Is it my imagination or has this winter been longer than any in recorded history?
And now that the end is in sight — manifested by morning birdsong, longer days and teasingly warmer temperatures — along comes daylight saving time to mess with expectations. Spring forward, indeed.
This is a minor complaint, particularly when confronted and encouraged by recent inroads being made on the vaccination front and new guidelines for a slight return to everyday activities.
After a solid year of this global disaster, the emotional hangover and hairball of craziness, loss, redemption and hope calls for a spring tonic.
Bloody Mary Tomatoes are one solution.
The drink that supplies the name has an almost universal cachet as a brunch-time hangover cure. Even without the alcohol, the flavor profile offers a welcomed wake-up call to winter-deadened palates. The internet is rife with versions, pointing to the intuitive crowd-sourced necessity of such a thing.
Toss the tomatoes with lemon zest, celery salt, garlic powder, a little salt, a pinch of sugar, and roast them, and the natural and applied flavors concentrate and are mellowed. This reveals sweetness and a liveliness where there was none. Cayenne, black pepper and horseradish add heat, and a splash of Worcestershire contributes a complex umami.
For the recipe as originally executed I used plum tomatoes. To be sure, this is a foolproof way to liven up bland, offseason supermarket staples. (I have a lingering suspicion that there’s an interesting pasta sauce lurking in here somewhere.) The version here was prepared with mini San Marzano tomatoes discovered at Adams.
Pizza seemed like a good delivery platform and suggested the addition of caramelized shallots and garlic. It’s topped out of the oven with baby arugula and oregano, and finished with shaved ricotta salata, a firmer, salted and lightly aged cousin to ricotta that offers a mild nuttiness.
Cherry or grape tomatoes are fine substitutes; use more traditional pizza cheeses as is your preference.
Bloody Mary Tomato Pizza
With Arugula and Ricotta Salata
Bloody Mary Tomatoes (makes about 2½ cups)
- 1 tablespoon horseradish
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon celery salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 cups mini San Marzano tomatoes, halved lengthwise (substitute grape or cherry tomatoes)
- Olive oil
- 4 medium shallots, sliced about 1/8-inch thick
- 4 cloves garlic sliced thin
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the horseradish, lemon zest, celery salt, cayenne, sugar and Worcestershire. Mix the ingredients to roughly incorporate and add the tomatoes. Toss gently to coat. In a separate bowl, toss shallots and garlic with a glug of olive oil and reserve.
2. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil and place the tomatoes on it, cut-side up; season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast in preheated oven about 30 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and scatter shallots and garlic over all. Return sheet to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes until vegetables are softened and tomatoes are slightly shriveled (but not burnt). Cool to room temperature. You can do this ahead of time and refrigerate the conserve for up to a week.
Pizza Dough (enough for one medium rectangle or two 12-inch rounds)
- ½ teaspoon dry yeast
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus extra for greasing bowl and pan)
- 2 cups bread flour (white or a combination of white and whole wheat)
1. Combine yeast, salt, sugar and water in a medium bowl; stir to dissolve and let sit 5 to 10 minutes. Begin stirring in flour in ½ cup increments until completely combined. Knead by hand for about 3 minutes and let rest for 15 minutes; knead for 3 more minutes.
2. Form dough into a ball, dusting with more flour to keep it from sticking. Clean and dry the bowl; coat with a smear of oil. Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cover all with a dampened towel and allow to proof and rise at room temperature (70 degrees) until roughly doubled in size (about 3 to 4 hours).
To assemble, cook and serve
- Olive oil
- Bloody Mary Tomatoes (as above)
- 3 to 4 ounces ricotta salata, shaved or grated
- 1 cup baby arugula
- ¼ cup Fresh oregano leaves
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Oil your pan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and use your fingers to stretch it and hands to shape it into rectangle or rounds. Thinner is better but repair any tears or holes. When formed to size, perforate surface lightly all over with a fork and brush with olive oil. Top with prepared tomatoes and shallots. Bake on lowest position in preheated oven for 15 to 25 minutes until crust is golden. If you have a pizza stone and are conversant in its use, by all means, do use it.
2. Cool about 10 minutes in pan. Top with arugula (lightly tossed with a splash of olive oil) and garnished with shaved ricotta salata and a few oregano leaves. Slice and serve.