Cook's Note: You can substitute baby spinach
and nettles, but then increase the amount of arugula to 3 ounces, and 3 or 4 ounces for the baby spinach.
For the sauce: Add the tomatoes, rosemary
, thyme, wine, oil, garlic and salt together in a blender
to blend. The goal is to get the ingredients mixed up but to still allow texture (little chunks of tomato and herbs) in the sauce. Allow the sauce to sit for a few minutes and it will thicken up. (If you find it does not thicken, add a little more olive oil and quickly pulse a few more times. Taste the sauce - it should taste fresh and lively and you should be able to detect a hint of salt and herbs. If not, wait a few minutes for the seasoning to open up - and if it still is not quite right for you, feel free to correct the seasoning (add a little more salt, or herbs as you choose.) Don't expect to use all of this; you will more than likely have tomato sauce
For the pizza dough: Preheat the oven to as hot as you can.
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let it stand until creamy, usually about 10 minutes.
When the yeast is ready, take a larger bowl and combine the flour and yeast. Mix just until the flour is thoroughly moistened. Let this sit for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, add the olive oil and sea salt, and knead
until a stiff but pliable dough has formed. Allow the dough to rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
Using about half the dough, use a rolling pin
on a well-floured surface to roll out the dough to about 12 inches in diameter. If the dough seems to keep springing back, then allow it to rest for another 10 to 15 minutes.
With this style of pizza, I like the base thicker on the edges and thin in the middle. An easy way to get this effect without hand tossing is by using a large pestle (from a mortar and pestle
set). The angulated shape of the pestle allows the dough to get pushed towards the outside rim and remain thinner in the middle, similar to a hand tossed crust. The pestle also comes in handy if you have a fragile dough that doesn't want to be hand tossed.
If you use a pestle, roll it in a circular fashion - similar to how the hand moves around a clock, with the narrow end of the pestle pointing towards the center of the pizza as you roll.
Before you place the dough on the pizza pan
the pan lightly with cornmeal
. Carefully lift the dough and lightly fluff it with well-floured hands - you are going to help aerate
the dough and lighten it up so it is not compressed from the rolling pin. Simply slide your floured hands under the dough after it is placed on the pan, and lightly lift and fluff the dough before allowing it to rest on the pan.
Lightly spread your fresh sauce onto the rolled pizza bases - do not add too much sauce, as you will find a light coating is enough, but leave a 1-inch border around the edge of the pizza without sauce and you will find that the crust will really rise. (Wherever there is sauce, the crust
will not rise up quite as lightly.) Also, do not rub the sauce into the crust, as the acid
from the tomatoes will prevent the yeast dough from rising.
Once the sauce is spread, this is when you want to add your own touch of fresh herbs
to make the pizza your own. Perhaps some sliced garlic, fresh sprigs of rosemary or thyme, marjoram, etc. The key is to go lightly - you just want an occasional "pop" of flavor that accents the rest of the pizza.
Now add your chosen fresh toppings. Arugula
, watercress and wood nettles are my favorite, but a simple and quick substitution is baby spinach. But really try to also get arugula, because it makes for a nice nutty and peppery kick. If you want to try your own favorite greens, choose ones that are fresh and lively but which do not contain heavy pungent flavors (for example, no shredded cabbage