Wednesday, April 7, 2010

weekend dinner party

As evidenced here, here, here, and here, I'm a pizza lover. And c'mon, who isn't? It's the perfect blank canvas that can be translated across any and every cuisine imaginable. And while there's a whole lot of absolutely nothing wrong with the classic Margarita (and a personal favorite, I might add) I find it kind of thrilling to step outside the pizza box (so bad that was GOOD) and try something different. Push yourself in the grocery store. Explore other options. Close your eyes in the produce department, spin yourself around (it helps to have a companion here), pick something up, and run with it.

Don't you dare run out of the store with it. I meant it in a strictly metaphorical way. This blog in no way, shape, or form, promotes shoplifting. Only culinary creativity.

Pizza dough, although readily available at almost all grocery stores and pizza joints (don't forget that tip!), can sometimes make it difficult to try out a number of different toppings and flavor combinations in one evening. So my solution for that is Naan Flatbread. It's miles, and miles, and miles better than, ugh, that Boboli stuff and they're particularly great for small kitchen cooking as you can throw these into a toaster oven if you don't feel like firing up the oven.

Possibilities, as expected, are endless. Here are a few ideas to whet your appetite along with some fantastic wine pairings thanks to Jon Troutman, Senior Editor of Cork' and a certified sommelier who explains why the pairings work:

naan pizza with camembert, arugula salad, and proscuitto
"Pinot is so food friendly as it is, and the earthy quality that Oregon's Pinot so often has would match up really well with the Arugula."
naan pizza with minted ricotta and balsamic glazed shallots
"Barbera. I think Barbera is my number one option for Pizza of any kind and the high acidity, low tannin levels would do really well with the Balsamic."
naan pizza with cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onion, and dill
"This Naan made me think of breakfast, and when I think of breakfast, I think bubbles. Cremant de Bourgogne is a category of sparkling wines that I've really been into lately, and would work well as a less expensive substitute to Champagne."

I'm weary you'll never trust my wine pairings again since I've now supplied you with the incomparable knowledge of a professional. But he's just that. A professional. And even he would recommend us to trust our own palettes when it comes to wine. But, hey. If and when I can get Jon in here to help steer us in the right direction, well, I think we'll all gladly and gratefully take the help.

Back to the pizza. For the first option, I'd use garlic Naan as the base. Turn the oven up to 400F and top the Naan with a few slices of Camembert (or Taleggio, my favorite). Throw the pizza in and allow the cheese to gently melt. Keep an eye on it. This will take no time at all. Once melted, top with some baby arugula that's been lightly tossed in a garlicky balsamic vinaigrette and a few slices of thinly sliced prosciutto (go for the domestic, it's less expensive), or not for your vegetarian guests.

The second pizza will require you to make some balsamic glazed shallots. I'd recommend making these the day before, just to get it out of the way. Use this recipe by Ina but use balsamic instead of red wine vinegar. Warm up the Naan base (plain or whole wheat could be lovely with this flavor profile) in the oven for a few minutes and then top with ricotta that's been seasoned well with salt and pepper and plenty of fresh chopped mint. Chop up the balsamic glazed shallots and thoughtfully top the pizza with them. Done and gorgeous.

Lastly, the smoked salmon pizza: Spread some cream cheese or creme fraiche on a well-toasted base and top with smoked salmon, razor thin slices of red onion, and some fresh dill. A squeeze of lemon and a dusting of freshly cracked pepper and this pizza is good to go. (Talk about an impressive and totally easy brunch option too, by the way.)

All three of these can be served room temperature which means you'll have plenty of time before guests arrive to assemble them and throw them in the oven, and put on your Heavenly Hostess Cocktail Apron. And, when your guests ask what they can bring, delegate out the wine pairings listed above and your party is well on it's way to flat out, flatbread perfection.

Oh, and here's your playlist:


Anne Zimmerman said...

Love the playlist! Wish I was cooking not working.

Kiira Leess said...

thanks, anne! i hear ya. LOVE that you're writing a book about MFK Fisher. sounds like an inspiring and well fed journey, can't wait to follow. cheers!

Kate said...

I will be making the smoked salmon asap! Pizza and Bubbly..who could resist!

Joanna Goddard said...

this looks so delicious!!!

Kiira Leess said...

so glad you think so! they're so versatile and, well, totally delicious ;) thanks so much for the comment!

Sarah said...

Kiira! love the wine pairings to go with the menu. What a great idea! I think i might make the ricotta/balsamic onion naan this weekend. My mouth is watering (as always).

Aimee said...

fantastic pizza ideas. love it!


the NEO-traditionalist said...

This looks so yummy! I just watched your little demo in the side bar and you are positively adorable! I can't even cook worth beans (no, really), but you're so darling I can't wait to come back and read more! xoxox katie

Kiira Leess said...

thanks, aimee!

katie - you're too sweet! thank you, thank you, thank you for watching and reading. can't wait to dive into your site. btw - first glimpse, i have that exact same brass bunny shown! bought it at the joanna goddard stoop sale. small world.



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