• FRISH’S VAMPIRE-PROOF SUPER GARLIC CHICKEN PIZZA

    This recipe originates in the central Romanian village of Sfintu Gheorgha, nestled at the base of the Carpathian Mountains and Transylvanian Alps. On cold fall nights, walking those deserted streets, the air is rich with garlic mixed with the tranquilizing aroma of wood fires that warm the humble homes. The Romanian version calls for hare, rather than chicken. I prefer, at least when at home, to avoid anything resembling rodent.

    THE TOOLS

    Oven preheated to 475

    deep dish pizza pan

    rolling pin

    BASIC PIZZA DOUGH

    2T granulated sugar

    1-1/2t sea salt

    1 C warm water (110)

    1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

    3-1/2 C semolina flour

    1-1/2T active dry yeast

    PIZZA INGREDIENTS

    3 chicken breast halfs, grilled & chopped

    2 sweet red peppers, coarse-chopped

    1 bunch green onions, chopped

    2C grated buffalo mozarella

    1C grated Provolone

    1C grated Emmanthaler

    1 large head garlic, peeled & crushed

    1C sour cream

    1t hot Chinese chili oil with black bean

    salt and pepper

    4T garlic olive oil

    We begin with the simple dough. Mix the water and sugar in a small bowl until dissolved. The water should be warm, like a comfortable bath, not too hot. Sprinkle the yeast onto the water and continue to stir until dissolved, about 1 minute. (If the yeast clumps together, it’s old... discard and begin again.) Let this “proof” for 5 minutes in the warmth of your lovely kitchen. A thin beige foam should develop, proving the yeast is alive and multiplying.

    Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the yeast mixture and 1/4-cup olive oil. Stir the flour, beginning at the center and working outward. You can use a large spoon, but I prefer to generally use my hands, which I wash first. For that “je ne se quoi.” When the dough is well-mixed and beginning to hold together, turn it onto a lightly floured counter and knead it gently until smooth and elastic. This should take about 15 minutes. At which point you’ll be seriously considering a breadmaker.

    Form the dough into a ball, place it in a large well-oiled bowl, coating the dough as well. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it has doubled. Then gently punch it down with your fist, turn it back out onto that lightly-floured surface, knead for 5 minutes, form into a ball once again, then begin pressing it out to form a round crust. Hand-stretching and tossing is the best way to do this, but you may want to use a rolling pin. Or be prepared to make other dinner arrangements. Roll it out to about 18 inches across.

    While that dough was rising, you were busy preparing the ingredients, right? Rub the chicken with salt, then grill. Avoid overcooking, especially since it will be cooked further in the pizza. While that’s grilling, chop the green onions and sweet peppers. In a small bowl, mix the sour cream and chili oil/black bean paste, adding fresh ground black pepper to taste. Peel and crush the garlic, mixing it into the sour cream. But keep an eye on that chicken... no carcinogenic carbonizing!

    Press the dough into a well-oiled 15-inch deep-dish pizza pan, allowing the excess to drape over the sides. Spread about half the cheese mixture onto the crust, then half the sour cream mixture. Add the chicken, sweet peppers and green onions, followed by the remainder of the sour cream. Place the balance of the cheese atop. Fold the hanging pizza crust over the filling and brush lightly with garlic olive oil.

    Place on the bottom rack of the preheated oven for 5 minutes, then move to a rack in the middle of the oven for another 25 minutes. Remove from the pan and serve immediately. This goes particularly well with good friends and classic horror films. After dinner mints may be welcomed.

    Serves 4 to 6 as a main course.

    HUNAN SPICY EGGPLANT PIZZA

    You won’t find this at Domino’s. Nor any pizzeria I’ve ever visited, and I’ve been to a few. This recipe was inspired by the remarkably nuanced flavors of Lee Ho Shen's fabulous bistro in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province. Tucked away down a narrow cobbled alley, its aromas draw people from across China. While pizza was not on the menu the last time I visited, you can enjoy Chef Lee's savory eggplant pies; flaky thin disks of spicy Hunan eggplant sandwiched between crisply fried onion cakes.

    THE TOOLS

    Oven preheated to 475

    pizza stone – placed on bottom rack

    pizza peel

    rolling pin

    WHIDBEY ISLAND PIZZA DOUGH

    2T granulated sugar

    1-1/2t sea salt

    1-1/3 C warm water (110)

    1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

    3C high-protein bread flour

    1C whole-wheat flour

    1-1/2T active dry yeast

    This dough is nutritionally improved and very elastic. It's designed for making thin crusts.

    PIZZA INGREDIENTS

    2 pounds Asian eggplant (globe variety OK)

    1 bunch green onions, chopped

    1/2 C soy sauce

    1/2 C water

    2T sugar

    2T rice vinegar

    2T cornstarch

    1/3 C peanut oil (olive or canola OK)

    1/2 C chopped garlic

    2t Asian chili paste or crushed red chilis

    3/4C sliced green onions

    2C grated buffalo mozarella

    1C grated Gruyere

    2T garlic olive oil

    sliced chives or green onions for garnish

    finely ground cornmeal (for the pizza peel)

    THE DOUGH

    Mix the water and sugar until dissolved. The water should be warm, not too hot. Sprinkle the yeast onto the water and continue to stir until dissolved, about 1 minute. While you silently chant affirmations to yourself, let this “proof” for 5 minutes in the warmth of your lovely kitchen. A thin beige foam should develop, proving the yeast is alive and flourishing.

    Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the yeast mixture and 1/4-cup olive oil. Stir the flour, beginning at the center and working outward. You can use a large spoon, but I prefer to generally use my hands, which I wash first. For that “je ne se quoi.”

    When the dough is mixed well, turn it onto a lightly floured counter and knead it gently until smooth and elastic. This should take about 15 minutes. This will work off about 30 calories, which is the equivalent of 1/10th of a slice of this pizza.

    Form the dough into a ball, place it in a large well-oiled bowl, coating the dough as well. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it has doubled. Then gently punch it down with your fist, turn it back out onto that lightly-floured surface, knead for 5 minutes, and form into a ball once again.

    It's ideal to let the dough mature for 12-48 hours, which allows it to develop a finer texture and greater elasticity, which is key to tossing (or rolling) a very thin crust. If you pursue this marathon approach, just let it rise once, then punch the dough down, roll it in a little olive oil, cover and refrigerate. Check it in an hour or so and punch it down again, releasing all your pent up frustration. If you're really frustrated, consider kneading the dough. When you're nice and relaxed, return it to the fridge. 4 hours prior to baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

    If you're in a rush, you can slap it together, let it rise once, and be ready to go in just a few hours, but the dough may not get as thin. You can also just buy pre-made dough from Trader Joe’s, if you’re really crunched for time.

    The final dough prep you’ll want to do after you’ve made the eggplant topping:

    Divide the ball in two. Begin pressing one of these out to form a round crust. Hand-stretching and tossing is the best way to do this, but you may want to use a rolling pin, depending on your reflexes and gravitational awareness. On a floured surface, roll it out to about 18 inches across. Carefully fold it in half, dust some fine cornmeal under it (to keep it from sticking to the pizza peel), then fold it back over. Repeat for the other side.

    SPICY EGGPLANT TOPPING

    This can be made up to a day in advance. Remove both ends of the eggplants. If you are using slender Asian or Chinese (white) eggplants, just cut them into slices about 1/2-inch thick. If you’re using the more available globe variety, peel the skin first, then slice into bite-sized pieces. Place the eggplant in a bowl of ice water and submerge, using a weighted plate, for 1 hour. This soaking helps keep the eggplant from absorbing too much oil.

    In your lucky bowl, stir together the soy sauce, vinegar, water, sugar and cornstarch. Contemplate this simple mixture.

    When you awaken, heat the oil in a wok or large sauté pan until something slightly below its flash point. Just before it starts smoking. I’ve never quite understood that. I don’t have a “Way Back Machine,” and I haven’t figured out how to rewind the tape of my life. Anyhow, I wax poetic. Or neurotic.

    Back to cooking. Add the eggplant and toss it about until it’s fairly evenly coated in calories. Cover and cook on a medium heat for about 3 minutes. Uncover, then add the chili paste (or crushed red chilis or chili flakes) and the mound o’garlic. Stir-fry for about 15 minutes or so, until tender.

    Stir the soy mixture and add to the eggplant, then stir-fry briefly. Add the green onions and stir-fry until the sauce thickens, about a minute. Remove from heat.

    ASSEMBLE AND BAKE

    Brush the hand-tossed or rolled pizza dough with garlic olive oil.

    Spread the cheese mixture onto the crust, then add the eggplant mixture.

    Place on the pizza stone in that very hot preheated oven. I like to let the oven and stone preheat for at least 30 minutes. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until the crust is crisp and golden and the cheese is bubbly. Transfer to a cutting board, garnish with chives or green onions if you wish, slice and enjoy!

    Serves 4 to 6 as a main course.

    KALUA PORK AND SLAW PIZZA PIADINA

    This is another bit of gustatorial exotica you won’t find in many pizzerias. In its original form, pizza was a humble pie often made with leftovers; a tasty way of repackaging last night’s meal. While I don’t tend to utilize leftovers in that way, I do like to use pizza as a conveyance for unique combinations of flavors.

    This pizza was inspired by a Southern delicacy, the quintessential pulled pork sandwich. I prefer smoky tender kalua pork, which is the famous food of Hawaiian luaus. Rather than digging an imu and roasting a whole pig to make a pizza, you can make it in your oven.

    While you can also bake this pizza in your oven, adventurous pizzaiolos may wish to grill the pizza on their covered barbecue.

    Piadina are thin chewy disks, firmer than bread. Originally, piadina was cooked on a terracotta plate called a testo, which was placed over red hot coals. In pizza parlance, it usually means a thin crust that is folded to make a sandwich.

    THE TOOLS

    BBQ with lid (for the brave gourmand) or

    Oven preheated to 475 w/pizza stone

    rolling pin

    baking pan (for pork roast)

    aluminum foil

    WHIDBEY ISLAND PIZZA DOUGH

    2T granulated sugar

    1-1/2t sea salt

    1-1/3 C warm water (110)

    1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

    3C high-protein bread flour

    1C whole-wheat flour

    1-1/2T active dry yeast

    This dough is nutritionally improved and very elastic. It's designed for making thin crusts.

    PIZZA INGREDIENTS

    Pork

    3 pound pork butt

    1-1/2T Hawaiian salt (substitute kosher salt)

    2T liquid smoke

    2T soy sauce

    2-3 banana leaves

    Slaw

    1/4C apple cider vinegar

    1/2C mayo

    3T sugar

    Salt and pepper to taste

    4C fine shredded cabbage

    Pizza

    1C grated whole-milk mozzarella

    1C grated provolone

    1C grated Dubliner cheese

    1/4C garlic olive oil

    THE DOUGH

    Mix the water and sugar until dissolved. The water should be warm, not too hot. Sprinkle the yeast onto the water and continue to stir until dissolved, about 1 minute. While you silently chant affirmations to yourself, let this “proof” for 5 minutes in the warmth of your lovely kitchen. A thin beige foam should develop, proving the yeast is alive and flourishing.

    Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the yeast mixture and 1/4-cup olive oil. Stir the flour, beginning at the center and working outward. You can use a large spoon, but I prefer to generally use my hands, which I wash first. For that “je ne se quoi.”

    When the dough is mixed well, turn it onto a lightly floured counter and knead it gently until smooth and elastic. This should take about 15 minutes. This will work off about 30 calories, which is the equivalent of 1/10th of a slice of this pizza.

    Form the dough into a ball, place it in a large well-oiled bowl, coating the dough as well. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it has doubled. Then gently punch it down with your fist, turn it back out onto that lightly-floured surface, knead for 5 minutes, and form into a ball once again.

    It's ideal to let the dough mature for 12-48 hours, which allows it to develop a finer texture and greater elasticity, which is key to tossing (or rolling) a very thin crust. If you pursue this marathon approach, just let it rise once, then punch the dough down, roll it in a little olive oil, cover and refrigerate. Check it in an hour or so and punch it down again, releasing all your pent up frustration. If you're really frustrated, consider kneading the dough. When you're nice and relaxed, return it to the fridge. 4 hours prior to baking, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.

    If you're in a rush, you can slap it together, let it rise once, and be ready to go in just a few hours, but the dough may not get as thin. You can also just buy pre-made dough from Trader Joe’s, if you’re really crunched for time.

    The final dough prep you’ll want to do after you’ve made the succulent kalua pork:

    Divide the ball in two. Begin pressing one of these out to form a round crust. Hand-stretching and tossing is the best way to do this, but you may want to use a rolling pin, depending on your reflexes and gravitational awareness. On a floured surface, roll it out to about 18 inches across. Brush one side with garlic olive oil.

    OVEN KALUA PORK

    First, lay out a 16”x24” square of aluminum foil on your counter, sealing any seams well. Then wash those big banana leaves, which you can find in most Asian groceries. While patting them dry, try not to think too much about the potential toxic chemicals or bacterial contamination they might contain. The cooking will kill the bacteria. As for any chemicals, have you ever eaten an unwashed grape? Are you still living? If you’re really a zealot, you can use a couple organic bananas for flavor and large organic romaine leaves for the wrap.

    Lay the leaves atop the aluminum foil in a criss-cross fashion. You’ll be putting that big ol’ pork butt right on top pretty soon, then wrap it up all snug and cozy in the leaves and seal it with the foil.

    Butt first…

    Rinse the pork in cold water, then pat very dry. Trim any excess fat from the roast. Next, get yourself a stiletto, a switchblade, a shank or a pointed paring knife and stab that piece of dead flesh a dozen or so times. The pig, most intelligent of barnyard animals, no longer cares. Trust me.

    Just think of yourself as a cross between Norman Bates and Emeril Lagasse. These wounds allow the salt and liquid smoke to penetrate the meat. Slather the soy sauce and liquid smoke all over the roast, then rub it all with the salt. Wrap the roast with the banana leaves, then seal it well in the aluminum foil. Place this lovely silver packet in a baking pan and into your preheated 500 oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce the temp to a mere 325 and continue baking for 3 hours longer.

    When meat is done, remove leaves, allow to cool, then shred pork, pulling it apart with your fingers. Which you remembered to wash.

    SEATTLE SLAW

    Core and finely slice the cabbage, then wash it well and spin dry in a salad spinner. Stir the mayo, vinegar, S&P and sugar together well. Pour over the cabbage, toss and set aside. This can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.

    BBQ

    If you’re adventurous, you’ll preheat your grill. You want to preheat it at max force, especially if your running propane. But for the actual cooking, you do not want a big direct heat, you want a medium and indirect heat. So bank your coals well to the side or turn off the middle burners.

    Now is the time you must look deep within your soul. Are you gourmand enough to bear the stress? Or do you cave to the pressure and go for that safe ol’ oven? Either way, the results will be delicious. The only difference will be that little voice in your head. Will it be saying “I be cool,” or “I be wimp?”

    Grilling a pizza is really easy. You just need to pay attention, learn from your mistakes, and accept that carbonized crust is not the end of the world.

    For a point of reference, I pre-heat my propane Weber Genesis on max. When it reaches about 400 I turn the center burner off and reduce the others to medium. Then I centrally place the crust directly on the grill and cook for about 4 minutes. I just use my fingers and arrange it nice and delicately. What's a third degree burn, when in the pursuit of pizza perfection?

    ASSEMBLE AND BAKE

    Brush the hand-tossed pizza dough with garlic olive oil. Place the oiled side down on your grill, cover and let cook for 4 minutes. Remove with the pizza peel. The crisp grilled side will be the side you “dress” with the cheese and pork. The uncooked side will face the flames next. Spread the cheese mixture onto the crisp grilled side of the crust and add the kalua pork. Return to the grill and stand by attentively. Grey wisps of smoke are a danger sign. You may need to rotate the pizza if your heat is uneven. Or you may wish to finish it in the oven. After about 6-10 minutes, it should be bubbly, golden and delicious.

    If you’ve chosen the safe route, at least you know you will not need to call Domino’s. Place that magnificent pie on the pizza stone in that very hot preheated oven. I like to let the oven and stone preheat for at least 30 minutes. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until the crust is crisp and golden and the cheese is bubbly.

    Transfer to a cutting board, top with that tangy slaw, slice and enjoy! We like to fold the slices into sandwiches.

    Serves 4 to 6 as a main course.

     
     
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