Saturday as we were driving back down to LA from Mark's mom's up in Santa Maria,
Annie called me on my cell to see if we wanted to pop over that evening for a very
casual back yard pizza grilling party with her parents, brother and a few other friends. "Something really easy," she told me, explaining that she and her family had been out all day sightseeing and doing cultural things and now they were sort of wiped out. They'd most likely just pick up some dough and the other ingredients we decided at Trader Joe's as well as a bunch of bottles of wine and just hang out. The invite was tempting but I was sort of on the fence. Since I had the all-to-rare luxury of time this past holiday weekend, I had originally wanted to take advantage of it by make a stew or something slow-roasted or braised but then I got to thinking. After all the time consuming Thanksgiving food we all just went through, doing something quick and easy like pizzas DID seem awfully appealing. I told her we were in.
The idea of "something easy" echoed through my head as we drove down the coast. Even though easy was the key word, I didn't want to do something unimaginative like store bought sauce, pepperoni or sausage and boring veggies like mushrooms and peppers. I remembered the escarole pizza we did for Annie's housewarming and how I still wanted to post it, but then thought about how much prep there was. Not tons, mind you, but just enough that made it slightly daunting.
Then I thought back to a recent dinner Mark and I had at a new Italian restaurant called Terroni that just opened in LA that was supposedly threatening to give Pizzeria Mozza a run for their money. Last week we'd met up with an old friend of Mark's from London and decided to check the place out. The space was fantastic, a very sleek yet weathered juxtaposition of crystal chandeliers, glossy white subway tiles, white marble counter tops, stainless steel and wooden Eames style chairs. It's exactly how I wish my apartment looked. As far as the food goes, however, I was totally prepared to be irritated. The website smugly boasts that they don't cut their pizzas, they don't take reservations and they don't alter or substitute any of their dishes for their customers. However, perhaps I got caught up in the party-like atmosphere, the sizzling garlic that perfumed the air and the jugs of wine on all the tables, but I wound up sort of loving it. Of course it's still no Mozza.
Their menu is quite large, filled with an impressive selection of "apristomaco," "ensalate," "primi" (pastas), pizze, panini, and "secondi" (entree specials, which are scrawled on a floor to ceiling chalkboard beside the bustling open kitchen.) And yet what appeared to be an extensive selection from which to chose, upon closer inspection, sort of seemed to be an illusion. Even though they offer thirty different "pizze" all of them seemed sort of like slight variations on one another. The Margherita comes with tomato, mozzarella and basil, while the Marinara comes with tomato, basil, herbs and garlic. The Marinara Ricottara is just like the regular Marinara but has the addition of ricotta cheese. Then there are like fifteen combinations of speck (smoked Prosciutto) or regular prosciutto, Salame (either hot or spicy Calabrese or hot Cacciatore or sweet Genoa) and mozzarella, Buffalo milk mozzarella, Mascarpone, goat cheese, Bocconcini, or smoked Scamorza cheese, etc. You get the point. I mean, how do you choose? The pizzas at Mozza seem to have more distinct personalities.
This is the one pizza that stood out from the others. I liked the idea of honey, walnuts, pears and Gorgonzola, however I didn't actually end up ordering it. It seemed sort of "desserty." Perhaps a little too sweet. I opted instead for the homemade rigatoni with dandelion greens, homemade spicy sausage, Fontina and Parmigiano. And yet this sauceless pear, blue cheese and Prosciutto drizzled with honey seemed so interesting. I decided that this would be one of the pizzas to try over at Annie's. I mean, just look at it. All of the ingredients are so simple and need nothing done to them, beyond slicing. So easy.
I know I posted a pizza recipe not that long ago, but after we threw together this interesting and autumnal pie together, I felt it was too delicious and unique to not post.
2 pounds pizza dough (either home-made or store-bought)
1/4 cup or so corn meal
extra-virgin live oil
1 pear, thinly sliced
8 ounces Gorgonzola, crumbled
1 8-ounce ball of buffalo mozzarella
4 ounces Prosciutto di Parma
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted in a 400 degree F oven for about 10 minutes until fragrant
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Cut each 1 pound ball of dough in half and then on a lightly floured surface, roll out each portion into an 8 to 10-inch rough circle about 1/4 inch thick. If the dough isn't completely round, you can fold over the edges a little to for more of a circle.
Sprinkle two heavy baking sheets with a generous amount of cornmeal. Arrange one round of dough on each baking sheet. Alternately you can line the baking sheets with parchment paper, instead of using the cornmeal. Prick the crust with a fork leaving a half inch border around the edge.
Brush the crusts with some olive oil then scatter the Gorgonzola over and dot with small chunks of mozzarella. Place slices of pear on the cheese and then drape slices of Prosciutto over everything.
Place the pizzas in the oven and bake for 12 minutes until the cheeses have melted and the bottom of the crust is golden.
Remove from the oven and grind over some pepper, scatter with the toasted walnuts and then drizzle with honey. Slice into squares or wedges and serve, accompanied by a nice wedge of Parmesan cheese and a small dish of red pepper flakes. Repeat the process with the remaining ball of dough.
This pizza is like the perfect study in the contrast of flavors. It's all about salty/sweet, crisp/creamy, fresh/cured. The Gorgonzola is creamy, salty and pungent while the mozzarella, also creamy, is mild and milky, almost bland. They work really well together. The slices of pear are sweet and fresh and the silky Prosciutto slices are just slightly crisp and, like the Gorgonzola, are salty but have a delicate porky, ham flavor. The Prosciutto and pear are natural accompaniments. Finishing off the pizza, the walnuts have a toasty meatiness and the honey, adds a kiss of sticky sweetness which works especially well with the Gorgonzola.
That night Annie's brother and father also decided to make their own version of what they considered to be an easy pizza, sort of the polar opposite of this one, their inspiration taken from a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. Sounds like something you'd order from Domino's during a football game or something, right? (Does that sound a tad snobby? Oh well.) It was slathered with store-bought sauce, showered with grated cheddar and mozzarella and then topped with, wait for it, chopped up fried Steakums, which I didn't even know they made anymore. I'm reluctant to say, but it was sort of good, although in my defense I'd had more than several glasses of wine by that point. I still prefer the one I made though.
Serves 4 to 6 to 8