Wednesday, August 12, 2020

(This is a prep-ahead recipe because of the dough! Think ahead two days.)

Nights are getting colder, so before I have to sweep all my basil into a batch of pesto, I’m finding ways to perch those fragrant green leaves in just the right places.

Pairing fresh basil with goat cheese and rich, earthy sautéed mushrooms drizzled with truffle oil is the perfect way to welcome autumn while still enjoying one of summer’s most prolific—and popular—herbs. For this pizza, I boosted regular ricotta with my favorite chevre. Since goat cheese will soften, but not exactly melt when exposed to heat, combining it with other cow’s milk cheeses gave me the perfect, tender result.

Served with a green salad and your favorite wine, this pizza is sophisticated and simple, with prepped-ahead key ingredients that make it easy to pop this aromatic entrée on the table in the middle of the week. Use any combination of mushrooms, as long as they’re fresh, never canned.And trust me about the rinsing and sautéing methods I suggest. While these techniques would probably shock Julia Child, the result is rich and the texture is perfect. For the pizza dough, try my easy recipe, or use a ready-made one that you like.


What you need for the dough:

3 cups high-gluten bread flour (King Arthur Sir Lancelot is ideal)

½ tsp instant yeast

2 tsp sugar

1 ½ tsp salt

¾ cup ice water

1 Tablespoon olive oil, approximately

Olive oil for drizzling and for the pans

Vegetable oil spray

The mushrooms:

8-12 ounces any combination of baby bella, cremini, white button, oyster and/or portabella mushrooms

1 Tablespoon olive oil (more if needed)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 Tablespoon butter

1 ½ tsp table salt (more if you like) AND/OR truffle salt

The cheeses:

1 cup ricotta, blended with ½ cup goat cheese

½ -¾ cup fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Dash of nutmeg

Dash of cayenne

White truffle oil (D’Allasandro Brand White Truffle Oil has the Kof-K certification)

About 12 fresh basil leaves


A Cuisinart

A large, medium depth sauté pan

Two cast iron skillets or a pizza stone or pan

In the Cuisinart, pulse the flour, sugar salt and yeast until blended.While running the machine, add the ice water in a slow, steady stream until the flour mixture is moistened but the dough has not yet formed a ball that pulls away from the side.Let the mixture rest for ten minutes, then restart the machine and add the olive oil.At this point, the dough should form a ball.Add a touch more ice water if necessary. Remove the dough and knead it for several minutes in your hands.Wrap in plastic wrap that has been sprayed with vegetable oil. Leave the dough to develop in the refrigerator for two days.

Three things will happen: the dough will have a slow, cold rise, giving the flavors a chance to develop, and that cold environment will inhibit large pockets of air. Pizza dough—as with any yeast dough—will develop larger air holes in a warm room.While this is ideal for some breads, which is why we allow them to proof in a warm oven, it is not what you want for a crust. Giving the dough an additional 24 hours takes the volume down even more, assuring a thinner, crisper, yet chewy crust.

The standard technique for cleaning mushrooms calls for a gentle wipe with as little moisture as possible. However, there is a new wave of thinking that omits this diligent, individual cleaning method.I tried it and I was quite satisfied with the results:

Place a colander holding the mushrooms in a large bowl. Add cold water and swish them around, repeating several times with fresh, cold water. This will remove the dirt quickly and effectively and, since the mushrooms will be sautéed immediately, there is no concern for a waterlogged product. Pour the cleaned mushrooms onto a clean dish towel and roll them around to remove excess moisture.

To slice, cut off the stem of each mushroom and slice the caps as thinly as possible, piling the slices into a bowl as you go. Chop the stems at the end and add them to the rest of the sliced mushrooms. Heat a heavy, medium-depth sauté pan and add the olive oil. Add the mushrooms in stages as they begin to cook down and allow more space. Do not be concerned by the volume of liquid in the pan. It will evaporate as the mushrooms cook. As the water dissipates, keep stirring until there is just some remaining moisture. Add the butter, then the garlic, a dash of cayenne and a dash of nutmeg. Sauté for several more minutes. As always, be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the salt, adjusting the amount to taste. Set aside to cool, then refrigerate in a glass bowl, tightly covered.

The day you make the pizza, take the dough out about one hour before you plan to bake it. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place two large cast iron skillets in the oven to heat, using the lower third rack.You can also use a pizza stone, and omit the steps pertaining to the two skillets. I like the skillet method; the resulting crust is perfect. Divide the dough in half. Gently work each ball into a disk and gently pull and turn to work the dough into a larger round, roughly 13 inches in diameter. I suggest using a rolling pin to finish shaping and thinning the rounds.

When the oven has preheated, take out the hot iron skillets and place them on the stove. Add about one tablespoon of olive oil to each pan and thoroughly distribute the oil. Heat the skillets on the stove and when hot, add the pizza rounds. Pierce with a fork at regular intervals, sprinkle lightly with the Parmesan, and return the skillets to the oven for about five or six minutes.

Remove the skillets from the oven again and on each round, distribute the goat cheese and ricotta blend, then scatter the mushrooms, and top with a thin layer of mozzarella.Do not pile the pizzas too high with toppings. Leftover mushrooms can be used over the course of the week. You’ll be glad you have them. Drizzle each pie with olive oil and pop the skillets back into the oven.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden.Baking time will vary depending on your oven. Drizzle with truffle oil, garnish with basil and serve immediately. Each round will serve two people.


By Lisa Dobi