July 08, 2005

Friday Night is Pizza Night

Well, this Friday night, at least. The dough is rising as I type now. You see, living 10 miles from the nearest town and 20 miles from the nearest decent pizza parlor means there's no such thing takeout here on the farm; and after a long hot day, none of the adults around here has the energy to go out, no matter who else is doing the cooking and washing up.

Giving up NYC pizzeria pizza was one of harder things I had to do 11 years ago, so I was pretty pleased when I realized I could make a reasonable facsimile at home. Many recipes were tried and discarded before I stumbled across the perfect one -- Frances Mayes's recipe in her lovely account of living in Tuscany and fixing up an old wreck (quite the genre several years ago) Under the Tuscan Sun; which, by the way, shouldn't be confused with the dismal movie of the same name, which is of course why no link is provided. If you want to waste your time and money, you'll have to do it on your own time, she said disgustedly. And don't say I didn't warn you.

Here is Signora Mayes's recipe for pizza dough, in my words not hers from my own scribbled notes, with her advice to let it rise as long as possible:

Dissolve 1 package (1 tablespoon) of yeast and 1/2 teaspoon sugar in 1/2 cup warm water, and let bubble (about three minutes)

Add yeast mixture to large bowl in which you've put 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3/4 cup water, and 3-1/4 cups flour (out here in the middle of nowhere I don't have any semolina flour at my disposal; I consider myself more than lucky just to have organic white flour in the pantry). Knead the dough until fairly smooth, then return it to the bowl, cover it lightly with a coat of oil, and let it rest covered with a tea towel. You can let it rise as little as an hour or as long as most of the day. Roll or stretch it out, use your favorite toppings, and bake at 400F for about 15 minutes. Also nice on the grill, especially when it's too hot to use the oven, and the recipe can be doubled easily for a crowd or leftovers the next day.

Tonight, by popular request from the kids, we're going to have ours with green peppers and pepperoni, and also ham and pineapple, and a big green salad with lettuce rescued from the garden before the darn mole gets it. Followed by cherries and ice cream for dessert. Ah, summer. Buon appetito!

[note: for those of us limited to remote rural supermarkets where the choice of mozzarella cheese is limited to Kraft and store-brand, I have two suggestions. One, for some reason the bags of shredded cheese seem to be cheaper than the blocks or balls of cheese. Two, these bags of shredded cheese keep very nicely in the freezer, for when the pizza-making mood strikes and you can't just stroll around the corner to your local frommageria, or, sob, Zabar's.]

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