Posts Tagged ‘fresh mozzarella pizza recipe’

Cowdery Farms Three Sisters Pizza

In my day-to-day pursuit of the perfect pizza, the same equation keeps producing the best pizzas by far: Fresh + Fresh = Great Pizza.  Luckily, I’ve got fresh in spades out here in Athens, Ohio, and today I’m out to visit Larry and Kim Cowdery at their farm on the Ohio River.

Native Americans of the Eastern part of North America learned to plant foodstuffs in the dark forests that covered much of the east coast before the arrival of …er…you know who. These farming techniques weren’t plotted around a laboratory conference table at Con Agra or Monsanto; they were employed using logic and the manipulation of Mother Earth. The three sisters (corn, beans and squash) became a tried and proven way to grow three crops in a small amount of space, each helping the growth of the others.

This is what they did. (Let’s just imagine you are there.) Look up into the canopy of the dark forest and find a large tree that, if gone, would let sunshine filter in from east to west. Listen to the empty grumble in your stomach before taking a sharp impliment like the jawbone of a deer or a broken pizza cutter and dig into the heart of the tree to kill it. Eventually after several weeks of carving at the core or heart, the tree will die without weakening the tree itself. Wait for the next season spring, loosen up the earth around the now dead tree and make mounds where the best sunlight hits. Place rotton fish, eel or a slice of anchovy pizza in each mound with corn seeds. When the corn is about 6 inches high, plant the bean seeds next to the corn and the squash seeds in and around both.

As the corn grows, it provides a natural trellis for the bean plant, whose roots in turn produce sustanance for the nitrogen hungry corn to grow. The squash plant that snakes around the ground provides shade, preventing weeds from growing and producing a “micro climate” that is moist. The prickly vines of the squash plant also prevent deer and other vermin from eating any of the sisters. Brilliant companion planting.

Larry and Kim Cowdery have the three sisters and much more. There farm is on a historical bench of land along the Ohio River and offers some of the best growing soil, as well as spectacular veiws. The Cowdery family has been farming this glorious acreage for over 100 years and I am glad to have them as my friends. Here is Larry gathering our squash for the pizza. (I misspoke when I say that the cousa squash is hollow-it’s usually hollowed out in Mediterrean cooking and stuffed with lots of stuff.)

And here is a quick video with a weird looking squash. (No…you with your filthy mind!)

Well, I’ve gotten all my corn, squash and beans and am heading home to make a great pizza. I am torn between making a sauce out of the corn but have decided to steal some great looking, first-of-the-year tomatoes that the Cowdery’s have in their greenhouse. Before we go to make this great pizza, here is another video about the insect that makes all this squash possible, the wild bee.

In planning this pizza, I must do as the Native Americans have done with the companion planting. Every component must compliment each other. This is really no easy task since I have four different kinds of squash. (Zucchini, Yellow, and Mediterranian or Cousa squash.)

I did get a little fancy with the squash/zucchini weave. It’s a real eye-opener but you don’t have to do it.

For the dough: use the Easy Pizza Dough Recipe and reserve one dough ball whilst freezing the other for later use.

For the beans and tomato:

1 large ear of sweet corn or 2 small ones (enough to make 3/4 cup)

6 to 8 large fresh stringless beans

8 basil leaves

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 cherry tomatoes

Cut the ends off of the beans then cut through the bean lengthwise to halve it. Cut the halves again into quarters and place in bowl. Add the vinegar, sugar and chopped basil. Cut and quarter the cherry tomatoes and toss with beans. Let sit to macerate. The juices will develop and meld the flavors.

For the zucchini and yellow squash weave:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 medium zucchini and 1 medium yellow squash,  sliced thinly either on mandoline or with knife

1 pinch salt

Half a medium fresh mozzarella ball

Heat a saute pan on high heat, add teaspoon olive oil and cook all zucchini and yellow squash slices for 1.5 minutes on each side until just limp. You may add more oil each time you cook. Place on plate and cool in the fridge.

When the slices are cool, cut 1/4 of an inch from the skin inward by slicing vertically on a cutting board. Reserve the inside of the slices. Place the sliced skin threads next to each other in a green-yellow pattern and continue until you have a 4 to 5 inch line up. Starting at one end, weave another thread over the yellow and under the green threads that are running opposite. After about 3 rows, you can now pull the threads toward yourself bending them over for an easier weave. This process is very tedius and may drive you insane unless you get into a “weave-groove” as I call it. The result is spectacular and worth it. The sharp point of a knife will help tremendously in picking up each strand. Make sure all strands are woven together tightly.

When you have an approximate a 4 or 5 inch square, take a round cutter and, using a sharp knife, cut a circle. Place the zucchini weaving on half of a salted mozzarella ball. (For better results, I put a small basil leaf, then salt before draping with the weave. Reserve for later.

For the corn mix:

Shuck the corn and place upright on a cutting board. Cut the kernels off and place in a bowl. Take the inside of the zucchini and squash and run your knife down the length of them, making a fettucini. Add to bowl and reserve for topping.

For cousa and pattypan squash:

Peel the cousa squash and then cut into 4 inch logs. Insert filet knife into center and cut out the middle. Cut the cousa rounds thinly (about 1/16 of an inch). Cut the stalk end off of the pattypan squash and cut the same thickness.

Topping the Pizza:

After rolling out a 10 to 12 inch round pizza dough disc, place it on parchment paper. Top with the corn and squash strips. Place the mozzarella and Gruyere on top. Arrange the cousa and pattypan around the pie, trying not to overlap for better cooking. Place the bean, basil and tomato mix on top.

Slide an upside-down cookie sheet into the oven, then slide the pie onto the preheated sheet pan. Cook for approximately 9 minutes, then put the zucchini weave and mozzarella ball in the middle (just enough time to soften up the cheese.) Cook for 2 more minutes or until the bottom is just getting dark brown and the outside crust is getting golden. Serve to a curious cat as soon as possible.

Cowdery Farms Schiacciata Margherita

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Cowdery Farms sits on a  fertile sloping bench above the Ohio River. Once you stop by and take in all it has to offer, it brings one word to mind: Impressive. Today I marvel at the many kinds of vegetables and the sincere kindness of owners Larry and Kim Cowdery, proud fifth generation stewards of the land. The passion with which they describe the food they grow shows they truly love what they do.

So, what’s here that a pizza fanatic like me hasn’t seen already? Plenty.

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An assortment of squashes.  Golden cherry tomatoes. The movable greenhouse and river vista beyond.

Larry and Kim  have been selling produce at the Athens Farmers Market for 12 years. I’ve seen practically every restaurant owner in the area buy from this productive and hard-working couple. Their huge assortment of bok choy, napa cabbage, Thai eggplant and bitter melon makes them a destination for local Chinese restaurant owners. Chefs gravitate to their red tent as if pulled by some magnet, drawn in addition to beautiful kholrabi, beets, yellow squash, zucchini, melon and Mediterranian striped squash.

I am particularly keen on the purple potatoes, acorn, delicata, butternut and pumpkin squash in the fall; and the pimento, padron, habenero, jalepeno, cayenne, hot banana and sweet Italian peppers in late summer.  I call Larry the “Godfather of Heat” because I use his full compliment of capsicum to produce such hellish culinary firestorms as my cumin-laced Guatalajaran Pepper Bread with roasted cayenne, padron, hot yellow and jalepeno peppers. I add them to  fresh corn, black beans, roasted garlic, oven-dried tomato, carmelized onion and cilantro. I also use his peppers in my Beelzebub pizza, with  roasted tomato and habenro sauce, fresh oregano, mozzarella and garlic. This year I am buying all my Roma tomatoes, purple potatoes and green peppers from the Cowdry’s for my in-store menu mix, as well as some of the most awesome pattypan squash I’ve ever seen.

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Tender pattypan squash in bloom looks like a Dr. Seuss creation.

Back in the field, I squint at a big hedgerow, pointing to a 12-foot wall of green. “Why is that in the middle of your garden?” I ask with a pompous air of a business consultant.

“John, those are are tomato plants,” Larry answers politely.  I tried to catch a glimmer of an “eye-roll” behind his sungasses, knowing full well I deserve the Stupid Comment of the Week prize.

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Larry and his crop of “Tomato-zilla” plants.

Now that I’m looking at the hedgerow more closely, I see little orbs of yellows, purples and reds speckling the green leaves. The tomatoes don’t stop as I follow the vines above my head. I try to distract Larry while I grab a few. They taste candy sweet.  Now I know which pizza to make: my  Schiacciata Margherita.

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Note: Never get a 4-wheel ride from Kim up a mountain. She belongs in Nascar. Awesome teardrop tomatoes.

Kim tells me to hop on the trailer hitched onto the back of her 4-wheeler. As we drive up the slope from their farm shed to the eggplant and pepper field, I  find myself floating in space. Kim hollers, “Are you holding on?”  I crash down. “Now I am!” I wish for just a few less bumps just as we pass the tall corn and okra fields. At the top, the view of the mighty Ohio is stunning. Across the river, the mountains of West Virginia seem just a stone’s throw away. As Larry points to his bottom vegetable fields, you can see why the first settlers called this flat and productive land Long Bottom.

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Chinese long beans, white and Thai eggplant. Athens Farmers Market sign.    Early tomatoes for pickling.

The upper fields are just as productive and meticulously kept, containing all sorts of the previously mentioned peppers along with Japanese eggplant, acorn squash and pumpkins, which are blooming and beautiful. The rolling hills stretch out into the north, leading me to my pizza oven. I must go, but not before buying a copious amount of all sorts of small tomatoes for my Schicciata.

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Larry and Kim take a break to laugh at the pizza freak.   The most beautiful tomatillos are grown here.

Cowdery Farms Schiacciata Margherita

Schiacciata dough

1 – 2 ounces fresh basil leaves (probably 20 to 30 leaves depending on size and your tastes)

30 – 40 cherry or grape tomatoes, in different colors for a prettier presentation

8 – 10 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly (you will tear these up according to your own taste)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Using the Schiacciata dough recipe, cut a 19 ounce dough ball and set in an oiled bowl for about 30 minutes. Form a football shape, 10 – 12 inches long by 6 – 8 inches wide. Transfer to an upside down cookie sheet that has been dusted with cornmeal. (This will be your pizza peel or large spatula to put on the pizza stone or upturned and pre-heated cookie pan in the oven) Be sure not to push down too hard or you will knock out the gas bubbles that create a bread-like rise.

Scatter the fresh basil leaves over the dough. Do not push them into the dough. Place the cherry tomatoes on top and press down gently.

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Tear the mozzarella into pieces to get a good “spread” and scatter around the schiacciata. Try to place the mozzarella on top of the largest leaves of basil. This will ensure that the leaves won’t burn, and gives the mozzarella a better flavor. Sprinkle sea salt on top and drizzle all over with olive oil.

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Transfer to a warm place for the dough to proof for 15 -20 minutes. Proofing is the final rise where the dough literally “cooks” in the warm air giving a chance for the yeast to eat more sugars and thus create more gas or “rise.” It is especially important with this recipe, as the dough will literally gobble up the tomatoes so they don’t roll off the schiacciata.

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I cook alot of Schiacciata Margheritas, all in one shot. Beautiful, Tasty and an awesome summer sight!

Gently push the tomatoes down again with the flat of your hand before putting in the oven. Slide the schiacciata into the oven onto the pizza stone or tray and cook for 10 to 15 minutes depending upon oven cooking. When golden brown, check the tomatoes and push down if it looks as though they want to “jump ship”. Look at the bottom of the schiacciata for doneness which will be a dark brown. Pull from oven and enjoy the results of this fresh mozzarella pizza recipe.

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