Adventures in Mozzarella and MoreDesserts / July 1, 2013
Yeah, you’re saying, “whine, whine, whine. What could be so hard about making pizza.” Well, nothing is hard, really, but there are a few details here and there that are rites of passage. And last night, because of two wonderful friends and a husband who agreed to do the dishes, we have a couple of stories to tell and photos to share.
We started this a few months ago; gathering innocently enough to make a slew of Turkish recipes courtesy Margaret Rossetti and her recent trip to the cradle of civilization, and now we’re hooked on mastering some of the simple but important culinary techniques we haven’t, well, mastered. A pizza seemed like a tame conquest. But wait until you scatter a bit of corn meal on a 500 degree pizza stone, without protective eye wear, and you will get a feeling for the ups and downs of dough, determination, and deliciousness.
It started with the basics: bring dough (some from Fresh Market, some from Trader Joe’s…gotta say Fresh Market’s dough is hand’s down easier to work with and roll out), and the fresh fixings of our choice. When you’re cooking at Margaret’s there is no, “good enough.” So our pizza sauce, olive oil, and accoutrements including the pizza peels, were all top notch. I encourage you not to skimp on any of these details.
As I arrived with my bread board and my grandmother’s rolling pin in hand, we wasted no time before beginning on appetizers. Delving into a lovely group of zucchini, we began by slicing them lengthwise, then grilling, then cooling them, and rolling them up with a filling of feta, olive oil, lemon and fresh herbs. We topped them with lemon zest and ate them for energy. (You’ll see the photos and I will get a copy of the recipe to acknowledge and share). It was a good way to warm up to the main course.
Now preparing the toppings is just plain fun. From funky mushrooms to whole milk mozzarella, to spinach and herbs from the garden and gigantic summer tomatoes, all that was missing was a bit of Italian music and local red wine. (We quickly found a CD with a bit of Andrea Bocelli so all was not lost!) Even rolling out the dough was pretty easy. We topped it with a layer of olive oil and a layer of the finest pizza sauce and then stacked away with all the pretty stuff. You can omit the sauce and add ANY TOPPING YOU WOULD LIKE. We especially moaned with pleasure over the addition of macerated fresh garlic. Now that is the BOMB.
However, the fun waned a bit when it was time to cook them. Why? Well, when it was time to schlep our pies into the oven, we underestimated how tricky it is to slide it off the peel or the board and into the oven. (We later learned that you use corn meal like water when it comes to greasing the pathway. We got the hang of it by the 4th pie!) Oh well. That’s when you get out the pizza cutter and simple pre-slice and serve. No one need know you inverted a good half of the first pie onto the stone nearly blinding us with smoke and enlisting a “what’s burning?” from the peanut gallery in the next room. “Everything is fine, drink your wine.” we shouted, and sure enough, after 9 to 12 minutes we were in cheesy, herby, tomatoey, meaty and crusty heaven.
WINE: Just so you know, we served it with a Layer Cake Primitivo Zinfandel. Transcendent…