Friday, July 6, 2012

Changes, and Pizza

Yes, I've been away. Slowly but surely, I've abandoned you, dear old blog.

Things have changed. About a month and a half ago, I said goodbye to Toronto. I quit my hipster barista job, left a city that was just starting to stretch out into its summer throbbing of way too many good looking people hanging out in parks... and moved back in with my parents... in Cleveland, Ohio.

Frankly, I needed a bit of a break. I decided to move back home as a pre-grad school period of rest and saving money. And to my surprise, it's actually been great. I'm busier than I thought I'd be, juggling my time between working for my dad's coffee roasting company (I can never stay away from the coffee biz for too long), taking an online biology course, planning a vacation to the northwest, and spending an inordinate amount of time trying to find an apartment in Boston. Plus, Cleveland is actually a lot cooler than when I lived here last: already I've been to three neighborhood festivals with free music from local bands that were actually good, and I've rode with over 400 cyclists in my first critical mass ride in Cleveland. It says something that I've spent more time downtown in the last month than I think I did throughout all of high school. Lastly, (and this is key), living with one's parents isn't so bad when there's the knowledge that one is moving out again in only a few months.

As it pertains to this blog, I'm no longer cooking and eating like a single gal. Growing up, my family was one of the fortunate few who always ate dinner together (even if this meant that dinner wouldn't be ready until 8:30, because mom didn't get home from work until 7:30, etc.). Fortunately, this pattern has continued to this day. I end up sharing a lot of the cooking duties with my mom now, and it's been quite a pleasure cooking in a kitchen that's actually well-stocked. And I've found it to be no trouble at all to channel my love for cooking for myself into a love for cooking for others.

And so now, I present to you a very non-cooking-for-one type recipe: PIZZA PARTY PIZZA PARTY PIZZA PARTAAAAAAY!*

I spearheaded the pizza party project for a small family gathering we hosted on the 4th of July. Oftentimes when cooking for large groups, I like to make it interactive by letting my guests personalize their meals. So I found a recipe for pizza dough in one of the cookbooks laying around the house, and prepared 4 batches of it. For toppings, I laid out a spread of: tomato sauce, shredded provolone and fontina cheese, roasted eggplant, mushrooms sauteed with garlic, chopped artichoke hearts, olives, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and a puree of chickpeas and lemon juice (as a non-cheese pizza alternative). See - I told you it was nice cooking in a well-stocked kitchen.

My unapologetic iphone photo of the pizza leftovers


(Makes one 12-inch pizza)
1 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
2/3 cup warm water
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, plus a little extra
1 1/2 tbsp fine cornmeal
1 1/2 cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting (all purpose flour is okay, but I like the chew that bread flour gives)
1/2 tsp salt

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast with the sugar in the warm water. Let this sit somewhere warm for about 5 minutes until it looks a little foamy - this means the yeast has woken up and is starting to release its little gasses that make dough rise. Stir in the rest of the ingredients until combined in a loose dough, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with a kitchen towel, and let it sit in a warm spot for about 45 minutes. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down with your fingers, and let it rise again for another 30 minutes or so. Stretch it out into what resembles a pizza crust, and add toppings with wild abandon or thoughtful restraint, whichever your favored approach. As long as the toppings don't need extra cooking (this is why I pre-cooked the eggplant and mushroons), your pizza will cook up nicely within 12-15 minutes in a 475 degree oven.

Full disclosure: I tried using pizza stones for the first time, and it was quite a disaster. Namely, getting the lovingly topped uncooked pies onto the stone itself, when all they wanted to do was stick to the wax paper I had laid them on. So next time, just form the dough right on a baking pan, or follow the pizza stone advice of anyone but me.

*Watch that video, then watch this one too: I don't know why I have such a knowledge of silly/actually-not-silly rap videos about food.