Simple Tomato and Basil Pizza

posted in: Grains, Recipes, vegetarian | 12

Today marked the first two of hopefully many bike laps of Prospect Park I’ll ride this year. I fear the flab. I really do. It also marked an occasion for some gentler, fresher, milder and lighter fare that I’ll hopefully see much more of this year. Thin-crust pizza that more resembles a salad with breadsticks? Yes, please. Even if it involves few more than three ingredients and a seriously scant amount of cheese, I’m still calling it a pizza now and for all. ‘Tis the season.

I admit I’m feeling a little bit sore from the 7 mile ride and then some after stupidly buying my stuff at the Greenmarket first, and carrying it around on my back. I’ll admit too that I ate the entire pizza in these photographs in no longer than one day’s time. I’m off to some pathetic numbers this season. Still, it feels good to be sore from something other than a wild night.

one juicy beefsteak tomato and 2 crushed garlic cloves

my third slice of heaven

Food this fresh and flavorful needs little, if any, real cooking. I came across a pile of “beefsteak” tomatoes at a packed stand in the Greenmarket and decided on this principle on the spot. With a name like that, who needs actual meat? I can’t figure out how the term was coined, but I’ll bet it was invented by hardcore vegetarians on a streak of natural endorphins. The thick slices cook to a sauce-like consistency in a hot oven for fifteen minutes, placed atop raw pizza bread dough. I smeared the dough first with a crushed garlic and salt mixture to give it some pungency and topped the tomato slices with salt, pepper and a dash of grated Parmesan. It smelled like a pizza parlor while it cooked. Out of the oven, and after cooling for a bit, some freshly sliced basil went on top. Who needs marinara?

And then there was Mother’s Day. Sometimes you just have to choose when to best celebrate holidays, rather than rely on the generic, market-addled predetermined days for mothers, fathers, etc., etc. But I did see my mom last Sunday, when we attended a grave family affair at a Buddhist monastery in Hudson county upstate to entomb the ashes of her father, my last grandparent to pass. We had such a long day and night together then that it seemed a little bit insignificant to meet up and exchange chocolate cake and toiletries on this day, a week later. So today I’m toasting to good health and genes, having seen all my grandparents live past their seventies and in most cases, pushing their nineties.

Simple Tomato and Basil Pizza
(makes 2-3 servings)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups water
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary (fresh or dried)
1 large beefsteak or other fleshy tomato, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
5-6 fresh basil leaves, finely sliced
freshly ground black pepper

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt and rosemary. Add water sparsely while mixing with a wooden spoon until dough just comes together in a stringly mass. Turn onto a floured surface and knead 8 minutes until smooth and elastic in texture. Pour half the olive oil in the bottom of a bowl and place dough in it. Top dough with the other half of the olive oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let sit 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes. Crush the garlic on a cutting board with a chef’s knife, smearing the pieces back and forth with the side of the blade until it resembles a pulp. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of the salt on the garlic and blend with the knife.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Punch down the pasta dough and form into a ball. Cover again and let rest 10 minutes. After it’s rested, stretch it out to the size of your baking sheet, and place it onto the sheet. Smear the crushed garlic evenly across its surface and top it with an even layer of the tomato slices. Top with a pinch more of salt, black pepper, and the Parmesan. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the crusts are slightly golden. Remove from oven. Let cool 5 minutes, top with basil slices, and serve.

Cost Calculator
(for 2-3 servings)

1 beefsteak tomato (at $3.50/lb): $3.25
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (at $4/5 lb bag): $0.75
1/2 pkg yeast: $0.50
2 tablespoons olive oil: $0.30
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan: $0.60
2 cloves garlic: $0.15
salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon rosemary, 5 leaves basil from windowsill plant: $0.25

Total: $5.80

Health Factor
Two brownie points: As long as you’re not terribly carb-adverse, this is a wholesome meal that you can feel blasphemous about calling a “pizza.” In fact, what better reason to get more exercise than giving yourself a few extra carbs to burn? In addition, the tomatoes offer lycopene and plenty of vitamins, which fresh basil’s no stranger to either. 

Green Factor
Eight maple leaves: [I’m having a slight problem with getting the icons up at the current moment —Ed.] 
Not only is the dough homemade, the tomato and herbs locally grown, but half of the garlic was plucked wild from the park (the other half being a regular clove bought from the Greenmarket). The only negative being the unavoidable imported nature of black pepper, and the somewhat avoidable imported olive oil. For my next bottle I’ll have to scope out some nice California varieties to up the ante here. 



12 Responses

  1. Joanna

    My local pizza place when I was a kid served something they called focaccia pizza, and it looked a lot like this, only with a much thicker crust. I often chose it over regular super-cheesy pizza, but when I moved away I must have promptly forgotten about it – thanks for reminding me! (And showing me how easy it would be to recreate!)

  2. Yvo

    My condolences to your family.

    That looks really delicious, too. I have to say about beefsteak tomatoes, I was watching this show that was thinly veiling how they were mocking Jessica Simpson et al, and said “That girl is only famous for how stupid she is. Someone offered her a beefsteak tomato, and she declined because she’s a vegetarian.” I couldn’t stop laughing. Awesome line.


    Simple Tomato and Basil Pizza…

    Oh my God: parmesan on the pizza??…

  4. Liz

    Do you have any idea of the carbon footprint of a greenhouse? In order to get tomatoes now (a good month an a half before natural production), these greenhouses housing tomatoes need to be heated and tended to starting in March – and the last time I checked, March was COLD. I think you need to drop those maple leaves a couple notches. Local – yes. Organic – perhaps. Green – think again.

  5. lalaine

    I also love fresh tomatoes and olive oil instead of the tired old pizza sauce. I actually have a pizza recipe that calls roma tomatoes, spinach and ricotta cheese as toppings. Bu I’ve never tried fresh basil though. Wow! I can just imagine the aroma as it bakes in the oven!

    Thanks for a wonderful pizza adventure!

  6. donna

    Liz, if you think about carbon footprint that hard, you might as well stop eating and stop living.

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