Fresh Basil Pizza
I am a big proponent of eating fresh fruits and vegetables when they are in season. I think peaches are sweetest in early summer, acorn squash is the most flavorful in fall and nothing beats the flavor of English peas gathered in the spring time. The one thing I will compromise on is fresh herbs. These days even the summer classic, basil, can be enjoyed year round.
Just like when buying produce, there are a few secrets that will help you pick out the most flavorful packaged herbs. First, the leaves should be vibrant and healthy looking. Next, bring the package close to your nose and smell the aroma. A strong scent means fresh herbs with lots of flavor.
One of my favorite meals to prepare with basil is this pizza recipe. It is really simple and very tasty. I like to add tomatoes to the recipe when fresh ones are available in the summer. It is great with a cold beer and a salad.
Measure 1/2 cup of warm water into a glass or a liquid measuring cup. The water should be fairly warm to the touch, but not too hot. Add the yeast and allow the mixture to stand until the yeast activates and becomes foamy.
Pour the yeast mixture into a large bowl and add the remaining water, olive oil and salt. Stir in enough flour to form a sticky dough, about 2 1/2 cups.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead while adding more flour until the dough is smooth, but still sticky. A moist, tacky dough will result in a nice crisp crust. About 1/2 a cup more flour should do it.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning it once to coat. Cover the bowl with a towel and place in a warm area to rise. Allow to rise for about 1 hour or until double in size. A good test for readiness is to poke the dough with your finger. If it does not spring back, then it is ready.
Now divide the dough into 2 pieces. Shape the pieces into equal sized balls, place them on a lightly floured surface, cover with a towel and allow to rise again for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Now you are ready to make your crusts. Take a ball of dough and, using your palms, flatten it out on a lightly floured surface. Next push outward with your fingertips to create a disk that is about 1/4 inch thick and slightly thicker around the edges. Now, I have to admit that sometimes I have trouble with this part. When I do, I cheat and use a rolling pin. Repeat the process with the remaining ball of dough.
Place the 2 disks on a baking sheet that has been dusted with corn meal or flour, cover with a towel and let rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. While the dough is resting you can mix up your topping.
Combine the garlic, basil and salt in a food processor. With the blade running, drizzle the olive oil through the feeder tube. Continue to process until you have a nice saucy paste.
Brush the raw pizza dough with olive oil and top with a handful of mozzarella. I like to use a light hand with the cheese, so I use about 1/2 a cup for each pizza, but you can add more. If you are using tomatoes, add these at this point as well. Bake the pizzas in preheated 500 degrees F for 8 - 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.
Be sure to keep an eye on your pizzas because they will burn quickly. I also find it helpful to turn them once or twice for even browning. Remove from the oven and drizzle with basil mixture and Parmesan cheese. All to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes before slicing and serving. Makes (2) 9 inch pizzas.
Recipe provided by Rebecca Thompson.
Time to prepare: 1 hour, 10 minutes.
Serves 2 9-inch pizzas.