Sunday, June 6, 2010

That's Amore

H.'s dad T. came to visit Charlottesvegas this weekend, and he taught both of us the secret of making pizza dough that he had learned from a cool article in the New York Times. The crust was simultaneously crispy and chewy, a revelation as far as pizza goes, and after we had finished making it, I felt like we were eating pizza from a highly gourmet restaurant! Whenever I cook something for myself, it usually doesn't taste great to me (unless it's dessert), but if someone else makes the exact same thing, I tend to enjoy it much more. Since I helped on this pizza-making endeavor and I'm quite positive that it's what killed Elvis, I know without the shadow of a doubt that it was delicious!
This is T. holding an earth-shatteringly beautiful (and tasty) pizza. I was very impressed. It was so delicious that we made two pizzas on Friday night and two pizzas on Saturday night as well!
The secret to crispy-chewy pizza dough is to make it 24-48 hours ahead of time. and let it rise in the refrigerator (on the second rise). Here is the recipe that T. used to make the dough (he made it on Thursday before coming to Charlottesvegas). However, he used 4 cups of Gold's all-purpose flour instead of the flour-on-steroids that the NY Times recommends using, and it was still superb. He also brought fresh basil, thyme and oregano from his garden. H. and I made the tomato sauce for the pizza using an idea we saw on an Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations! episode. We used canned tomatoes and paste for the base, then we simmered garlic, fresh basil, thyme and oregano in olive oil for a few minutes, added it to the sauce and let it cook down, sooo yummy.
When I was much younger, I remember eating at Lebanon's favorite restaurant Pizza Town, and when we walked in, there was a guy named Bill who was always tossing pizza dough, you know, the real way. Throwing it up in the air to give it the round shape. I thought he was super fly and wondered if I could ever do something that wonderful. This is me conquering pizza-dough-tossing and trying to flat out BE the pizza dough. Success.
H. and I hard at work on the pizza Saturday night.
Our pizza baking got super dramatic for about 5 minutes on Saturday night, and our dinner guest Javalady was there to witness it all. I'll preface this little vignette by saying, if you're ever making pizza at home using a peel (that's what the pizza is sitting on in the photo above), use cornmeal instead of flour (because it's coarser) underneath it so you can slide it onto the pizza stone in a 550 F degree oven with great ease. This endeavor was not so successful for me. In short, I had part of the pizza slid onto the stone, got nervous, hesitated and said, "Oh no," tomatoes fell off of the pizza and made a mess on the stone, which started smoking, and then H. redeemed me by fixing it. The pizza had a funky shape, but even worse, T. had to take the pizza stone out of the oven to scrape the charred stuff off of it before prior to baking the next pizza, and because the stone was so hot and brittle, it literally split in half. My bad. All that to say, be confident in pizza making, not hesitant. Go big or go home.
Look how beautiful!
Also, as a remedy to my herb garden failure, Niknak and I gallivanted around town on Saturday afternoon to a couple of places for replacement herbs while slurping on smoothies. I bought a spearmint plant and a chocolate mint plant (a peppermint variety that actually smells like it's name; I was amazed). Look out for some homemade Andes mints in the future! Since mint is really a weed and is supposed to grow like wildfire, I'll feel totally defeated if these plants die, but they are looking good thus far!
I made cucumber-mint water on Saturday afternoon, the perfect refresher for hot, humid summer afternoons in central Virginia (and other places, too). Here's all you need:
1 pitcher 1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced handful of fresh spearmint cold water
Throw the cucumbers into the bottom of the pitcher, then the mint, run cold water into the pitcher and refrigerate about an hour before drinking. Garnish glasses with a sprig of mint and a cucumber. You can refill the pitcher several times before tossing the cucumbers, as they'll eventually turn to mush, that is, if you don't gobble them all up. This weekend was a crafting marathon; on top of all of the above, H. and T. made homemade cinnamon-raisin-swirled bread and built a cool wine cork trivet for H.'s kitchen while I was buying plants. It seems like a whirlwind now, but it was such a great weekend!


T. said...

Hi R.
Nice work on the pizza dough toss and covering the action in your news blog. Lots of fun!

Roberta said...

Hi Rachel,
Sorry I couldn't be there but right now I am in Izmir, Turkey, the birthplace of Homer. Just visited Ephesus and am about to fly to Ankara with a visit to the underground cities of Cappadocia.

Hope to eat pizza with you all soon! Maybe, I'll contribute some Turkish kebab recipes! Love Roberta

Nikki said...

So I believed you when you said the pizza was delish, but now that I've seen it -- let's just say I'm drooling. Yum!