It’s that time of year, when the calendar says it’s spring, but here in the Northeast, it can be more like a guessing game and true spring-like weather can still be months away. Cold temps and snow in March make for a very long winter. And for those of us deeply affected, the vitamin D deficiency coupled with the mud and muck outdoors just makes you feel “off”.
So, just like any other day when I might need to perk up, I do what I love and that gets me out of the funk quickly. On this particular day, it meant making pizza. Being in the kitchen is my “happy place”. Creating things from food we have grown or raised brings a satisfaction like no other, and a sure cure for winter blues.
The day started with opening two quart jars of lovingly grown, hand seeded and canned tomatoes from last summer. Just opening the jars can make you happy. They went into a pot and simmered to evaporate any excess liquid, then added garlic powder, basil, oregano and a pinch of crushed red pepper, all of which were also home-grown and dehydrated last summer. I left the sauce on a low simmer for about 2 hours and I already feel better just from the smell!
While the sauce was simmering, meatballs were made and precooked (see recipe below). Along with the meatballs, a few links of home-made hot italian sausage made their way out of the freezer and into the oven. If that does not make you happy, you really might need professional help.
1.5 lb each of ground beef and pork
1/2 cup of plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
In a large bowl, combine the ground meats. Add the bread crumbs, parmesan, egg and seasonings. With clean hands (your best kitchen utensils!) mix all of the ingredients together until well combined.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Coat a large baking sheet with olive oil (I personally hate to scrub dishes, so I also line the baking sheet with aluminum foil). Shape into meatballs that are about 2″ in diameter.
Place on baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, turning once during the baking time. After 30 minutes, remove the meatballs(and sausage!) from the pan and place directly into the sauce. Simmer in the sauce for another 30 minutes or until the meat is thoroughly cooked through and absorbed some of the sauce.
Next came the pizza dough.
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups of flour
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 cup of very warm water (about 100 degrees F)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil, plus additional for bowl
In a warmed mixer bowl (we run hot water in it for a minute or two), stir together the water and yeast. Once the yeast is dissolved, stir in the salt and the 2 tsp of olive oil. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour to the bowl. With the dough hook attachment, mix on speed 4 for about 2 minutes. Slowly add additional flour and mix until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl and is all gathered on the hook. Once the dough is on the hook, mix for an additional 2 minutes to knead. Transfer to an olive oil coated bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place* for about an hour or until doubled in bulk. Preheat oven to 450 deg F.
After the dough has risen, punch the dough down and turn out on a lightly floured board. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about 1/4″ thickness then transfer to a greased cookie sheet**. Stretch the dough to the edges then top with whatever toppings you like. For this pizza, I cut up the sausage and meatballs for the toppings and of course used the home-grown, home-made sauce. It’s just one of those things that once you have it, you never go back to opening a tin can or jar.
Bake for 15 minutes and enjoy!
*here’s a tip, before making the dough, we turn our oven on, temperature not relevant, leave it on for about 30 seconds, then turn it off. It creates a perfect warm “proofing box” for the dough. If it seems too warm when you are ready to let your dough rise, just leave your oven door open while the dough is rising. We use this method for all of our yeast risen baking.
**Also, we are now using a large round cast iron pizza pan(best gift ever!), which makes an amazingly crispy crust. The trick is to leave it in the oven as it preheats.
So, if you are anything like me, and need a little pre-spring homestead boost, find your happy place too, by warming your kitchen, your heart and the bellies of those you love with a home made pizza. And, hang in there, spring is almost here!