Do you ever hear people talking about their technicolor dreams that defy the laws that govern our conscious minds and wonder... "hmm... is this person making this up?" I'm one of those people that purges his memories of any dream on my way to consciousness and as a result I never remember much of my dreams. I'm always slightly envious of those that can remember their dreams and am downright jealous of people that have those so-called "lucid dreams" where you realize you're in a dream and can alter the course of it.
So why am I going on about dreams on a cooking blog? For me, day dreams are often a source of inspiration for new and interesting ideas. I'll see someone eating a banana and wonder what I could do with the peel.
The other day, I was strolling through SoHo when I noticed a huge crowd outside a new restaurant. It was literally a hole-in-the-wall with a glass case showcasing their signature pizzas with ovens in the background wafting the irresistible aroma of fresh baked bread and savory cheese onto the street. Up above was a chalk-board menu with about a dozen pizza's unlike anything I've ever heard of. Being the maximizer that I am, I read through every item on the menu with pizzas such as:
- grilled lettuce, anchovy and pecorino
- scrambled eggs with gruyere, caviar, and truffle oil
- bacon, sea urchin, beet greens and béchamel
I waited patiently contemplating my choices and watching people around me light up as they got their orders. Do I go simple with the grilled lettuce and cheese pizza or go for something more extravagant...
Before I was able to put in my order... I woke up! Still dark out, I was in my bed disoriented clinging to the memories of my tasty dream. So I did what any sensible person does at 4:30 am and got up to go make some pizzas... Well not really, but I did get up to write down the entire menu before I forgot it. The following recipe for grilled lettuce pizza comes straight from my dream, the crust comes courtesy of Jim Lahey's No-Knead Dough by way of Smitten Kitchen.
The thin, football (or rugby ball) shaped pizza is crusty, savory and chewy with a crisp layer of romaine lettuce made smokey and sweet by the high heat. The Pecorino Grand Cru adds a potent dose of briny umami bringing a depth you just wouldn't expect from a lettuce pizza. I skipped the anchovy this time opting for fleur de sel since I didn't have any in the pantry, but I have no doubt this would have made for a nice addition.
for the dough
for the topping
- Add the flour, yeast, sugar and salt to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the mixer running, slowly add the water until it all comes together. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and let it do its thing for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 4 hours.
- When you're ready to make the pizza, turn the broiler on with the rack in the middle position. Put a pizza stone or baking sheet in the oven to preheat.
- Cut the dough up into 6 equal sized pieces and roll them out into 6 thin football shaped pizzas. Brush each one with enough oil to make the surface slick and shiny and sprinkle with a little salt. Trim the extra leafy part of the lettuce off (you mainly want the crisp stem and a bit of the leafy part). Brush some more EVOO onto the lettuce and sprinkle some salt and pepper on top. Top with evenly spaced shavings of Pecorino Grand Cru.
- Slide your mini-pizza's onto your pre-heated pizza stone (you may need to bake them in batches of 2 or 3) and bake until the crust is golden brown, the cheese bubbly and the lettuce slightly caramelized.