Fields of basil

There’s nothing like the smell of freshly cut basil in the summertime to make me dream of living in southern Italy. I was particularly inspired when I walked outside on my back porch this week and found this:

Sun-soaked leaves of my favorite spicy-sweet herb.

With a whole night off and a pot full of this Italian sunshine, I decided to break out that “simple” pizza dough recipe (and the bread yeast sitting in my kitchen cabinet). This winter I tried a pizza dough recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks that my mom gave me called “The Heart of the Plate.” It’s a Moosewood Cookbook filled with vegetarian and vegan recipes. I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but I love any concoction using fresh and simple ingredients.

The recipe calls for all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt, yeast, lukewarm water and a couple tablespoons of oil. It is very low key and was much simpler than I expected. The first time I made this dough was during the winter. Once mixed, the dough is supposed to rise six times the started size. Last time, this did not happen, and I couldn’t figure out why. This time however, (maybe because I used more yeast than called for and the house was as humid as a swamp), it rose from this:

After mixed the dough together, forming a ball and kneading it on a floured counter.
After mixing the ingredients together, forming a ball and kneading for a few minutes on a floured counter.

To this:

Not quite 6 times the started size, but I'll take it!
Not quite six times the started size, but I’ll take it!

What was particularly exciting about this round two try was that I actually got to “punch” the dough down after letting it rise for an hour. It was pretty fun. Everything I’ve ever dreamed it would be … For the sauce, I used my freshly made pesto.

Fresh basil leaves, a few sprigs of garden cilantro, garlic, parmesan cheese, chopped walnuts and olive oil, blended together with my purple hand mixer that I love and use almost every day. I don’t have a for-real blender because this baby is strong-like-bull.
Basil pesto
Basil pesto deliciousness. To me, it tastes exactly like summer.

Basil pesto

Next, I added fresh Wisconsin-made mozzarella from the fancy cheese aisle, tomato slices, red peppers, broccoli florets and a few basil leaves on top. In a couple months, I hope to have tomatoes of my own to use. These were store-bought.

Before baking.
Before baking.
After baking (and eating).
After baking. Somehow the oven lost a few slices …
Apparently homemade pizza dough freezes well, but I’ve never had any leftovers to freeze. Maybe someday when I’ve lost the ability to eat half a pizza in one sitting …

Good thing we happened to have a bottle of sangria and an orange in the fridge as well.

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