T’is the CHUsday before Christmas, and I don’t have to peek in your windows to see how fast you’re running. Whether it’s Hanukkah or Christmas, Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice you’ll celebrate this week, you’re rushing and wrapping and decorating to chase away winter’s shadows.
This is the time of year for fast food, for drive-in hamburgers or buckets of chicken. Even vegetarians can find possibilities as they zip from school concerts to office parties.
I’m not a big fan of fast food. Sometimes it’s a treat, but most of the time I feel guilty. I imagine my cholesterol and blood pressure charting new territory, and you have to admit, that sort of spoils the fun. So to avoid the guilt as often as possible, I’ve developed a few recipes I can easily make from scratch and enjoy with just a bit of lead time and planning.
I’ve already shared a link to Giada de Laurentiis’s fabulous pizza dough. This is foolproof stuff. I make mine with half whole wheat flour, and unlike every other recipe I’ve tried, I find it stretches without tearing and can be coaxed and prodded into almost any pizza pan. I use vented pans, on top of a pizza stone that I keep on the bottom rack of my oven. The combination is easier for me than trying to shovel an uncooked pizza on to the stone. I’ve had limited success with shoveling, ending in some spectacular messes, and this is so easy. The crust browns on the bottom, and once it’s cooked I move it to my poor neglected pizza paddle for cutting.
The crust takes less than five minutes to prepare and rises for an hour in a warm place before fitting it into your pan. Then you can make the pizza.
I’m never excited about tomato based pizza sauce. I prefer pesto or garlic and oil, and the less sauce the better. But recently I created one that we fell instantly in love with. I found two recipes online, one at allrecipes.com and another at food.com that seemed promising, but only when I combined them with a few touches of my own did the sauce really come together.
For a quick meal make the sauce while your dough is rising. My version makes enough for two pizzas, if you spread it thin, or use two-thirds of it and freeze the other one-third for a smaller pizza or for use in omelets, to add to spaghetti sauce, or anywhere else your imagination takes you.
We spread the sauce on our dough, sprinkled sauteed mushrooms and red peppers over it, then lay slices of provolone cheese on top and baked in a 425 degree oven for about twelve minutes. Of course you can top yours with a million possibilities, and that’s the fun part. But warning, this sauce is so flavorful, you won’t need a wealth of toppings.
So a holiday gift to you, neither slow food nor fast food, but something in between to enjoy. Make it before December 31st, tell us how you liked it and what changes, if any, that you made, and enter the CHU giveaway for a $50 B&N gift card.
Emilie’s Homemade Pizza Sauce
1 6 oz can tomato paste
3/4 cup warm water
3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 to 2 cloves minced garlic (or more if you’re daring)
1 teaspoon honey
3/4 teaspoon dried onion flakes
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds (I use a mortar and pestle)
A few good grinds black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or several good shakes)
1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Combine ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup and let sit for 30″ or more to blend flavors.
Makes enough for 1 to 2 pizzas depending on size and preferences.