Friday, October 19, 2012

Farm Fridays: Tomato and Pesto Pizza

Fall farm pick-ups are like a rainbow: red tomatoes, orange carrots and winter squash, yellow-green tomatoes, dark green spinach and parsley, purple kohlrabi (if any of you finds a blue vegetable, let me know - I guess hubbard squash would be the closest). I like seeing all the lovely produce arranged on my kitchen counter.

Today's farm pick-up was a little bit of an adventure. The tomato plants all died with the frost last Friday, so there is currently no limit on the green tomatoes from those plants, which will likely be plowed under soon. After hearing my mother and grandmother reminisce about the green tomato pickles they used to make forty years ago, I was determined to try my hand at a batch for them (hello Christmas presents!). I marched out into the field of dead tomato plants and started feeling around for nice tomatoes - there were plenty. I think I only picked from four plants, total. But as soon as I got out there, a sprinkle of rain began which turned into a full-on downpour in about thirty seconds. Fortunately, I came prepared with my rain gear (whose worth was proven in the north of England last year). Still, my basket and its contents were getting soaked, so I hustled. I didn't get as many tomatoes as I would have wanted - possibly a good thing, because my eyes are bigger than my stomach where preserving projects are concerned - but I still got enough for a few jars of pickles. Stay tuned to hear about that.

When it came to planning today's dinner, I wanted to keep it easy, since I'm planning a packed day of canning and cooking tomorrow. I've been eying a big jar of pesto in the back of our fridge - made with the last of our yard's basil, hastily picked in anticipation of the season's first freeze. I'd frozen some of the pesto but I never got around to finishing the job. Now it needs to be used. I thought it might be nice as a pizza sauce, so I grabbed that, some slicing tomatoes from the farm, a ball of fresh mozzarella, and a ball of pizza dough that was conveniently stashed in the freezer (when making pizza dough from scratch, it's always worth doubling the recipe and freezing one for a rainy day).

This pizza was everything I'd hoped. The pesto, while a little off-color due to its age (it oxidizes quickly when exposed to air), was still bright and tangy. The sliced tomatoes dehydrated in the heat which allowed their flavor to concentrate. The dough was beautifully crispy. Jeff was a big fan of this one. And since we had all these lovely homemade ingredients sitting in our fridge already, it only took us a few minutes to pull together. Perfect for a lazy Friday night.

Tomato and Pesto Pizza

1 ball pizza dough (recipe here)
1/2 c basil pesto
2-3 small slicing tomatoes, sliced thin (1 large beefsteak would do it, I think)
1 ball mozzarella cheese (or shredded mozzarella - the down side to our using very fresh mozz is that there was too much liquid. If we'd used a harder, drier ball, or prepackaged shredded cheese, it would have helped the tomatoes roast and concentrate even more)
dried oregano, to dust over the top

Put the pizza stone in a cold oven and preheat to 450. Let the oven and pizza stone heat for about an hour.

When ready to bake, roll out the dough into a circle that fits your pizza stone. Check that the pesto is a spreadable consistency (if not, microwave for a few seconds). Make sure all your other ingredients are at hand (the dough will start cooking as soon as it hits the stone, so you need to work fast!).

Remove the pizza stone from the oven. Gently lay the dough onto it. Spread the pesto across the dough gently (if the bottom crust has started to crisp already, you might need to hold it down gently to keep it from sliding around as you spread the pesto). Sprinkle with cheese.

Spread the tomato slices evenly over the top and sprinkle with dried oregano. 

Return to oven for 8-10 minutes, until crust is crisp and cheese has begun to bubble and brown. Cool a few minutes before serving.

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