Another great Pizza Party!
I am finally getting a chance to talk about another kind of pizza that I like, and think is a handy, clever, and a delicious way to make home-made pizza in less than half the normal time. Why is home-made pizza disappointing sometimes (speaking for several of my failed attempts anyway)? Well, I have tasted so many great pizzas from places that could toss the dough in the air in their sleep, resulting in wonderful dough. Not to mention, great ovens in which to cook them. Simply put, it is hard to replicate what professionals in good kitchens can do.
After years of experimenting with different flours, and various yeast concoctions, not to mention pizza stone versus no pizza stone, I have still not found a dough that fits me and my oven perfectly. It is also a fiddley thing to make. You have to chop no end of toppings, grate lots of cheese and make a pizza sauce. Then, you have to heat up your kitchen to a sweltering 500 degrees, and hover by the oven to check and recheck cooking progress. Did I mention getting the dough from the paddle to the pizza stone without losing half of the toppings to the oven floor? Why bother, why go to all this trouble when a phone call can deliver a perfectly good pizza to your door in a half hour or less? The fact is, I love making pizza, even if it does not measure up sometimes. I love watching the dough rise, and the smell of the bubbly yeast. I love trying my hand at stretching the dough over my knuckles, and tossing it in the air in the hopes of catching it, and, I love it when I do! What makes it taste good to me and my family, and anyone else who has tried my pizza is the effort that goes into it. This is something you make for people you love, and for people who, upon seeing that you have actually made them pizza, know you love them. This is the only reasonable explanation to go to all that trouble in my book.
Back to Kathleen and her valiant effort to show love for her guests. First off, I am struggling to decide whose kitchen is actually the Crappier of the two! It’s pretty close to call. We both work in cramped narrow hallways of kitchens, with not nearly enough cupboard or counter space, and no reprieve from hot ovens. I get more light which is a plus, but she has a table and chairs in the same space (albeit pushed up against the wall when not being used, so as people can get thought the door leading into the rest of the house!), which allows her to be cooking and chatting to family or guests while she goes about her business. I have zero room for such things, but I have insisted on having two tall stools jammed in there so as I don’t feel like an indentured cook. The problem is, when you open the oven door, whomever is sitting there has to rest the lagging door on their shins while I take stuff in and out! On that note, I’m giving myself the Crappiest Kitchen award, with Kathleen a pretty close runner-up (I know she will disagree!)
This blog post is apparently all about love and pizza, so let me proceed. We have both been friends with the same family for a number of years and they are leaving us for bigger and better things. They sold their house and went through both the physically and mentally gruelling task of packing their entire lives into a truck (and all that it entailed) and today, as I write, are on their way to another country! For the past few weeks they have been demented crazy people, and, each time I talked to them about having one last get-together it was too much for them to think about. Kathleen to the rescue! She said everyone should come to her house for pizza, (everyone being 4 families in all or part, making a total of 13).
You might call this cheating, but I call it using a little ingenuity, when I tell you that in times like this Kathleen opts for loaves of frozen bread dough from the supermarket, rather than making her own (which she does too!) pizza crust. She discovered it while she was going through her trial-and-error-pizza-dough phase. I would simply never have thought of it since, in today’s supermarkets, you can buy actual frozen pizza dough. I first had it a few years earlier when I was invited to her back yard for drinks, chat and pizza. When I tasted it I was mad with jealously. She had successfully made a pizza whose crust was spot on. I was not disappointed when she told me what she had done, rather, I was impressed with her wherewithal!
Last night she used the same technique, as in, she bought the dough, (which of course still had to be defrosted, left to rise and shape), but, she choose to use a whole wheat bread dough for the healthier option. The part that was valiant, and love-driven, was the fact that she had just had carpal tunnel surgery a few days earlier and was strictly instructed not to lift anything! Now, here she was, making 4 giant pizza, shaping and rolling dough, chopping veggies, grating cheese, all very wrist involved actions.
At one point she asked me to help her bring some of the leftover pizza back into the house (we were in the garden). There she stood with two pizza trays in her hands standing by the door, and when I told her she probably shouldn’t be doing that, she quipped, “I know, so open the door!”
We spend the evening in her garden around a table with the only light coming from Tiki torches, which her son had to keep relighting. The pizzas came in so many varieties, I had to try them all. The peppers and fresh tomatoes came from her garden, and she used my oregano in my favorite one of the evening, the veggie pizza. I have to be honest and admit that I like the white bread dough version better as it has a more genuine pizza taste. I am very bad at choosing what is healthy over what I love.
The kids ate pizza and played madly before finally settling around a fire, roasting marshmallows (as well as stealing tomatoes to see if they would explode!). I went through moments of feeling very lucky to be sitting where I was, in a tiny backyard dubbed, “the Italian Garden” eating pizza, and drinking wine, to feeling sad about losing friends.
Well, that was last night, and today, I am looking forward to having a new place to visit, and long phone conversations.
I read somewhere recently that food tastes better with friends. I would like to add that food makes people better friends. It’s so obvious.