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11 June 2007

Making the Basics from Scratch, #2

When I was in elementary school, I my friend Paul O’S told me that his family had pizza every Friday night. “How boring!” I thought. “Why would you want the same food every single week?”

Foolishness, thy name was Baby Imperatrix.

I recall this often (I’m a pro when it comes to remembering silly things I’ve said or done). Because now we, also, have pizza every week. It seems my girls thrive on ritual and routine. So, for example, on movie night (the one night a week we use the TV), we usually have pizza, in front of the TV. It used to be Freschetta or Di Giorno frozen pizza. But since January, three out of any four weeks I’ll make pizza dough and sauce, and everybody covers their pizza half with whatever they like. For Trixie, this means cheese and olives. For Impera, it means cheese and cheese, with some cheese. For the Consort, it means cheese and pineapple. For me, it means whatever I happen to feel like putting on it (olives, blue cheese, chevre cheese, roasted garlic, sliced tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, …).

This weekend, it was so nice out, we had our pizza in the garden, and then went inside to watch a movie when it started to get dark out.

Pizza (makes 2; serves 4 [at our house, anyway])
3 1/2 cups flour (I use a mix of whole wheat and unbleached white)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
2 Tablespoons + a drizzle of olive oil

1. Combine water and yeast, set aside for 15 minutes to foam. Mix flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the yeast mixture and 2 Tablespoons olive oil to the dry ingredients and stir until it begins to hold together. Plop onto the counter and knead until smooth and elastic.

3. Brush the inside of a clean bowl with a drizzle of olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and roll around to coat with oil. Cover with plastic and leave in a warm place to rise, about 45 minutes.

4. Make sauce. Saute a chopped onion in oil. When the onion is softened and golden, add in a 28-oz. can of diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for as long as you like (20 minutes is good). Turn off heat, and blend the sauce either in a blender (messy!) or with a hand blender (what my parents have always called a “Mix-Soupe”). Set aside.

5. Preheat oven to 420 degrees.

6. Divide dough into 2 balls. Roll each into a decent sized circle, depending on how thick you like your crust. Set each on a greased cookie sheet (sprinkled with cornmeal), and fold over the edge all around.

7. Ladle sauce onto pizzas (you’ll have extra).

8. Sprinkle on to taste: oregano, basil, herbes de provence, mozzarella, colby jack / cheddar, parmesan. Then add whatever toppings sound good to you tonight.

9. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, switching the cookie sheets around in the oven halfway though.