Deep Dish Pizza – Chicago style

Chicago style deep dish pizza is an entirely different creation!  We traditionally make thin crust pizzas, with a light topping.  This situation calls for heavier amounts of all toppings, and naturally a heavier layer of dough.

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Ready for the oven, this dish features soft chewy dough, sweet & savoury toppings, and the tang of feta with olives – a little something for everyone.

The secret to having a dough that doesn’t get all soggy is in the layering.  DON’T PUT YOUR SAUCE RIGHT ON THE DOUGH!!!  That’s it, basically.

preheat oven to 400 and generously grease your cooking vessel with olive oil

PIZZA

Prep everything ahead of assembling your pizza.  For this pizza I made 1 10″ deep dish creation consisting of:

  • 2 spicy Italian sausages, removed from casing and broke apart – cook until crispy on the edges.
  • 2 mild Italian sausages, (see above)
  • 1/2 cup sliced yellow pepper, flash fried until it has golden brown bits
  • 1/2 cup sliced red onion, sautéed until carmelized
  • 1/2 cup thickly sliced Crimini mushrooms, sautéed until browned and have lost some juice
  • handful of kalamata olives, (hopefully pitted)
  • handful of feta cheese, crumbled
  • mozzarella cheese, freshly grated

SAUCE

For one 10 “pizza:

  • 1/2 can (about 1 cup) fire roasted canned tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil (if, like me, you live in an area where this is not readily available, I use the tubes – they most closely replicate that fresh flavour)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste

I just stir this together as I like the chunks of tomato.

This whole thing is a lot easier if you buy pizza dough pre made, but when I get home from sitting at a desk all day and listening to people, I love the idea of working with dough.  Kind of like kitchen yoga, it washes away that day ….. (yes, I’ve been told that’s a bit odd but it beats drinking every night).  Or does it?

ASSEMBLY

Lay your pizza dough in the cooking dish, and gently stretch it to go right to the edges, and up the sides.  Let it rest if it doesn’t go easily, it will once it has had a moment to chill out.  This may take a few rest periods, but get a generous amount of dough to behave and fill your dish as well as up the sides.

Cover the bottom of the dough with mozzarella.  Sprinkle over the cooked sausage meat, then the mushrooms and onions, and finally the peppers.  Spoon the sauce over this, and top with feta and kalamata olives.

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Get all your toppings ready while the dough is rising in a warm, draft free spot.

Bake at 400 until you see the crust nicely browned and bit of sauce bubbling around the toppings.  This will take anywhere from 20-30 minutes.

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Make sure you allow it to sit, once out of the oven, for about 10-15 minutes so it retains its shape when you slice those pizza pies.

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The perfect balance of tender dough and toppings.

PIZZA CRUST (if you are so inclined)

(makes 3 10″ deep dish pizzas)
Ingredients:

  • 750 g white flour (use Tipo ’00 flour if you can or a strong bread flour)
  • 200 g semolina flour
  • 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. (or 1 x 8 oz packages) yeast
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place your flour(s) and sea salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Create a well in the center.
  2. In a large measuring cup, mix together your lukewarm water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Sprinkle in the yeast and let it sit for approximately 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to ferment.
  3. Pour the water/sugar/yeast mixture into the well along with the olive oil and stir together with a fork or large spoon until it is well mixed. Once it becomes too difficult to mix together with your fork or spoon, sprinkle extra flour on the dough and your hands and mix with your hands until the dough comes together in a ball.
  4. Place the dough on a well-floured flat surface and knead, pushing the dough using the palms of your hands, for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough looks smooth and stretchy. You may need to add extra flour as you go, being careful not to add too much to keep the dough from being too stiff.
  5. Place the ball of dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil, dust the top of the dough with flour, and cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm draft-free area for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down.  At this point you can either refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 2 days, covered with plastic wrap and occasionally punched down) or divide the dough into 3-4 portions (depending on how big you want your pizzas).  I highly recommend making your dough in advance and letting it sit in the fridge as the longer ‘proof’ really makes a difference.   Ensure that your pizza dough comes to room temperature before cooking (bring it out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours before you are ready to cook).
  6. You can also use this recipe for up to 8 small individual pizzas.

Pizza Pockets & Hand Pies

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Following is the recipe for a basic, soft and easy to work with dough.  I used this recipe for making pizza pockets for my granddaughter Sloan’s first week of Grade 1, and then turned leftover dough into meat hand pies for 93 year old Auntie Elsie, who is kind of tired of cooking these days. Leftover dough you say???  Well I didn’t think 8-10 small pizzas would give me enough dough so I doubled the recipe … which yielded 25 pizza pockets, 10 hand meat pies and 1 pizza for our dinner.  Significant yield!!!

Pizza Crust: (makes 8-10 small pizzettas)
Ingredients:

  • 750 g white flour (use Tipo ’00 flour if you can or a strong bread flour)
  • 200 g semolina flour
  • 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. (or 1 x 8 oz packages) yeast
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place your flour(s) and sea salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Create a well in the center.
  2. In a large measuring cup, mix together your lukewarm water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Sprinkle in the yeast and let it sit for approximately 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to ferment.
  3. Pour the water/sugar/yeast mixture into the well along with the olive oil and stir together with a fork or large spoon until it is well mixed. Once it becomes too difficult to mix together with your fork or spoon, sprinkle extra flour on the dough and your hands and mix with your hands until the dough comes together in a ball.
  4. Place the dough on a well-floured flat surface and knead, pushing the dough using the palms of your hands, for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough looks smooth and stretchy. You may need to add extra flour as you go, being careful not to add too much to keep the dough from being too stiff.
  5. Place the ball of dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil, dust the top of the dough with flour, and cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm draft-free area for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down.  At this point you can either refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 2 days, covered with plastic wrap and occasionally punched down) or divide the dough into 4-6 portions (depending on how big you want your pizzas).  I highly recommend making your dough in advance and letting it sit in the fridge as the longer ‘proof’ really makes a difference.   Ensure that your pizza dough comes to room temperature before cooking (bring it out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours before you are ready to cook).
  6. Once ready to cook, heat your oven to the highest heat setting (500F for most ovens) and place your pizza stone in the oven for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Portion the dough into 8-10 balls and place on a well-floured surface. Using your hands, with your knuckles, (dusted with flour, along with the counter to prevent the dough from sticking) form your pizza crust 15-20 minutes before cooking your pizza on a flat surface dusted with semolina flour until it is nice and thin. Keep stretching it with your hands to make a flat pizza base (it doesn’t have to be round or perfect!).
  8. Remove the pizza stone from the oven, lay your rolled dough on the stone, and add your ingredients ….

If you are using this dough for pizza pockets or hand pies, after step 5 skip to step 7 and form circles of dough.

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For pizza pockets, layer on pizza sauce, your chosen ingredients and cheese, closing the pockets with a fork.  Make sure to prick the top surface with the fork so steam can escape.

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For the meat pies I used an ice cream scoop to get a consistent amount of the meat mixture – centered on the dough, and then brought up the edges to crimp over the middle of the circle.  Brush with beaten egg and poke with a fork.

Bake pizza pockets or meat pies at 400 until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

FILLING FOR MEAT PIE

1 onion, minced finely

1 garlic clove, grated

2 carrots

2 stalks celery

1/2 cup each frozen corn and peas

1 small zucchini, diced

1 lb ground beef

1 tbsp each dried oregano and basil

Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is lightly carmelized, add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are almost cooked through, then add zucchini and saute for another few minutes.  Remove from heat and place in bowl.  Add frozen corn and peas.  Return pan to heat and stir in ground beef – cooking until lightly browned, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Add beef to vegetable mixture and season with dried herbs, adding more salt and pepper if needed.  At this point, if you feel like it needs a bit more flavour, add 1 tbsp of tomato paste.  Stir well and set in fridge to cool down.  When cool, continue on with forming your hand pies.

These pies are only limited by your imagination – use whatever you feel like to fill the pies, making sure to taste the mixture before filling the dough rounds.  Made in a smaller size they make a great appetizer too.

Zihuatenajo

Something about beach life just makes everything slower …. like sleeping 9-10 hours a night …..

The sun slipping over the horizon in Zihuatenajo

The sun slipping over the horizon in Zihuatenajo

In the past we have stayed at Angela’s Hostel – it is now named Angelita’s Hostel – but closed and up for sale. We chose a smaller hotel right down the street – Fiesta Paraiso. The beds are super hard, but otherwise the rooms are comfy and clean – and the pool is delightful. If we only had a kitchen it would be great for a longer stay. And – 400 pesos per night which is pretty close to perfect.

Poolside at Hotel Fiesta Paraiso - pretty easy way to relax after a busy day at the beach ...

Poolside at Hotel Fiesta Paraiso – pretty easy way to relax after a busy day at the beach …

Along with beach towns comes a more limited menu and every little beach palapa will pretty much have the same thing on the menu, so pick the place with the comfiest looking chairs! We did yesterday – at Los Gatos beach and enjoyed a great day in the sunshine, swimming, reading and chatting with Canadian neighbours … yes, only Canadians at our little chosen spot. The couple next to us – Alison and Rauz, are a retired couple from Kelowna and they stated we have given them the encouragement they needed to explore a bit more, in particular Mexico City. No doubt we will get together at home to share a few notes! (and maybe a glass of wine)

The beach at Los Gatos - an easy water taxi ride over from Zihuatenajo - beautiful water, lots of loungers to relax in - just watch out for those guys trying to help you in and out of the boat - they are not official in any way, and will want a tip for helping you!!  (whether or not you need it) :o)

The beach at Los Gatos – an easy water taxi ride over from Zihuatenajo – beautiful water, lots of loungers to relax in – just watch out for those guys trying to help you in and out of the boat – they are not official in any way, and will want a tip for helping you!! (whether or not you need it) :o)

After our return from the beach we wandered up to a place recommended – Taqueria Papas Loca. This place takes baked stuffed potato to a whole new level. They had a whole row of baked potatoes ready to go, which they then stuff with your choice of fillings; I chose bacon, shrimp and tomato, Grant chose tacos al pastor, pork and pineapple. They were delicious! Huge too … we really should have shared!

These guys work crazy fast - choices of toppings go onto the grill surface, cooked up and diced while the other guy opens the potato, stirs in sour cream and butter, mixes it all in together, toppings applied, cheese applied, lid on to steam it a bit, and presto … whew.

These guys work crazy fast – choices of toppings go onto the grill surface, cooked up and diced while the other guy opens the potato, stirs in sour cream and butter, mixes it all in together, toppings applied, cheese applied, lid on to steam it a bit, and presto … whew.

As you can see - you are pretty much sitting in a parking lot.  There is some seating indoors also thankfully under a fan.  This place is crazy busy and the staff work like frantic bees rushing around.  Just as many takeouts as eating in.

As you can see – you are pretty much sitting in a parking lot. There is some seating indoors also thankfully under a fan. This place is crazy busy and the staff work like frantic bees rushing around. Just as many takeouts as eating in.

Today’s activity was much like yesterday …. beaching it! We walked to La Ropa beach and sat ourselves on the lounge chairs, much like the other Canadian and American tourists and sunned ourselves, swam in the waves and read our books – this after a 10 hour sleep!! When we were exhausted form all that activity we dragged ourselves upstairs and enjoyed a massage with the sound of the waves crashing while we had a very therapeutic massage – those girls really knew what they were doing.

La Ropa Beach at Zihuatenajo

La Ropa Beach at Zihuatenajo

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Walking back we noticed an Italian getting his place ready to go, so ordered a Napolitano pizza (he is from Naples, and this is his specialty), tomato sauce, anchovies and capers. It was delicious, and we ate that as an appie beside the pool.

Tomorrow we are heading out – perhaps to Barra de Potosi, a very small beach town not far from here …. if it has adequate internet access you will no doubt hear from us there!

Sweet Basil Pesto

I think one of my favorite herbs is basil – always makes me think of summer and freshness – drinking Holy Basil Tea right now in fact!!

Basil Pesto

3 cloves garlic

4 cups packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

1/3 cup finely grated best quality parmesan cheese

2 tbsp lemon juice

2/3 cup olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

drop garlic cloves into food processor while it is running, continuing with basil, pine nuts, parmesan, lemon juice and salt.  Pulse after it is finely chopped, and with motor still running slowly add oil – scrape down the side of the bowl a few times. Do another couple pulses just to make sure it is all finely blended.

This keeps easily in the fridge for up to a week, and will store well in freezer also.  Either freeze in small containers, or in ice cube trays.  Once they have frozen in the trays, pop them out and store in a ziplock bag.

This makes an amazing pasta dish – toss it with freshly cooked pasta, adding either a bit of the pasta cooking water or heavy cream, whichever is your preference that night!  

Other suggestions:

Pizza topping, with prawns and carmelized red onions – sprinkle with fresh spinach

Blend with butter and spread on french bread for an alternative to garlic bread

Top a grilled steak with a tbsp of pesto

blend 1 tbsp with 2 tbsp red wine vinegar & 5 tbsp olive oil for a salad dressing

Grilled Pizza

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When the sun is shining, and the weather warm I can’t get enough of grilling.  One of our favorites is grilled pizza.  Once you get the hang of it you won’t be happy with doing it any other way.

I’m a bit of a nut – preferring to do everything from scratch – but you could easily purchase any part of these recipes ready made.  We have an Italian Deli right next to my work, and when I am pinched for time I buy ready made pizza dough from them when I pick up the cold cuts. 

If however, you like the process – then go ahead and give the whole thing a whirl. 

One thing I find really helpful is to pre-cook all the toppings.  For example, carmelized red onions taste way better than raw!  Thinly sliced, roasted potatoes make a great topping, as do roasted sweet peppers or sauted mushrooms.  Experiment with toppings you already love and try some new ones.

Pizza dough:

3 cups flour

1 packet instant (or Rapid Rise)  yeast

1 tsp kosher salt

2 tbsp good quality olive oil

1 cup warm water

Lightly sift together flour, salt and instant yeast.  Combine olive oil and warm water – slowly pour into flour blend.

If you have a stand mixer, allow it to do all the work for you – kneading for about 10 minutes.  If not, go ahead and dig in there – something therapeutic about kneading dough after spending the day at a desk.

Once the dough has reached a nice soft workable mass (adding either flour if it is too wet or water if it is too dry) allow it to rest for a bit before forming pizza.

SAUCE

I like my sauce simple – toss grape tomatoes (1 packet) with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper – allow to roast in a 350 oven just until the skin starts to burst.  Blend well with some olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.  Adding a bit of tomato paste gives it more body.

To grill pizza, get your grill nice and hot.  Either oil one side of the pizza dough, or your grate.  Cook pizza without touching for 1-2 minutes, then lift and rotate to get great grill marks.  Do not flip.  Once you have rotated, close the lid and don’t peek – let it cook for 2-3 minutes.  This will take some experimenting with your grill to know the temperatures – you want it crispy but not burnt.

Once the grilled side is nicely done, it is time to put it in a cookie sheet, cutting board, or plate to dress.  DRESS THE GRILLED SIDE.  Don’t worry, the uncooked side will not stick to the surface.  Once you have dressed the grilled side, return it to the grill and allow it to cook for another few minutes until the uncooked side is grilled perfectly and your toppings have warmed through. 

A few suggestions for toppings:

Spicy hot capicolla, red peppers, olives, mozzarella and feta cheese

ham, sauted mushrooms, carmelized red onion and applewood smoked cheddar cheese

thinly sliced roasted red potatoes, thinly sliced zucchini, fresh rosemary and mozzarella

(try the potato pizza without the traditional tomato sauce – roast a garlic bulb, add enough olive oil, chili flakes and fresh basil to get a smooth paste – smooth over pizza before adding the toppings

salami, fresh tomato, sun dried tomato and basil

Grilled or Wood Fire Barbecue Chicken PIzza

Either make your own pizza dough, or buy some ready made from an Italian deli – make sure it is really good quality if you aren’t making your own. Come up with your own favorite toppings, or use this version – it was a real hit at our good friend Karli’s wedding stagette!  I think the wood fire oven made all the difference, but not everybody has one of those in their back yard.  We have had great pizzas just off our grill too – so try it!  Of course, you could buy BBQ sauce too – but I just like making it so I have included that recipe.

BBQ SAUCE

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1/2  cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 1 can or bottle beer
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce
  • zest & juice of 1  lemon or lime
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp soya sauce

Heat oil in heavy saucepan and saute onions until soft.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil – allow to simmer until it has reduced and is nice and thick.  Taste to adjust for seasoning.  Sometimes just a bit of salt and pepper is all you need – but taste, taste, taste!  Get it just the way you like it.

Grill chicken breasts over indirect heat, basting with bbq sauce until cooked through, and juices run clear – allow to cool, then shred.

Grate jalapeno havarti cheese – set aside

Thinly slice red onions and cook over moderate heat until carmelized – allow to cool

Cook one side of the pizza on your grill – or in your wood fire oven – turn over and dress with:

BBQ sauce

shredded chicken

slivers of green and yellow peppers

grated cheese

carmelized onion

Return to grill or oven and cook just until cheese is bubbling and crust is golden and crunchy.