Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pizza Parlour

Some years ago, when A and I were on holiday in Italy, we discovered what real pizza is like, and we fell hard for it. So much so that now I can't stand Pan pizzas of the kind churned out by Pizza Hut or Dominos. I also don't like the rather naan-like pizza bases that are available in the market. A couple of years ago, while on holiday in the US, my sister had taken us to a little restaurant called Pizza Antica which served really interesting pizzas - all on a thin Italian base. So last week, since I had been mulling over the thought of experimenting with pizzas at home, I remembered that experience and decided to really go wild with the toppings.

The base too, I made from scratch - and let me say at the outset that I'm really bad at working with yeast - those things never turn out quite right. But I was determined to try and to add a twist to the base too. So I soaked some dried yeast in hot water, and mixed it into the plain flour along with a pinch of salt and sugar, as well as some Italian herbs. For the toppings, we had a choice of four variants:
a. Potatoes, English Gloucester and feta cheese
b. Roast aubergines and tomatoes with mozzarella and parmesan
c. Pan-fried spinach and roast garlic with mozzarella; and
d. Pears with Danish Blue cheese and walnuts

I sliced the potatoes really thin and parboiled them for the first pizza. For the second, I pre-roasted the thinly sliced aubergines and tomatoes; for the third, the shredded spinach was shallow-fried in olive oil until a little crisp, while a bulb of garlic was roasted in the oven with a glug of olive oil poured on top, and for the last one, I just put everything together and popped it into the oven.

All the pizzas were delicious, though I do need to think of something to add a little more excitement to the potato-topped one. The roasted aubergines and plum tomatoes were caramelised by their time in the oven, and the little bits of Feta addded the right contrast of saltiness to create an absolutely heavenly mouthful. The spinach-garlic one also had a lovely intermingling of textures, and the sweet roasted garlic added just the right touch. The last one was the favourite, though. I had been thinking for a while that slightly caramelised pears would be a wonderful contrast to Blue cheese and that the two flavours would go really well together. And I always like walnuts with either camembert or blue cheese, so I popped them on top as a last minute inspiration. This pizza had a really hedonistic flavour and we loved the juxtaposition of the sweet pears with the intenseness of the blue cheese and the crunch of crisp walnuts.

This was a really fun kitchen experiment and I'm getting all excited about doing it again, either just for the family or when we have a small group of friends over. I'm sending this entry over to weekend herb blogging, hosted this week by Lia. It strikes me that this is a great way to get kids to eat up their veggies too - because pizza always entices kids, no matter what's on top! I will say, though, that next time, I'll let the pear and walnut pizza get half-done before adding on the blue cheese. Of course, next time around I also have to make sure we're not so hungry we don't wait for the camera and just click with the cellphone. Also - am seriously crap at geometry so my pizzas aren't any recognizeable shape...
(PS Pictures will be up shortly)


Asha said...

Haha! I agree! Pizza in Italy and Mexican food in Mexico is soo different from what we male at home or in US. It's Americanized here to suit the local palate. Just like Indian restaurant food.My kids think Punjabi food is "Indian" food, everything has look either green or gravy with veg or meat in it.That's their idea of India! :D
I love thin and crispy crust too.Looks great BEV!:)

Manasi said...

Wow, I'm drooling at the thought of pears and blue cheese on my pizza. I tried some caramalized onion, roasted bel pepper and goat cheese on mine last week. It turned our great. You really are a prolific blogger. I read your other blogs and I'm simply amazed. How do you find the time to write with two kids, a husband and a job?

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Anonymous said...

I feel happy just reading your blog. :) The food looks delicious. Keep it up!

LisaRene said...

Making homemade flatbread is something I do often. It's such fun and I love coming up with creative toppings. Regarding adding a little excitement to your potato one, how about my husbands favorite combination of potato, coarse ground mustard, white cheddar with a little hot sauce. I like potato and chutney :) Many photos and combinations on my blog, under the category "flatbread" if you wish to take a look.

bird's eye view said...

Thanks Asha. I guess every country rationalizes other cuisines to its own palate. Yesterday on Discovery Travel and Living, I was watching a program hosted by Vir Sanghvi, where he discovered a Paneer chili Manchurian, which he referred to as an insult to three cuisines :)

Manasi - Your pizza sounds great - I usually resist buying goat cheese because I didn't enjoy the smell when I first had it, but I should give it a try. As far as blogging goes - it's addictive, I guess so I find myself making the time for it!

Thanks, insane scribbler. i will check it out.

Curiousfoodie - thanks so much for your comment - a lovely start to my day :)

LisaRene - will check out your flatbread toppings. The potato, mustard and cheddar one sounds like a nice combination - I find I'm aleady mulling over the thought of adding some spring onion to it, to make it more like potato salad...

Aparna said...

I do agree that the stuff they serve up in the name of pizza is awful (just my opinion).
Very intersting topping combos.
I can put any stuff on pizza and my daughter will eat it up!

swirlingnotions said...

I LOVE homemade pizzas like you describe here. And pear and gorgonzola is one of my favorite combos. Thanks for the new inspirations!

Lulu said...

i am a big fan of thin crust as well!
dominoes has a 10 inch thin crust pizza called mexican green wave which is actually pretty good. we only order that or mexican red wave (non-veg for harsha!) if we ever order pizza from outside.

Kalyn said...

Very interesting combinations for pizza topping. I think all your pizzas sound delicious!

bird's eye view said...

aparna - I so agree with you about the pizza one typically gets. Thankfully there are a few more standalone restaurants which serve 'real' pizza...

Swirlingnotions - you're welcome! I'm looking forward to more such experimenting over this weekend.

Lulu - haven't tried that one from Domino's. The next time my son wants to order in, I'll remember to ask for that one.

Kalyn - thanks!

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