Yesterday's Island Today's Nantucket
Volume 38 Issue 9, June 26-July 2, 2008
now in our 38th season

Pizza Pie

by Maryjane Mojer
Executive Chef, Bartlett's Ocean View Farm

My husband was raised in Ossining, New York, and grew up with great pizza and delis within walking distance of his house. On his way to school, he would often stop at the deli for a buttered hard roll for a quarter, and on the way home would buy a slice of pizza for thirty-five cents. His spending money came from collecting soda bottles on the weekends for two cent returns. Pizza wasn’t necessarily a meal, but was a daily staple. He has very definite opinions, well, about many things, but particularly about pizza.

Pizza on Nantucket has evolved over the years. Federal Street Pizza was a favorite in the 70s, and now Sophie T’s fills that spot for us though we do order from everywhere.  We rotate our pizza ordering, and each place has a particular one that we will order over and over.  Before that, I’m sure there were places on island to get pizza, but my mom was never one to order out when we were kids, so pizza was something I would only have on occasion at a friend’s house.  She was also not big on prepared frozen foods and a real treat for us was a tv dinner every once in a great while on a Saturday night while we watched Wide World of Sports.  I will forever associate apple brown betty with “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat.“  Mom was an excellent cook, and really enjoyed figuring out how to make various dishes on her own, and when it came to pizza it was no different.  Her first, and I believe, last attempt to make pizza was the Bisquick impossible pizza pie.  (Bisquick was always in her pantry, and it is in mine, too.  Best strawberry shortcake, ever!) She made it for a slumber party that I had, and after a couple of snarky comments from the other girls and an eye roll from me that conveyed my embarrassment and dismay, I knew it would be the last try.  It was delicious, but not really pizza-like.  After I complained as only a twelve-year-old girl can, pizza was off the slumber party menu.  We stuck to spaghetti and meatballs after that.

Mom got the hang of take-out as she got older and was less able to cook. She embraced her new skill with pride and enjoyed every meal she brought in, and would get a hankering for pizza on occasion; always eaten with a knife and fork, and always with a salad.  For my own family, we order pizza every couple of weeks, and especially when everyone is home at the same time, which is becoming less and less often these days.  It’s so interesting that independence and self-reliance is what you truly want for your children, and then, when they become independent and self-reliant it’s so very bittersweet.  Ah, roots and wings, folks.

Pizza is kind of like a sandwich to me.  I love a good sandwich, but, for some reason, when I make it myself it’s less satisfying.  Now, when my husband makes a sandwich for me, that’s a treat.  I could use all of the same ingredients, but when someone else makes it, it just tastes better.  When I make a pepperoni or cheese pizza at home, I enjoy it, but take-out always seems better to me.  And, contrary to what my family may tell you, I do actually enjoy cooking at home.  Good pizza that we enjoy making as well as eating at home became a goal.

I really like a thin, crisp crust but have not been successful in making a thin, crisp crust dough from scratch.  I believe that part of that is the oven temperature and a pizza stone.

So, for that type of pizza, rather than making a dough, I use a flour tortilla and a pizza stone.  Preheat your oven to 500 degrees for a good fifteen minutes, I do have a pizza peel, but if you don’t have one, invert a cookie pan, and assemble your pizza on the back of it.  A little corn meal will help the dressed pizza slide more easily onto the pizza stone. Also, if you don’t have a pizza stone, (though I love mine and recommend one) an inverted cookie pan in your oven will help to produce good, crisp results.  You’ll want to put this pan in prior to preheating your oven, so it will also preheat.  I also find that when I use a flour tortilla for a crust, I tend to use less toppings, so when I eat the entire thing, as I no doubt will, I won’t compromise myself nutritionally (as much!) I always have either pesto or marinara on hand.  I place the tortilla crust either on the peel or the inverted pan, spread about two tablespoons of marinara or a tablespoon of pesto on the crust and top it with fresh grated parmesan or asiago.  (Cheddar or feta or goat or fresh mozzarella, not a bad choice in the bunch. It’s up to you.)  Make sure that your oven is well preheated, slip the pizza from peel to pan or pan to pan, and close the oven door.  This really only takes about five to seven minutes. It will crisp up a bit more if you let it sit for a minute or two.

For a full on, big yummy pizza, there are a couple of options.

The bread dough from Something Natural makes a great pizza. I cut the dough ball into thirds, and freeze whatever I don’t use. To thaw the dough, pull it out in the morning, and thaw it on a plate on the counter. (Not something that you would do with frozen meats! Those should always be thawed in a refrigerator, slowly, overnight. I know, my mother never did that either and we all survived, but slow and cold is safer.)

Make sure the dough is at room temperature before you start to roll it out. If you start to roll it and it pulls back into itself, it’s letting you know it’s not ready to roll!

Again, preheating your oven is key.  For this style pizza, I preheat to 400 degrees.  With the tortilla, you only need to melt the cheese and crisp the crust.  With the raw dough, however, you need to cook the dough and the toppings.  If your oven is too hot, you’ll wind up with a  nicely browned, but possibly raw crust.

If you’re using a pizza pan, have it sprayed and waiting. Much like a pie dough, use your finger tips to lightly press the dough out, and then use either a rolling pin or your lightly floured fingers to continue pressing it into a circle. When it’s the size you’re looking for, transfer it to your pan, top it and bake it. You’re looking for nice, even layer of sauce, not too heavy. Top with any of your favorite toppings, and bake. This pizza takes a bit longer; usually about fifteen to eighteen minutes.

This dough recipe is quick and easy and can be made last minute. It also makes a great, grilled pizza.

 Pizza Dough

  • One cup room temp water
  • One tablespoon olive oil
  • One package yeast
  • Two teaspoons sugar
  • Two and a half cups of flour
  1. Mix the water, olive oil, sugar and yeast together. Add the flour, and mix until combined. If you want to mix this in a mixer, be my guest. It does pull together quite easily by hand.
  2. Cover this with plastic wrap, and let it rest just long enough to preheat your oven. This will make two pizzas.
  3. For grilled pizza, I cut this dough ball into quarters. Just like preheating your oven, preheat your grill for about fifteen minutes. Make sure that your grill is clean. Just before you put your dough on, brush the cooking surface with vegetable oil, or spray with a nonstick spray.
    Grilled pizza has a much more rustic appearance than regular pizza, and, if done well, will have the added flavor of gorgeous, grill marks, slightly charred on the crust.
  4. Roll out your dough and have your toppings assembled. I find it easier to roll this dough out as an oval or rectangle rather than a circle. It makes it easier to handle on the grill. Pick up one end of the rolled out dough and in a pulling motion (think about pulling down the sheets) lay it on top of the grill. After about a minute, give your dough a 45 degree turn. After another minute, flip your dough over and top it. (You’ll need to work quickly, so have everything ready!) As soon as your toppings are on, close the grill for about 45 seconds. Since this cooks very quickly, you’ll want your toppings warmed. 

Pizza is great leftover and a great way to use leftovers. It’s something we have at parties, to celebrate different events, or just to celebrate being at one table at the same time. That’s a party in itself.

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