Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pizza with Italianos'

Excitement was building as we were approaching 5 pm Friday after a long week in the office, when plans for our beachside BBQ that evening were suddenly put off due to a thunderstorm warning. We were to have a farewell BBQ by Bondi Beach for a friend, R, who was scheduled to go back to Italy on Sunday. The evening's events were suddenly shifted to my tiny but very warm and cozy apartment a few beaches down the coast. All good except the apartment was an absolute mess, and we had no food in the house! Luckily, T was at home, so he could get onto the mess and pick up a few ingredients. So the frantic menu planning began.

What to cook for a bunch of Italian and Aussie friends on such short notice? I decided on a selection of dips and quesadillas with guacamole (recipe to come), and some home cooked pizza. T suggested we could take the easy option and just order in, but it didnt feel right to serve Italians their native dish out of a box. So home cooked it was. Since we needed to make it veggie and meat lover friendly, two pizzas were on the menu: feta and roasted butternut pumpkin pizza with pine nuts, and prosciutto and ricotta pizza.

I left the office as soon as I could, and I spent the bus ride going through my mental list of things to do before everyone arrived, so when I got home I jumped straight into it.

Pizza Ingredients

Dough*: Theres nothing better than a fresh, crispy yet soft and chewy, base for your pizza. I just pop the dough ingredients into our rickety old $4-from-a-garage-sale bread maker and it does the job nicely, or you can do it by hand. Check out this recipe. When the dough has risen enough, roll it out onto your pizza pan and bake until just crispy. Now its ready for toppings to be added.

* I've also seen some pretty decent ready made bases at the supermarket.

Caramelised onions: Thinly slice 5 brown onions into half-moons, and fry in a hot fry pan with a bit of oil. Turn it down to med-low when the onions become translucent and fragrant, add about a tablespoon of brown sugar and continue to cook, stirring for about 15 minutes.

Roasted Butternut Pumpkin: Peel and chop the pumpkin into inch sized cubes and put into a banking dish. Rub salt and olive oil into them well and bake until soft and golden

Garlicky Mushrooms: Thickly slice about a kilo of your favorite mushrooms, and put them in a fry pan. Coat them in olive oil, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring so they don't burn. You may need to add more olive oil if they look dry. When they have softened up a bit add your crushed, roughly chopped garlic, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes on medium until the garlic is browned.

*I use a small to medium sized bulb (mushrooms looove garlic!), divide into cloves, crush with the side of a knife, pull the skin off and any hard bits, and chop.

Other toppings: The rest of the ingredients need no further prep than picking them up at the supermarket or deli - pesto, ricotta or feta, greens (i used rocket and baby spinach), pine nuts, and some lovely sliced prosciutto from our local deli.

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Everyone arrived, bringing with them some delicious bottles of vino and warm cheery vibes despite the developing storm outside. All the ingredients were ready and waiting to be added to the pizzas. We snacked on the dips and quesidellas, and tasted the selection of wines while we chatted the night away. When everyone was ready for the pizzas, I quickly put it all together and popped it in the oven - so much better than takeaway!

Each pizza had a base coated with pesto, and then a layer of caramelised onion and garlicky mushrooms. A scattering of the greens, then the pumpin or procciutto. I found the butternut pumpkin needed the salty bite of the feta, while the prosciutto pared well with the mild creaminess in the dollops of ricotta. You could assemble these these ingredients in any combination you like. Just make sure you drizzle a good balsamic over your slice... Bellissimo!!

Photobucket {Leftover pizza}

Hiding in and staying dry from the awful weather outside we listened with full bellies to the talented muso's among us play us some tunes and conversation went well into the early hours of the morning.

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