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Since we had a quick math lesson yesterday, today it’s time for a quick history lesson.  Picture it, Italy, 1889 (in my best Sophia from The Golden Girls voice), a baker named Raffaele Esposito is asked to make some pizza for Queen Margherita of Savoy.  At this time, pizza was mostly a way for peasants to use up food that would otherwise spoil, and thus eaten mainly by poor people.  Esposito decided to make three different pizzas for Queen Margherita and she favored the one made with tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil.  Queen Margherita’s letter of thanks to Esposito was used to promote his restaurant, where the pizza was named “pizza Margherita.”  Queen Margherita is rumored to have especially loved the pizza because the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil were reminiscent of the red, white, and green in the Italian flag.

Whether or not the flag had anything to do with it, it’s not hard to see how this became a popular pizza.  What makes this pizza great is its simplicity.  Yes, sometimes it’s nice to have an extra large with everything.  Sometimes, though, it’s nice to enjoy a pizza that isn’t laden with toppings.  Even though fresh basil is the only real topping here, this pizza is far from lacking in flavor.

pizza margherita

Pizza Margherita


  • 1/2 recipe basic pizza dough, or 1 lb. your favorite pizza dough
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 C. (28 oz. can) whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1/3 C. fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper


In a 10 inch skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add the onion and saute until golden, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and oregano and saute for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes to the skillet, crushing them as you add them to the skillet (a potato masher works great for this).

Bring to a boil and stir for 5 minutes, or until thickened.

Lightly oil a 14-16 inch pizza pan (or sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza stone).

Heat the oven to 450 degrees and place an oven rack as low as possible.

Roll out the pizza dough as thin as possible, about 1/8 of an inch thick, into a 14-16 inch round.  Fold the edges slightly to create the crust.

Place the dough onto the prepared pan or pizza stone and let rest for 10 minutes.

Top the crust evenly with the sauce, then the basil, then the mozzarella.

Drizzle the 2 Tbsp. of olive oil evenly over the pizza.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden and mozzarella is bubbling.

Makes one 12 inch pizza.

Source: adapted from The Splendid Table

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Like a Lion

I remember being about O’s age and working on lion and lamb paper bag puppets at school, because March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  While the snow that’s falling right now is pretty and all, I’m ready to skip to the lamb part.  About eight inches of accumulation this morning and it looks like maybe a foot by the time this is over today.  It’s crazy that in the aftermath of the blizzard we had last month, I hear that a foot of snow is coming and think that’s really nothing.

My favorite way to warm up the house when it’s snowy and cold outside is to crank up the oven inside.  Pizza Friday is a great excuse to do that, and this pizza makes it a no-brainer.  White pizzas, or pizzas without red sauce, are always harder for me to get excited about, mainly because something has to make up for the lack of sauce and plenty of places don’t get this right.  It takes more than just skipping the tomato sauce to make a white pizza work.  When you top a great pizza crust with a drizzle of olive oil, creamy fresh mozzarella, some thick cut bacon, and thinly sliced browned onions you’ve definitely managed to make it work.

bacon onion pizza

Bacon Onion Pizza 


  • 1/2 recipe basic pizza crust dough (or 1 lb. your favorite pizza crust dough)
  • 8 oz. thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • cornmeal, enough to lightly sprinkle onto pan or pizza stone


Put an oven rack in the lowest position in the oven and heat the oven to 450 degrees.

Cook bacon for 2-3 minutes in a large skillet over medium-high heat, until fat is partially rendered.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate.

Put the onions into the pan with the rendered bacon fat and cook, stirring frequently, 10-12 minutes until browned.

Section the dough into four equal pieces and stretch each portion out into a roughly 12 x 4 inch rectangle.

Place the dough rectangles onto a large baking sheet or pizza stone that has been sprinkled lightly with cornmeal.

Top each piece of dough evenly with mozzarella, then onions, then bacon.

Bake for 12 minutes, until cheese melts and the crust is golden brown (if you want a darker crust broil for 30 seconds to one minute).

Grate Parmesan cheese over each pizza.

Cut and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Three Many Cooks

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Academy Award

The 85th Academy Awards air tonight from the Dolby Theater in Hollywood and before I settle in to catch all of the red carpet action, I want to share a round-up of the film-inspired recipes I’ve shared over the previous twelve days.  It wouldn’t be a round-up without some Oscar trivia:

Nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) is the youngest actress ever nominated for Best Actress in a Lead Role, taking the distinction from actress Keisha Castle-Hughes who was nominated at thirteen for her role in Whale Rider.  She competes against Emmanuelle Riva (Amour), who at eighty-five is the oldest nominee in the category.

The youngest actor ever nominated is Justin Henry, who at eight years old was nominated for his role as Billy Kramer in the 1979 film Kramer vs. Kramer.

Silver Linings Playbook is the first film since the 1981 film Reds to earn nominations in all four acting categories as well as Best Director and Best Picture.

Les Miserables is the first musical nominated for Best Picture since Chicago in 2002, and prior to Chicago no musical had been nominated in the Best Picture category since Oliver! in 1969.

Composer John Williams, nominated this year for his work on Lincoln, still holds the record for the living person with the most nominations at forty-eight.  Next in line is Woody Allen with twenty-three.

Three of this year’s Best Actor nominees: Bradley Cooper, Denzel Washington, and Hugh Jackman, have previously been named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.

For this year’s 12 Days of Oscar feature, I selected four movies that have been nominated for but did not win Oscars, four films that have won at least one Oscar, and four films hoping to win an Oscar this year.

salisbury steak

Pleasantville, Salisbury Steak

ihop sweet crepes

I Am Sam, Crepes

chef salad

When Harry Met Sally, Chef Salad (with oil and vinegar on the side!)

roasted chicken salad

My Week With Marilyn, Roasted Chicken Salad

banana ripple ice cream

The Aviator, Banana Ripple Ice Cream

cream puff

Marie Antoinette, Cream Puffs

chicago deep dish

Chicago, Deep Dish Pizza

chicken lyonnaise

Titanic, Chicken Lyonnaise

lemon butter pollock

Moonrise Kingdom, Lemon Butter Pollock

french bread

Les Miserables, French Bread

crabby snacks

Silver Linings Playbook, Crabby Snacks

mary lincoln apple bread pudding

Lincoln, Mary Lincoln’s Apple Bread Pudding

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When You’re Good to Mama

The first musical to win a Best Picture Oscar since Oliver! in 1969, the seventh film in the 12 Days of Oscar series is the 2002 film Chicago.  Taking place in 1920’s era Chicago, the film focuses on Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Roxie Hart (Renee Zellweger), who are both on death row for committing separate murders.  Velma is a famous vaudevillian and Roxie is a housewife desperate for a famous vaudeville act.  With the help of lawyer Billy Flynn (Richard Gere) Roxie manages to become the newest celebrity of the prison, which disgusts Velma and thrills Mama Morton (Queen Latifah).  Roxie’s trial becomes a media circus and after it ends, Roxie and Velma find themselves working together despite their mutual hatred.  Chicago was nominated for thirteen Oscars, and won six.  In addition to Best Picture, the film won in the following categories: Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Best Art Direction- Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound.

chicago velma and roxie

The city of Chicago is known for many foods, including the Italian beef sandwich and Chicago hot dog but the food possibly most often associated with Chicago is the deep dish pizza.  If you’re not familiar with deep dish pizza, instead of having a flat crust, it is baked in a pan that resembles a cake pan (I use a springform) giving the crust sides that are filled in with sauce, cheese and toppings.  The sauce is chunkier than a traditional pizza sauce, because it is made from whole or chopped tomatoes and goes on the pizza without being cooked.  I did break with tradition and add more mozzarella cheese on top, then more toppings.  I did it this way because the kiddos will eat just about anything on a pizza if it is covered in cheese, and because I made two of these at the same time and wanted to keep track of which toppings went into which pizza.  To top this one, I used cooked Italian sausage, thinly sliced red onion, and sliced mushrooms.  You can use whatever toppings you like, and about three cups of toppings are sufficient to fill the crust.  I used a 12″ springform pan to make one pizza.  If you don’t have a springform pan (or one that large), two nine-inch cake pans will work just as well.   The crust is buttery perfection and even if Lane calls this “pizza casserole” (I blame it on him being a New Yorker), it was a huge hit.

chicago deep dish

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza


for the crust:

  • 4 C. all- purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. yellow cornmeal
  • 1 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 3/4 tsp. 
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil or salad oil
  • 1 C. + 2 Tbsp. lukewarm water

for the filling and toppings:

  • 3 C. toppings of your choice (sautéed vegetables, cooked sausage, or pepperoni suggested)
  • 3/4 lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 28 oz. can plum tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 C. freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided


Combine the dough ingredients and knead by hand or using the a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until smooth, about 7 minutes if using the stand mixer on medium-low speed.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough into it, then turn to coat the dough with oil.

Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Prepare the pan by spraying it with non-stick cooking spray, then drizzle in 3 Tbsp. of olive oil and tilt the pan so the oil coats the bottom of the pan and partway up the sides.

When the dough has risen for 1 hour, use your hands to stretch the dough out into as large of a circle as you can (it should be much larger than the diameter of the baking pan), or roll it out on a lightly floured surface.

Lay the dough in the pan, and press it to cover the bottom and up the sides of the pan.

Cover, and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Start preheating the oven to 425 degrees while the dough rests.

Check to ensure that the dough covers the bottom and sides of the pan, and press into place if needed.

Let the crust continue to rest until the oven reaches 425 degrees.

Bake the crust for 10 minutes, until it’s set and just barely beginning to brown.

While the crust bakes, start preparing the filling by mixing the drained tomatoes with the basil, oregano, sugar, and garlic.  Add salt to taste if necessary.

Remove the crust from the oven and cover the bottom of the crust with the sliced mozzarella.

Add your toppings of choice on top of the mozzarella.

Top with the tomato mixture.

Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese (you can add additional mozzarella here like I did, but that’s completely optional).

Drizzle the top of the pizza with the remaining 1 Tbsp. of olive oil.

Bake for 25 minutes, until the filling is bubbly and the top is golden brown.

Remove the pizza from the oven and carefully lift it out of the pan (if you’re using a springform, release the collar and carefully slide the pizza off of the base) onto a wire rack.

Allow the pizza to cool for at least 15 minutes before cutting.

Makes 12 servings

Source: adapted from King Arthur Flour

chicago deep dish slice

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Buffalo Stance

Just days after the thirty-fifth anniversary of the “Blizzard of ’78” that pounded southern New England, New York, and New Jersey with two feet of snow, we’re expecting a blizzard today that threatens to do the same by the time it ends tomorrow.  Because Lane left yesterday for a ski trip in Canada, I’m handling this two feet of snow by myself.  My storm preparations are simple.  I make sure there’s gas in the car in case local gas stations don’t have power post-storm.  I make sure I know where flashlights and candles are so I don’t break my neck trying to get around the house in the dark.  I curse the electric stove and the fact that if the power goes out, it means I’m heating up some soup over a can of Sterno (both of which I make sure to have on hand).  Lane made sure I’m comfortable lighting a fire in the fireplace if I’m without heat (let me take a moment to thank the Girl Scouts for my survival skills), and that I know how to use the snow blower.  Making my own bread at home means I don’t have to go to the grocery store and fight the masses.  Except for beer.

Four wheel drive or not I’m a firm believer that people should stay put if possible when this kind of snow is falling.  Making pizza at home means I don’t have to stress over the fact that most places aren’t going to stay open, never mind deliver.  As long as the power holds out, I can have a pizza party for one and watch all of the chick flicks I want.  If you didn’t get your chicken wing fix during the Super Bowl last weekend,  here’s a great way to make up for that.  Start out with a basic pizza crust, marinate some chicken in your favorite Buffalo wing sauce, drizzle on some ranch (or bleu cheese) dressing, and sprinkle on some Monterrey Jack cheese.  It’s like having wings and pizza all in the same bite.  If you want to add some heat, feel free to drizzle a little wing sauce onto the crust with the dressing but do it sparingly or run the risk of having a soggy crust.  This is also great with crumbled bleu cheese sprinkled on top but again, sparingly is the way to go so it doesn’t overpower the whole pizza.  Blizzard or not, staying in with this pizza isn’t the worst way to spend a Friday night.

buffalo chicken pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


  • 1/2 basic pizza crust dough recipe (or your favorite pizza dough)
  • 8 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 C. your favorite Buffalo wing sauce (plus additional if desired, to drizzle onto crust)
  • 1/2 C. your favorite ranch or bleu cheese dressing
  • 8 oz. freshly shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper


Line a glass baking dish with aluminum foil.

Place the chicken into the baking dish and pour in the Buffalo wing sauce.  Turn the chicken to completely coat in the sauce.

Allow the chicken to sit in the wing sauce for 20-30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the chicken for 20-25 minutes until cooked through, then set aside to cool slightly.

Chop the chicken into a large dice and set aside until you’re ready to top the pizza.

Turn the oven up to 500 degrees.

If using a baking stone, sprinkle cornmeal lightly onto the surface.

If using a baking sheet or pizza pan, lightly drizzle olive oil onto it.

Roll or stretch out the pizza crust into either a 12 inch circle or into a rectangle roughly 12×8 inches.

Place the crust onto the prepared pizza stone or pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Spread the ranch or bleu cheese dressing over the pizza crust.  If desired, also spread 1/4 C. of Buffalo wing sauce onto the crust (in which case, reduce the dressing slightly to avoid soggy crust).

Evenly sprinkle 1/2 of the cheese over the dressing, then evenly sprinkle 1/2 of the chicken over the cheese.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese, then the remaining chicken over the pizza.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, until the crust is golden and the toppings bubble (watch carefully so the pizza doesn’t burn).

Cut into 8 slices and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: Diana Dishes original


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California Scheming

I can count on (less than) one hand the number of times I’ve eaten at a California Pizza Kitchen.  The food’s not bad, it’s just that if I want to go out for pizza, I have a handful of more traditional non-chain places I steer toward.  But then, when I’ve gone to California Pizza Kitchen I didn’t choose a traditional pizza either.  While they offer traditional pizza toppings, the more interesting offerings include California club (topped with avocado among other things), Thai chicken (topped with peanut sauce and Thai veggies), and a pear and gorgonzola thin crust.  My favorite menu item (although I admit I haven’t done extensive research) is the barbecue chicken pizza.  It’s nontraditional enough that I don’t feel like I’m straying from my local pizza joint but traditional enough that I still feel like I’m eating things that belong on a pizza.

When looking for a new pizza crust to try, I came across a recipe for copying the barbecue chicken pizza from California Pizza Kitchen.  It was even better than what they serve in the restaurant!  This means that I don’t even have to think about driving almost an hour for one if a craving ever hits.  The pizza crust recipe makes enough for two pizzas, the amount of toppings listed below is for one pizza.  If you want to use both of the crusts from the recipe to make this barbecue chicken pizza, you’ll need to double the toppings listed below.  I wouldn’t blame you if you did that because this pizza really is that good.  As far as the barbecue goes, I recommend something smoky for this (Sweet Baby Ray’s is my favorite) as it’ll compliment the smoked Gouda nicely.  Go easy on the barbecue and toppings, the crust is on the thinner side and you don’t want the toppings to overwhelm the crust.  I forgot to add the fresh cilantro that the original has before we devoured this and it was still delicious but a sprinkling of cilantro won’t hurt it one bit either.

california pizza kitchen bbq chicken pizza

California Pizza Kitchen Barbecue Chicken Pizza


  • one half of this crust recipe
  • 8 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 3/4 C. your favorite (preferably smoky) barbecue sauce, divided
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 8 oz. smoked Gouda, sliced thin
  • 1/2 of a medium red onion, cut in half and sliced very thin
  • chopped cilantro, to taste (optional)


Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a glass baking dish with aluminum foil.

Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt and then place into the baking dish.

Pour 1/2 C. of the barbecue sauce over the chicken and then turn the chicken over to coat both sides with barbecue (add additional barbecue if needed to ensure that the chicken is coated).

Bake the chicken for 20-25 minutes, until the chicken is fully cooked.

Cut the chicken into a fine dice and set aside until you’re ready to top the pizza.

Turn the oven up to 500 degrees.

Roll or stretch out the pizza crust.  Either square or round is fine- I made a round pizza, it was about 12 inches in diameter.  If you’re using a pizza stone, sprinkle it with cornmeal.  If you’re using a baking sheet or metal pizza pan, drizzle it with olive oil.

Place the crust onto the prepared stone/ pan, then drizzle a little olive oil over it and sprinkle on some salt.

Spread the remaining 1/4 C. of barbecue sauce evenly over the crust.

Top the sauce with half of the sliced Gouda.

Sprinkle half of the diced chicken and red onion over the Gouda.

Top with the remaining half of the sliced Gouda, then the remaining chicken and red onion.

Bake for 15-17 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the toppings bubble (watch the pizza as it can burn quickly in just a few extra minutes).

Remove the pizza from the oven and sprinkle on the chopped cilantro if using.

Cut and serve immediately.

Makes 8 slices.

Source: slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman

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