Just because I love to cook, and cooking is my job, does not mean I am good at keeping groceries in the house, or taking the extra 30 minutes to prepare a good meal at home. In fact, I am terrible at the day-to-day cooking. Thankfully, my job allows me to prepare my own meals at work and that helps, or I have lots of lunch dates with friends. But as I get older, strive to stick harder to my budget, be health conscious, AND try to develop myself in the culinary arts, I find that it is growing increasingly more important to take the time for meals at home.On top of that, I am so lucky to be in a program that offers a Wine & Spirits class on a truly comprehensive level. My professor, Dr. Strick, is an incredible instructor and has spent years traveling, tasting, and getting certified in wine education. So as an incentive for tasting more wines and drinking lots of LDL-lowering red wine, I have decided to budget for a daily glass - or two ;) - of red wine.
My first endeavour in food and wine pairing was two nights ago, with a craving for pizza margherite (olive oil/garlic base, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and tomatoes) and a complementary glass of red wine. I am not a huge red wine fan - the tannins, which are on the skins of every grape variety but only remain in the fermentation process for red wines, really pucker my mouth up ("dry" wine) and leave me feeling puckery, dry, cottonmouth-y. I don't like that feeling at the end of a night regardless of how much oaky nutty smokey goodness might be in that glass. So my choice of wine in varietals that I am familiar with is the Pinot Noir - sort of "in the middle" of the red wines, a little sweeter, not so dry, but full of flavor still. With all of this information, the gracious wine pro at Green's suggested I try an Italian varietal of grape, the Sangiovese. I enjoyed it with my pizza and boy was it yummy. A little dark fruity taste and perfect in between bites. Traditionally in Italy, each bite of a meal is spaced with a sip of wine, which helps you taste and the wine AND the food better in each bite. Mmm. What a way to enjoy good food and good wine.
So - for the pizza: homemade or store-bought dough (I always buy Publix Bakery's dough and I always regret it. It never rolls out like I like, the gluten always breaks and it is just frustrating. Just make your own), tomatoes (sliced, diced, however you prefer. I prefer diced - I also like to squeeze my tomatoes in my hand to let some of that water out so it does not cook out in the pizza and make your pizza watery or soggy), fresh basil and fresh mozzarella (in water, add a touch of salt to bring out the flavors).
Roll out your pizza dough, rub down with minced garlic, olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Par-bake crust (accordingly) and then top with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, diced or shredded. A trick for fresh mozz is to stick it in the freezer for a short bit, probably just as long as you are getting your crust together and prepping your tomatoes and basil, and it will harden just a bit to make cutting, grating, slicing, etc. easier. Chiffonade some fresh basil but save until the end to retain full fresh flavor. Bake about 25-35 minutes at 375 (400 if thinner crust, but shorter cooking time) and after you pull it out, add the chiffonade basil, let it rest and then cut into it and enjoy with that glass of Sangiovese.