June 18, 2015
Back several years ago, and I think I blogged about it, I went with a couple of friends to the allegedly second-oldest same-family-run pizza joint in the country, Papa’s Tomato Pies in Trenton, NJ. Dinner the other night kinda reminded me of it.
No, I couldn’t get my crust that impossibly crispy. My oven doesn’t go to 800 degrees, after all. I didn’t even put any herbs on it, as I was focusing on the ripe tomato goodness. But pair the lusciousness of an early summer tomato with the salty richness of parmigiano, the bite and bloom of some garlic confit and its oil, and a smooth bite here and there of fresh mozzarella, and put that all on top of a thin, chewy crust, and it ain’t no half bad pizza.
I made pizza crust a la Mark Bittman: three cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt, a tablespoon of yeast all in the FoPro, add 3 tbsp olive oil and enough water (about a cup and a half) to make it all come together and congregate on the blade in a ball. Kneaded that a bit, and stuck it into an oiled bowl to rise.
Came back and took half the dough and stretched and patted it into the bigger portion of a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Then I took about 3 cloves of confited garlic and a couple of tablespoons of oil, whizzed it up with the immersion blender (one of the handiest kitchen tools I own) and took a paintbrush and brushed a healthy layer of it all over the crust.
I do not mean a pastry brush. I mean a 99-cent, get-it-in-hardware-at-WalMart, 1 1/2 inch paintbrush. It goes through the dishwasher just fine, and when it gets too disreputable, you pitch it and get another 99-center. I also have a 2 1/2 incher (those are $1.99) I use for bigger barbecue jobs.
So. I had said painted crust. I took one of my sandwich-sized Mennonite tomatoes that I’d sliced that day at noon to make a sandwich (surprise!) and sliced the rest of it about a quarter-inch thick. Let those slices drain for a few minutes on a couple of thicknesses of paper towels, then turned them over to blot the other side. This is important. Else your crust will get soggy.
Meanwhile, I grated about 2/3 of a cup of Parmigiano, and cut the rest of the little balls of fresh mozz that I had and needed to use up, in half. Came back to the tomatoes; spaced them on the crust, dotted the half-globes of fresh mozz about in between them, and sprinkled Parmigiano over all. Into the oven she went.
Had I thought of it, I would have harvested some thyme, some oregano, and maybe some fresh basil to scatter about. I didn’t think about it, so I didn’t.
Ran the whole thing in a hot oven (about 500 is as hot as my oven gets) for 10-12 minutes.
It was quite pleasant. It was excellent for breakfast the next morning. And it’s a fine use of a ripe tomato. I highly recommend it to you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em.