For my uncle Moon's birthday last year, I helped my aunt throw him a surprise party. We invited 70 friends and family and I contributed the food. Have you ever made 150 meatballs in one night? Along with bruschetta, caponata, white bean hummus, gorgonzola popovers, marinated olives, herbed pickles, prosciutto cups with goat cheese & figs, and spicy crab & shrimp dip? I did, survived, and was apparently successful. People enjoyed the food and some even assumed I was a caterer by trade. I took the compliments to heart and am starting culinary school soon.

Last weekend, some guests of that party invited me to cook at a small gathering at their house and it went remarkably well. It was a very laid-back garden party involving lots of hibiscus margaritas and lovely ladies. The main event featured various kebabs, but much of the night was spent munching on appetizers.

Rose and Geraldine have playful serving trays. Here's my giant version of shrimp cocktail.

Another favorite was the heirloom tomato flatbread. Well it was supposed to be a flatbread, but after quite a few failed recipes, I used a tried and true focaccia recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook recommended by Andrea.

Heirloom Tomato Pizza

For crust:
1 cup wrist temperature water
1 ½ tsp. (half a ¼ oz. packet) active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
Approx. 3 ½ cups flour
2 – 3 tbs. dried rosemary
Olive oil for the bowl, dough and baking tray
Extra flour for handling the dough.

On Top:
3 heirloom tomatoes thinly sliced
Fresh mozzarella
Basil - a handful thinly sliced
Herbed olive oil* or just really good olive oil

Place the water in a medium sized bowl and sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes – it will become foamy.

Add sugar and salt. Stir until everything dissolves.

Add 3 cups of flour, one cup at a time, mixing enthusiastically with a whisk. As the dough thickens, switch to your hand. Knead the dough in the bowl for a few minutes, adding up to ½ cup more flour, as needed, to combat stickiness. When the dough is smooth, oil both the bowl and the top surface of the dough. Cover with a clean tea towel, and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Punch down the dough, and transfer to a clean floured surface. Adding small amounts of extra flour as needed, to avoid stickiness. Knead the dough for about 5 to 8 minutes –until it is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball, and roll it into a 10 – 12 inch diameter circle. Let it rest for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking tray.

Transfer the circle of dough to the baking tray and brush the top surface of the dough with a little more olive oil. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Let cool slightly and layer the fresh toppings. You can add the toppings from the beginning, but to preserve the clean tomato and basil flavors, I find it best to add them toward the end of baking. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 400 for 10 - 15 more minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling.

Once cooled, but before slicing, I like to drizzle some balsamic glaze** for an extra punch of flavor. The sweetness works well with the roasted tomatoes.

*Herbed olive oil: simmer 1 1/2 cups olive oil with several smashed garlic cloves on low until your house smells awesome. Not just your kitchen. Your entire house. Cool olive oil, discard but make good use of garlic. Add a handful of flat leaf parsley, a handful of basil, and a few pinches of fresh oregano to your food processor and process it. Add the garlicky olive oil and presto - herbed olive oil.

**Balsamic glaze: Simmer 1 cup balsamic vinegar, the zest and juice of one orange, and half a cup of pomegranate juice until the mixture coats a spoon and is reduced by more than half. Stir in a few teaspoons of sugar or honey until dissolved. Pour over almost anything and it is guaranteed to taste better.

1 comment:

Carrie Mason said...

Culinary school? Seriously? Cooool!

That pizza looks incredible. I really miss having an oven. I miss you too!