Early Spring Farmers Market Pizza

This pizza has a few ingredients, but none more important than 1) my good fortune to live a 5-minute walk away from one of California’s best farmers markets, and 2) a blessedly dry morning at the end of a waterlogged week, in which to stroll through the market and pick up a few green things between foldings of the dough.

I had enough sourdough toss-off to use in the dough, but a poolish would work here, too. My cheap but very sharp (you may ask my thumb if you don’t believe me) mandoline sliced my market picks — asparagus, green garlic, leeks, and goat gouda — thinly and perfectly.

Since I acquired a new house a few months ago, I’ve been experimenting with the best oven configuration for pizza, and I think I have it down: The stone goes on the second-to-highest oven rack. Preheat an hour at maximum bake temperature (550F). Bake the pizza about 7 minutes, then switch on the broiler and go for another minute and a half, until it’s pleasantly charred.

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Pizza in a Countertop Oven

If you have space for a countertop oven, I highly recommend one. It can replace your toaster, but a good-sized one can also do most of the things your regular oven can do — roast your chicken, broil your fish, bake your cookies, toast your nuts — using only a fraction of the energy of your big oven.

And if you have a baking stone, you can even bake a loaf of bread, or a pizza sized just right for one or two people.

I adored my Cuisinart Brick Oven when it worked, but after I had two of them quit on me in the space of three years (the top element died in one, the door spring in the other) it was time for a change. The Breville Smart Oven came to live here a few weeks ago, and the first hoop I had it jump through, other than toasting bagels (at which it performs marvelously, by the way) was my favorite white pizza — potatoes with rosemary and garlic.

For pizza, the hotter the oven the better, and a stone is essential for a crisp crust. The Cuisinart oven went up to 500F, but most countertop ovens, including the Breville, max out at 450F. Even so, I still got a pretty nice pizza, on the stone I saved from the defunct Cuisinart. Preheating the oven/stone for at 30 minutes gets the stone good and hot; skimp on this step and you risk an underdone crust.

Then there’s the question of how to get the pizza onto the stone in one piece. My regular peels are too big for the little oven, and my giant spatula is too small for a 10-inch pizza. Corrugated cardboard to the rescue! I cut a piece just wide enough to fit into the oven cavity. After rolling the crust out on the counter, I dusted my homemade peel generously with a mixture of white and semolina flours, and assembled the pizza on it. It slid off and onto the stone like a charm.

Get the recipe…

Grilled Nectarine and Goat Cheese Pizza

I’ve been making a lot of pizza on the grill this summer, and I’ve made this one quite a few times, both because I really like it and because I’ve been hoping to get a decent photo of the finished pizza. The photos aren’t really happening, but I decided to post it anyway.

The general idea is the same as for the grilled pizza margherita I made a few weeks ago: Grill the olive-oil-brushed crust on both sides, directly on the grill, adding the toppings after the first side is done.

The toppings here are pre-grilled nectarine slices (grilled on one side only), thinly-sliced Sally Jackson goat cheese, and a little chopped rosemary and Kosher salt. I chose this cheese, which comes wrapped in grape leaves, because it is a sliceable, meltable goat cheese; crumbly or creamy goat cheeses will not melt well in the short amount of time you have to cook the pizza while the second side of the crust is grilling.

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Grilled Pizza Margherita

Within the first week of my being bitten by the bread bug about three years ago, my oven had (quite literally) a meltdown, and the sight of poor ovenless me mooning around forlornly for the three weeks or so it took to get it repaired was a pretty pitiful one. Too bad I didn’t know about grilled pizza at the time.

I wouldn’t suggest waiting for an oven disaster, though, to make pizza on the grill. It is seriously, seriously good.

The idea is that the crust is placed directly on the grill grate to cook one one side, then turned over and the toppings added while the other side of the crust grills. Toppings should be simple and light, both because they don’t have a lot of time to cook and because, if you’re like me, you want the summer flavor of the lightly charred grilled crust to be front and center.

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi

There’s a reason I don’t give dinner parties: I’m not a good cook. So I really can’t explain what possessed me to have a dinner party in honor of my husband’s birthday last year, especially since the guest list included a number of card-carrying gastronomes. Luckily, they are nice people too, and much too polite to do anything but dutifully eat the less-than-perfectly-done osso bucco that was put in front of them.

We did have some pretty good bread (because I do like to bake) and a perfectly serviceable salad (hard to screw that up) and a delicious pear cake for dessert (because I do like to bake), but I think the thing that really saved the meal was some little orange pillows of goodness and light. And believe me, no one was more surprised than I was that these sweet potato gnocchi turned out so well that people actually asked me for the recipe. I can’t remember the last time that’s happened with any non-baked thing I’ve made. Now that I think about it, maybe it’s never happened.

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