Summer heirloom tomato pizza
In our household pizza making used to be solely a wintertime operation. The high heat from the oven made the kitchen too hot to bother on days we would rather be outside sucking down watermelon and ice cream. Then we discovered the heirloom tomato. If ever a tomato was made for pizza this is it. These big beautifully disfigured creatures are the tastiest thing this side of the farmers market. From Oregon to Maine, farmers have rediscovered this long neglected variety. But, alas these tasty treats are only in season during the heat of summer . You can get them in some places year round, but be prepared to pay and arm and leg. So if you want heirloom pizza, either crank up the AC or open the windows and pray for a good breeze. Either way you will be glad you did.
- pizza dough
- 2 to 3 lbs large heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
- 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- a handful of basil, loosely chopped
- Mozzarella cheese, shredded (use the kind that is packed in water)
- a few pours of good olive oil
- a handful of baking flour
- a few handfuls of cornmeal
- small bowls (for toppings)
- trenched cutting board
- garlic press
- pizza peal
- pizza stone
- pizza cutter (not necessary but very cool)
- Place pizza stone into the oven and preheat to 495 F.
- Remove stems and slice the tomatoes as thinly as possible. It’s okay if some pieces fall apart, we don’t need perfection. But thin is definitely in. Use a trenched cutting board as the juices will flow out of these of these behemoths. Set aside.
- With a rolling pin, roll a fist sized ball of pizza dough on a floured surface as thinly as possible. A dough should roll out to make a 10” to 12” pizza base. If you are lucky it will be nice and round. If it’s not, square pizza tastes just a good.
- Place a healthy handful of cornmeal on pizza peal and transfer your rolled dough to the peal. (The cornmeal will allow the dough to easily slide off the board when you are ready to transfer the dressed pizza to the oven.)
- Cover the top of the dough with the tomato slices and using a heavy hand drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the oiled heirlooms. Then loosely cover tomatoes with the shredded cheese. Too much cheese will over power the other flavors so just a light coating. Sprinkle a handful of the basil on top of the cheese. Add garlic and pepper to taste.
- Sliding your beautifully decorated pie into the oven is hands down the trickiest part of the entire operation. (Remember that corn meal?)
- Open the oven and at a 35 degree angle place the tip of the peal over the far side of your stone. Then with small flick of the wrist pull the peal back towards you. With a little luck and practice the pie will slide off the peal and land on the hot stone with ease.
- Bake at 495 F until done. Your average pizza will take about fifteen minutes, but times can vary so check often. As I general rule of thumb I like to wait until the crust is firm before removing as I like it nice and crispy. The water from the tomatoes may slow the cooking process down a bit.
- When ready slide your peal under the pizza and remove from the oven. If the dough is crisp it will slide out without problem. If the bottom of the pie is wet and sticky then it is not ready to come out.
- Cut. Eat. Repeat until stuffed.
What you should know
If you are feeling lazy you can always purchase some pre-made dough from your local pizza joint. I’ve done this on more than one occasion. The clerks are always confused and the managers think I am nuts, but they always sell me some dough – if only to get rid of me before I scare the customers. The going rate seems to be about $2 to $3. Let us know how it goes for you.
If you’re oven gets hotter than 500°F, then by all means make it hotter. In excess of 600°F is the ideal temperature for baking pizza.