Right now, I am back visiting my family in Ohio. As I am writing this, it's nighttime so it is quiet, but I can still hear crickets chirping outside and other night critters making their evening noises. Back where I live in San Diego, there isn't enough grass or trees or forests to even house these insects, so I miss out on their soothing chorus. Here, the cool air is floating in through the window, and there are no fast cars or loud freeways or other disturbances. The calm is wonderful.
When the sun comes up tomorrow morning, the light will touch each blade of green grass, each leaf on every tree, and the noise from the nighttime crickets might be replaced with morning bird songs or buzzing cicadas. But fall is here and rain is always a possibility (unlike San Diego, there is actually weather here in Ohio), so the cool breeze might linger, and if I am lucky, we might even get a thunderstorm. If we do, I am sure my mom and I will sit on the porch and listen to the rain pouring down while the wet air mists around us. These are some of the best feelings of home.
Sliced black mission figs.
I am sure it comes as no surprise when I say that one of my favorite things to do when I am at home is to cook for my family. My dad is a budding chef himself, so he always likes to get in on the action, and we usually have grand plans. This time, I went to the Westside Market with some friends, and picked up all the fixings for a fantastic fall-inspired pizza. I found black mission figs, earthy sage leaves, local meats, and I got a great deal on a log of fresh chevre.
Cut the goat cheese into medallions easily using a thin piece of thread or wire.
Fantastic local sausage, filled with italian spices.
Balsamic Fig and Onion Marmalade.
With those ingredients in hand, I still wanted something else on my pizza other than a sauce - and then I remembered the Balsamic Fig and Onion Marmalade that I had made last year for my Brie and Bacon Piadina recipe. Sweet and savory at the same time, I knew this marmalade would provide the perfect taste and texture counterpoint for this pizza. I arranged all the ingredients on top, tucked in a few fresh sage leaves, and dolloped on the marmalade to finish it.
Sausage and goat cheese pizza before baking...
...golden-crusted pizza after baking.
Since the goat cheese on this pizza doesn't technically 'melt,' you just watch as it gets very very soft. So I have to tell you, if you are the kind of person who only likes pizza when you can stretch out a perfect piece of oozing melted cheese... well then this pizza just isn't for you. But if you can appreciate a warm little pillow of tangy, tender goat cheese... then you have struck the jackpot.
This pizza has golden crispy crust and soft cheese, but what I love the most is the balance of sweet and savory. The sausage is hearty and heavily spiced, and the figs and the marmalade are sweet, but not overly so. It is rustic, but you could also serve this for friends at a casual dinner party. Especially with the roasted sage leaves and local ingredients, the pizza felt very earthy and very homey.
So of course, it was appropriate that I got to enjoy this pizza at my favorite place in Cleveland... my parent's house.
We sat out on the deck in the backyard, and my dad sliced up the pizza. The three of us ate the whole thing, and so we slid the second pizza into the oven and just put our feet up. With a glass of wine in our hands, we talked until it got dark and the bugs came out. My parents told me stories about when they first met, and I got a more clear picture of them as young, fresh-faced, (silly!), and just falling in love. I will never forget those memories they shared. Maybe it will rain tomorrow, but tonight, we had the perfect evening, just savoring a simple pizza and the company of each other.
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Sausage and Goat Cheese Pizza, with Balsamic Onions and Fresh Figs
Pizza dough --- I like the non-frozen kind from Trader Joe's, but most often I make my own from the Giada DeLaurentiis recipe. For this version, I added 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, and 1 tsp chopped sage to the dough mixture; however, you could just leave it out. Prepare the dough according to recipe instructions, then add toppings as directed below.
About 1/2 lb of Italian sausage, casings removed
8 oz. goat cheese log, also known as chevre
About 8 figs, sliced lengthwise
1 recipe for Balsamic Fig and Onion Marmalade
About 12-14 leaves of fresh sage (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil for brushing the dough
very thin string/thread/wire for slicing goat cheese
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit, make dough according to recipe above, and prepare a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Prepare the pizza toppings as follows: Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until it is just cooked through (but not tough), breaking up any large chunks into smaller pieces. Transfer the sausage to a plate lined with paper towels. Next, slice the goat cheese log into medallions using a piece of string - if you haven't done this before, just take one end of a piece of thread in each hand, then loop the middle part of the string underneath the cheese log, and then cross your hands over the top of the goat cheese, all the way over each other. This will neatly slice off one medallion.
Prepare the pizza by rolling out 1/2 of the dough on a lightly floured surface to approximately 12 inches by 6 inches. Lightly brush the surface of the dough with olive oil, then top with 1/2 of the ingredients listed above, evenly distributing them over the surface of the dough. If you like, fold up the outside of the dough to make a rolled crust.
Bake the pizza at 475 degrees for about 14-17 minutes, and check for doneness by watching for golden brown crust and soft cheese. Slice and serve immediately. Prepare second pizza with remaining 1/2 of ingredients and bake as directed above.