Leek Collard Pizza


Yancey and I got a pizza stone for a wedding present 14 years (!!) ago.  Yes, we got married when we were 12.  I don't remember who we got it from or why we had the foresight to think we'd need one, but we've been using it since our starry-eyed newlywed days.  I remember our first apartment--a daylight basement in Ballard. He'd come home from his job as a server at Stella's Trattoria in the U District (no longer there, sadly) and me from my job as a barista at the Ballard Starbucks.  We'd preheat the stone in the cheap oven and start experimenting. Our roles have always been thus:  I come up with and prep the ingredients, and he assembles and cooks them.  He made a pizza peel from a plywood scrap that we've been using for years.

Wyatt and I had a little date today while Loretta was sleeping and Yancey was studying.  We went grocery shopping together. It wasn't the movies-popcorn date of his dreams, but I told him he could get some Cheetos if he came.  I am not above bribing my children with junk food.  We had a great time together.  We hardly ever get to be together without his pesky (albeit cute) little sister.  

Our first stop was MacPhersons produce, which I have already mentioned here several times.  We loaded up on fruits and veggies.  Leeks, collard greens, and (oh no!) more mint! were among them. That's what inspired this pizza.

My friend Sue joked recently that I don't have a problem tooting my own horn.  For better or worse, I am definitely going to toot it now and say this pizza made it into the MK Top Five Pizza Hall of Fame.  And Yancey's a tough customer.

We've tried many, many crust recipes over the years and never been wild about any of them UNTIL my trusty Gourmet Cookbook came along 3 or 4 years ago.  The secret is not the ingredients (how creative can you get?) but in the fact that this dough is not punched down at all.  Home ovens just aren't super-powered enough to need that step, and this recipe is the only one I've seen that knows that.  Once the dough has risen (only once), you just work with it in its bloated state.  Pizza dough is E-A-S-Y to make, but I won't try to convince you of that.  I understand the Great Fear of Yeast.  If you don't want to take that plunge tonight, you can buy a Boboli crust or some Trader Joe's dough or that great pita I mentioned last week.  Unless the crust is First Rate Horrible, it won't matter once you taste this topping.  Oh yeah--we made the kids a pepperoni pizza.  That photo wasn't quite as tantalizing (though I love pepperoni pizza, I did not touch it tonight).

P.S. I happened to grill a bunch of poblano peppers today just because they looked so luscious at MacPhersons. So of course I added one to this pizza topping.  I realize that not everyone in the world chooses to ignore their children while grilling peppers on a Sunday afternoon.  They were totally delicious, but you are forgiven if you leave them out.

Rising pizza dough

Best Pizza Dough Ever
(from The Gourmet Cookbook--makes one crust.  I always double it, at least.  If doubling, put each round into a separate bowl.)

1 (1/4 oz.) package (2 1/4 ts.) active dry yeast
About 1 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dredging
3/4 c. warm water
1 1/2 ts. salt
1 1/2 ts. olive oil

Stir together yeast, 1 Tb. flour, and 1/4 c. warm water in a measuring cup and let stand until surface appears creamy, about 5 minutes.

Stir together 1 1/4 c. flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add yeast mixture, oil, and remaining 1/2 cup warm water and stir until smooth.  Stir in enough remaining flour (about 1/2 cup) so dough comes away from sides of bowl.  (The dough will be wetter than other pizza doughs you may have made.)

Knead dough on a dry suface with lightly floured hands until smooth soft, and elastic.  Put into a bowl, dust with flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour and 15 minutes.

TO SHAPE THE DOUGH FOR BAKING:  Do not punch down dough.  Carefully dredge dough in a bowl of flour to coat and transfer to dry work surface.  Holding one edge of dough in the air with both hands and letting bottom touch work surface, carefully move hands around edge of dough (like turning a steering wheel), allowing weight of dough to stretch round to roughly 10 inches.

Lay dough flat on a lightly floured pizza peel and continue to work edges with fingers, stretching it into a 14-inch round.

VERY IMPORTANT:  Turn your oven to 500 degrees and put your pizza stone in it ONE HOUR before you plan to eat.  That's the secret.  If you're using a pre-baked crust, it's still helpful to preheat your oven for a good 15 minutes.

Leek Collard Topping
3 or 4 medium leeks, tough dark green tops cut off, and white/light green parts cut into rings.  Cut first, then wash very well.  Leek are notoriously dirty.
3 cups collard greens, de-ribbed, washed, and finely shredded (or kale or swiss chard)
1 large garlic clove, minced
olive oil
1 roasted poblano pepper, peeled and coarsely chopped (technique for that later)
squeeze of lemon juice
1 1/2 c. Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 large ball fresh mozarella, sliced
2 Tb. finely chopped mint

In a large skillet, pour a couple good glugs of olive oil and heat on medium-high.  Add leeks, collard greens, garlic, salt, and pepper and saute for 15-20 minutes until soft.  Add poblano.  Squeeze lemon in at the end and let cool a bit.

To assemble the pizza:  Put your pizza crust on a floured pizza peel.  Brush it with a bit of olive oil. Line with Gruyere, then add the leek mixture.  Top with the fresh mozzarella.  Slide onto the hot stone and bake at 500 for about 10 minutes until it's bubbling and bottom of crust is golden.

Scatter fresh mint over the top and let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.