Breakfast Pizza

Just before my brother finished law school and left New York to work with Bay Area start-ups, we spent an evening tinkering with how to make pizza on a hot steel slab. Our first attempt, a simple margherita, we burnt to a blackened crisp. Still, it was somehow delicious. By the third or fourth miniature pie, we were getting the hang of how thick to roll the dough, how hot to keep the oven, how long to cook each pizza–and getting creative with toppings from the odds and ends in my fridge. A favorite was heaped with olive-oil drizzled arugula that wilted in the oven, then finished with slices of avocados and a sprinkle of lemon zest. Perhaps that’s not authentically a pizza, but it was really good.

That’s the thing: pizza is as versatile a vehicle for just about anything as is a sandwich or a burrito. Once you have dough (if you don’t have the desire or time to make it, you can walk into about any pizza joint and ask to buy some, and many grocery stores carry it), and a hot oven, pizza is a very quick thing to make, and a great way to use up bits of this and that–last nights steamed vegetables, a forgotten sprig of herbs, the end of bit of cheese. Often, my best cooking happens when I try to use things from what seems like an empty pantry.

My favorite pizza right now, and one I always have the ingredients for, is a breakfast pizza. I believe it was inspired by an article I tore from the New York Times Magazine years ago, about Big Sur Bakery. It made perfect sense to me the moment I saw the recipe, and stuck in my imagination until it became my own. Maybe my brother and I can take a trip to try the original when I visit him in California. And I hope he continues our pizza experiment, just as I will.

 

Breakfast Pizza

If you want to get serious about pizza, head over to The Pizza Lab at Serious Eats.

  • fist-sized piece of dough*
  • spoonful cornmeal
  • generous drizzle extra virging olive oil
  • handful shredded sharp cheddar
  • 2 scallions
  • sprinkling of cooked sausage or bacon (optional)
  • 2-3 eggs
  • small handful pasley or cilantro
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat a steel slab in a 500 degree oven, ideally for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, trim and oil the scallions, and put them on the hot steel or under a broiler until they wilt. Cut them into two-inch sections.

On a floured surface, roll the dough as thin as you can without it tearing. Sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel or cutting board. Lay the dough on it. Drizzle olive oil generously over the dough. Scatter the cheese and scallions on it, and meat if you're using it. Make little nests in the toppings to hold the eggs.

Slide the pizza off the board onto the steel with one swift shake. Crack each egg into a teacup, then pour it into its nest on the pizza. Cook for a few minutes, then check to see if the bottom of the dough is browned. Watch out, it cooks quickly! You want it quite brown, but if the crust cooks before the eggs, slip the whole thing onto a pan under the broiler just until the eggs set.

Sprinkle a handful of fresh herbs and a pinch of chili flakes on the pizza. Season it with freshly ground pepper, and a sprinkle of salt on each egg. Eat right away.

 

*I'm talking about my fist, which is pretty small.

 

 

 

Homebound Cooking

photo courtesy of nasaAll the recipes I've been playing with for the forthcoming "Corner Store Entertaining" volume of Sweets & Bitters Quarterly seem especially pertinent as Hurricane Sandy shuts down New York City. If there are stores open, they are mom and pop delis where the proprietors live upstairs. I'm not the only one thinking about how to make good meals out of canned goods and pantry staples right now–what else is there to do besides cook, drink, and obsessively scan social media for storm pictures?

Here are two recipes you shouldn't have to leave the house (or at least the block) to make. Improvise a hurricane cocktail, see what's in the pantry, and get cooking before the power goes out.

Grandma Joan's Pimento Cheese

  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • ½ cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
  • two 4-oz jars pimentos, finely chopped
  • 25 shakes Tabasco

Stir all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl. It should be thick but spreadable. Add more mayonnaise if it’s too thick, and more Tabasco if you like it spicy. Transfer to a pretty serving bowl.

Serve with Ritz crackers, baguette slices, or beer bread.

Beer Bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) beer
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375, and grease a bread pan (fold one out of doubled up aluminum foil if you don't own one).

Whisk together the dry ingredients. Dump in the beer and brikly mix together to moisten the flour but leave it lumpy. Transfer the batter to the pan so it's somewhat evenly distributed, and pour the butter or olive oil over the top.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a skewer or fork comes out mostly clean. Remove it from the pan to cool for about 15 minuted before slicing.

Notes: Avoid using a bitter beer, something cheap and light is ideal. Substitute up to 1 cup of the flour with wheat flour. Add spices or shredded cheese for fun.

 

 

Saturday Sweets: Pumpkin Bread

 

I remember my dad's pumpkin muffins as a special childhood treat. He made them in a dinosaur mold! I crave them when the first fall chill blows in. For all I know he only made them a few times, but memory has made them a tradition. This recipe is for pumpkin bread, but could just as easily be made as [dinosaur shaped] muffins. With my baking class, I used tiny loaf pans (they're meant to be disposable, but I wash and reuse them). Adjust your baking time according to the pans you use: less time the smaller they are.

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 6 mini loaf pans, or two regular ones.

2) Whisk together in a large bowl:

3 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 ½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

½ tsp ground allspice

2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

3) In a separate bowl, whisk these together one at a time, until smooth:

4 large eggs

1 cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 can pumkin (15 oz)

1 2/3 cups buttermilk

4) Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, just enough to moisten everything. Don’t stir too much! Lumps are ok.

5) Divide the batter amongst the pans.

6) Bake for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs.