Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pizza Night at Home...Ranch BLT Pizza

Growing up in a cooking family I had 3 Cooks in the house. My Mother, my Grandmother, and for special occasions, grilling and baking, my Father. This led to an ever changing world of menu items and food adventures born out of both creativity and financial necessity.

As with many families in the 1970's we were pretty strapped when it came to the monthly budget. The funny thing about that was that I for the most part never felt like we were anything but a largely normal family living the life that the average person had. There were none of the electronic games and gizmos that kids today require to entertain themselves or their friends. In the summers and good weather it was out the door in the morning for adventures in the neighborhood with the kids who lived around us. We would be gone until lunch then out again exploring our world. We were soldiers and adventure seekers, bike riders and fort builders, spacemen and cowboys. Our world was unlimited by the creativity and imagination we had and television was still only a backup to the world's we created in our heads.

Those days also saw the family dinner table as a round table of discussion and sharing. There were speeches and debates, fights and drama, hugs and great conversations. It was a safe and a good place and one we all would be at as a family. Sharing thoughts and foods. As any of you who are home cooks know bringing quality home cooked meals to a table day after day can be a daunting task. In fact, down right difficult. But somehow we always had dinner, and 99 percent of the time it was amazingly good.

One part of living on a budget is creativity. And my Mom and Grandma had plenty of that. We would have the general American dinner menus but we would also have theme nights. Mexican taco night or Enchilada Supper. Meat Fondue cooked right at the table with condiments and tasty side dishes. My Grandma took a Chinese cooking class and many a night was spent enjoying the fruits of her studying. Egg Foo Young mixed with Chinese cabbage salad and chicken dishes with fried rice! There was spanish night, greek night, Italian night, fried chicken night. And then there was the one fun night that out did them all in my opinion , Pizza night!

Pizza as you know is not always cheap and feeding a family of five including two growing and hungry boys on pizza was not inexpensive. Plus this was not the era of mass pizza distribution. Pizza Hut was new and other chains were not as popular nor as prolific as they are today. Nor was it the era or the artisanal pizza maker. Most pizza joints were of questionable quality unless you enjoyed a great Italian trattoria in your home town.

So thus was the great home cook challenge to create a great pizza at home with little or no money and also tailor it to your families taste palette, whatever that may be. My homemade pizza was not a yeasty but flat and crispy dough which was further augmented by the use of cornmeal on the bottom to keep the dough from sticking. It might be round or it might be square in shape. It was topped with a homemade sauce of simple garlic and herbs and then topped with a variety of vegetable toppings and ground sausage or hamburger and sometimes pepperoni. The cheese was cheddar or mozzarella or a mix of the two and the green canned parmesan cheese from kraft foods flowed freely!

See the 70's were fun, and not just because of key parties and LSD!

So moving right along into my kitchen today. I still love to make pizza at home. There are really two great stumbling blocks in the way of making great pizza at home. The one being, the dough. The other being the cooking oven. Now I can't do anything about the oven you have, unless you have access to a wood burning oven in your house, in which case we need to be friends. However, you can do something about your dough. Now I am not going to tell you that you have to make pizza dough from scratch. In fact I think that's a lot of work and maybe for you not a lot of return. That's fine. If you have a great dough recipe use it! I will give you the one like the one I grew up with. It was a yeast free dough which accounted for it being so easy, and the fact my Mother was terrified of baking and making yeast breads. That was my Dad's job! Plus it was easy and quick and what house wife and home cook does not like that! Or, you can just buy a dough at the grocery store. Most upscale grocers carry dough now. Either way the dough is your base.

Now I have made a variety of pizzas over the years but the one I am sharing with you today is my recipe for my Ranch BLT Pizza. Now I love this pizza. It is sold in various pizza joints around the country. Mine is based on a pizza I had while doing theater in the Berkshires at a little Italian joint near the theater. But BLT Pizza is also sold at the California Pizza Kitchen. So good! I love it because it embraces the hot yummy gooey cheesy goodness of pizza and the cold crisp crunch of salad, and the tang of salad dressing all in one. In my opinion the secret to a great BLT is to mix the mayo with the shredded lettuce. So move over pepperoni. BLT is on it's way!!

Forrest's Ranch BLT Pizza

Pizza Dough ( non yeast) 

  • cups flour
  • teaspoons baking powder
  • teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup salad oil
  • tablespoons salad oil

  •  Method:

    1. Heat oven to 425°F.

      Measure ingredients (except 2nd amount of salad oil) into a bowl.
    2. Stir vigorously until mixture leaves the side of the bowl.
    3. Gather dough together and press into a ball.
    4. Knead dough in bowl 10 times to make smooth then divide dough in half.
    5. On lightly floured surface roll each half into a 13-inch circle or rectangle.
    6. Place on pizza pan.
    7. Turn up edges 1/2 inch and pinch.
    8. Brush circles with remaining 2T of salad oil.
    9. Add toppings and bake for 20-25 minutes or until it looks done

      Ranch BLT Pizza Toppings ( for 2 pizzas)

      12 pieces of bacon cooked and chopped
      6 plum tomatoes chopped
      1  small red onion finely chopped
      3/4 cup ranch dressing
      2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
      1 1/2  cup shredded parmesan cheese
      6 cups shredded romaine lettuce
      6 tablespoons fine quality mayo plus more if needed
      ground fresh pepper and sea salt
      dash of garlic powder
      dash of hot sauce

      Prepare dough in pan

      Spread dough with the ranch dressing divided on the two pizzas.
      Cover the pizzas with the tomatoes, onion, bacon and mozzarella and 1/2 the parmesan.
      In a large bowl mix the lettuce with mayo season with the hot sauce and garlic powder and lots of black pepper.
      Season to taste with salt.

      Cook pizza for 25 to 35 mins.
      When pizza if done remove from the oven and let sit for 4 mins
      Top with the lettuce mixture and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan cheese.
      Grind some pepper over the pizza and Bon Appetite! 

      Enjoy Ya'll!

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