At my parents’ house, we used to make homemade pizza every Saturday night. (This was before Uncle Howard died of a heart attack in his forties and Dad’s cholesterol was afterwards discovered to be terrifyingly high.) My mom does most of the cooking, but (like grilling in most households), pizza is Dad’s domain.
If I’m remembering it right, he made the dough himself. (I know he did sometimes and he has been lately, I just don’t know when he started.) The thing I remember best about the dough was the sound of the tiny bubbles fizzing as they were punched down. We’d spread the dough out on the pans (South Dakotans, in general, aren’t pizza tossers), load them up with tomato sauce stirred with a bare minimum of oregano and an excess of salt, cover them with meat (pepperoni), and slather them with a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella.
Good stuff, but…I grew out of it.
When I started cooking for myself, I didn’t make homemade pizza. There were other, more exiting things to try. I went through the SPICES phase, where everything has to have at least six spices, and I went through the don’t-follow-the-important-parts-of-the-recipe because-that’s-more-daring phase, in which I ended up with clumps of pasta (not enough water), collapsed bread (old yeast), and lots of other embarrassing dishes that I’ve wiped from my memory the way some people erase childhood abuse. Lately, I’ve been trying the “simple” phase. Honestly, it’s kind of a relief.
I think I can track it back to reading The Outlaw Cook, by Matt Lewis Thorne and John Thorne. One of the essays was about something called a plowman’s lunch–onion, bread, cheese, beer. He talked about how these things could transformed into more sophisticated dishes (for example, onion soup) but still shared the same simple essence, which could be reached most clearly through the basic ingredients. I’m putting this in a much wordier, intellectual way that I should be, but that’s the college education for you.
Anyway, I tried it. Onion, bread, cheese, beer. Good stuff. I didn’t have to screw around with it too much, but I could if I wanted to.
One day, I saw refrigerated cans of pizza dough at the grocery store, and I picked up a couple. It was the second week in November, and I was in “Must Write Novel” phase, which equates to “But of Course I Don’t Have Time to Cook.” Also, I have a six-year-old who likes to help in the kitchen, and you gotta take advantage of that.
So she squished out the pizza and I cut up some peppers and mushrooms. Ray spread out the pre-made spaghetti sauce and put the veggies on. We grated some mozzarella over top (not too much) and threw it in the oven. I broiled it for the last minute or so.
Delicious. It took us half an hour, and I’m talking with-six-year-old time here. Nothing happens in half an hour with a six-year-old, dammit.
So I thought about it.
Pizza doesn’t have to be a big production. At its simplest, it’s bread and cheese that have been cooked together, warm bread, melted cheese. It’s essentially a roasted dish, dry heat. It doesn’t have to be Italian-themed.
So what’s good roasted? is my thought.
We did the next experiment today, and it was fun. Ray was in complete denial of there being any possibility of the pizza being edible. Lee walked around making faces and raising eyebrows.
Ray’s on her second piece, and Lee said, “That’s not bad,” but in that tone of voice that South Dakotans use to say, “You could make that again and I wouldn’t make fun of you next time.” High praise.
Here’s the recipe.
Brussell Sprout Pizza
1 tube refrigerated pizza dough
Spread the dough out on a greased, heavy-bottomed cookie sheet.
Heat about 2T butter in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add two cloves of chopped garlic and saute for a minute. Sprinkle the mixture with about 2T of flour and stir until the floury smell disappears. Add 1t salt. Pour in 1/2c. heavy cream and stir over heat until thickened. Pull the mixture off the heat and spread it on the dough after it’s stopped bubbling.
4 oz. (1/2 box) mushrooms (I used baby bellas), sliced thickly
About the same volume of Brussels sprouts, stem ends trimmed and sliced the same way you did the mushrooms
Sprinkle the vegetables evenly across the sauce and dough. Grate cheese over the pizza–I used Oaxaca, because they had it at the Mexican market I like–but not so much that it covers the veggies totally.
Put the pizza in a 400F oven for about 15 minutes, or until the dough is starting to turn brown around the edges. Finish the pizza by broiling it until the cheese turns brown and the veggies start to turn dark and dry around the edges.