While cooking, listen to this: White Flag - Gorillaz (this live & extended version is AMAZING)
During my first semester of studying abroad in Tel Aviv, I lived in the dorms across the street from the university. The dorm buildings were...interesting. For six buildings, each with, let's say, 12-30 apartments in each one, there were four washing machines and three dryers. I'm not a mathlete or anything, but that shit does not add up.
Israel also has a SERIOUS stray cat problem. Apparently when the British were still in charge over there they had a mouse problem, so the natural solution was to bring in cats to get rid of them. It worked, but then they were left with all of these cats roaming around and stealing falafel wrappers out of trash cans. The university cats were very chill and well-cared for, and loved hanging out in the dorms. They were mad cliquey, though - only black cats hung out by the dumpsters at the side entrance to the dorms, and ginger cats seemed to rule the main walkway on campus.
The dorms themselves, though, were fine, except for the fact that the kitchen was literally a fridge, a sink and a toaster oven. Being used to a fully equipped kitchen or a dining hall, I had to put a lot of thought into the meals I could make in my kitchen for ants. The first month in that kitchen saw an absurd amount of toast, hummus and cucumbers. It took me five years to be able to eat hummus again after subsisting on it for 4 weeks straight. After that, I ventured into roasting vegetables in the toaster oven, until one day, my period struck with an almighty force and my body wanted nothing but salt and cheese. I really think my uterus hissed "GIVE ME PIZZA NOW" one night. I had no choice but to oblige, but I didn't feel like going that far to get it, because, again, almighty period.
I grabbed some pitas, sauce and cheese at the grocery store a block away and made a pita pizza for myself. There was nothing special about any of the ingredients, but it was EXACTLY what my uterus desired, and its wrath was momentarily assuaged. My roommate saw what I was up to and asked for one, and we ended up eating more pita pizzas that semester than I dare to divulge. Once we moved into the city center the following semester and had a kitchen for adults, the pita pizzas disappeared from our plates, but they will forever be in our hearts.
Lately, I have been fiending pita pizzas again, so I asked Alyssa if we could make them. I'm glad she agreed because these are FUCKING ACE. The pita is crispy on the outside but still soft on the inside, the sauce is flavorful and rich, and the cheese is, well, cheese. Duh. You can of course use store bought pita and sauce, but I really, really recommend making your own - it's super easy and will taste much better than anything you can buy at the store. With just a bit of rising and simmering time these pita pizzas can be yours. Top them with any veggies or herbs you like and go to town. This recipe makes a lot, so maybe share with your roommate? Or perhaps your local feral cat? They'd both be grateful.
Love and meows, Rina
Yield: 4 medium-large or 8 small-medium pizzas (isn't pizza size relative?)
Active Cook Time: 15m | Inactive Cook Time: 1h 50m (see note)
Category: Main, Pizza
Source: pita dough from The New York Times, sauce from Cookie + Kate
Special Equipment: chopsticks (optional)
Note: you can use store-bought pitas and sauce for this, and then this recipe will literally take you 5 minutes. We highly recommend making your own, though - no weird ingredients, no sad stale pitas, all fresh and delicious.
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
35 grams whole-wheat flour (¼ cup)
310 grams unbleached all-purposed flour (2 ½ cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup tomato paste*
28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup basil, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1-2 cups part-skim mozzarella
Veggies of choice (we went with bell peppers and caramelized onions)
Basil, for garnish (optional)
*Buy your tomato paste in a resealable tube! I have yet to meet a person who can go through an entire can of tomato paste before it goes bad. This way, problem solved. Thanks for the advice, mama Ruth!
Prepare the sponge: kind of a gross term, I know. Put 1 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl. The water should be the temperature you would feel comfortable taking a bath in - not too hot, but with some warmth. Add the yeast and sugar, and stir to dissolve. Add the whole-wheat flour and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour and whisk together. Place the bowl in a warm (not hot) place, uncovered, until the mixture is frothy and bubbling, about 15 minutes.
Prepare the dough: after 15 minutes, add the olive oil, salt, and almost all of the flour (keep ½ cup out) to the yeast mixture. With a wooden spoon or pair of chopsticks (we use chopsticks), stir until the mixture forms a "shaggy mass." Look to this Food52 article for a visual reference. While the dough is still in the bowl, dust with a little bit of flour and knead for about 1 minute, making sure to incorporate any dry floury bits.
Knead the dough: turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead for 2 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes, and then knead for another 2 minutes.The dough is going to be sticky! Don't add too much extra flour. At this point, you can refrigerate the dough in a large zippered plastic bag for several hours or overnight. When you're ready to bake it off, bring it back to room temperature, knead it into a ball and proceed with the recipe.
Let the pita rest: clean out the mixing bowl and place the dough inside. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and then a towel, and allow to rest in a warm (not hot!) place for about 1 hour, or until it's doubled in size.
Knead the dough, again: preheat the oven to 475 F, and on the bottom shelf place a heavy-duty sheet pan, pizza stone or cast-iron skillet. Punch down the dough and divide it into 4 or 8 pieces, depending on the size you want your pitas to be. Form each piece into a ball, place them on your floured work surface, cover with a damp towel and let them rest for 10 minutes.
Make the sauce: while the pita dough is resting, in a large saucepan or medium pot, heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until the oil goes all shimmery. Add in the diced onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 or so minutes. Stir occasionally so that nothing burns or sticks to the bottom. Add the garlic and tomato paste, mix well and cook for 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Once it's simmering, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's thickened up a bit. Remove from the heat and add in the chopped basil, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes and salt. Taste, and add more salt or red pepper flakes if necessary.
Form the pitas: working with one ball at a time, leaving the others covered, roll into a flat disc with a rolling pin. Roll into a 6-inch circle, then an 8-inch diameter, about ⅛ inch thick. Let it be known that I am terrible at spatial reasoning, so I eyeball these kinds of things - feel free to do the same. Dust with flour if necessary.
Bake the pita: carefully lift the dough circle and quickly place it onto the sheet that's been heating in the oven. I carry mine directly to the oven because you want the sheet to be as hot as possible. Shut the oven and let the dough bake for 2 minutes. It should start to puff up. Turn over with a spatula or pair of tongs and bake for 1 more minute. The resulting pita will be pale with a couple brown spots. Transfer the pita to a basket or bowl lined with a napkin and cover so that the bread stays soft. Repeat this process for the remaining dough balls.
Assemble! turn the oven up to 500F. Layer the sauce, cheese and any veggie accouterments onto the pitas and bake for 3 minutes or so, until the cheese has melted and the veggies are slightly cooked. Check the bottoms to make sure they haven't burned. Take out of the oven and, if using, sprinkle with some basil or other fresh herb. Wait until they're just below third-degree burn inducing, then dig in.
To keep: the pitas can be kept for a few days in a tightly sealed zippered plastic bag. In the freezer they'll last even longer. Turn them into pizzas only when you're just about to eat them.