The weather is in transition and it's no wonder we crave soothing comfort foods to keep us grinning. One of my favorite meals that’s sure to please is fresh oven baked pizza. Like most people, I have a very busy schedule and love quick gourmet meals. I typically visit the local pizzeria but not for slices or a pie, rather just the dough, raw dough. I admit, I remember feeling a bit silly the first time I requested it but as it turned out I wasn’t the only one. The owner had shared with me that a handful of his loyal customers were also stopping by for just the crust. Sure, you can make your own pie dough from scratch but in a pinch this is the way to go.
As a chef and an artist, I appreciate any opportunity to get creative with my food. To me, pizza is a perfect medium because the crispy fragrant dough is like a blank canvas for me to build on. First I will visit the markets produce department and collect the freshest most vibrant looking ingredients. Then I will pair them with some mouthwatering cheeses. To me there is nothing more warm and comforting than the combination of melted cheese, fresh vegetables and succulent freshly baked dough. You can also introduce an abundance of other toppings such as prime meats, cured sausage or tender chicken to name a few.
I was always a big fan of pizza but I must admit that everything changed for me when I landed in Rome. I spent a week in Italy before I went to culinary school and gained an immediate respect for simple fresh ingredients. Pizza Margherita became a new love of mine and even after ten years I still remember that first bite. The fresh milky mozzarella, aromatic basil, perfectly ripe plum tomatoes and fruity olive oil were beyond comparison to anything I had ever tried before. For the entire week I sampled different slices every day, one more delicious than the next. Pizza rustica, quattro formagi and pizza napoletana were among my new favorites.
A whole new world had been discovered for me and I haven’t stopped creating delicious pies since. The good news is you don’t have to visit Italy to enjoy delicious pizza. The following is a recipe for one of my most requested pizzas on my catering menu.
Four Cheese Pizza with Broccoli Rabe
Preheat the oven to 475º
Wash broccoli rabe and cut off ends, one inch from bottom. Rough chop into bite size pieces. Heat pan, add oil, and sauté garlic until fragrant.
Mark Chabus is the owner and executive chef of Heavenly Chef, Inc. He is classically trained and a graduate of the French Culinary Institute. He worked at a world-renowned exclusive hotel before leaving to build his own culinary company in 2003.