Jim Lahey's no-knead bread recipe launched a phenomenon when Mark Bittman first wrote about it in the The New York Times in 2006. It only makes sense then that Lahey would turn his bread-baking skills to pizza, specifically to Roman and Naples-style pizza—those thin and crispy disc-shaped pies, slightly charred at the edges, and topped with incredibly simple, delicious ingredients. His latest book shows that it's possible (and in fact, easy!) to make this kind of pizza at home. And, of course, it all starts with a no-knead pizza crust.
• Who wrote it: Jim Lahey
• Who published it: Clarkson Potter
• Number of recipes: 76 total, including 15 red sauce pizzas, 15 white sauce pizzas, 10 no-sauce pizzas, 6 toppings, 24 toasts, soups, and salads, and 6 desserts
• Recipes for right now: All of them! But especially the Spicy Eggplant Pie, Leek and Sausage Pie, Flambé Pie, Brussels Sprouts and Chestnut Pie, Popeye Pie, Squash with Pumpkin Seeds Pie, Kale and Brown Rice Vinegar Salad, and Salt-Crusted Beet Salad with Lemon Dressing.
• Other highlights: This book is all about teaching you how to recreate the thin, crispy pies that are "so seductive hot and fresh from the oven," as Lahey writes. In the same way Lahey demystified bread baking with his no-fuss no-knead technique, he aims to do the same with pizza.
The book begins with a primer on pizza preparation, including equipment needed (a pizza stone, pizza peel, and pizza wheel, all of which are easily available and inexpensive) and a "simple yet impeccable ingredients" list. In short, basic all-purpose flour is totally fine, but he advises you not to skimp on olive oil or the essential cheeses. (And don't ever use out-of-season tomatoes; go for canned tomatoes from Italy instead.) The two pages devoted to oven temperature and adjusting for oven type are also particularly helpful for home cooks.
No pizza cookbook would be complete without a recipe for pizza dough, and Lahey's version is (unsurprisingly) no-knead as well. He even includes modifications to make it whole wheat.
Now for the recipes: 40 recipes are devoted to pizza, and while there are recipes for the basics (Tomato Pie, Margherita Pie), the book really shines when the toppings get a little more interesting: a Flambé pie pairs crème fraîche with sweet caramelized onions and bacon; the Charcuterie Pie calls for sauerkraut, sausage, and mustard, while another pie features spicy eggplant, cilantro, and ginger. There's nothing too crazy, though: each ingredient list is pretty basic, but highly flavorful—a reiteration of his belief that you can have fewer ingredients if they're higher quality.
The book also offers recipes for unusual soups, salads, and desserts to round out the meal, most of them directly off the menu of Co., Lahey's New York restaurant: broccoli rabe and ricotta toast, for example, and a salt-crusted beet salad with lemon dressing. And for dessert, a basic (yet amazing) recipe for chocolate chip cookies. (Hint: to achieve the perfect balance of crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the oven temperature is cranked up to 500 degrees!)
• Who would enjoy this book? Pizza lovers who want to cook great pizza at home, without a lot of fuss; bread bakers and fans of Jim Lahey's no-knead technique. As Jim Lahey writes himself in the intro:
Don't be intimated; making pizza is not haute cuisine. It requires surprisingly little effort—remember, we'll be relying on my simple no-knead bread recipe for the crust—and, once the toppings have been prepared, just a few minutes of cooking. After you've mastered my home kitchen techniques...and experienced the excitement of a deeply flavored, often innovative pizza, let your own creativity take flight... I know I've done my job when you come to see pizza as healthy, artful, and so infinitely variable that you wouldn't mind eating a pizza pie just about every day, like I do!
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon: My Pizza: The Easy No-Knead Way to Make Spectacular Pizza at Home (Clarkson Potter, 2012)
Visit Jim Lahey's website: The University of Bread
(Images: Cambria Bold)