It was a gnarly gathering in a friends’ basement, lookin’ just deadly in my acid wash jeans, leg warmers and back-combed hair, I waited impatiently for the birthday treat to be served. No, not the cake…the pizza! Not home-made, not even from a restaurant. The kind that came in those green boxes from Kraft. The. Pizza. Dinner. Kit. Oooh how I loved that gooey, white dough, the sugary tomato sauce, the flavourless oregano flakes…sprinkled with teeny bits of processed cheese niblets and extra greasy pennies of pepperoni. Not a word of a lie…I loved that crap! My mom was into healthy, before people knew what healthy was, so we rarely had processed foods growing up…thanks Mom! But at the time man, I suffered. That faux pizza was the object of my desire…along with Jelly shoes and David Coverdale from Whitesnake, sad… but true.
Later in my teens, my utter devotion to all food ‘junky’, soared to epic heights. My family purchased a fast food restaurant! Pretty challenging to steer me away from the pies when we had our very own pizza oven, woo hoo! The scars on my arm from reaching in with the paddle to retrieve my latest creation, remain to this day. Being a bit of a geek, while my friends were off partying, I was actually enjoying hiding in the back of the restaurant…experimenting with different toppings or dropping balls of pizza dough in the deep fryer, rolling them in bags of white sugar…sigh…those carefree 80’s . My love affair with pizza continued into my university years. Yes, a lot of pizza, along with oily, cheddar slathered nachos, allowed me to share in the tradition of gaining the ‘freshman fifteen’. Wha-at?!? if all you do is eat greasy food, drink Rockaberry coolers & slurp Hagen Daaz ice cream while studying…you gain weight???
This spicy affair hasn’t ended in my adulthood, oh no! Moments of pure pizza perfection continue to add flavour to my life. After a crazy Sunday, desperately seeking diapers in scenic Chianti, we sidled up to a packed pizza joint, three kids and a baby in tow. After seating us at the only available table, reserved for staff…we ordered five different slices of pizzas for the different tastes around the table. Well, we assumed they were slices, after five ENTIRE pizzas were presented, we realized our little error. Didn’t matter, it was so delicious. At the risk of being that Euro-snob, there is nothing tastier than real Italian pizza…in Italy. Hmmm…there was that crazy back yard event featuring a friends’ outdoor pizza oven. There I had the privilege of creating a freshly-picked morel, pesto and asiago masterpiece, mmmkay… I’m drooling a little picturing that one. Oh and yummm… ‘Telepizza’ in Granada. They had this crazy-good tuna and olive combo that even my pickiest little’s devoured, sooo tantalizing we went back twice, in two days. I almost forgot about the pizza we got to make at this Eco-retreat resort near El Gigante. Also a wood fired outdoor oven, in a bar, view of the beach, plus a chef to help…ahhh wait, that pizza was good, but it was the chef with the English accent, that was delicious. Nearby in Coombs we have Cuckoos; traditional Italian, wood-fired oven, an old house, surrounded by a garden. That experience tasted a lot like Tuscany, yet only twenty minutes away!
Most Friday’s, we honour the mighty pizza with “Pizza~Movie Night” at our house. They aren’t all as foodgasmic as the moments above, but my devotion? Just as pure. Why? Because they show up at my door. Ready. To. Eat. All the food groups in a box, steaming hot, no utensils required. After cooking for eight people all week, Mr.Pizza Delivery Guy is my hero!
However, last Friday I got all foodie-guiltyish feeling…although I tried desperately not to. Mumbling to myself “D, you write a freakin’ food blog, you can’t just order the damn pizza, you must be more creative, create healthier options for your offspring, get in touch with your inner-pizza”. Bah humbug! Soooo, instead of avoiding my kitchen, I spent hours in it. On. A. Friday. I don’t know what I was thinking.
Of course it was worth it. I wandered around the grocery store carefully selecting all sorts of yummy toppings. It was a sunny evening, the sun streaming onto the kitchen island, so I poured my glass of Italian red, and began the chopping. Marinated artichoke hearts, pesto, prosciutto, mushrooms (sadly not morels), fresh peppers, baby kale, pepperoni, circles of mozza di bufula, pineapple, grilled chicken, big fat green olives stuffed with garlic, roasted red papers, herbed fresh goats cheese, fresh basil, oily tuna, plump roma tomatoes …they were all part of the taste palette.
Inspired by the Italian style of pizza,my preference is with thin, minimal toppings, so the flavour of each ingredient shines through. My children? Not-so-much…they pile on toppings in a full-on Chicago deep-dish fashion. With the oven cranked to 500°, the pizza stone hot & ready, it didn’t take too long to get through baking the different selections. My personal favourite combination was roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, asiago cheese, Herbie from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, shitake mushrooms, pesto, fresh basil and baby kale. Everyone was equally satisfied with their own creations, I assuaged my guilt…and it’s back to calling Little George’s or Milano’s next week! ‘Cause momma needs a break now & then! Please share your favourite pizza memory or recipe, I’d love to add to my collection!
Best pizza dough recipe:
from Guy Fieri Food ( Highly recommend this cookbook!)
Yields: about 4 medium – large pizzas
- 2 tsp. brown sugar
- 2 cup warm water
- 2 tbsp active dry yeast (4 packets)
- 4 tbsp olive oil (plus some for oiling a bowl)
- 2 tsp fine sea salt
- 4 cups whole wheat flour
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let stand for 10 minutes or until foamy. Add the olive oil and salt to the yeast mixture, then use the dough hook to mix in the all-purpose flour until the dough starts to come together. Add more flour as needed and allow the machine to knead the dough until smooth.
2. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a food processor by pulsing the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Or combine by hand in a large bowl.
3. Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead until it is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat the surface. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until the dough is doubled in size, about 1 hour.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half for 2 pizzas. Form into smooth, tight balls, cover loosely with plastic wrap or a well floured kitchen towel, and set in a warm place to rise again for 30 – 45 minutes.
5. Center a quality pizza stone (if using) in the oven. Preheat oven to 500°F.
6. Press dough with fingers until it’s as flat as possible. Then drape it over both of your fists and gently pull the edges outward, while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size and thickness, place it on a floured pan turned upside down. Top the pizza as desired and slide the pizza from the pan to the hot stone.
7. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on thickness, until crust is firm, crisp and golden at the edges.
“Pizza is a lot like sex. When it’s good, it’s really good. When it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.” ~ Unknown