeze the rest. Some instructions for my most common frozen vegetables:

Peppers - I usually buy bell peppers in all colors and poblanos (they're spicy but not as hot as jalapenos.) Slice off the tops and bottoms (those can be diced and frozen as well) then cut a slit down the side of the pepper so you have one big strip. Trim off the ribs and remove any seeds that don't want to let go. Slice into strips. Lay out on a sheet pan lined with plastic wrap. Make sure no pieces are touching. Freeze until firm, then pop into a plastic freezer bag. Label with the date and the type of pepper.

Onions - For some reason, I always decide that I need two onions when they're on my grocery list. I don't know why I do this. I never use them all. So I peel them, and slice into rings (usually about 1/4 of an inch for me, but whatever you like.) Freeze in the same manner as the bell peppers. I like rings because I can trim them into strips if I want (just cut the rings in half!) or dice or mince or whatever. You can't un-dice or un-mince an onion, so this gives you more options.

Broccoli and Carrots - A little more labor intensive, but it's really about as difficult as boiling water. Seriously. Just boil a pot of water, trim the broccoli into florets. I usually cut my carrots into rounds but it's up to you. (Peel first please!!) Pop them in the boiling water with a pinch of salt for a minute or two, shock them in ice water to stop the cooking and keep the color, then drain well and freeze as described above.

Zucchini - Shred and pack into plastic freezer bags. Squeeze the air out and press the zucchini flat. When ready to use, drain in a paper towel lined colander - use for potato and zucchini pancakes, or zucchini bread, etc. (And no, I don't put carrots or zucchini on my pizza!)

I just had some reheated pizza for lunch - just as good as it was last night!

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