Tuesday, July 29, 2008

When I was in middle school, I had friends who would put Ranch dressing on everything. Seriously. They'd put it on pizza and burgers and chicken (which is more or less kind of normal), but also on bananas and fudgesicles. Ew.

I've got nothing against Ranch dressing, as long as it's being used properly. It's a salad dressing, so it belongs in the realm of vegetables. It's a stretch, but I think I'm also comfortable with it being used as dip for chips or on top of your baked potato (but there are better things to use for both).

And this brings me to my point: Ranch is not an all-purpose seasoning. It's not pepper. It's not garlic. Don't use it where it doesn't go. Get adventurous. Try new flavors. Use a dash of rosemary. A pinch of thyme. A ton of garlic. Create a sauce using white wine and butter. It's not that hard, and Ranch is definitely NOT that good. Branch out and try something new, for crying out loud!

I get a lot of my recipes from stumbling across the internet. For every one recipe I think I'd like to try, there are seven that don't quite meet my requirements. And in those seven, three have Ranch in the title. And that's why I'm particularly bent out of shape about Ranch this morning.

And hereth end my rant on Ranch.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Pizza: The Remix

I know, I know, all you vegetarians are choking on your own vomit a little bit right now. To you, that looks like ass on a plate. But to me, it's delicious. Anyway, don't judge by the picture alone. I trust you to make this pizza your own with your fresh roma tomatoes and your goat cheese and what have you. Just do me a favor, and don't put tofu on this, okay? Tofu has no business being on a pizza.

At any rate, for the dough, you'll need:
One and three-quarter cups of all-purpose flour.
One and one-quarter cups of semolina*
One tablespoon plus one teaspoon of Pizza Dough Flavor (optional)**
One teaspoon instant yeast***
One and a quarter teaspoons of salt
Two tablespoons olive oil.
One and a quarter cups of cool water.
*I had no idea what semolina was or where to buy it, so I used three cups of flour. Totally worked out fine.
**No idea this stuff even existed, and again, no idea where to buy it. I went without. Usually I toss a tablespoon or so of an Italian seasoning blend into my dough, and it's tasty!
***The only thing I had was active dry yeast, and it worked fine.

The moral of this story: use what you have and make intelligent choices about your food. It's all good.

So, dump all your ingredients into a bowl, and stir until the dough has formed a sticky ball. Then, knead it by hand or in a mixer until almost smooth, like so:

Then, cover your dough and let rise at room temperature for at least forty-five minutes. If you have the time and foresight, stick it into a greased zip-lock bag and let it rise in the fridge overnight, up to 36 hours, then four hours at room temperature before you're really ready to assemble and cook your pizza. I had neither the foresight nor the time, so forty-five minutes was all it got from me.

Now then, choose some cheese. Any kind. Pepper jack. Colby. Swiss. Parmesan. Feta. Whatever. As long as you like it and it'll mesh with the overall taste of your pizza, it's all good. I used a mild cheddar and sliced a chunk that was about a half-inch thick off the end. The recipe called for eight ounces, but I think that's a LOT of cheese, especially when you're going to top the pizza with even MORE cheese. Anyway, grab a chunk of cheese and cube it. Then toss those cubes onto the top of your dough, like so:

And then wrap the cheese inside the dough to make a lumpy, cheesy, delightful clump o' dough.
Knead it a little to evenly disperse the cheese.
Then, find your pan. Any old pan will do; you don't need to have a round pan or a fancy pizza stone or anything. A good old fashioned cookie sheet will do it. Coat it with non-stick spray and a drizzle of olive oil, and press your dough into the pan. Spread it a little, and walk away for ten minutes. (If you're like me, and you lined your pan with parchment paper, there's no need for non-stick spray, but still use the olive oil, because it makes the crust nice and crispy.)

Come back and squeeze the dough out some more. Your cheese cubes will poke out, but that's fine. Preheat your oven to 450F, and walk away.

Come back in ten minutes, do a final poke at your dough, and stick it in the oven for about eight minutes. The point of this is to give your crust a head start on cooking so that it'll be cooked through (and no longer doughy) at the same time that your cheese and toppings are all ready.
Oh yeah. Look at that. The cheese has started melting, and the crust is looking good. Spread your sauce on top, and pile on your toppings.
Cheese and meat and olives and mushrooms and tomatoes and pineapple and...mmmm....whatever your heart desires. (As a side note, I always use mozzarella as my base cheese, and if I can get it, I'll toss in some provolone, parmesan, and jack as well.)

As soon as your toppings are ready to go, stick the pizza back in for twelve to fifteen minutes. And as soon as you pull it out, you're going to want to transfer it to a cooling rack or something. If you don't, the crust will steam and get soggy on the bottom, and that's no fun for any
Slice, serve, and enjoy. Oh yes. Come to mama...

The boring stuff:
Makes twelve-ish servings, depending on how big you make your slices.
Difficulty: 3.
Takes about an hour and a half, including rise time. Unless you go for the 8-36 hour rise time, and then it obviously takes longer.