Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Last Night's Dinner ~ Pesto Pizza with Shrimp

I used to make pizzas from scratch regularly, then I got out of the habit and couldn't remember which dough recipe I used, then I tried a dough recipe with yeast that didn't quite fizz (I know the feeling, but, come on, yeast, that's your only purpose in life!), then I attempted the fist-stretching method of shaping dough, like the pizzeria guys do effortlessly, only to wind up with a 36" pizza with an 18" hole in the middle and the crust somewhere down around my knees . . . that's the trouble with dough, when you treat it badly, it gets all vengeful and unforgiving.

Then I asked for a pizza stone two Christmases ago, and my boyfriend gave me a pizza peel to go with it, and I was feeling guilty for warmly welcoming them into my home, only to hide them away in dark drawers. Time to be brave and try, try again.

For the dough recipe, I turned to Evan Kleiman's dependable Cucina Del Mare: Fish and Seafood Italian Style. (We have a lot of cookbooks, but we've probably used this one more than most any other. If you like seafood, simplicity, and Italian food, it's a must.) Her pizza dough recipe makes enough for four 8-inch pizzas, but we used it for two 12-inch-ish pizzas, freezing one ball with good results. Evan's recipe can also be found on the Fine Cooking website. We used some whole wheat flour instead of all white, but otherwise followed the instructions. Patty-cake hands and a rolling pin proved a more foolproof shaping method than my spastic fist twirling.

A pizza stone and pizza peel really do work wonders, just don't overshoot the hot stone when you're ready to peel. I did, but fortunately we managed to coax it back on the stone without burning the skin off our palms or losing the dough down in the stove burners. As for toppings, the less is more rule generally applies. For the first pizza we used a bit of tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, and some sautéed halved baby artichokes. For the second one, we went with one of Evan's suggested combinations (pictured above): basil pesto, sliced garlic, a few onion slices, a bunch of halved shrimp, pine nuts and a touch of parmesan. Cook at 500 for 8-10 minutes. Damned good. One fear overcome, many to go . . .

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