Showing posts with label easy pizza. Show all posts
Showing posts with label easy pizza. Show all posts

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pizza Margherita

Last Friday, I set out to make homemade pizza.  It's one of my go-to dishes, so it shouldn't have been a big deal.  But I decided to mix things up a bit:  I wanted to try a different crust than my normal recipe, and I wanted to make a pizza Margherita (with very fresh-tasting, simple toppings).  Again, shouldn't have been a big deal, but I messed things up a bit.

See, I got home at about 4 PM and started to make the crust recipe I'd found on the Cooks Illustrated website.  I had combined all the ingredients when I came to a line in the instructions advising me to place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.

In the immortal words of my governor, "oops."

That put a wrinkle in our dinner plans.  But since the Margherita part of my pizza equation came from a recipe on Epicurious that actually called for store-bought refrigerated pizza dough, I decided to follow that path.

The result was that we had the pizza Margherita from the Epicurious website on Friday night ... complete with the dough from a cardboard tube.  It was actually surprisingly good.  The only things I didn't love:  first, the tomato sauce called for a little crushed red pepper, and I thought it was a bit too spicy; and second, the crust was OK, but nothing to write home about.

Thin, store-bought dough

Thick, homemade dough
Still, I had that ball of homemade dough sitting in the refrigerator.  So I pulled it out on Sunday evening, and we did Pizza Margherita Redux.  And it was DELICIOUS.

Thus, I present you with this recipe for pizza Margherita, a mash-up of two recipes with a few of my own modifications to boot.  The store-bought crust option will yield a smaller, thinner pizza; the homemade crust is thick, but remarkably flavorful.




Toppings, ready to go
3 c. (scant) all purpose flour
3 Tbs. vital wheat gluten
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/3 c. ice water
1 Tbs. olive oil + extra for bowl
1 1/2 tsp salt


1 13.8 oz. tube refrigerated pizza dough

Rustic sauce
Tomato Sauce:

1 Tbs. olive oil
12 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes (stems and leaves removed)
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds (coarsely crushed)
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
dash black pepper

1/3 c. chopped fresh basil
4 oz. fresh mozzarella, drained and chopped
4 - 6 oz. shredded mozzarella
1/3 c. shredded parmesan

To make the homemade crust:  Mix flour, gluten, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Mix until combined.  With mixer running on low, slowly add ice water and continue mixing until the flour is all absorbed into a ragged dough ball.  Allow dough ball to rest for 10 minutes.  Then add olive oil and salt; turn mixer back on and let run on low until oil and salt are combined and dough comes together in a smooth ball.  With floured hands, remove dough and shape into a nice, compact ball.  Transfer to a large bowl, cover tightly (with a lid to the bowl or plastic wrap) and refrigerate for 24 - 72 hours.

To make tomato sauce:  Heat a large skillet over high heat for at least two minutes.  Add oil to hot skillet and then, immediately, tomatoes.  Saute over high heat until tomatoes start to char and break down.  Transfer tomatoes to a large bowl and crush with a fork or the back of a spoon (until all tomatoes are mushed but the sauce is still chunky).  Add garlic, fennel, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Stir.

To make pizza:  If you made your own dough, remove it from the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to bake the pizza.  Shape dough into a tight ball (eliminating some of the air), place it in a greased bowl, cover lightly with plastic sprayed with cooking spray, and allow to sit for an hour.

Move oven rack to top third.  Preheat oven to 425.  If you made your own dough, go ahead and put a large cookie sheet in the oven to preheat.

Combine cheeses and basil.

If you are using store-bought dough, roll it out onto a cookie sheet and press it out to a 12 x 8 rectangle.  If you are using homemade dough, coat hands in flour.  Place dough on a large sheet of parchment paper and flatten/stretch until it's a 10 x 15 rectangle.  Top dough with cheese/basil mix and then dot with the tomato sauce.

Sauce dotted on top of pizza.

If using homemade dough, slide the parchment paper onto the preheated cookie sheet.  Place/return cookie sheet to oven and bake (20 minutes for either type of crust, oddly enough - until the crust is golden brown).

Allow pizza to sit for about 5 minutes before cutting it.


Wendy is the author of the Mysteries a la Mode. Visit her on the web or on Facebook. She also writes the Pet Boutique Mysteries under the name Annie Knox; you can follow Annie on Facebook, too!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Writer's Snack: Crust-Free Pizza from Cleo Coyle

Yes, you're right. I promised you crust free pizza, and I aim to deliver. 

I'm showing this little pizza first for those of you who really, really need that crust.

In that case, this baby should make you happy. The pizza pictured is actually a frozen, grocery store pizza "doctored" with fresh mushrooms and sausage.

To read my Frozen Pizza Doctor post, which gives you tips on an Rx for your favorite frozen pizzas, click here and have fun...

For those of you up for a
"crust-free" pizza, well, here's what
I'm talking about today...

Cleo Coyle, fan of faux pizza,
is author of The Coffeehouse
Cleo Coyle's
Crust-Free Pizza

What is pizza? At its most basic, the tastes in your mouth are bright tomato sauce topped by sweet cheese and lively herbs like oregano and basil, both of which are carried on a bed of bread--three ingredients that go so well together. But, when you write for a living, spending hours and hours in front of a computer screen, a steady diet of pizza would be deadly. And the spirit of "two out of three ain't bad," comes my crust-free solution.

This easy (and healthy) snack idea came to me when I was enjoying a delicious pizza bianca from a local pizzeria. The Italian cooks put fresh ricotta on the "white" pie, and I absolutely loved the combination of tangy tomato and sweet, fresh cheese.

First we'll need tomatoes. Yesterday was the first full day of Spring. Living in the Age of Irony (not to mention a town that never stops with the practical jokes), I actually watched snow fall on New York City. Oh, to see the sun again. :) Sadly, as winter lingers, so does the dearth of fine produce.

Tomatoes may be blah at this time of year, but even the blandest of tomatoes can be transformed into a truly delicious treat by the simple addition of caramelizing heat. That's why I make these babies year round, and that's the best thing of all about this healthy snack...

Cleo's Crust-Free
Pizza Bites

To get a free, illustrated PDF of this recipe that you can print, save or share, click here.

Makes 8 mini crust-free pizza bites


4 tomatoes
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk or part skim)
Dried oregano (sprinkling)
Sea salt, to taste
(optional additions) dried basil, dried rosemary, or an Italian Seasoning mix
Grated finishing cheese like Pecorino Romano or Parmesan

Step 1 - Slice and prep tomatoes: I like to use plum tomatoes because they slice into little oval boats that remind me of potato skins... (see picture below). Roasting these babies will create a bit of a mess. To make clean up easy, simply line the pan with aluminum foil and coat the foil with non-stick cooking spray. Place the tomatoes on the foil and coat the them with non-stick spray, as well. (You won't need to add extra oil if you do this.)

Step 2 - Sprinkle on spices and salt: I use sea salt and plenty of dried oregano. Certainly dried basil and rosemary would be delicious, too. Or try a pre-made "Italian Seasoning" mix from the spice aisle, whatever evokes the flavor of pizza sauce.

Step 3 - Roast the tomatoes: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and roast the tomatoes for at least an hour. Do not UNDER roast these babies. You are not simply baking them, you are roasting them to the point when they caramelize and become sweet. Trust me, I've done this many times. If you do not reach a point where the tomatoes' acidic nature transforms into something sweet (as you would taste in a well-cooked pizza sauce), the combo of ricotta and roasted tomato just won't taste as good.

Step 4 - Finish with ricotta: Remove the sizzling, caramelized tomato halves from the oven. Plate them and add a tablespoon of fresh ricotta on top of each half. Garnish with another sprinkling of oregano (or Italian Seasoning mix) and your favorite salty, finishing cheese like Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, and...

Eat with joy!
 ~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes, win free coffee,
or find out more about my books, visit me
 at my *virtual* coffeehouse:

Click on the book covers above
to learn more about Cleo's culinary mysteries.


A final, quick note for our mystery reading fans.
The latest Mystery Readers Journal with the theme Hobbies, Crafts, and Special Interests is now available.

The issue, edited by Mystery Fanfare's Janet Rudolph, includes many mystery authors who have guest posted for us over the past year. You can check out the contents by clicking here, which will also give you info on how to purchase a copy (hard or electronic) for yourself.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cleo Coyle's Most Useful (and Useless) Kitchen Gadgets and the Perfect Hot Dog

As with most crowded, urban areas, New York is a place where affordable space is darn expensive, and that includes storage space.

After twenty years living and working in NYC, my husband and I have developed strategies for dealing with limited closets, no basement, and no attic. Suitcases, for example, are always packed in the Coyle household, and this has nothing to do with our travel schedule. We pack away summer clothes in winter (and winter clothes in summer) then slide the suitcases under our bed. See, we didn’t need that extra closet after all.

Cleo Coyle, appliance-challenged
cook and author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
The kitchen is far from immune to the Big Apple space issue. Now I love our kitchen. It’s cozy. It’s sunny. It's functional. It's also tiny, which means I have to exercise extreme willpower when catalogs arrive in the mail: Williams-Sonoma; the Chefs catalog; Bed, Bath and Beyond, et al.

At this point in my life, flipping through those glossy pages is a little like fantasy football. I dream of a state-of-the-art kitchen with bread machine, gelato maker, meat grinder, coffee roaster. Yes, I said coffee roaster. Roasting your own green coffee beans at home is now possible with a tabletop maker. The one I dream of owning is pictured at the right. Designed for small coffee shops to roast their own beans -- and only $4,500.00! :)

I swear, a few of these dream items will make it into my kitchen one day. In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to ask you…

What "dream" kitchen appliance do you want to own someday?

And while we’re at it…

What’s your most useful
kitchen gadget or appliance?

And what’s your most useless?!

I’ll start…

My Most Useless Gadgets:

Slicers (apple and egg)

Yes, I know. They're supposed to save time.
I just don't ever use them.

They sit in my drawer while I tackle my eggs and apples the way my grandmother and mother did -- with a nice sharp knife.

Rice cooker

A gift I thought would keep on giving. I used it once or twice then put it away and never looked back. These days my rice cooker is six feet tall with a deep voice. Nobody beats Marc at cooking basmati in the battered old pot my beloved late Aunt Mary left me. I swear that pot makes everything taste delicious. And the shiny new appliance remains in its box.

Bacon press

This thing is cute as all getout. We used it twice. Once for bacon. Once to press a sammy. Now we might as well convert it to a paper weight. Who needs perfectly straight bacon, really? And we're back to using our spatula for grab-and-press on grilled sandwiches. Sigh.

Chestnut cutter

If you've ever roasted chestnuts at home, then you know how difficult they can be to X properly so that they (1) release steam and don't explode in your oven and (2) allow you to breach the skin easily after roasting. This baby is perfect. I love it. I just don't use it unless I have chestnuts, which is maybe once or twice a year. Then, of course, it moves to my "useful" list. And speaking of my useful list...

My Most Useful Gadgets 
(lately, anyway...)

Dualit hand mixer
- It's fast, efficient, easy to clean, and packs away in very little space. I highly recommend this brand. For a home kitchen hand mixer, the motor is one of the most powerful I've ever used.

Collapsible steam basket - A little water and this basket turns any pot into a steamer. Veggies, dumplings, you name it. Use it all the time.

Box grater - Six-sided and I use at least one of them every day.

Soon to be added - Vertical Chicken Roaster! Click here to read Krista Davis's Monday post and see if you aren't convinced to add this one to your gadget list, too. :)

Pizza Pan with holes (ours is Wilton)

While we absolutely love New York's pizzerias, we sometimes save money (and time) by doctoring a frozen pizza at home.

Click here to read my past tips on becoming your own Frozen Pizza Doctor. One of the things that will make your frozen experience a good one is using a pizza pan like the one pictured. The holes in the pan prevent the frozen crust from baking up soggy. Instead, you'll get a nice, crispy crust every time.

Or visit our good bud Dave at A Year on the Grill blog and get some fantastic tips on making your own homemade pizza sauce. Click here to read Dave's winter pizza post.

While I don't have a traditional recipe for you today, I do have a fun cooking tip. Like our suitcase solution to our NYC storage problems, Marc and I often look for ways for one gadget to serve two or more purposes.

Case in point: our pizza pan with holes. Scroll down to see how we make use of it when we cook hot dogs...

Cleo's Tips for Cooking the
Perfect Hot Dog...

Into a saucepan of water toss 3 or 4 cloves of whole, peeled garlic, 1 teaspoon of yellow mustard powder, and some ground black pepper. When the water begins to boil, add the hot dogs. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes.

The garlic, mustard powder, and pepper add nice flavor to your average dog. The boiling will plump them up and you can eat them right away or throw them on a grill for a few minutes to add even more flavor and put some nice pretty grill marks on them.

Here's the pizza pan trick: During the last minute or two of boiling the dogs, set your pizza pan with holes over the saucepan's top. Place your open hot dog buns face down on the pizza pan, and in just one or two minutes you'll have nice, warm steamed buns to go with your flavorful dogs. Just slap on a little mustard, relish, onions, and...

Eat (and read) with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

Now a National
Bestseller in Hardcover

A Coffeehouse Mystery 

*Starred Review* -Kirkus

"Top Pick"  -RT Book Reviews

"...a highly satisfying mystery."
-Publishers Weekly

See the book's
Recipe Guide
by clicking here.

* * * 

Coffeehouse Mystery
Free Title Checklist
(with mini plot summaries)

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
13 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 

* * * 

Haunted Bookshop
Free Title Checklist, 

The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 
The Haunted
Bookshop Mysteries

To learn more, click here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Say Cheese for Pizza

I love pizza. Having a slice takes me back to my youth, when my mom would take us out to dinner and a movie. There was a great pizza place right next to the theater. I love melted cheese, dripping off the sides of the pizza. I love scooping the remnants of cheese and goodies off the pizza platter. I also love a flavorful pizza with zing but no sauce.

However, nowadays, I can't just waltz into a pizza parlor because I'm gluten-intolerant. Yes, there are a couple of places that offer gluten-free pizza, but really, I can't be sure. I haven't had much luck coming out of a pizza place after eating what the owners claimed to be gluten-free. Why? Flour flies everywhere.

So I make a pizza every now and then at home. I need my fix. While there are gluten-free pizza crusts that you can buy in the freezer--and the one sold in the Whole Foods freezer is really good--I love the flavor of fresh-baked bread. So this week, I bought a box of gluten-free pizza dough mix, made a fresh pizza pie, and topped it with some of my favorite things. Yum.

I made this particular pizza without the sauce and used Asiago cheese.
Asiago is similar to Parmesan and can be swapped out in most recipes. Alpine milk is what makes Asiago special. Alpine meadows have a huge variety of grass species and flowers which help create a better tasting milk.
Do you hear strains of the Sound of Music?

Can you smell the cheese? Nutty, yummy, with a crystalline crumble. Fabulous.



1 10-12 inch round pizza crust

½ cup tomatoes, diced

½ cup mushrooms

½ cup green onions, diced

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes

8 slices lean salami

8 kalamta olives, halved

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh rosemarry, snipped

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

½ cup Asiago, shredded


Bake pizza crust at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.

While pizza is baking, grill mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of olive oil

Remove pizza from oven and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt.

Arrange tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, salami, olives on the pizza.

Sprinkle with rosemary and basil

Sprinkle with Asiago cheese. (Yes, you may add more)

Bake in oven for 10 minutes until cheese melts and turns golden.

Serve immediately.


By the way, The Long Quiche Goodbye is due out any day now, so I've started guest blogging. I've already blogged at Jungle Red. If you want to check out the various blogs, click this link to my event calendar. Leave a comment.

And don't forget...the contest leading up to the launch of the book is going to end next week. So enter and remember, Say Cheese!

My "You Be The Sleuth" Contest!

My first book in A Cheese Shop Mystery series, The Long Quiche Goodbye, debuts July 6. To celebrate its release, I am running a contest from June 9 to July 6! You be the sleuth! Track down the recipe on my website that includes eggs, Edam, and white pepper. Enter your answer by clicking on this link: CONTEST ENTRY FORM.

One of you will win a $25 gift certificate at your favorite bookstore. Two of you will win signed copies of The Long Quiche Goodbye. Three of you will win a Long Quiche Goodbye magnet. You can ask friends for help. Spread the word and share the fun. And while you're there, consider pre-ordering a book on my booksellers page.

Here is the link to my website to help get you started.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Quickies Challenge: MISSION...POSSIBLE!

Eyes Only

Take on the Quickies Morning, Noon and Night Cooking Challenge

Avocado and Feta Cheese must be used!

Open – add any ingredients to complete the dish


Chef and author Denise Fletcher of Quickies on the Dinner Table; Lazaro of Lazaro Cooks; and Natasha of Five Star Foodie Culinary Adventures.

Although one of the prizes for winning this challenge is Denise’s gorgeous cookbook, Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night, I must confess that I already purchased it, and I’m so very glad I did.

Quickies: Morning, Noon and Night
by Denise Fletcher
Denise's Quickies is not just a book of recipes. It's a joyous, vividly illustrated trek through breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, and desserts with a knowledgeable culinary professional by your side chatting wonderfully witty insights as you go. The recipes themselves are by turns eclectic, exciting, comforting, and inspiring. (I LOVE this book!)

In fact, inspired by the many useful tips she includes throughout (like how to pair wine and food or choose a tender cut of meat), I decided to make my own cheap, little visual aid to go with this recipe. Just click the arrow in the window below (and please hold your guffaws until you've finished reading the entire post…).

So what is my mission here? Amuse Denise, Lazaro, and Natasha with my own fumbling attempts at a recipe using any ingredients I wish as long as they include avocado and feta cheese.

Okay, here we go…

My first try working feta and avocado into the same recipe was this savory cheese tart. Pretty, isn’t she?

The filling for my tart (ricotta and feta) was delicious with the tomatoes and thyme. I planned on creating an avocado-cilantro coulis to drizzle over the slices, but ... I took a wrong turn with the crust. Instead of pastry dough, I wanted to try something very different. Too different as it turned out. You see, I’d just made a graham cracker crust for a frozen key lime pie (a Terry Odell special, stay tuned for that delicious recipe) by pulverizing sweet crackers and mixing in butter.

I decided to try the same kind of press-in crust method by swapping seasoned bread crumbs for the graham crackers and olive oil for the butter. Sounded logical. Tasted like shite.

Try, try again, right? But as I prepared to re-make the tart, another thought struck me. With the start of summer here in the USA, many households will be looking for meals to make on the grill or stovetop—anything to keep from using that oven.

I also thought about the ricotta, which is a very neutral carrier of flavor, just like...avocado. So, why not just mix the avocado pulp with the feta cheese? A generous squeeze of lime was a no-brainer for flavor and to keep the avocado pulp nice and green. (Note better living through food chemistry – an acid will prevent your avocado’s flesh from darkening right away.)

While you can certainly eat this yummy feta guacamole with tortilla chips, I had a much better idea for lunch. You see, I live in Queens, New York, a short hike from the neighborhood of Astoria, where Greek immigrants bake the most delicious pita bread in the US (IMO). So I decided to make the base a pita bread—Naan bread, flatbread, or a pre-baked round of pizza dough will work just as well.

Toppings? When nobody’s looking, I’ll be piling it on (red onions, roasted peppers, black olives, anchovies…) but since my Quickies pita pizza needs to be photographed, I decided to stick with sweet, brilliant and currently plentiful grape tomatoes. A little chopped cilantro adds aromatic floral fun for the olfactory senses as you bite and chew.

And that’s the ticket. Probably not a dish that will get me hired onto Wolfgang Puck’s gourmet pizza brigade, but a nice, light summer lunch just the same—easy, healthy, colorful, and best of all Quickies-inspired.

Quickies Challenge

A “Quickie”
Fresh Summer Pizza
with Feta Guacamole

Makes 1 serving


1 round of pita bread (or Naan or 8-inch round of flatbread or baked pizza dough)
1 tablespoon olive oil (approximately)
1 small ripe avocado (I use Hass)
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 ounces (about 50 grams) feta cheese
8 grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped


Step 1 - Toast the pita bread: For an outdoor grill: lightly coat the pita on both sides with olive oil. Place the round over the heat of your grill and turn several times until bread is toasted and crusty. For a stovetop: Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil. When the pan is good and hot, add the pita bread, turning several times. Bread should not be soft when you remove it. You are doing more here than simply heating the bread; you are making it firm and crunchy. Plate the bread.

Step 2 – Make the feta guacamole: Remove the flesh from the avocado and mash it with the prongs of a fork. Mix in the lime juice. Crumble the feta cheese and continue mixing with a fork or spoon until you’ve created a smooth paste.

Step 3 – Assemble, top, and serve: Spoon the feta guacamole onto the toasted pita and use the back of the spoon to work it into a smooth, even layer. Place the grape tomato halves on top of the pizza, sprinkle on the cilantro. Slice into quarters and serve.

Additional topping ideas: This pizza is also delicious with roasted red peppers, black olives, anchovies, and red onions. Instead of cilantro, you might try chopped parsley or thyme leaves. You might also try tossing the grape tomato halves with olive oil, cumin, oregano, and sea salt before placing on the pizza. Then...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

To view the
Coffeehouse Mystery
book trailer, click here.

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
13 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 


(with mini plot summaries)
clicking here.


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