Once upon a time on this here blog, yours truly sang the praises of the annual birthday tradition. But a confession must be made: Rituals are, for me, too excellent to be reserved for once yearly. When life feels like too much of a mess—which, let’s be honest, is always—it’s nice to have routines to rely on: morning tea, afternoon coffee. Breakfast is always cinnamony oatmeal with molasses. (The oats I soak the night before, in a bath of water and whey, which—if you’ve never tried before—is awesome! You drain the whey off the top of your yogurt.)
And Wednesdays, every week, without fail—after the downtown Gainesville farmers’ market—is pizza with the gentleman. Because really, there are few better ways to put fresh produce to use than with pizza, and really, the ideal moment to eat salad is ASAP after harvest. This week, beautiful yellow tomatoes (this is Florida, remember?) went into a pungent caper-laden sauce, topped off with peppers, spinach, green olives, and fresh(ish) mozzarella. Last week was a “New Haven-style” clam pizza with lots of clams, parmesan, and oregano (see above).
The best thing about pizza, of course, is how adaptable it is. In poorer, colder times we use the cheapest mozzarella blocks we shred ourselves and canned tomatoes to still-pleasant results.
There’ve been white pizzas on nights we can’t be bothered with sauce. When leafy salad greens aren’t available, a salad of kohlrabi or fennel or beets or cabbage slaw can be just as delightful. Which is all to say: pizza is cheap, easy, and will never let you down. Interested in implementing your own weekly pizza habit? Here’s some help to start.
Recommended pizza-making tools:
-If you bake bread or work with any kind of dough, one of these plastic scraper devices will be your best—and lowest maintenance!—friends.
-Pizza stone (or marble tile). Again, good for bread-bakers too. You’ll get the best possible crust this way. I found mine at a thrift store, for a dollar. Then I broke it. Then I got another one at a mega-mart that will not be named. It was under ten bucks and still works.
-Parchment paper, for easy sliding. Parchment paper reduces the risk of mangled pizza by A LOT.
-Mini herb garden. Will save you time, money, and contribute to tasty pizza sauce.
Pizza Dough (For Two)
½ cup wrist-temperature water
1 tsp instant yeast
¼ cup rye or wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
glug of olive oil
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in water. Add ¼ cup rye flour and ¼ cup all-purpose flour. Let sit for a half hour, until bubbly. Add the remaining cup of flour, the salt, and a good glug of oil. Combine. Let it sit until roughly doubled in size. How long this takes always depends. I check after two hours or so. Anyway, it’s very forgiving.
An hour before you plan on baking, preheat oven to 500ºF with pizza stone inside. Flip a cookie sheet over to the wrong side, and spread parchment paper over. Pull or smush the risen dough with olive-oiled hands to as thin or thick as you like, in whatever shape you like. Top with whatever toppings you like. Slide onto the hot stone, paper and all, being careful to be quick and also not to burn yourself. Wait ten minutes before checking. Is the crust brown and the cheese gooey and perfect? Use the paper to pull the pizza out onto your cookie sheet.
Tip: if you’re making a white pizza, with no sauce, a good trick is to chop or mash up a couple cloves of garlic, let it soak in olive oil, then spread the raw garlic/oil combo onto your dough before topping. The time in the oven is enough to mellow the garlic and transform everything into deliciousness.
Not a tip, but question: what are YOUR favorite pizza toppings? Clearly I have many weeks before me (knock on wood) of many more pizzas, and am forever interested in recommendations.