Some days it is hard to believe that all problems will inevitably be solved and life will get better - apartment hunting is not going all that well, James left town and, most importantly, last night's amazing pizza is gone. I was so sad that I got some shopping therapy... at Trader Joe's. I got some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and milk. And I'm feeling all better now.
I am afraid a lot of people think of pizza as the greasy stuff you order when there's nothing in the fridge (Brooklyn Pizza and Maggpie's are very much excluded from this generalization). Also a lot of people think that making pizza is very hard and time consuming. I am going to try to convince you that this is not the case and that amazing, tasty pizza can be made with minimal effort and ingredients so that you should never have to order the greasy cheesy stuff ever again.
I love making pizzas in the summer, when there is an abundance of fresh vegetables to top them with. I have been using this recipe for about a year now and have made a dozen pizzas, all of them very much successful. The crust itself is so good, it can be eaten all by itself with little more than olive oil, salt and an herb of your choice on top. The recipe is originally from Epicurious:
1 envelope active dry yeast
3/4 C lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2+ C flour
3 Tbs olive oil
a bit of cornmeal
Preheat the oven to 450F. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water and leave aside for 5-10 minutes until it gets a bit frothy on top. In a big bowl make a well in the 2 C of flour and pour in the olive oil, salt and the yeast mixture. Mix first with a fork until all flour is incorporated. Then flour your hands and knead adding a bit more flour until the dough is not as sticky, but it should still be soft - I usually end up adding another tablespoon. Kneading should be about a minute. Grease the dough with some olive oil, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit and rise while you are preparing the topping.
To make the actual pizza, punch the dough down and knead into a ball on a floured surface. The dough must be soft and all surfaces and hands should be well floured to avoid sticking. Roll it out with a rolling pin (also floured) or just pull it with your hands. It needs to be very thin, almost transparent. Oil the pan/stone and sprinkle with cornmeal. Place the dough on the pan and oil the top a bit. Place in the oven and par-bake until the top starts getting a bit rosy. At this point you may add your toppings and bake for another 5-10 minutes until heated throughout. Voila.
Here are some topping ideas - I am a fan of simple pizzas where you can savor the flavors of the ingredients and not get lost in them:
Tomatoes, mozzarella & basil. Slice 2-3 tomatoes, 3 balls of mozzarella and tear the leaves of a bunch of basil. Toss everything with olive oil. Arrange on top of pizza and salt. Eat right away or bake until tomatoes are soft and mozzarella is melted.
Potatoes and rosemary. Parboil potatoes, peel and slice thinly. Toss with a rosemary, salt and olive oil. Arrange on top of the pizza. Bake. (You can add some sort of cheese id you want.)
Three cheeses. Spread tomato sauce (pasta sauce from a jar would work too). Arrange slices of mozzarella and parmesan and crumble ricotta on top. Bake until the cheeses are melted. Sprinkle chopped fresh basil on top before serving.
Caramelized onions and cheese. Slice thinly 3 heads of onion. Caramelize. Spread onions on top of the pizza and randomly distribute slices of Gruyere or parmesan on top of them.
Of course, the possibilities are endless - more ideas can be found here, here, here (grilled pizza, lots of ideas in the comments), and here (including a recipe for Arizona Pizza).