Am I the only one who feels like this summer – actually, this entire year – has flown by in the blink of an eye? One moment I was wearing sweaters (okay, lightweight long-sleeved tees…who are we kidding, this is L.A.), and awkwardly trying to turn a mistaken “3” into a “4” when writing out the year; the next moment, it’s late August and Petsmart already has Halloween costumes for sale.
(Emma is feeling quite nautical and not ready for summer to be over.)
I woke up in a panic last week when I realized that Labor Day is staring us in the face, which, to me, typically signals the end of summer. As much as I love fall and the return of boots and sweaters and all things pumpkin-y, there’s also that unsettling feeling that yet another year is nearing its end and I haven’t done a lot of things that I’d wanted to do. Not to go into too much detail, but it’s been an interesting (*cough* euphemism for “challenging” *cough*) year, to say the least. Furthermore, lately I’ve been experiencing intense nostalgia for my Boston days, particularly as autumn inches closer and I think back to those glorious New England falls that I loved so much. Honestly, I think the nostalgia is a function of looking at the past through rose-colored glasses due to the weirdness that has been my 2014. But still. There’s a soft, fuzzy sadness sometimes when I think back to 2008-2011, when I had just started working in Boston, lived in a sunny apartment that I loved, and spent my weekends traipsing around the Back Bay.
Then I went grocery shopping and, as per usual, got distracted by food. Trader Joe’s often has baskets of mini heirloom tomatoes, which, in addition to your standard round, red tomato, come in a variety of shades of green and yellow and are sometimes oblong. It’s impossible not to see these colorful little tomatoes and smile. I’ve used them in pasta before, but as I ambled by this time, I suddenly thought about a summery pizza dotted with mini tomatoes and slivers of basil. I almost took a box home with me, but instead I got mini peanut butter cups because, you know, priorities.
Then, a couple of days ago, my friend (and co-worker) and I settled a case that was supposed to go to trial (today, actually). Since we had already committed that day to meeting with and prepping our clients, which was now unnecessary, we did what responsible lawyers do and decided to spend the rest of the day celebrating at Venice Beach. But first, we stopped for lunch at Gjelina Take Away, and it was there, sitting on a wooden bench against a wall emblazoned with a giant bear-octopus mural and using an overturned crate as a table (so quintessentially Venice), that I spotted a man munching on a tomato pizza exactly like the one I had envisioned at Trader Joe’s and immediately got a serious case of food envy. Don’t get me wrong, my mushroom pizza was fantastic, but that man was essentially shoveling the essence of summer into his mouth, and therefore his lunch won over mine.
And that is why I spent this morning making this heirloom tomato pizza. Heirloom tomatoes come into season in August, and this pizza just screams summer to me. (Next time, I might try making this as a white pizza, since almost a pound of tomatoes on top of tomato sauce seemed a little much – though it was still very good and, hey, you’re getting a ton of lyocpene). It’s light, made with fresh ingredients whose flavors aren’t masked by heavy sauces or seasoning, and the little tomatoes get wonderfully blistered and juicy from roasting in the oven. Aesthetically, I love the rows of tiny tomatoes and the pop of color that the yellow and green ones, plus the bright slivers of basil, bring. It seems like just the right thing to bid goodbye to summer with before the onset of fall.
(Very helpful with eating pizza; not so much with the dishes)
Heirloom Tomato Pizza
Makes one 13×18 inch pizza
1/2 of the No-Knead Pizza Dough
One 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling the baking pan
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
About 1 pound of mini tomatoes, roughly the size of cherry tomatoes, mixed colors if you want to make it more fun, cut into halves
12 oz. fresh mozzarella (I might up it to 16 oz. next time because I like my pizza cheesy)
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
5-6 leaves of fresh basil, slivered
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Coat a 13×18 rimmed baking sheet liberally with extra virgin olive oil. Place pizza dough onto the pan and gently stretch/press it out to the edges. The dough should be very thin. If it tears, just patch it up.
Use a blender or food processor (I used an immersion blender) to pulse together the tomatoes, olive oil, and salt. The mixture should be liquidy but still have some tomato chunks.
Spread tomato sauce evenly over dough, going all the way to the edges. Sprinkle garlic evenly over sauce. Using your hands, tear the mozzarella into small pieces and evenly distribute over the pizza. Arrange tomatoes over the mozzarella, cut sides facing down.
Bake pizza for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, and sprinkle basil over it. Eat.