Saturday, November 10, 2007

Fried Pie? Oh, Yeah!

This week one of my favorite cooks, food writers and New York Times columnist, featured a fried pizza. Leave it to Mark Bittman to tweak my curiosity yet again with a new twist on an old favorite. But it seems it's not truly a new twist.

My friend, Helen, tells me her aunt in Italy, fries dough all the time, and often it's served with just a coating of herbs and garlic. Nice accompaniment to soup or salad and a fine light bite to nosh with wine.

In addition to being intrigued with this novel method of cooking a pizza, I was pleased with the added benefit of not running the oven at 500° for an hour to get it as hot as possible, then another 25 - 30 minutes to bake the pizza. Not only because it narrows the gap between cooking and eating, but it also doesn't waste kilowatts. Going green is a good goal!

Here's Mark Bittman's pie professionally
photographed by Evan Sung of the NY Times.

Notice it has meat, tomatoes, cheese and fresh basil. The basic premise is simple: fried dough with a few fresh toppings. The fewer toppings the faster it cooks. With more toppings, adding a lid or running it under the broiler is suggested.

While I'd like to eat 100% raw, I'm not there yet. But I do curb the servings of cooked foods I eat. Additionally, I limit them to non-processed, whole, vegetarian foods. This quick stove top version of pizza filled the bill and provided a very satisfying Saturday night quick supper.

I had a jump start on the prep work as I had whole wheat pizza dough snuggled in the freezer. Early in the day, I took out a ball to defrost in the fridge and then let it rest at room temperature for a half hour before I started cooking.

A batch of pizza dough makes four 8 -10" pizzas. I use a very basic recipe and have had great success using King Arthur Organic White Whole Wheat flour.

Dough: 1 pkg yeast (2 1/4 tsp); 1 cup warm water (105° - 115°); 3 1/2 - 4 cups whole wheat flour; 4 TBS olive oil; 1 tsp salt.Mix dough ingredients, knead until smooth, let rise in oiled bowl. Once fully risen, punch down and form into four balls. Proceed with recipe or wrap well and freeze.

I used a very simple topping of one sliced vine-ripened tomato; 6 pitted and chopped Calamata olives, a handful of grated mozzarella cheese and a little dried herb mix of basil, oregano, dried red chili and sea salt.

Process: Prepare topping ingredients of your choice. Roll out dough to a 10" round. Heat 10" or 12" skillet over medium heat, add a thin layer of olive oil and when it shimmers, arrange dough in pan and continue cooking until bottom browns. Turn dough over in pan, arrange toppings on browned crust and continue cooking until bottom side is browned, toppings are warm, and cheese is melted. Add a lid to help warm toppings or alternatively, place under broiler to finish. With light toppings, as pictured above, adding a lid for a few minutes melted the cheese quickly and the whole process from start to finish didn't take but 5 - 6 minutes.

I'm eager to experiment with other toppings to produce some interesting flat bread snacks.

• Arugula, fig and goat cheese with tarragon • Spinach, roasted garlic and feta with oregano • Caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes and smoked mozzarella with basil.

Combinations are limitless and will be fun to play around with. Drizzles of flavored oil when serving can add another interesting dimension. Bring on the wine and let the party begin!

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