Fig & Ricotta Pizza

I've got my kitchen back! 

Well, mostly back. It's, like, 83% done. Most importantly, I can cook!

The withdrawal was horrific and I apologize to those of you who were made to deal with my grumpiness - but we're back in business and cooking with gas!

Alright, we're still an all-electric household, but you catch my drift. I spent the weekend wiping down every dish and kitchen surface, attempting to free it from inches-deep sheet rock dust. I believe I've got it mostly cornered in the laundry room at this point ...

Fall happened while I was missing my pots and pans and I got busy making soups and stews for hearty lunches and quick dinners. But as I browsed the produce department at m little local supermarket in search of fresh veg for my stoups, I happened upon some beautiful Black Mission figs. Suddenly pizza was dancing in front of my eyes. I'll admit I was surprised at finding them in my tiny Northern Arizona town. Black Mission figs are considered one of the highest quality figs that can be grown in the USA and I've never seen them in our market before. The good news is you don't have to tell me twice to take advantage of a good thing.

I suppose my "perfect bite" would be a balance of savory + sweet. Think kettle corn, salted caramel brownies, and Crab Fat Caramel Wings. I love a grilled rib eye steak with a loaded baked potato, but drizzle a bit of balsamic vinegar reduction on that steak and I'm yours for the taking. I love the rich, sweet texture of figs and felt they belonged on a pizza pie with a bit of salty ham and fresh ricotta. I'd love to say it was my idea, but I was inspired recently by a recipe for one such pie found at Cooking Light.

I've taken a few liberties with their recipe - I left out the red onions (which would be perfectly wonderful on this pie), I added a bit of fresh mozarella because I have to have melty, stringy cheese on my pies, and I used Jim Lahey's No-Knead pizza dough recipe which you should be making because it's dead easy and it tastes amazing.

I know you have a million and fifty reasons not to make your own pizza dough - I've been settling for store bought for years because I "never have the time". If you're still there, it's okay, you're forgiven. You'll come around one day if you're serious about enjoying good pizza at home. If you're ready to stop settling, here's your chance to start now and never look back.

Jim's recipe is easy and nearly mistake-proof, but it does take TIME. It takes a long amount of time for the teeny bit of yeast to work it's magic and produce that crispy-tender base that tastes tangy and yeasty in the best pizzeria possible way. All good pies start with a stand-alone base and you'll get it every time with Jim's recipe. You literally mix three ingredients with water and let it do it's thing for about 18 hours. Hey - you're a busy person! You got stuff to do so this is the perfect recipe for you - you just have to plan a couple days ahead is all. You can find Jim's recipe right here. I'll include his directions on the best way to get a good home-oven baked pie below. It works for me every time and my oven is nothing to write home about.

Mmmmmmm ... pie!

Fig and Ricotta Pizza

Adapted from Cooking Light 

Serves 2-4 / makes one 12-inch pie

Ingredients

12 ounces pizza dough (you're making Jim's, right?)

3/4 cup reduced-fat Ricotta

1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 Tablespoons Half and Half

3 ounces fresh mozzarella (I prefer chunks I can nestle in between ingredients)

4 ounces thinly-sliced deli ham

5 figs, quartered

If you've made your pizza dough using Jim's recipe, you'll take one of the six portions his recipe makes and have it resting on your counter while the oven heats. If you've refrigerated the dough, take it out of the fridge and let it rest on the counter, covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel for at least 2-3 hours so it relaxes and comes to room temperature.

I only ever use a pizza stone so the remainder of the directions will be for heating the oven and cooking your pie that way. However, Jim has recommendations for cooking your pie using a sheet pan as well - you'll find it with the pizza dough recipe.

Place a pizza stone on an oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500-degrees (hotter if your stove goes hotter, but this recipe assumes your oven is like mine and doesn't go above 550-degrees. If you have a fancy stove, I admire your golden accessories and hope we can at least say hi to one another in passing). Let your oven heat at 500-degrees for one hour. Your dough should be resting quietly at this time.

While the oven heats, mix together the ricotta, sour cream and half and half in a bowl. The sour cream and half and half will loosen the ricotta a bit which will make it easy to drizzle and spread on the dough. 

When you're ready to cook your pie, gently form your dough into a 10- to 12-inch disk. If you're using Jim's recipe, you should be able to easily accomplish this by simply pressing from the center of the dough outwards to form the "lip" of the pie. Press gently and rotate the dough as you go. Once you get it started, you can also lift the dough onto your fisted hands and let the dough stretch itself out, forming a lip as you rotate and gently bounce the dough on your fists. If you find using a rolling pin is helpful there's no judgement here, though you won't get the thicker "lip" portion on your pie which I really like.

Sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel (or an inverted rimmed baking sheet) and gently drape the prepared dough on the peal. Brush the dough gently with olive oil, then drizzle and/or spread half of the ricotta mixture on the dough. Save the rest of the ricotta mixture for another pie or drizzle more on the top if you'd like. I found I only used half of it because I added mozzarella as well.

Add the figs to the dough and drape pieces of the ham in between the figs. Fill up any gaps with chunks of the fresh mozzarella. 

Change the oven temperature from bake to broil and slide your prepared pie onto the hot pizza stone. Bake for 5-7 minutes, rotating the pie halfway through the cooking time. If your oven is like mine, it will have a hot-spot and you can make sure the pie is cooked evenly by rotating it with your pizza peel. 

Remember - everyone's oven cooks differently, so the 5-7 minutes is merely a guideline. I like my pie with a good bit of char on the "lip" and ingredients, so I pull mine out after the full 7 minutes. If this is your first time, check on your pie at four minutes and pull it when it's to your satisfaction. 

Feel free to sprinkle on fresh thyme and/or basil after you remove the pie from the oven and before serving.