Saturday, March 26, 2011

Secrets of a Gourmet Pizza

As many of you know, pizza is one of my all time favorite foods. I love the variety that comes with this iconic food. Practically anything I'm craving can go up on a pizza, and I enjoy making all different varieties depending on my mood. I find that there are five secrets to making a gourmet pizza. What is "gourmet" when it comes to pizza? For me, it's something a little bit different and special that makes it unique and delicious. Here are my five key components.

1. Fresh cheese. Back away from the pre-shredded cheese packages people! Shredding your own cheese truly makes a good pizza great. Buy a block of cheddar, colby jack or mozzarella and shred away. You'll be amazed at the improved quality of the fresh cheese. Or, if you have really fresh mozzarella slice it into thin slices and lay it across the pizza (see picture below). It becomes ooey gooey goodness! Or, crumble fresh goat cheese, feta or blue cheese on a pizza to up the flavor and specialness. When an ingredient is this important to a dish, why not use the best?

2. Carmelized onions. A pizza goes from standard to gourmet fare when one of the ingredients is cooked. Carmelized onions are my favorite. Just slice it up, sprinkle with kosher salt, and sautee in olive oil until brown, soft and sweet.  At the end of cooking I like to add a pinch of dried Italian herbs. You can also grill or roast different veggies to add to a pizza, and the flavor quotient soars! The deep flavors of cooked veggies contrast nicely with the fresh ingredients, and the soft texture is scrumptious.

3. Extra virgin olive oil. I rarely cook a thing without it. To make a prepackaged crust taste fresh brush it with some good oil before adding the sauce and toppings. You can also sprinkle the outside crust with sea salt, which adheres to the oil and provides a nice texture and great flavor. I also always drizzle my homemade pizza with a splash of oil before serving. I often go easy on the cheese, and this extra hit of oil makes the pizza moist and flavorful.

4. Fresh herbs. To finish a pizza with fresh herbs is to add the perfect accessories to your outfit. You'd miss them if they weren't there! My three favorite herbs to add to any pizza are basil, rosemary and oregano. I find the rosemary and oregano are best when cooked with the pizza, but the basil should be added raw right before serving. Ahhh fresh flavor!

5. Something salty. This can mean so many things, but for me, if there isn't a salty ingredient on my pizza I feel like something is missing. My favorite salty ingredients include olives, prosciutto, pepperoni/salami and Feta cheese. If you're not using any of these ingredients then sprinkle your pizza with a bit of sea salt for a nice briny flavor and interesting texture. And always, always finish your pizzas with a generous sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Prosciutto, Carmelized Onion and Fresh Mozzarella Pizza
A delicious gourmet preperation of my favorite food!
Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite)

One prepared pizza crust, lightly brushed with extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup prepared pizza sauce
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 large onion, sliced
1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 sliced prosciutto
6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
1 T. fresh rosemary, minced
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and fresh pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a medium skillet heat one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced onion and sprinke with salt. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until carmelized. Sprinkle with dried Italian herbs and remove from heat to cool slightly.

Spread sauce on pizza, then add minced garlic. Add chopped green peppers and carmelized onions. Tear prosciutto into bite-sized pizza and spread evenly over pizza. Add fresh mozzarella cheese slices over top of pizza then sprinkle with fresh rosemary.

Bake on pizza stone or direct on rack for 20 minutes. Remove and top with Parmesan cheese, fresh pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Pizza pizza!

Recipe and tips by Sarah Lang

1 comment:

  1. So true about fresh cheese! When we lived in Pittsburgh, one of the grocery stores had a cheese station where they had every cheese you could possibly think of! You would love it! We didn't get to creative but we would get the mozzarella... which was amazing!