Summertime in Southwestern Ontario should be greeted with special meals suited to patio dining with your friends and family. My first feature this week is a perfect meal to be shared with your loved ones outdoors on a private patio. Summer is too short in this neck of the woods, and dinnertime temperatures should be taken advantage of and enjoyed.
My meal features fresh homemade pizza smothered with delicious soft cheese, olive tapenade, sautéed portobello mushrooms and fresh basil and hot peppers from the garden. I added a bit of kick to the dough by including some homemade curry powder. Making your own dough is satisfying because you can add different seasonings and spices to the mix and control the size, thickness and shape of your creation.
Without further ado, here is a very special and unique homemade pizza recipe for patio dining with your loved ones.
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water
1/4 oz (8 g) package of yeast
3 1/4 cups unbleached white flour or spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon of curry powder (optional)
1/4 cup olive oil + more for brushing
1 cup black olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons capers
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
juice from 1 small lemon
sea salt to taste
fresh cracked black pepper to taste
1 large portobello mushroom, sliced
3 cups soft fresh shredded cheese (I used a combination of Gouda, Fontina and Mozzarella)
1 cup tomato sauce (suggestions here and here)
1 small red onion, sliced into thin rings
2 – 3 jalapeños, seeded and sliced into rounds
fresh basil leaves for garnish
Begin by making the dough. Dissolve the sugar in the warm water, making sure the water is “bathtub” warm but not hot. Sprinkle in the yeast and stir gently for about a minute until it dissolves. If the yeast clumps, the water is too cold and the process should be restarted. Let sit in a warm place for 5 minutes or so until you have a smooth beige-colored mixture and a layer of bubbles forms on the surface.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups of the flour with the salt and curry powder (if using). Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour in the yeast-water mixture and olive oil. Mix the ingredients together, beginning in the center and incorporating the flour from the sides of the bowl. Continue until a soft dough is formed.
Lightly flour a large cutting board or wood surface and dust your hands with flour. Knead the dough by pushing it away from you, folding it over, and moving it forward. Rotate the dough and continue. Add some of the remaining 1/4 cup of flour as needed until your dough is no longer sticky — about 5 minutes. Keep kneading for another 10 to 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a well-oiled large bowl. Brush the dough with more olive oil and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours, after which the dough should have doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, prepare the toppings for the pizza. Combine the tapenade ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until a coarse paste is formed. Taste for seasonings, and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, toss in the mushrooms and sauté for 5 or 6 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to lose their moisture and start to “squeak” in the pan. Remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare a 12-inch vented pizza pan by lightly brushing it with olive oil and sprinkling with a light coat of cornmeal.
To finish the dough, punch it with your fist and divide into two portions. If making one pizza, reserve one of the portions by wrapping in plastic wrap and freezing for later use. Lightly flour a large cutting board or wood surface, and flour a rolling pin. Roll the dough out into a roughly 1/4-inch thick round shape, making sure the edges are slightly thicker than the rest of the dough. Add flour when needed to keep from sticking, and pick up the dough and turn several times to stretch. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and form a ridge around the edges with your hands.
Preheat an oven to 500° and move the rack to the second-from-top position. Brush the dough with olive oil and lightly scatter 1/4 cup of the cheese over top.
Spread the olive tapenade evenly over the dough. Top with tomato sauce, followed by most of the remaining cheese, mushrooms, onion and jalapeños. Scatter the last of the cheese over top and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cheese is starting to bubbling and the crust is crisp and lightly browned.
Remove from heat and lightly brush the edges of the crust with a little more olive oil. Garnish with fresh basil leaves, cut into wedges, and serve hot or warm.
Yields 4 to 8 servings