Here’s how I cooked my homemade pizza

I never cook; I dabble. But then I enjoy dabbling in the kitchen every once in a while, and I almost always end up experimenting with new dishes (sometimes coming up with my own recipes mostly because I did not have something at home, or I burnt up what I did have.)

Today I got down to cooking one of my homemade vegetarian pizzas, famous within the four walls of my home if nowhere else. This is not the first time I’m doing this — I have cooked pizzas on a handful of occasions before — but I come back to this because pizzas are so easy to cook and taste good with little effort, but they are pretty hard to get perfectly right.

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.

–W.C. Fields

With today’s attempt (which I made with more caution, care and by taking more time off — TLC and all that) I was actually overjoyed to end up with a pizza that tasted just like a pizzeria’s. So in this article I tell you how I did it.

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The nitty-gritty of making V.H.B.’s homemade pizza:

Time: 30 min (depending on how fast you are)

Serving: 2-4 (depending on your appetite)

N.B. 1 This is a vegetarian pizza.

N.B. 2 Oven settings get better by trail and error.

N.B. 3 There is no such thing as free Google Glass.

Ingredients:

  • Pizza dough or base (I prefer to get a base because it saves time)
  • 1 tsp olive oil (Popeye’s girl, yeah)
  • 1 green capsicum, sliced
  • 1 red capsicum, sliced
  • 1 small onion, squared
  • 1 small zucchini (I use the green kind), sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • Olives (as you like them)
  • Jalapeño (as you like them)
  • Baby corn (as you like them)
  • 1/2 cup mushroom, diced
  • 1/2 cum diced tofu, cubed
  • Mozarella or cheddar cheese (as per taste)
  • 500g tomato sauce
  • 200g tomato paste/puree
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic (as per taste)
  • An oven (preferably in working condition)
  • Blender
  • Nvidia project shield (just because it’s so great to have)

Alright, now onto the serious stuff ahead.

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For photographs during cooking, scroll down a few inches.

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There are three steps to making this pizza: preparing the vegetables (cutting, dicing etc., which I suppose you have already done,) and preparing the sauce, and, lastly, baking. You can cut, chop or dice as required; take a look at the list of ingredients above.

To prepare the sauce

This part is pretty easy: mix the tomato sauce (not ketchup, mind you,) and puree together in a bowl until they blend with each other. Then add the oregano, basil and sugar and stir it. If you like, a teaspoon of garlic would add to the taste. If you’re into a lot of yin and yang, go ahead and throw some salt and/or paprika to the mix.

That is it for the sauce. Keep it aside, let it settle and blend further with itself while you prepare the vegetables and toppings.

To prepare the vegetables

As you are preparing the sauce you might want to begin this step: marinate the onions, olives, capsicum, zucchini and tomatoes (and tofu, if you are using it,) in a cup of olive oil, basil and oregano.

Once you are done with the sauce, or after the vegetables have marinated to your taste (I just wait a brief five minutes,) take a wok or pan and add the olive oil into it. Then add the onions and zucchini and stir fry until the onions soften and become slightly golden brown. (Again, add a teaspoon of garlic if you like.)

Then add the tomatoes and capsicum and sauté them to a degree you like. I prefer the tomatoes boiled a quarter of the way: mostly raw, definitely not boiled. Besides, everything you do will almost be boiled once again when you put the stuff into your oven.

Set the pizza

So far we have our sauce and vegetables ready separately. Now you can do one of two things: mix them up well and spread them on the pizza base; or spread them out in layers — first the sauce on the base and then the vegetables over the sauce.

Finally, grate the cheese and spread it all over the pizza. I like to use mozarella cheese here because I like the way it bakes as well as the taste it acquires after baking; but you can use cheddar cheese too. I advise against being an adventurer and using something like pepper cheese because that just wrecks the whole pizza. (Who bakes pizza with pepper?)

A quick look at the steps in order: it is hard to cook and photograph at the same time! Click to enlarge.

Start baking

Here is a final checklist: you had the sauce ready, you had the vegetables ready, you had grated cheese ready, then you put them all up as you liked and set your pizza. The last step before popping it into the oven is to handcraft your dish by embedding the olives and jalapeño as toppings.

Preheat your oven to anywhere between 200° and 250°. I cannot say about all ovens, but mine does not do 200° preheating per se, but reaches an equivalent temperature when preheated for 10 minutes, then maintains that temperature for another 10 minutes before cooling down. This setup also does not hurt, since, by my experience, the baking itself rarely takes more than 7-8 minutes, and even less if you heat it up to 250°.

Now if you had not half-cooked the vegetables before, you might want to bake for twice as long (about 15-20 minutes) at about 250° to get the same results.

Important things to note while baking are to not turn on The Simpsons but instead to sit before your oven and peek through the glass to see how the cheese is doing. Take it out once the cheese has melted, spread like lava and engulfed your pizza’s surface. In other words, take your set up out of the oven once it starts to look like a pizza. Also be careful not to overdo this as it can leave you with a charred bag of wheat and lots of in-oven cleaning to do — and in case it does get charred, trust me, it does not taste good even if you use a glass of Cola to push it down.

If you have come so far without mishaps, congratulations: you can have V.H.B.’s homemade pizza for your meal, and, like that ritual after all pizzas, do not forget to run the extra mile tomorrow. [vhb]