Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pizza Heaven

I have pizza on my mind. It might just be my favorite food in the world. I made another trip to the Blooming Hill Farm in NY this past weekend. And again, I went crazy over the grilled pizza with the smoky tomato flavors. My stomach is growling and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. There's nothing like that crispy crust, and the exquisite blended flavors of the sauce, cheese and fresh toppings! And the best and most rewarding part of pizza is that the sky's the limit. There is no end to the vast world of combinations one can concoct! Pizza heaven!

remember this beauty from Blooming Hill Farm?

Which brings me to my friend and neighbor, Beth. We have been talking all summer about having a pizza party. I've had her pizza and it's wonderful. Now, she has added grilling as her m.o. for cooking it. I need help! We have finally picked a date to put our pizza skills to the test. I'm thinking something with a thin, crispy crust and grilled vegetables - maybe mushrooms? I am open to any and all suggestions! I plan to pair it with a light-medium Italian red, probably Sangiovese. Sangiovese from Chianti would be a no-brainer, with its bright fruit and floral flavors. Something young. But, a Rioja would work beautifully as well. Rioja is associated with pronounced vanilla flavors as a result of oak aging. Rioja has an elegant flavor and is typically more fruity when young. The woody flavors would meld wonderfully with the smoky flavors from the grill. I'm getting famished! Deb -what are your thoughts?

That pizza we shared at Blooming Hill Farm was truly delicious. I asked the cook at their cafe if they made their own sauce from their own tomatoes and indeed they do. That would be a great place to start with your pizza party. The beauty of the farm pizza was its simplicity. My guess is that fresh tomatoes were slow cooked, possibly roasted, then simmered in a pot until very reduced and then put through a food mill to remove skin and seeds. They used a very thin layer of this almost tomato paste like sauce and then just a hint of cheese. Italian chefs always take a minimalist approach to pizza, quite the opposite of our heavily cheese loaded slices here in most NY pizzerias.

For toppings other than sauce and cheese I would consider some of the seasonal vegetables that take well to grilling, like zucchini, eggplant, peppers and mushrooms. Slice them into manageable pieces, grill briefly to give them some color and then layer on your pizza as desired. I would even suggest wilting some greens like broclorabi, spinach, escarole or chard and draping them over your pie. Wilting can be simply achieved by briefly sauteing your clean, still wet greens in some hot olive oil and garlic until softened.

Have a great party!

Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce
10 large Plum Tomatoes cut in half
1 teasp salt
1 teasp sugar
1 Tbs olive oil
a few basil leaves
1 clove garlic

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange tomatoes cut side up on a baking sheet and sprinkle w/ sugar and salt. Drizzle with the olive oil and bake for 45 minutes till very soft. Remove from baking sheet and place tomatoes in a sauce pan. Add the garlic clove and basil and simmer on a low flame for 20 minutes until most of the liquid is evaporated. Watch the pot and don't let the tomatoes burn.
Remove garlic and basil and put the tomatoes through a food mill. You will (hopefully) have about a cup of very rich intensely flavored sauce, enough to cover eight individual sized pizzas.

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