experiential adventures learning about sustainability, balance and love.

Valentine’s Day Taleggio & Fontina Primo Cheese Pizza. <3

My lady is a lover of awesome cheese. This Valentine’s day I decided to make pizzas from scratch using some primo cheeses. This is not a “cheese pizza,” but I wanted the cheese to be in balance with the other flavors. I’m not a cheese expert, so I spoke to the helpful guys at the Whole Foods cheese counter. They suggested Taleggio as a strong unique cheese that would make a really special pizza, and mixing it with Fontina; a lighter flavored cheese that would balance the flavors. After sampling a few pieces I agreed.

When I think of awesome handmade pizza the first thing that comes to mind is a perfect crust. A pizza stone makes all the difference here, but I don’t have one. I hear that cheap ($1) unglazed ceramic tiles work well and can be purchased from the hardware store, but I had no time to drive around looking for one. I used a 12″ cast iron griddle instead, and it worked great.

On to the Ingreee’ds… As a guideline I recommend the use of organic ingredients whenever possible. I find that I usually end up with higher quality materials and a better tasting recipe. There are, of course, exceptions. This recipe will make 2 pizzas; one with tomato sauce and one without. If you’re going through all this trouble you might as well make 2!

Dough Ingredients:

1 teaspoon sugar (use cane sugar, yeast can easily break it down as opposed to honey or something)
1 Package dry yeast (or sourdough if ya got it. I’ve always wanted to use Ale yeast.)
1 1/4 cups warm water (too hot can harm the yeast.)
2 Cups unbleached white flour
1 Cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4~1/8 Cup corn meal
2 Tablespoons honey (optional. why not? honey rules.)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt

Dough Preparation:

Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Add 2 3/4 cups flour, honey, oil, and salt to yeast mixture; stir until blended. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (Use some corn meal here.) Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).
Place the dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into the dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest for 5 minutes. Divide dough in half. Shape dough according to recipe directions.

Topping Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Taleggio cheese (or substitute another strong flavored cheese.)
1/2 Cup Fontina cheese (or substitute another lighter flavored cheese.)
1/4 Cup Criminelli Milano Salami (or some other nice cured meat. Pepperoni might overpower the cheese?)
1/4 Cup fresh basil; sliced thin (or substitute a few Tablespoons pesto.)
4 Cloves garlic; minced
4+ Tablespoons olive oil (used in garlic mix as well as coating the crust.)

Mushrooms:

1 Portobello cap
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 Tablespoon butter
pinch of sea salt
pinch of pepper

Sauce (for one pizza):

8oz Muir Glen Organic fire roasted crushed tomatoes (or substitute fresh tomatoes.)
1 Tablespoon minced onion (I used the white part of  green onions because I had it.)
1/4 heaping teaspoon oregano
1/4 heaping teaspoon thyme
1/4 heaping teaspoon sea salt
pinch of pepper

Topping Preparation:

Mince all the garlic; place in a small bowl with enough olive oil to cover; set aside. This will mellow and help spread the garlic flavor (optional; add herbs such as thyme, rosemary, oregano.)

Mushrooms: Chop portobello into thick slices. In a medium sized skillet heat butter and fennel seeds over medium-high heat. Add portobello slices moments later before butter and fennel seeds begin to burn. Add Thyme and a pinch of sea salt. Saute until portobello slices are nicely browned on both sides; add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic mixture just before turning heat off; stir. Place portobello slices in a bowl and set aside.

Sauce: In the same skillet add tomatoes, onion, oregano, thyme, and salt. Simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring often to prevent burning. Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic mixture during the last minute; Set aside.

Pizza Preparation:

Pre-heat cast iron griddle or pizza stone in your oven’s broiler. You want that puppy HOT.

Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface (use corn meal.) Make a rim around the edge if you desire. Lightly brush with olive oil. Carefully remove the pre-heated griddle from the broiler; sprinkle with corn meal. Pre-bake the crust @ 450° for 4-5 minutes. (*** I forgot/DGAF to pre-bake my crust and it still turned out awesome.)

Spread tomato sauce, 1 heaping teaspoon garlic mix, and optional pesto on the crust leaving a 1″ border. For the no-sauce pizza add 1 heaping teaspoon garlic mix and a Tablespoon or so of olive oil

Sprinkle the fresh basil first (optionally add basil after baking.) Crumble the two cheeses; evenly distribute the two types! Spread the salami and portobellos evenly.

Bake @ 450° for 10-15 minutes or until lightly browned. (*** I baked the pizza for about 10 minutes @ 450°, then placed the pizza in the broiler for 1-2 minutes in an attempt to get that super-hot brick oven quality… Actually, as you can see in the photo above, I kept the pizza in the broiler too long; something like 3-4 minutes which left it a little black around the edges. Still delicious, but not perfect 😉 )

*** Be sure to re-heat the griddle or pizza stone in the broiler before putting the second pizza on!

Don’t forget the Liquor! I’m normally a beer guy. In my mind a tasty IPA will compliment anything (so uncouth.) But it’s Valentine’s Day! I know a few roads to my lady’s heart… A top notch Gin & Tonic is one of them.

This is a bottle of Hendrick’s Gin and a small bottle of Amber perfume oil wrapped in banana leaves, azaleas, and vines from her small yard. 100% Biodegradable, 100% renewable 🙂

I didn’t think I cared much for liquor, but this stuff is distilled from angel’s tears and holy water. Apparently lime is a faux pas with Hendrick’s. They suggest a cucumber garnish!

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