As an Indian living in the US you are indoctrinated into certain things. You learn to appreciate beer, its subtleties, and the fact that it is completely okay to drink (just) beer at high-end wine bars. You learn that apple and cinnamon must always go together. You learn that pumpkins can go in desserts, even exclusively so. You also learn about the curious “pumpkin spice” and, in the month of October, find it everywhere and in everything…from coffees to candles. You sort of accept that zombie apocalypse may be a possibility. You learn that baseball has a World Series. And you learn about the pizza party. The last one is my favorite.
Now this is not when you feel can’t-get-out-of-couch-lazy and therefore order pizzas and eat them lying down while binging on GOT. No. That is no party. This is when you ask a couple of friends over to hang out in the kitchen, and they roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to help with rolling out pizza dough and popping pies into a cranked up oven. Not a fancy affair, but a lot of laughter, songs, dance, and broken glasses.
I love pizza parties because they make it easy to bring people together in one place. Everyone gets to design their own pizza with their choice of ingredients, they have fun doing it, and they love it. There is no pressure on the hosts too. Pizza night has become a very popular and regular thing in this household. If you have not tried it, you should do it soon. Everyone will be glad you did it, I promise.
I include two methods here. One for oven and the other for stove-top grilling. The recipe is a standard margherita pizza recipe, but you can experiment endlessly with the toppings.
Margherita Pizza recipe
1 pouch active yeast (7 g/ or 1/4 oz)
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsl extra vergin olive oil
3 cups all purpose flour
In 1 cup of warm water combine yeast, olive oil, salt and stir well. After 5 minutes, add 2 1/2 cups of flour and mix thoroughly. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead dough for 5 to 6 minutes, adding enough additional flour as necessary to form a smooth, elastic, and non-sticky dough. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled 2 or 3 quart bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with cling wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, usually at least 1 hour.
Oven method: Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. and if you have one, place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven. If this is your first time making pizza from scratch, you will find a regular metal pizza pan much more user friendly.
Divide dough into 2 portions (each will make one 12-inch pizza) and form into balls. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rest for 15 minutes, then transfer to a lightly floured surface, shape into a disk by pulling on the ends or using a rolling pin until it has an even thickness of 1/4-inch. Transfer dough to a pizza peel and top with pizza sauce, shredded basil, and mozzarella or your choice of toppings (sauce recipe follows). Transfer to the pizza pan or preheated pizza stone and bake until crispy and golden brown, usually 12 to 14 minutes (depending on the toppings). Remove from the oven with a metal peel or spatula and serve immediately.
Stove-top grilling method: Work the dough the same way as in the oven method. But instead of transferring dough to a pizza peel as in the oven method, put it directly on a grilling wire. I used a traditional Indian roti grilling wire (as in the image above), and it was perfect. You may, however, need to divide the dough into smaller pieces depending on the size of the grilling wire. Grill one side over medium-high heat for approximately 4 minutes. Flip the pizza and top the grilled side with pizza sauce, shredded basil, and mozzarella (this Alton Brown video about stove-top pizza grilling is the best!). Grill for 3-4 minutes and serve hot.
Pizza sauce recipe
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup onions, chopped
15 oz crushed tomatoes (about 2 cups)
1/2 tsp oregano
Fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Chopped basil to taste
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat, add chopped garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant. Add onions and saute until translucent, approximately 4-5 minutes. Add tomato and oregano and bring to a boil. Adjust seasonings, reduce heat, and let cook over for 5-7 minutes. Turn off heat and add chopped basil.