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Posts tagged ‘Garden’

Ricotta, Squash, + Bacon Pizza, and the 8x8x8 Method

I remember being left at home as a young teenager (a tween, I suppose), with my older sister, and inevitably, we’d be left something to eat while my parents went out. Except we never wanted the left over meatloaf or lasagna. We wanted pizza. Cash-less and unable to order out, we would make our own pizza. And by we, I mean my sister. A thin, chewy crust, sweet homemade red sauce, and cheese galore. It was pretty darn good.

That is my favorite kind of pizza, almost. The kind that is thin, but strong enough to support toppings, and chewy on the inside while remaining crisp on the outside. I like it so much that I spent about a year focused on perfecting my pizza method. Give or take, I’d make about a pizza a week in the colder months, and after about 4 pizzas, I had a great idea of how to get that perfect pizza that we love. Now, I could whip this up in my sleep.

I was fully awake, though, when I made pizza for dinner last night. Sorry to disappoint you. You thought this was going to be a recipe you could actually make while asleep, huh? Well, no, not really.


You can make part of it while you are sleeping, though, so that’s a win for you.

I vacillate between homemade dough and store-bought dough, and it all depends on how much planning I have done. Last night’s pizza was made with a store-bought whole wheat dough from Whole Foods. But those store-bought doughs all have one big problem.

Think back to the last time you tried to roll one of those out. You couldn’t, right? It was like trying to stretch out a rubber band that just keeps snapping back into its usual shape and size. Good luck rolling it out to be thinner than a focaccia dough, guys. Well, that’s why my pizza method can be made while you sleep. I’ll admit, my trick works much better with a white dough, and always better with homemade, but whole wheat store-bought yields fine results.

The night before you are going to make the pizza–or before you leave for work in the morning–dump the dough in a high sided bowl, throw a clean dishtowel over it, and stash it in a cupboard or on top of the fridge. Forget about it until pizza night/you get home. When you do get home, it will have risen and bubbled up to disgusting blob-like heights (or, if you use store-bought whole wheat dough, it will just look old and like a river rock…but bear with me!). Punch it down once, cover it again, and let it sit again for about an hour. By the time you go to roll it out on a lightly floured surface, you may not even need a rolling pin. Simply hand stretching the dough might work well enough, and chances are it will be so thin and flexible that you’ll think you have too much dough.

The overnight (or all day) rising has some great benefits, but they yield a specific kind of crust. By allowing the yeast to work that long, your dough will develop a pleasant malty, almost sour (as in sourdough, not lemonheads) flavor. It is able to be thin and crusty and chewy all at the same time, able to support loads of toppings. And by cooking this dough the right way–my 8x8x8 method–you’ll yield some pretty perfect pizza in no time.

Last night’s pizza was a vehicle for using up some ingredients in the fridge, including summer squash, part-skim ricotta, parmesan, parsley, onion, and some store-bought bacon crumbles.

Ricotta, Squash, + Bacon Pizza, 8x8x8 method

1 store-bought whole wheat pizza dough (I used WFM, but you can use any brand, or make your own)
1 small yellow summer squash
1 small white or sweet onion
1 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 tsp. fresh flat parsley
3 tsp. roasted garlic or lemon (or plain!) olive oil, divided
1/4c. parmesan cheese grated
1/4c. cooked crumbled bacon (I used store-bought, in the salad section, because I had it on hand)
salt and pepper to taste throughout

The night before/morning of pizza day, dump the dough in a high sided bowl, throw a clean dishtowel over it, and stash it in a cupboard or on top of the fridge. Forget about your dough until pizza night/you get home. Punch it down once, cover it again, and let it sit again for about an hour.

Pre-heat your over to 450F. Line a heavy-gauge half sheet pan–not a flimsy cookie sheet–with parchment and set aside.

Hand-stretch the dough on a lightly floured surface/roll it out to fit the half sheet pan, and gently place the rolled out dough on the parchment lined pan. Any tears should be patched, but don’t worry too much about how pretty the patches look.

Brush the dough with 1 tsp. of the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Load the pan into the oven for 8 minutes.

While the dough is blind baking, combine the ricotta, lemon juice and zest, 1 tsp. of the olive oil, 2 tsp. of the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl; set aside.

Using a mandoline on the thinnest setting, slice the summer squash and onion, and set each aside in a separate bowl. Toss each in the remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper each to taste.

When the first 8 minutes is over, the dough should be bubbly and golden brown. Tapping the corner crust should produce a pleasant thumping sound, but it may still be a bit soft. Don’t worry.

Spread the ricotta mixture over the pizza evenly using an offset spatula or large spoon, leaving only a centimeter around the edge. Carefully arrange the oiled squash slices over the ricotta so they resemble fish scales. You could dump the squash on and smoosh it in, but I like my pizza to be organized and visually striking (see: pizza I once topped with mortadella in a chevron pattern).

Put the pizza back in the oven for 8 more minutes.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, snuggle your dogs, busy yourself for 8 minutes.

When the second 8 minutes is up, pull the pizza out. The squash should look dry, and it might even have ruffled up a bit around the edges. This is great.

Sprinkle the top with most of the parmesan, then sprinkle the oiled onion shreds evenly over the top of that. Then, the bacon over that.

8 more minutes in the oven.

More wine, more puppy snuggling.

Check the pizza when the 8 minutes is up: if the onions look translucent and perhaps even a bit browned, this is perfect, and you are done. If not, broil that bad boy until they are at least translucent. Keep a close eye and nose out while you broil, though.

Remove the pizza, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and parsley, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then, transfer it to a large flat surface (my Boos board is the perfect size for pizzas on a half sheet pan).


I wasn’t kidding about the crustiness of this…crust (duh). This can really support these heavy wet toppings.


And these toppings were heavenly together. Light and airy, but still filling. I am a white sauce or no sauce gal these days, so most of my pizzas end up looking like this.


One pizza yields 8 large slices.


We usually each have 2 slices for dinner, then 2 each for lunch the next day….lunch after pizza night is always wonderful.

I hope you enjoy my 8x8x8 method for at-home pizza. It’s served me well, and frankly, it will serve you well, too. It’s a damn simple method to adapt: blind bake for 8 minutes, cheese/sauce/wet toppings for 8 minutes, then finish with the more delicate toppings for 8 minutes. Could not be simpler or more versatile.

Buen provecho!


To Do: Energized for the Week!

Happy Monday, everyone! Posting today because yesterday–my usual To Do day–was spent in the car between upper Westchester County, NY and DC. Our trip to my family reunion was wonderful. I don’t know how else to describe it. I love my family so much, and I’m so happy that I have them.

With that trip behind us, we can get back to planning more things! More trips, more dates, more.

This week…


  • Buy two large scale house plants–trees!–for the apartment. I will do this, this week! I WILL.
  • Walk at lunch at least once this week.  I kept this on because I did it again last week! I met Hala for lunch in Tenleytown/Van Ness, and then we walked back to her office so I could pick up the shuttle and head back to my office. Except the shuttle was so late, I just kept walking. It was lovely. Sweaty, but lovely.
  • Change up the morning routine. Ugh, this barely happened. Lesson learned: definitely shower first, then coffee, but still, I’m lounging in bed longer than I should. This week!
  • No phone in the bedroom. I was surprisingly able to do this. My bedroom phone usage is limited to morning email and schedule checks.
  • Finally make our Passport to DC. So, we discussed having a list of places to go, things to do, restaurants to try, and we haven’t actually done it yet. I have the perfect little Moleskien notebook for this…digging it out and filling it up!
  • Read my new book, The Elements of Cooking. Ok, so I’m inadvertently reading a book a week these days. Yes, me. I know. You saw that I finished Ratio two weeks ago, then last week, I snuck in another book, My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss, and this week, it’s Ruhlman’s other culinary textbook, The Elements of Cooking. The trick seems to be finding books that are about food or travel, or both. Whatever, I’m reading! I actually have a second book going, too. I downloaded Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking onto my Kindle app on my iPhone. I started it, and it’s good, but my shipment from Amazon came in and then I was hooked on the new Ruhlman book. I might have a [great] problem.
  • Focus on light, interesting, colorful meals this week. I have two big baskets of heirloom tomatoes from the CSA, and my mouth waters when I look at them. Frankly, nothing is better than tomatoes, a little cucumber and onion, and olive oil, salt and pepper. That, plus a watermelon jicama salad, perhaps some light veggie pizzas, a chicken cutlet or two on the grill.

I’m energized for this week, let’s go! What are you doing this week?


To Do: Just Keep Swimming…

Upcoming week includes work, late work event (long day!), and a road trip this weekend to the NYC area. Planning and keeping up with easy good habits can only help.

And you probably noticed: I spent some time this past week upgrading the website and making some visual/technical changes. I moved from a free, site-hosted page to a paid, self-hosted site, upped my graphics game, and re-did my header. One of my blogging goals is to join a blogging network, so these changes were part that. I also simply wanted more control over certain aspects of the blog and access to more plugins. So here we are! Let me know what you think!

So, onward with the goals!

  • Wear something each day this week that I haven’t worn recently. After last week’s partial success, I tried harder to make this happen this week. To the best of my recollection, I succeeded and will call this one done. You saw what I wore Monday: those red Kate Spade flats have been hiding in my closet since April…it was time. The reason I didn’t wear them that whole time (I mean, come on, they are fab-u-lous!) was this: the one time I did wear them, they destroyed my feet. We’re talking gory blood and guts. Gesturing to the scars left on my heels/ankles, someone actually asked if I had surgery. No, just irresistible Kate Spade flats. Boo. Good news: they didn’t hurt one iota this time. Plus, that Stella and Dot Sardinia Pendant necklace is brand new.  Tuesday, I pulled out a great peachy belted shift that I wore one Easter…maybe two years ago? You saw it with my new Stella and Dot Somervell Necklace in peach.  Wednesday was sort of a stretch…I gravitate toward linen trousers, a shell, and a cardigan on Wednesdays…something to do with my failure to keep up with shaving at that point… So, the piece I rotated in was a gold and turquoise arrow pendant. I got a few great compliments! Rotating that one in more often.  Thursday saw me in an old standby, my turquoise ponte sheath with a fun neckline embellishment. Nothing new, really. I think I wore a bracelet? Let’s pretend it’s the special thing…k?  Friday? Those boat shoes haven’t seen the light of day since last summer.
  • Buy two large scale house plants–trees!–for the apartment. Eventually this will happen. I’m slow. Excuses.
  • Make NO plans for the weekend. The only plans we had were pool-ing, and having a little date trip up to Bethesda (...all the way…one metro stop ha!) for Corned Beef King and a stroll through Bethesda Row. Those plans were completed, friends. Saturday, Steve took the pups on a nice long walk through nature, and I lounged at the pool with my new book (sometimes next to the pool, sometimes in the pool). Then we hit Bethesda Row for a few drinks, sandwiches as big as our collective faces at CBK, and then we saw the 19th Street Band at Flanagan’s Harp and Fiddle. Ate too much and drank too much, and Sunday is now a hangover recovery day. Curtains closed, Dexter on, and a quick trip to Steak n’ Egg for hangover food. Put a fork in me.
  • Walk at lunch at least once this week. It took me until Thursday, but I did it. After a meeting at work that was great but tiring, I wanted caffeine and something sweet. No way, self! I changed into my flip flops and sunglasses, left my phone and whatnots behind, and took a lovely stroll for about 20 minutes. I was refreshed and energized. Ok, so I still had a few animal crackers and a peanut butter cracker…but still! Walk! Good!
  • Finish my current book, Ratio. All done! I’ll review it here in the coming week or two. Overall, a super interesting book that makes me want to bake something (if you know me, you know that’s a miracle).
  • Change up the morning routine. My usual routine is to get up, make a cup of coffee and see Steve off, then sit and drink my coffee with Morning Edition. If I need to shower, I usually don’t do it until 8:30am…meaning that I don’t get out the door until at least 9. Which isn’t so bad, except it’s a weird window with no bus options, so I end up getting to work like 35 minutes later than necessary. So, I should make a habit of what I tried on Thursday: get up, take a quick shower, see Steve off, have coffee and radio time, then dress and go.
  • No phone in the bedroom. Beyond keeping it plugged in next to the bed (it’s my alarm clock), I shouldn’t be using it in bed. Something about blue light and the inability to sleep well. I buy it.

I feel a bit like Dory from Finding Nemo this week…just keep swimming, just keep swimming… What are you doing this week?