Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Remembrance of Pizza Past: Spinach Ricotta Pizza

It was the most perfect and delicious piece of food I have ever eaten, a slice of spinach pizza with big globs of ricotta cheese, draped over my arm, funneled into my mouth as I walked down the street on a hot July night, after soundcheck and before a gig, the last one I would ever play (but I didn't know that, at the time) in New York. My friend Faith, walking next to me, was unfazed by my obscene outbursts of ecstasy, neither disturbed not surprised by my vehemence. "It's true," she said, when my language turned religious, "New York pizza is manna from Heaven."

Several years later I would find myself in Nottingham, England, stuck downtown after work and before an evening writing class, starving to death, craving spinach ricotta pizza. "I'll grab a slice somewhere," I thought, stupidly, forgetting what country I was in. I walked the streets in vain, finally landing in front of a travel agency where I stared at a poster of the New York skyline and wondered if my best plan would be to buy a plane ticket, fly to New York, and get a slice.

Of course what I really needed was a time machine.

And many more years later I find myself here, in an apartment in Evanston, another hot July night, on the edge of the second best pizza city in America, but further removed than ever from that two dollar dinner that I can't shake. My drumming days are over (in fact, my drums are for sale on eBay at this very moment) and lately I've been making pizza. I've made about ten spinach and ricottas in the past month. The recipe is evolving, getting better, getting closer, but it's like Zeno's Dichotomy Paradox (thanks, Henry) -- I'm moving toward a destination I will never reach.

Spinach Ricotta Pizza
Makes one 16-inch pizza (serves 3-4)

1 recipe pizza dough (I'm still really liking this one).
1 cup pizza sauce (homemade or store-bought, but make sure there's some oregano in there)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cups, loosely packed, baby spinach (or try a combination of spinach/arugula/basil)
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 scant cup ricotta cheese

Prepare pizza dough and set aside to rise.

If you're making homemade sauce, make it while the dough rises.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet, add garlic and spinach and cook 1 minute or less, stirring constantly, until spinach is wilted. Strain and gently press out liquid. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 500. Oil 16-inch pizza pan. Press dough into pan. Brush with remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

Bake crust five minutes. Remove from oven. Spread sauce over crust (it will be a thin layer, that's what you want), spread spinach/garlic evenly on top of sauce and cover everything with mozzarella. Return to oven for five minutes.

Remove from oven, add ricotta, using a teaspoon to distribute globs evenly over the pizza. Return to oven for five more minutes.

Serve immediately. For best results, eat while walking down the street with people you love during one of the happiest weeks of your life.