Tomato And Basil Pesto Pizza
One of my favorite dishes is homemade pizza. So much so, I installed a pizza oven in the outdoor kitchen. It's built right into the back of the chimney for the fire place in the summer kitchen. Pretty neat!
My favorite pizza toppings are fresh basil and homegrown tomatoes. They grow well together and make a tasty pairing in the recipes.
Set your plants out about 2 weeks after the last frost when the days are warm; basil can't stand cold weather. When planting, add plenty of organic nutrients from compost, blood meal, or cottonseed meal to the soil. Basil needs well-drained soil and full sun, but appreciates afternoon shade in the hottest climates. Water deeply during dry spells. Plants in pots dry out faster so water them more often. Watering is very important because drying stunts growth. Avoid splashing water on the leaves to prevent leaf spots and sunburn. Pinch blooms off as they appear to keep the plant bushy and productive. In fall you can bring potted basil inside.
Set tomato plants out after the last spring frost when the soil has warmed and night temperatures stay above 50 degrees F. Prepare the ground by loosening the soil and adding 3- to 4-inches of compost or other organic matter. In pots, use a premium potting mix, not bagged garden soil. Plant deeply by burying two-thirds of the plant. Water well and mulch. Use a stake, cage or trellis to support the plant as it grows. Fertilize regularly with an organic fertilizer designed for vegetables. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
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.
Time to prepare: 1 hour, 5 minutes.
Serves 2 9-inch pizzas.