Sunday, June 7, 2009

Magical Pizza

My oven's computer crashed, leaving me oven-less for months. I've done some things with the toaster oven in the interim, but now it looks like a new (new as in Craigslist, not new as in new) oven is on the horizon. Not wanting to make my landlord waste his money buying me a new oven that may not work either (such are the perils of Craigslist), I decided to give the oven one last try last night.

The pizza was a bit of a cheat, but here is the recipe just the same:

Asparagus pizza and pasta
1 ball of fresh pizza dough
1 large organic tomato
1 small organic heirloom tomato (stripey)
3 cloves organic garlic
1 large organic yellow onion
Organic extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Italian spices (rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc or premixed)
1 lb. fresh pasta (I used capellini)
Fresh mozzarella to taste
Hard flavorful cheese such as romano to taste
1 bunch asparagus

Place a pizza stone* on the bottom rack of your oven. Remove other racks if possible. Preheat the oven to its highest temperature (mine goes up to 550 F).
Roll pizza dough into a perfect smooth ball with your hands and leave it to sit on the counter for 10 minutes, preferably wrapped in plastic wrap.

*If you don't have a pizza stone, your pizza may end up a big soggy on the bottom. This is what happened to me. It was tasty despite this.

Peel and roughly chop onion. Peel and finely chop garlic cloves. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a heavy pan on medium high heat until flicked water sputters. Add garlic and push around the pan for one minute, then add the onion along with a large pinch of salt. Stir onions a few times until they are well oiled, then chop tomato and asparagus, keeping heirloom tomato separate.

Once onions are starting to get soft and tasty, add chopped asparagus to pan, stir, and reduce heat to medium. Put a pot of water on to boil, with a teaspoon of salt stirred in. As if that wasn't enough, flatten the pizza dough on a floured pizza pan (or y'know, cookie sheet) and flour the top of the dough. Stir asparagus until fork tender, add italian spices to taste, then reduce heat to keep warm.

Drizzle olive oil on the pizza, and layer with heirloom tomato, s reasonable amount of the cooked asparagus-onion mixture, and fresh mozzarella (if in small balls, it's fine to leave them intact), reserving mozzarella liquid if any. Slide pizza into super hot oven on top of pizza stone, and check after 10 minutes and then every 2 minutes for a nice, brown, tasty crust.

Meanwhile, add chopped tomato to the remaining asparagus mixture (should be most of what you started with), and stir to incorporate. Grate hard cheese over the top of the mixture, and add mozzarella liquid if so desired. If liquid added, raise heat and stir to reduce while pasta boils. Boil pasta to desired doneness or just below, then drain. If undercooked slightly, you can add it to the "sauce" of asparagus et al to finish.

When complete, combine pasta and sauce if not already combined, and remove pizza from oven to rest for five minutes. Add additional salt if needed.

The pasta turned out really well, the sauce combined well with the cilantro capellini I picked up. The pizza dough I used had sort of a sourdough taste, which added a delicious flavor to the other simple ingredients. I didn't use a pizza stone, but I think this falls under the cardinal rule of pizza, in that there is no such thing as a bad pizza, even if it's soggy. The crust around the edge was perfect, and that makes up for having to eat the rest with a fork.

The magic is that the oven worked at all, though it took a ridiculous amount of time to preheat and made a pretty egregious noise while doing so. I'm going to hold out for a new one.

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