Wednesday, April 3, 2013

"Babe's Country Cookbook - 80 Completely Meat-Free Recipes" - Crisp Pizza with Fontina, Gorgonzola, and Sage (for an "un-Easter" Easter

Date I made this recipe:  Sunday, March 31, 2013 (Easter Sunday)

Babe’s Country Cookbook (from the movie, Babe) – 80 Completely Meat-Free Recipes! by Dewey Gram
Published by:  GT Publishing
ISBN:  1-57719-354-7
Recipe:  Crisp Pizza with Fontina, Gorgonzola, and Sage – p. 120-121

So Easter was upon us and for most people that means two things:  lamb or ham.  I could take or leave (mostly leave) lamb but do enjoy ham – but only a serving or two and not the 10 pounds of leftovers that need to be utilized in everything from (green) eggs with ham to scalloped potatoes.  Enough, I say, enough!

I was already thinking how to avoid this noid when I uncovered yet another of my friend, Carol “Tall” Voight’s, cookbooks – Babe’s Country Cookbook – 80 Completely Meat-Free Recipes!  Even if you haven’t seen the adorable movie, Babe, the photo of Babe on the front cover is enough to dissuade anybody from making ham.  Plus there’s something just a bit “naughty” about going against convention and avoiding ham all together.  Its so “un-Easter” that it almost makes sense.

It didn’t take me and Andy very long to find our “un-Easter” Easter dinner in the form of this phenomenal pizza and I do mean PHENOMENAL.  This is seriously one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had and that is counting the ones I ate on a trip to Italy.  And it for sure beats the heck out of the frozen variety and honestly, for a few more bucks, skip that frozen cardboard concoction and impress your friends with the real deal.

Thanks to modern farming techniques, finding ripe tomatoes at this time of year was not the challenge it used to be and when it came to purchasing the dough, cheese and olives, I knew just where to go:  Broder’s Cucina Italiana in South Minneapolis where I used to work.

And so fresh from a three-hour Saturday breakfast with a friend (and I must confess, we both had bacon), I motored over to Broder’s and got my Italian food grove on.  I purchased the Fontina and then opted for a slice of fresh Mountain Gorgonzola instead of the crumbed variety.  Instead of crumbling the cheese on top of the pizza, just slice a thin piece of the cheese and put that on top.  And instead of pitted black olives, the type usually found in the canned condiment aisle of the grocery store, I went with Kalamata (Greek) olives.  I think this olive added a bit more taste and interest than the black, canned variety.  (Note:  Broder’s has black olives but they were mixed in olive oil and cracked red pepper flakes and I didn’t want that extra spice.)  And no visit there is complete without fresh pizza dough in just the size I needed – 12 inches. 

After that excursion where I talked to my old boss, Wendy (Hello again, Wendy!), I went up the street to Lunds where I purchased everything else I needed except I forgot to get a red bell pepper.  Shoot.  Fast forward to Easter Sunday:  Andy and I were doing things around the house and then decided to go to the store to get said pepper but we weren’t paying attention to the time and pulled in moments after the stores closed (two of them, Cub and Rainbow, are a block apart).  No worries though, as Andy came up with the brilliant idea that we could just stop at one of the Asian grocery stores nearby (As a rule, Buddhists do not celebrate Easter) and sure enough, the place was open and it was packed.  I walked away with four red peppers for $2.00 and would use one for the recipe and the others for snacking.  Score!!

All that needed to be done to complete the deal was puree the tomatoes, put them through a strainer and then simmer them along with the onions, garlic, peppers and olives until reduced, add the Fontina cheese and the sage and you are done.  Then prep your pizza dough, put the sauce on top, dot with fresh basil leaves and the gorgonzola cheese and you have a winning pizza pie. 

Now, besides the cheese, you might need to make a few other tweaks:  cook the saucer longer than indicated (about 30 minutes total); cook the pizza for longer than indicated (about 15 minutes total) and oil the bottom of your pizza pan as ours stuck to the pan and made it a challenge to remove the pizza slices intact. 

As to the non-ham Easter theme, seriously folks, every time I look at that cute picture of that pig on the book’s cover, I am so glad we went in another direction, especially since this pizza was so damned good.  Both Carol and Babe would have been thrilled with our “un-Easter” Easter!

Crisp Pizza with Fontina, Gorgonzola, and Sage (with a tomato sauce filled with onions, red bell pepper, olives and garlic – molto bene!) – makes a 12 inch pizza
10 ripe tomatoes (about 3 ¼ pounds) (Ann’s Note:  try to use smaller tomatoes as the flavor is usually better; large tomatoes can get “grainy.”)
¼ onion
½ red bell pepper
8 black olives, pitted (Ann’s Note:  I substituted Kalamata (Greek) olives)
5 cloves garlic
6 tablespoons olive oil
¾ cup (about 4 ounces) diced Italian Fontina, or Danish is good too
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1 fresh large ready-to-use pizza bread-crust (about 12 inches) or your favorite pizza dough
½ cup (bout 2 ounces)

Preheat your oven to 325. 

Core all but two of the tomatoes, cut them into pieces, and puree them in a blender or food processor.  Force the puree through a strainer into a bowl, and reserve.  Peel, seed and dice the last two tomatoes.  Or, if you really need to get dinner on the table in a hurry, just dice the two tomatoes – skip the peeling and seeding.  Reserve this separately from the puree.

Finely dice the onion and red bell pepper.  Finely chop the olives and garlic.  In a roomy skillet, heat 5 (of 6) tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and bell pepper, and sauté for a couple of minutes.  Just as they begin to brown, add the pureed tomatoes, chopped olives, and garlic.  Simmer over medium-high heat until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. (Ann’s Note:  at 15 minutes, this mixture was still too watery so I went another 15 and it was perfect.)  Add the two diced tomatoes.  Simmer briefly.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the diced Fontina and fresh sage.  Season with the salt and pepper.

Brush the pizza crust with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to prevent it from becoming soggy.  (Ann’s Note:  Oil the bottom of the pan to make sure your crust doesn’t stick.)  Depending on how crisp you like your crust, pre-bake it in the oven for 5 minutes.  Spread the crust with about half the sauce.  You’ll have some sauce left over – refrigerate to use as a pasta sauce or for making another pizza.  (Ann’s Note:  I used this on pasta and that was a bad idea as it needed just a hint of sugar to make it an acceptable pasta sauce.  But it makes a fabulous pizza sauce so go ahead, make another!)  Sprinkle the pizza with the crumbled (or sliced) Gorgonzola and the torn basil.

Bake is the 325 oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese is all melty and the sauce is hot. (Ann’s Note:  I baked my pizza for 15 minutes and it was perfect; 5 minutes nets you a soggy pizza crust.)  Cut and serve right out of the oven.

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