Friday, April 29, 2011

Food Fight: Pizza Showdown

It started with some trash-talking…as all good dinner parties do. But this dinner party, my friends, wasn’t your average white linen and good manners type of dinner party. It was a showdown. Or a throwdown (minus Bobby Flay). It was the best kind of food fight. And the subject? Pizza!

V and her boyfriend Ben (our only friend with a house instead of an apartment, and a professional-style gas stove…swoon) invited us over for the Second Annual Pizza Showdown. Last year’s showdown started out as a friendly pizza collaboration, and ended in voting and bribing, with Adrienne being named the winner. I guess we’re a competitive bunch. This year, we skipped the niceties, and went straight for the jugular.

Ben: “I'm going to make a pizza that calls all your pizzas Susie.”
V: “Who wants to be on the "my pizza kills ben's pizza" team?”
Ben: “Make sure to bring name tags for your pizza—you can go ahead and write "Susie" on them in advance.”
Adrienne: “Just remember who won last year…”

With that kind of pressure, I decided I had bring out the big guns. Evan and I brainstormed for days, trying to come up with a winning pizza topping combination. We threw out ideas like Sriracha and chicken, or sundried tomatoes, arugula, and Salumi salami. He wanted big and meaty, I wanted fresh and full of veggies. Our team was breaking at the seams, before the competition even began. When the time came to get supplies, Evan was nowhere to be found…so I picked out the toppings I wanted, asparagus and arugula, and completely disregarded his meat-full wishes. No one said competition is pretty. It is, however, delicious.

We gathered in Ben’s big grown-up kitchen, threw out some fightin’ words, drank wine, danced and sang, and whipped out some amazing, delicious pizzas. And, low and behold, my last minute topping decision won the contest; with Adrienne coming in at a close second (that girl knows how to make a classic pizza).

The Pies:
Amber: The green pie—shaved asparagus with fontina, pine nuts, shaved parmesan, and fresh lemon-kissed arugula
Adrienne: The classic—mushrooms, pepperoni, and olives
V: The spicy Pie—tandoori chicken with fresh cilantro
Ben: The big and meaty—sausage, grilled onions, and pepperoncini
Tasha: The simple but always delicious margherita—tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella
Bree: Tropical with a Twist—pineapple, Canadian bacon, and smoked Gouda
Jim: The forager—a pizza overflowing with sautéed mushrooms
Evan, Bobby, and Ewan: an inappropriately shaped pizza that we will not name on this blog

Go ahead, Ben, just try to call this pizza Susie.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza
(The dough recipe below makes six 6-ounce pizza crusts—my toppings will cover two of them)

Your favorite pizza dough or “The Best Pizza Dough Ever” from 101 Cookbooks
1 bunch asparagus, shaved lengthwise with a vegetable peeler (try it, its fun!)
1 clove garlic, minced
Sea salt
Olive oil
Pine nuts
½ -2 cups grated fontina
¼ cup grated parmesan
Shaved parmesan
A large bowl full of fresh arugula tossed with fresh lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, a splash of vinegar, and salt and pepper—to taste

Prepare your dough according to directions, stretch it, and lay it on a pizza peel or pan coated with cornmeal. Bush a light amount of olive oil on the dough, sprinkle on garlic and sea salt. Top with grated fontina and parm, and a hearty amount of asparagus, you really want to mound the asparagus on, because it will baked down. Sprinkle on pinenuts. Bake pizza according to directions for the dough—the bottom should be slightly crispy and golden, and the asparagus should be just browning around the loose edges. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Before serving, top with arugula and shaved parm, and another spritz of lemon if needed.
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