That’s Amore!

I am so grateful to have advanced to the fifth round of Project Food Blog! Thank you everyone who voted for me! I appreciate the support of my loyal readers and new friends.

“One recipe, 100 variations! We're challenging each of you to put your own spin on the same recipe. How you do it is up to you. Will you try out some molecular gastronomy techniques? Share a super-secret trick? Or re-envision the dish from a different perspective? You'll be asked to put your own spin on pizza. For the purpose of this contest and challenge, we are defining pizza as having a solid base, a sauce and at least one topping.” When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie... That's amore!

Everyone knows that song. It's about finding love in the unlikeliest of places. It's about being suddenly seized by love. Some people find love in a darkened movie theatre, at the bottom of a box of chocolates, between intertwined fingers or in a perfect slice of pizza.

Some people might not consider pizza classy or romantic like flowers, chocolates, jewelry or fancy dates. Don't get me wrong. I love roses, cordial cherries, diamonds and filet mignon as much as the next girl. But it's pizza that holds a special place in my heart.

When my boyfriend and I were separated by 3,373 km (2096 miles) the telephone was our only connection. One evening after a long day of work, tired and just a little lonesome, I was talking to my honey over the distance when there was a knock at my door. I wasn't expecting anyone. Intrigued, I swung open the door.

There in my doorway was a pizza delivery guy holding a pizza. For me. My pizza. Free of charge. Lee had called my favourite pizza place and ordered my favourite pizza. Even two provinces away he was still doing such sweet and thoughtful things for me.

Now that miles have shrunk to inches and everyday is filled with reasons to fall deeper in love, I thought I'd learn to make his favourite pizza.

This is my first attempt at making pizza. Oh sure, I've had a lot of experience eating them. Ordering them. Burning them. Even accidentally baking a frozen one with the cardboard still under it then proceeding to violently and vehemently slice through it. Gives a whole new meaning to cardboard crust, doesn't it?

This time I had motivation. This time it was perfect. I love that man, he loves me and we both love this Chicken Pesto Pizza. Chicken Pesto Pizza Makes 2 medium pizzas.

Source: Crust adapted from Annie's Eats' Basic Pizza Dough.

1/2 cup water, warm 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast 4 cup bread flour 1 1/4 tsp salt 1 1/4 cup water, room temperature 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 tbsp cornmeal

2 cup basil leaves 3 cloves of garlic 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese Black pepper to taste, ground 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp olive oil 2 chicken breasts, grilled and sliced into thin strips 5 cherry tomatoes, sliced 1/4 cup red pepper, chopped 3 cup mozzarella cheese

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Note: This recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas but I like to freeze one half of dough for later. You can choose to make two pizzas now and double the pesto and topping ingredients or work with what I have listed below and just make one pizza.

In a medium measuring bowl sprinkle the instant yeast over the warm water.

In a large bowl with an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment stir together the bread flour and salt. Add the room temperature water and olive oil to the yeast bowl and gradually pour it into the flour mixture while it's mixing on low.

Once it's mixed into a cohesive dough switch to the hook attachment and knead the dough on low for about 5 minutes or until it's smooth and elastic.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning it once to ensure all the dough is coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit undisturbed to rise until it's doubled in size for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

While your dough is busy rising you can prepare the pesto. In a food processor combine the basil leaves, garlic cloves, toasted pine nuts, parmesan, fresh ground black pepper and olive oil. Blend all the ingredients until there are no more chunks. Refrigerate the pesto until you're ready to top your pizza.

Preheat the oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees and position a rack in the center.

Press down the doubled dough to deflate it then transfer it to a floured work surface. Cut it in half evenly then wrap one half in plastic wrap and store it in a freezer safe resealable bag to freeze for another time. Or, if you'd prefer, you can make two pizzas at once. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for 10 – 30 minutes.

Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit your pizza stone then sprinkle it lightly with cornmeal. Lightly flour your hands and shape the dough gently using the backs of your hands to stretch and form it without tearing it with your fingertips. If the dough springs back too much when you're trying to shape it then let it rest for another 15 minutes and try again. This should relax the gluten and make it easier to work with. Your goal here is to form the dough into a circle 10 – 12 inches wide with a slightly thicker 1/2 inch rim for the crust.

Brush the olive oil onto the crust with a pastry brush. This gives the crust a golden sheen and makes it crunchy.

Spread an even layer of the prepared pesto sauce over the pizza, making sure to avoid the crust. Sprinkle half the cheese over the pesto and arrange the toppings over top. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese to finish it off.

Slide the parchment paper onto a cutting board then onto the preheated pizza stone and bake it for 8 – 12 minutes. The cheese should be bubbly and the crust should be golden brown. Slice and enjoy!

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