Almost Meatless Pizza

We’ve been on a tear with our awesome new pizza stone lately—ye-ah, Fante’s!—so when Fairmount food writer and recipe developer Tara Mataraza-Desmond approached us to join in a virtual potluck promoting Almost Meatless (Ten Speed), the book she recently coauthored with Philly Mag critic and bogalicious buddy Joy Manning, we already knew what we would make. Their meat-light pizza employs just two pan-seared chicken thighs, but we hardly missed the protein thanks to potent sun-dried tomatoes and feisty, peppery arugula pesto. Vegetarians can omit the chicken altogether; vegans just leave off the Fontina—though it melts so, so beautifully. Mataraza-Desmond and Manning suggest making your own dough if you have the time, but picking one up at a pizzeria is cool in a pinch. (This recipe also calls for whole-wheat dough, but we used regular and it turned out just fine.) The recipe is incredibly easy to follow, written by Mataraza-Desmond and Manning in normal people language that leaves little to error. Only six steps, count ‘em: cook the chicken, make the pesto, stretch the dough, assemble the pie, pop in the oven. You can bake the pie on cookie sheet or pizza pan, but we (and the AM girls) would really suggest investing in a stone. It’s clutch. We hadn’t thought to preheat ours in the past; this Almost Meatless tip turned out a pie with a peerlessly crisp underbelly that cooked in just 10 minutes. You’ll get the idea in the slideshow below. Continue down to the recipe.

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Chicken Pizza with Arugula Pesto and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
(reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press and the authors)

Makes 2 (12-inch) pizzas
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 (7-gram) packets active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110°F)
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan or romano cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes
1 cup firmly packed coarsely chopped arugula
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about
6 ounces total)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Cornmeal, about 1 tablespoon for the pizza peel
12 dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in hot water for 10 minutes
2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated Fontina cheese

Put a pizza stone on your oven’s lowest rack and preheat the oven to 500°F.

To make the dough, whisk both flours together and set aside. Combine the yeast with 1/2 cup of the warm water and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer and set aside for 10 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup water, the salt, olive oil, and about 1 cup of the flour. Whisk by hand, adding more flour until a wet dough (resembling loose oatmeal) forms. Attach the bowl to the mixer, and with the dough hook, mix the dough on low for a minute. Continue mixing, adding the rest of the flour in 1/2 cup increments. Mix on low speed for 5 minutes to knead the dough. Depending on the humidity of your kitchen, it might seem like you have to add water to the dough, but don’t worry—the flour will hydrate over time. Cover, and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, then punch the dough down and let rise again for another hour. After the second rise, divide in half, forming two dough balls. Set aside on your counter while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

To make the pesto, put the garlic, cheese, and chile flakes in a food processor and pulse until minced. Add the arugula, pine nuts, and olive oil and process until a relatively smooth paste forms.
To prepare the chicken, pat it dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper on each side. Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan on medium-high until shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken and cook for about 2 minutes, until browned. Flip the pieces over and brown the other side, for an additional 2 minutes, and then transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/4-inch strips and set aside.

To assemble the pizza, roll out the dough to two (12-inch) rounds. Dust a wooden pizza peel with cornmeal, and put a dough round on it to assemble. Top with half the pesto. Scatter half the chicken and sun-dried tomatoes evenly around the pizza. Top with half the cheese. Using the peel, shimmy your pizza directly onto your preheated pizza stone. Assemble second pie while the first one is in the oven. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

Tip: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can make the dough by hand. Incorporate the flour 1/2 cup at a time by stirring with a spoon until you can lift the dough out of the bowl as a soft ball. Transfer to a floured surface and continue to add the remaining flour, kneading it in a little at a time. Once all of the flour has been added, continue to knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until it is soft and smooth. Add the flour to the kneading surface sparingly so as to avoid drying out the dough.

Photo: blogalicious

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