Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mexican Pizza... but not like Taco Bell's Mexican Pizza, y'know?

This is what it's like to keep this blog: I had this big post planned for tonight. I'd been sitting on it all week while we were pulled hither and yon (yeah, I said that) by friends and family and... you know, life. But I was really going to do it up right when I got the time to sit down and do it. The pictures were all shot and I had all kinds of witty metaphors percolating inside my head. But then the day was slipping away again and before I sat down and put my fingers to home row, I had to make dinner.

And that's when it happened. That was when the whole train of thought got diverted. Because in our preparations for dinner I found something that I had to write about, which I could not even consider not writing about. I put together the following pizza:
A light pizza crust (recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook again, which is quickly becoming our go-to dough for its ease [it comes together in seriously five minutes tops] and its hands-off approach to flavor [it imparts just the tiniest hit of saltiness and a fresh floury oomph that really suits summer veggie pizzas] ) topped with fine local extra virgin olive oil; half an organic yellow onion sauteed with diced jalapeno, garlic, and cumin; a light scattering (maybe half a cup? 3/4 of a cup?) of a blend of pepper jack and medium cheddar; and slices of a variety of heady, ripe heirloom tomatoes layered on raw.

We popped it onto the pizza stone which had been heating in our oven and we waited, half-crouched to keep an eye through the oven door and maybe, if we were lucky, to catch a whiff of the flavors melding inside.

And just to build suspense, let me add a little sidebar about our oven. The house we moved into a few weeks ago had recently had the kitchen remodeled by my parents. One of the appliances they put in is a GE Profile stove and convection oven. Now, I've had a convection toaster oven that I use all the time but there's just something a little bit... well, intimidating about the real thing. So while we've been using the stove daily, the oven has done no more than keep a set of (weird weird weird) soy pancakes warm while I cooked bacon last weekend. This was, for all intents and purposes, the maiden voyage of this little beast. Our first foray into high heat and moving parts. I can honestly say, watching the crust puff and brown and the tomatoes steam in maybe half the time it would have taken in a conventional oven, that I did take a step toward conversion.
After it came out of the oven looking gorgous, we topped the steaming tomatoes and cheese with crumbled queso fresco (which we got from this great store in Fresno called Vallarta which my original post was going to be about), and roughly chopped cilantro. And then sliced it up and took bites.
Let me tell you. Without exaggeration. It was damn good.

Given the fortuitous combination of good ingredients on hand, a bad ass oven, and some "what would happen if we..."s, we haphazardly threw together one of our top five best dishes ever. Maybe top two. I don't know. I'm stoked, though. And I could have eaten the whole pizza by myself. I love California Pizza, and I didn't think I could make it on my own, but there it is. Proven. Now how long until I get to make another one?


Alex Solla said...

This needs a lime!

Okay, now I need to get ANOTHER baking book. Email me this dough recipe. I want to make pizza again!! Heck... what I really want.. is to GRILL a pizza like this.

nancy said...

Drool, drool, slobber, slobber.

This sounds awesome and I want some RIGHT F'IN NOW.

Dana said...

Oh, lime, interesting. We'll have to try that. The dough recipe is actually in this post here:

And yeah, dude, this post even makes me hungry. I wonder if I can convince Justin to make it again...

oneshotbeyond said...

it's really pretty for a pizza! :-)

emmaco said...

Tracing backwards, I think I found your blog through Eisha at 7 imp. I just wanted to say your pizza journey was similar to mine - great at the start but recently been quite meh. I tried this dough recipe on the weekend, and wow. Just like you said, slightly crunchy and subtly flavoured, a perfect accompaniment for the topping. So thank-you!

justin said...

emmaco: I'm glad that this dough recipe reenlivened your pizza making, too! At this point, so many years from my inauspicious beginnings with homemade pies, I feel like pizza is a sacred practic--like a martial art or high level yoga--something that I both cannot stop and cannot--can never--master. This dough is just one more step along the journey. Welcome to the ride! And welcome to the blog! It's great to have gathered some 7-imp readers!