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Pizza and Persian food?

December 16, 2009

What a great weekend. It was my wife’s birthday so we had a little party. She had had enough of my food so she wanted her mom to make Persian food for the guests. I was allowed to make a pizza for the appetizer. It was actually kind of nice being responsible for just one dish.

I went mystery basket style and opened the refrigerator. I had a pizza dough starter that had been working for about five days. I take yeast, water and about a third of the total flour needed and make a slurry. Each day I add a ½ C of flour and another touch of water. The flavor of the yeast develops more each day. The smell after five days is like a combination of the best bread you have ever had and a glass of great champagne.

I added the rest of the flour, some salt and a TB of olive oil and worked it to maximum elasticity in the mixer. I let it rise for a few hours punching it down once in the afternoon.

I had some beet greens leftover from some beets I used to color some eggs for another project. Lemons, feta cheese and walnut oil. I could taste in my mind the deep vegetal flavor of the beet greens wilted into balance over high heat with chile flakes. I could taste the cream like mouth feel of a drizzle of walnut oil over the top being perfectly offset by the sharp saltiness of the feta. I had some left over tomato sauce that I woke up with some toasted fennel seeds. It all came together as expected. I would not normally think of pizza as a liaison to Persian food but it worked. The vegetal characteristics of the beet greens with the Middle-Eastern cheese prepared the palate well for the lentil based stews that were to come. My mother-in-law’s Persian food was awesome as always. My wife was smiling all night and we had a blast. Tis the season for sure! Enjoy.

Key Flavor Factors:
1. Use a pizza stone in your oven and let it pre-heat at 550 for at least one hour so the stone gets hot all the way through.
2. Make sure the pizza dough rises fully (double in size) punch it down, divide it into the desired size balls and then let it rest again (covered in plastic to avoid drying) until flexible enough to stretch out into a pizza shape.
3. Use a well floured pizza board or lightweight cutting board to top the pizza and slide the pizza into the oven. Spread the pizza dough with a touch of olive oil before topping it to create a moisture barrier between the sauce and the dough.
4. Leave the edges of the pizza a little thicker and oil it to get a nice crust.
5. Wilt beet greens over high heat with a touch of oil. As they collapse and soften the flavor mellows and the texture is firm but tender.

Eat well, Enjoy life, Be happy

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