Yikes, how did Labor Day weekend come and go so fast? It was just before Memorial Day that I answered @MeeganLora's tweet about how long to let her pizza dough rise. In the meantime the dough recipe she uses has become a favorite of mine because it's so easy to roll out to make a thin crust. @MeeganLora has been making pizza this summer, too, because she tweeted again with another pizza question. Since everybody loves pizza, and I had a hankering for a homemade pie myself, I couldn't resist answering her. For those of you waiting for other answers, don't fret. I'll tackle them all soon.
Q: @MeeganLora asks: My favorite pizza now is sautéed fennel and onion with mozz and parm cheese, but I don't know what sauce to use?
Kemp: You don't need a sauce! You've got all the makings of a delicious pizza right there. That said, I've got a few tips to offer and a few tweaks you might want to try.
Oil the top of the dough first: I learned years ago from Evelyne Slomon, author of The Pizza Cookbook, that a light coating of olive oil on the dough before topping the pizza with sauce or cheese creates a barrier for any liquid in the topping--ever notice how much fresh mozzarella weeps?--from creating a soggy layer underneath it. Listen to an audio interview with Slomon, who studied with some lengendary New York City pizza makers.
See more: The Easiest DIY Pizza Recipe Ever
The mozzarella goes on the pizza before the sautéed fennel and onion: You want to see the fennel and onion. While I love fresh mozzarella, it doesn't cook up as ooey-gooey and stretchy as the commercial kind. It's your choice; either makes a good pizza.
Slice the fennel crosswise: For a pizza topping, the fennel will be much easier to eat if it's sliced crosswise. Halve the fennel lengthwise first, then cut it crosswise. A mandoline is a handy tool for this. Bump up the fennel flavor with fennel seeds: If your fresh fennel is wimpy in flavor, add a little anise action with crushed fennel seeds. You can incorporate it while you're sautéing your fennel and onions, or after it's cooked.
Save the fennel fronds for garnish: Fennel fronds, if there are any remaining on supermarket fennel bulbs (farmers market fennel is bushy with fronds), dont provide the intense hit of fennel essence that I always hope for, but whatever fronds you can scrounge from the bulb add a fresh burst of color to a cooked pizza. And for that its worth it, because you eat with your eyes first.
Use red onion rings for decoration: As much as I love red onions, when sliced and sautéed they turns a muddy brown color. For a more appealing pizza, cook your fennel with thinly sliced yellow or white onion, then top the pizza with thin rings of fresh red onion.
See more: America's Best Pizzas
Shred your Parmesan: Whether you're using real Parmigiano-Reggiano or a domestic product, it will look better if you buy a hunk of cheese and shred it yourself over the pizza. If you use a microplane for your shreds, be aware it grates in thin wisps, so you'll need to shred a lot more than you think. If you have a box grater, use the small tear-drop-shaped holes for a slightly thicker shred.
Mix-Ins and Swap-Outs: Love garlic? Scatter thin lengthwise slices over the filling before adding the Parmesan. Love olives? Halve pitted kalamata olives for a nice hit of briny flavor. Love feta? It's dynamite crumbled on this pizza in place of the Parmesan. I actually liked it better with the feta (see the photo above)!
Finish with olive oil: When you take your pie out of the oven, drizzle the top with a little fresh olive oil. You'll be glad you did.
See more from Epicurious:
Delicious Lunch Box Recipes for Kids
Taste Test: 3 Addictive Peanut Butters
Your New Favorite Chicken Recipe