When you find ripe heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market in early April, you buy them. And you thank the farmer over and over again. At least that was my mantra this week, when I splurged on a couple of pounds of juicy black zebra cherries and plump yellow pear tomatoes. There are rarely long lines at vendor booths at 9am on a Wednesday morning, but there was a buzz in the air at the sight of fresh tomatoes after a winter without them, and I patiently waited my turn to fill my tote to the brim. These sweet bites of summertime made their way into many of my meals this week, and I couldn't resist tossing a few onto some scratch-made pizza.
For those who know me well, they know that pizza is one of my favorite dishes to prepare. I love any meal that begs you improvise on the spot, yet still yields something familiar and comforting. While there's plenty of room for inventiveness, making dough requires a degree of rule-following that I find therapeutic, especially when life feels a little crazy and out of control, like it's felt lately. I crave the solace that comes with going through the motions of a recipe I know by heart, and that feeling reminds me of the importance of finding balance in all parts of my life when things feel out of whack. Finding peace with the things I can control and the things I can't. Finding balance between the precision of a dough recipe and the imperfectness of the mix-match of toppings, that when paired together create a harmony of flavors and textures.
There's a light breeze flowing through the windows of my apartment as I write this, and the sun is slowly sinking, casting a glow across the garden. I'm perched on the couch with a blanket over my lap and Orson's curled in a ball next to me. Spring is here, and all of the worries I've been carrying with me are feeling less onerous. This weekend has been a much anticipated reprieve from the harsh cold winter, and I'm grateful to have found some time to for self care, in the form of a walk in the park and a warm meal with my sweetheart.
Pizza with Roasted Tomatoes, Oyster Mushrooms and Crispy Bacon
It starts with the crust, and in my opinion, the fluffier, the better. Lately I've been playing with various adaptations of Jim Lahey's no-knead recipe, with hopes of creating a crust that somewhat compares to the delicious pies featured at one of our favorite West Village pizza spots. This dough is the perfect combination of crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside – it's almost naan-like, and it's virtually impossible to resist a second (or third) slice. Add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary to the dough batter if you want to fill your kitchen with a strong, warm, soul-filling aroma the moment you open the oven. Choose your toppings by touching, smelling and tasting whatever's in season, try your best to keep it simple, because if you're like me, it'll be hard to resist scooping up as many vegetables as you can carry.
For the dough (recipe adapted from Jim Lahey's no-knead dough):
> 3 1/2 cups flour (feel free to substitute regular flour for wheat or gluten free flours)
> 2 teaspoons salt
> 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
> 2 teaspoons crushed rosemary
> 1 1/2 cups warm water
For the toppings:
> 1 cup ricotta
> 1/2 cup grated parmesan
> 2 medium tomatoes
> 8 cherry tomatoes
> 5 slices thick bacon
> 1 cup oyster mushrooms
> 1 tablespoon butter
> 1/4 cup scallions, chopped finely
1. Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt and rosemary in a large bowl. While stirring, gradually incorporate the water until the dough is a round sticky mass. Transfer to clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise overnight until it's doubled in size and tiny bubbles have formed on the surface, at least 12 hours.
2. On a floured work space, take the dough from the bowl and divide it in half. If you're only making one pizza, cover one of the halves in plastic wrap and store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Sprinkle flour over the remaining dough, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for at least 1 hour. Set the oven to 475 degrees, generously sprinkle flour over the dough, and shape into a large disk, about 1/2 inch thick. Place it on a baking sheet while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
3. Cook the bacon in a skillet until it's almost crispy and transfer to a small dish to cool. Meanwhile, cook the oyster mushrooms in butter until they're golden brown in color.
4. Combine the ricotta and parmesan in a small bowl, and then carefully spread over the dough with a rubber spatula. Thinly slice the tomatoes and arrange them on the dough. Chop the bacon into inch-long pieces and add them to the pizza, along with the oyster mushrooms. Finely chop the scallions and sprinkle evenly on top of the pizza.
5. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the toppings have crisped. Let cool, slice and serve.