Merry Christmas to you all! This is the first time in eight years of writing this column that the publish date has fallen on Christmas Day. Happy day to us all.
Your big day meal is probably underway, so let’s look forward to a simpler meal while the whole family is still around. What about a make-your-own pizza night? It gets everyone involved, pleases the picky and the progressive eaters and warms up the house all at once.
The other beautiful thing about a make-your-own pizza night is that all those little bits of leftover duck, gorgonzola, broccoli with pinenuts, sauteed greens – the list will be your own, but I’m sure you’ll have one – all of those little bits can top a pizza in the newest and most interesting combo yet created.
Indulge yourself in a little creativity while satisfying the part of you that likes to use up everything in the refrigerator.
May you all share many times together today and this week that are filled with bright laughter and nourishing food.
For one large pizza, the ratio for little bits of this and that in your fridge should be:
1 cup tomato sauce (if you like)
1/2 pound grated and/or crumbled cheese
1/2 pound meat such as sausage, prosciutto, bacon or salami
1/2 pound cooked vegetable such as asparagus, broccoli, broccoli raab, onions and/or peppers
1/2 pound uncooked vegetables such as sliced tomato or spinach
So I’ve given you the basics, and some ideas for combining what you have. But I can’t resist giving you my favorite pizza recipe, which I often make on the boat as a way of using up leftover broccoli raab and sausage.
This recipe, while it calls for broccoli raab, is perfect for most hearty greens, such as kale, swiss chard, turnip greens and beet greens. Blanching them and then sauteing them with the sausage sweetens them a little and also evaporates the excess water that makes pizza soggy.
Many people think of broccoli raab as too bitter. But when it’s blanched, much of the bitterness leaches out and it becomes more acceptable to most palates, especially, as in this following recipe, when balanced by the rich, salty taste of the sausage.
Broccoli raab is a popular Italian vegetable and given that it’s high in all vitamins and minerals related to leafy, green vegetables, it’s worth a try.
If you don’t have time to make the dough, you can usually find white or whole wheat pizza dough in the deli or prepared foods section of your grocery store, refrigerated and ready to roll out.
PIZZA WITH ITALIAN SAUSAGE, BROCCOLI RAAB AND ROSEMARY
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage, spicy if you prefer, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
10 oz. broccoli raab, coarsely chopped; about 5 cups or 1 bunch
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pizza dough (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place a pizza stone in the oven on the top shelf (if you don’t have a pizza stone, use a baking sheet with the bottom side facing up.)
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until it begins to brown on the outside. When the sausage is nearly done and the water is boiling, add the broccoli raab to the pot of water. Blanch for 1 minute, then using a large slotted spoon or flat strainer, remove the broccoli raab from the water, allowing the broccoli raab to drain well. Transfer to the pan with the sausage. Add the rosemary, salt and pepper and mix well; continue cooking until any excess water has evaporated.
Dust the counter with flour and press or roll your pizza dough out to a little less than the diameter or width of the pizza stone or baking sheet. If you own a pizza peel, dust it now with corn meal. If not, dust the baking sheet. Transfer the dough to the pizza peel. Drizzle the dough with olive oil and spread the sausage and broccoli raab over the dough.
To transfer the pizza to the stone, angle the peel and wiggle the peel assertively to encourage the pizza to slide off, removing the peel as you go.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is golden brown on the bottom.
PIZZA DOUGH: The dough recipe below will make one large or two small pizzas – multiply as you see fit. If you have unused dough, you can use the remainder to make focaccia or a loaf of crusty Italian bread for another meal. You’ll to increase the rising and baking time, of course.
3/4 tablespoons yeast, or one package
11/2 teaspoons salt
21/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cornmeal for dusting
Combine the yeast, salt and flour in a large bowl. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, reserving 1/4 cup water. Add more water if needed. Knead for 10 to 15 minutes by hand or 3 to 4 minutes with a dough hook. Oil the bowl and the top of the dough, cover, and set aside in a warm, draft free place to rise until doubled (about 1 hour).
Makes dough for one large pizza.
Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea.” She can be reached at: