Monday, June 06, 2005

Home cooking

I haven't written anything about cooking here, mostly because the recipes I develop at work are the rightful property of the Time-Warner empire. Not that this blog is of any significance in the grand scheme of media consolidation, but it's a matter of principle: I don't want to get fired. So any really good ideas go straight to the magazine.

But last night I made some classics: grilled pizzas, salad (spinach, jicama, avocado, chervil, mint, and oranges), roasted corn, and fruit for dessert. Our friends Jessica, Sarah, and Eloise came over...all former Bostonians themselves. When we're feeling cranky, we gripe about California drivers. Boston drivers may be nasty and rude, but we think they're more competent. Aha, but a story in today's news seems to prove me wrong. Still, the highways here are clogged with accidents every time it rains...why? But enough about that.

Jessica, a food writer and wonderful cook, brought wild mushroom crostini. I got to work on the pizzas. I had made the dough earlier in the day, adapting Mark Bittman's recipe:

1 package rapid-rise yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 to 2 1/2 cups water
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt

I mixed the yeast with a little warm water, then poured it over the flour in the bowl of my standing mixer. I turned the machine on and poured in enough water so that the mixture was almost loose. I like a wet dough. Then I added the oil and let the dough hook do the work for about 4 minutes. I oiled the ball of dough in the bowl and let it sit, covered, on the counter for an hour. Then, back to the mixer: I added the salt, let the hook knead everything together for a minute more, then covered the dough and let it rise slowly in the refrigerator for about 5 hours while Scott and I went out for a walk. There's something so satisfying about knowing that the dough is rising, your ducks all in a row, while you're off having fun.

I divided the dough into 3 disks, froze one, and let the other two rest, covered, on the counter for 20 minutes. Then I rolled each one out into an oval, about 1/3-inch thick, and cooked them over medium heat on our grill. It feels like a game, catching the charcoals at the right moment, watching the dough bubble up, flipping the breads and then working quickly to get the toppings on before the bottom burns. But they came out pretty well, with a couple of charred spots that Jessica and Sarah liked (photos to come).

I rubbed both of the pizzas with garlic and olive oil, then topped one with figs, prosciutto, goat cheese, arugula, and a little syrupy balsamic vinegar (actually, Jessica did this while I was grilling the other pizza). For the second, I slow-roasted some plum tomatoes with olive oil and herbs and made a classic tomato-basil-mozzarella pie. The market had some custardy buffalo mozzarella and it melted beautifully. Scott said these were his favorite pizzas yet, and I think the slow rising time did the trick.

We ate dinner in front of the TV because Jessica went to high school with Harmony, one of the contestants on "The Next Food Network Star." I can assure you that all of our armchair commentary was above-board and respectful.

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