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Four Seasons Pizza

Four Seasons Pizza
Pizza quattro stagioni is the perfect pie for people who cannot make up their minds. One of Italy's most popular pizzas, every pizzaiolo gives it his own special touch. This recipe creates a vegetarian pie, but you can substitute any toppings you like, such as prosciutto cotto, anchovies, salami, sausage and cheese.

Ingredients:

For the pizza dough:

  • 1 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105°-115°F)
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt

For the tomato sauce:

  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 lb. ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Pinch of dried oregano or 6 fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

For the topping:

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 fresh white mushrooms, brushed clean and thinly sliced
  • 2 jarred or canned artichoke hearts, drained and thinly sliced
  • 6 black olives, pitted and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Directions:

To make the dough, in a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir until dissolved.

In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir together the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and stir until a soft dough forms, about 2 minutes. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Shape it into a ball.

Place the dough in a floured bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Punch down the dough and knead briefly on a floured work surface to remove any air bubbles. Leave the ball on the floured surface and invert a bowl over it. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Place a pizza stone or unglazed quarry tiles on the lowest rack of an oven and preheat the oven to its hottest setting (500° or 550°F) 30 to 60 minutes before baking.

To make the sauce, in a large, wide saucepan over medium heat, cook the garlic in the olive oil just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and their juice and bring to a simmer. Add salt, pepper and dried oregano, if using. Cook, crushing the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon, and stirring occasionally, until thick and rich, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil, if using.

To make the topping, roast the bell pepper: Holding the bell pepper with long-handled tongs, place directly over a medium-high flame on a stovetop, turning as needed, until the skin is evenly blistered and lightly charred; do not allow the flesh to burn. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and let cool. Then remove the stem and seeds, peel away the skin, and cut or tear into long, narrow strips. Set aside.

Uncover the dough and, using your fingers, stretch and flatten it into a 12-inch round, turning the round over once or twice as you work.

Dust a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet with flour. Place the dough round on the peel and shake the peel once or twice to be sure the dough isn't sticking. If it is, lift the round and dust the peel or baking sheet with more flour.

Spread the tomato sauce on the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border uncovered. Visualize the surface in 4 equal wedges and arrange the mushrooms, artichoke slices, olives and pepper strips each in their own wedge. Drizzle with the olive oil.

Immediately slide the pizza onto the baking stone. Bake until the edges are puffed and the crust is crisp and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Sprinkle with the basil, cut into wedges and serve immediately.
Makes one 12-inch pizza; serves 2 to 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Italy, by Michele Scicolone (Time-Life Books, 1999).