Food & Drink

Pizza with fresh produce is delizioso

Jeff Mayer, chef/operating partner, presents a "White Chocolate Fresh Peach Pizza" served with vanilla ice cream at Saul Good on Mall Rd. in Lexington, Ky., Thursday evening, June 9, 2011. The pizza is topped with local fresh peaches, Belgian white chocolate chips and streusel. Photo by Matt Goins 12137
Jeff Mayer, chef/operating partner, presents a "White Chocolate Fresh Peach Pizza" served with vanilla ice cream at Saul Good on Mall Rd. in Lexington, Ky., Thursday evening, June 9, 2011. The pizza is topped with local fresh peaches, Belgian white chocolate chips and streusel. Photo by Matt Goins 12137

One of the tastiest ways to enjoy fresh fruit and produce from the farmers market this summer is to serve them on a pizza.

Grilled pizzas are popular at trendy restaurants and so easy to make at home.

Rob Perez, owner of two Saul Good restaurants in Lexington, said the key to a good pizza is to start with fresh ingredients. When creating a specialty pizza each week, the Saul Good chefs think about the flavors that are served in a certain region of the state, country or world.

"We fell in love with Kentucky peaches and created a peach pizza," Perez said.

Saul Good chef and operating partner Jeff Mayer goes to the farmers market once a week to pick up items for the specialty pizzas. If he comes back to the restaurant with zucchini and crookneck squash, he will grill the vegetables and add other flavors from the Mediterranean, such as a tziki sauce.

Perez recommends a thin crust for a garden-fresh pizza.

"It accomplishes two things: The ability to taste the farm-fresh flavors you place on top of the pizza, and a more healthy option."

For baking a pizza at home, Sean O'Dwyer, managing partner at Carrabba's Italian Grill, said a pizza stone will produce the best results in the oven and make the crust light and crispy. If you don't have one, you can use a pizza pan or sheet pan.

He offered a recipe for Margherita pizza that calls for Roma tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

"Be sure the Roma tomatoes are ripe for this recipe. If you need to ripen them some more, place them in a brown paper bag overnight. Also, be sure you drain the mozzarella well so the liquid it's packed in doesn't make the pizza soggy."

Lea Ann Vessels, owner of Oliva Bella, imports olive oils from Italy to sell at her store on Old Vine Street.

"Finishing pizza with extra-virgin olive oil is a natural choice," Vessels said. "It's packed with numerous health benefits and is absolutely delicious. Its flavor and texture enhances vegetables, greens, breads any time of year, but especially summer, with the fresh produce that is available locally. Follow the Italians' lead: They finish absolutely everything with olive oil."

Recipes

This dessert pizza, from Saul Good restaurant, calls for fresh peaches.

White chocolate peach pizza

1 8-ounce pizza crust

10 ounces peaches (cut in ½ -inch dice)

3 ounces white chocolate chips

Streusel topping:

1 pound butter

4 ounces sugar

10 ounces brown sugar

5 teaspoons cinnamon

1 pound all-purpose flour

14 ounces quick oats

On thin pizza crust, scatter peaches and white chocolate chips. Combine streusel ingredients until mixture resembles pea- to lima bean-size crumbles. Place 3 ounces of streusel mixture on top of peaches and white chocolate, and bake in a 550-degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes. Or place on a grill for about 8 minutes.

This recipe is from Oliva Bella.

Pizza Oliva Bella

1 (10-ounce) pre-made pizza crust (Boboli makes a thin, 100 percent whole-wheat crust)

½ cup Oliva Bella Cipollini Agrodolci sauce

1 cup blue cheese crumbles

¼ cup chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ cup Oliva Bella olio rustico, extra virgin olive oil

Spread the Cipollini Agrodolci sauce over the pizza crust (the sauce is concentrated, so a little goes a long way.) Sprinkle the blue cheese crumbles over the sauce. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the cheese. Sprinkle the rosemary leaves and crushed red pepper flakes over the pizza. If desired, run the pizza under the broiler for a minute or two to melt the cheese. Drizzle the entire pizza with the olive oil, and serve.

This recipe is from Carrabba's Italian Grill.

Pizza Margherita

Dough:

½ teaspoon dry yeast

¾ cups water (100 degrees)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

Toppings:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon grated Romano cheese

13 to 15 slices Roma tomatoes, room temperature (sliced ¼ inch)

½ cup buffalo milk (or fresh milk) mozzarella (cut into ½ -inch dice)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

3 to 4 basil leaves (cut into nickel-size pieces)

To make dough: In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast into ¼ cup of the water. Let it sit for 10 minutes to dissolve. Stir in the oil and salt. Add ½ cup of flour to start, and mix thoroughly. Now start adding more water and flour, alternating and mixing well after each addition. Once you've added all the water and flour, a sticky dough should be forming. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. It should still be slightly sticky.

Place the ball of dough into a large bowl, lightly coated with olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 1 to 1½ hours, or until doubled in size. (You can easily double this recipe; just increase the rising time to 2 hours.)

Punch the dough down and be careful not to knead it any further, because you want the dough to be relaxed and easy to work with. If you have doubled the recipe by increasing the rising time, divide the dough into 2 balls after you have punched it down, and freeze one of the balls.

If you're using a pizza stone: To shape the dough, sprinkle a generous amount of flour over the surface of a pizza paddle; or, alternatively, you can get a flexible ½ -inch-thick piece of board from the hardware store and cut it into about a 14- by 14-inch square. Lightly flour a wooden work surface and place the dough on a work surface. Flour your hands, start from the center of the dough, and begin to shape it, using a patting and stretching combination, until you achieve a 10- to 12-inch round (depending on how thin or thick you want it). It does not have to be perfectly round. Transfer the dough to the pizza paddle and begin to add toppings.

If you are using a pizza pan, brush the bottom with a little olive oil first, then start from the center of the dough, using a patting and stretching combination until you reach the edges. You might need to gently pull and stretch some parts to reach the edges.

Form the dough, then stretch it into a pizza 10 inches in diameter, of even thickness. Brush evenly with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, spread all the way to the edge. Sprinkle Romano cheese evenly over pizza. Distribute tomatoes to cover pizza, and top with fresh mozzarella, evenly distributed over pizza. Sprinkle salt over pizza, then sprinkle black pepper over pizza. Drizzle other ½ teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil over pizza. Bake pizza on a pizza pan in a 500-degree oven until the crust is golden-brown and crisp. Makes one 10- to 12-inch round pizza or one 15½ - by 10½ - inch rectangular pizza.

Here are some other tips from O'Dwyer:

■ Pizza dough freezes well and is great to have on hand. Freeze one and use the other for the pizza you are making.

■ To freeze the dough, wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag, or wrap with aluminum foil. It can be frozen for as long as 6 months.

■ To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight, then remove from the plastic bag or foil, and bring to room temperature in an oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap. When it begins to rise again, it is ready for making pizza according to the recipe.

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