Pizza Margherita

Y’all might be tired of reading about pizza, but it’s one of the world’s most perfect foods and in the top two or three of foods I would choose to eat everyday for the rest of my life if forced to make such a choice.  The Pizza Margherita is one of the easiest to make.  It only has 5 ingredients:  crust, olive oil, cheese, tomatoes and basil.  When there are so few ingredients it’s the quality of the ingredients that counts. Thus, don’t make this pizza in the Winter unless you live somewhere that tomatoes are in season year round.  Don’t use pre-shredded mozzarella. And don’t use dried basil.  I know that’s a lot of “don’ts,” but I’m serious about the ingredient thing.

So, what makes tonight’s Pizza Margherita special?  Two things:  the tomatoes and the basil.  I used a Cherokee Purple tomato.  This summer has been my first encounter with the Cherokee Purple and it’s my new best friend.  This is an heirloom variety tomato so the plants don’t produce copious amounts of fruit.  Typically heirloom plants expend their energy producing quality fruits, not quantity.  Each one that ripens is sort of a perfect little gift on the vine.  Okay, that’s a little sappy, but these are seriously good tomatoes.  The Cherokee Purple is a dark, sweet and salty fruit with very few seeds.  Roasting it on the pizza just intensifies all of its wonderfulness.  And I picked the basil out of the garden fewer than 10 minutes before I put it on the pizza and ate it.  Can’t beat that.

I’m still working on the perfect crust.  This was a good one, but not quite as thin as I like or as a truly Neopolitan Pizza Margherita crust should be.  Because the topping is so light and so simple you really have to do a thin crust.  I’m working with the no-rise recipe I found a number of weeks ago. It might be helpful to use a pizza stone that has pre-heated in your 500 degree oven.  I’ll try that next time.

So, this is how you put this together.  Brush your crust with a good amount of olive oil.  Cut the fresh mozzarella into smallish pieces and scatter them on the crust.  Pat the tomato slices dry and lay the slices on the cheese.  (Patting the tomatoes dry just helps keep the crust from getting soggy).  Bake at 500 degrees until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.  Scatter torn fresh basil leaves over the cooked pizza.  Enjoy!

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