Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pizza, Thyme with Swiss Chard

I love having a garden because it gives me the ability to stroll through my own private produce section whenever I wish without having to leave home. This leads to serendipitous, spontaneous cooking. Serendipity, spontaneity, and a good dose of laziness are true marks of summertime. (Which, as Holly so kindly pointed out, led to me missing my scheduled Wednesday post.)

Last night for dinner I planned on making pizza, simply because I had leftover red sauce in the fridge and could not bring myself to eat anymore pasta for awhile. Kent was overjoyed. After working several years at Roman Coin Pizza in Omaha, and having become quite used to diet of 'za nearly everyday, he begins to feel deprived if he doesn't get pizza often enough.

One of my favorite pizza topping is fresh basil. The basil in my garden has not taken off to the point that harvesting a good handful of leaves was possible, but when I got to WinCo, they were entirely sold out of fresh basil. So I improvised. There are few dishes that adapt themselves so well to whatever is on hand as pizza does. Pizza thrives by the inspiration of the heat of the moment. After all, pizza is like sex, there's never a bad slice.

Perusing the garden at dusk, I decided to improvise with fresh thyme. But the Swiss Chard caught my eye, too. In the last couple of days, it has had a major growth spurt. It's a beautiful chartreuse color, with bubbled, dimpled leaves. The taste is of concentrated fresh, green earthiness. Crisper, my far, than that of fresh spinach.

I added some thinly sliced button mushrooms, and chevre, and I had quite a sensuous, lusty pizza on my hands.

After much trial and error, I finally have perfected a wonderful sourdough pizza dough. Here's the recipe I made with my starter, Norton. Norton seems to be mellowing as he gets older. His aroma is deeper. This dough will provide a fine crumb and a slightly sweet finish. Sourdough takes longer to rise than dough with commercial yeast, but cheating by adding yeast will make the dough too poufy and focaccia-like.

Sourdough Pizza Dough
1 cup sourdough starter (use liquid measuring cup)
1/2 cup warm water (between 105-115 degrees, no warmer)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

Combine starter and warm water. Stir well. Add flour, salt and oil. Stir until rough mass forms. Knead by hand or with stand mixer and dough hook attachment for about 10 to 15 minutes or until dough is elastic and springs back quickly when pinched. Let raise, covered with plastic wrap for 2 hours. Punch down and let raise for at least another 1 more hour, but not more than 3 hours.

Thyme Pizza with Mushroom and Swiss Chard

1 sourdough pizza dough recipe
1 cup pizza sauce (I used straight bottled spaghetti sauce. So, truly, any red sauce/pizza sauce that you like will work!)
12 button mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 cups Swiss Chard, de-stemmed and cut into chiffonade
4-6 sprigs of thyme, stems removed
2 oz. chevre
grated Pecorino
olive oil
fresh ground pepper

Makes 3, 10 -inch, thin crust pizzas.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out or hand toss dough very thin. Spread with sauce. Top with mushrooms, chard, thyme, and cheeses. Drizzle chard with olive oil and top with fresh ground black pepper. Bake directly on a pre-heated pizza stone or on stone hearth* for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottom crust is slightly brown.

* You can turn any conventional oven into a stone hearth. Simply measure your oven, and go to any hardware store and buy enough unglazed porcelain tiles to cover one oven rack. Set tiles directly on middle rack. In my oven, 8, six inch square tiles fit perfectly, side to side. I bake everything on them. The even, direct heat from the tiles is the only way to get a perfectly crisp pizza crust, and at about 5 dollars they are much more economical than the gourmet pizza stones for sale at Williams-Sonoma.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This thyme with swiss chard pizza sounds very very good. You have never lead me astray on your pizza making skills. I wish I had the fresh herbs available that you have. Also, I should get a Norton going. Didn't you give us that recipe earlier? I am now in the moood to make pizza! Mom