Tag Archives: Pizza

Hardware, Soft Crust

Painted in WaterlogueAlthough I like cooking over charcoal, the half-hour or so it takes to get the coals ready is often too long to wait–especially during the summer, when we frequently get home late in the evening. Her parents gave us a gas grill as a birthday gift. It isn’t one of those gigantic cook-for-an-army models with a footprint that would cover most of the deck; it’s a funky little number that looks like a flying saucer. Although it can be used on a picnic table, ours sits securely on its companion-model stand (which will fold to take very little garage space once the grilling season ends). It can be used with a small propane canister that connects directly to the intake valve, but her folks recommended we use it like they do–with a full-sized tank connected by an accessory hose (which, like the stand, was included in the birthday gift).

We love it. It heats quickly and evenly; the cast-iron grates are sturdy and easily cleaned; and the saucer’s “wings” are convenient for holding prep items.

But we’re not the only ones who are fond of it. For the second time since May, I went out to start dinner only to find that something had chewed a hole in the hose.

The big-box home centers in the area couldn’t help me, but I found a replacement hose made of stainless-steel mesh at a old-school hardware store. Helpful Hardware Guy said, “Yeah, we sell a lot of these. Something drips on the rubber hose, and a critter thinks it might be dinner.”  I’ll remember to wipe down the hose from now on, but even if I don’t, the metal mesh will give any prospective diners a toothache.

Since it was a sunny Saturday–unusually warm for mid-October–I used the now-functioning-again grill to make lunch. Grilling pizza is remarkably easy, and much faster than baking it in the indoor oven. I’ve had too many occasions where the pie won’t slide off the peel and makes a horrible mess in the oven. This one was perfect, with a crust that was both thin and delightfully chewy.

Helpful Hardware Guy Grilled Pizza

Stretch your favorite pizza dough into a thin more-or-less round. Brush the stretched dough with a little oil, put it oiled-side-down on the grate, close the lid and bake for about 2 minutes.  Remove it with tongs—it lifts right off without any sticking!—and brush the uncooked side with a little oil. Off the grill, turn over the crust. Put sauce, cheese, and any other desired toppings on the grilled side, and return it to the grill. Close the lid, and bake for about 5 minutes more.

Thanks to the Helpful Hardware Guy, we may not ever make pizza another way.


Just Enough

Painted in Waterlogue

The show I’m music-directing has finally opened. It feels artistically satisfying to those of us on- and backstage, and it’s pleasing the audiences enough that the producers have already announced an extension. I’d like to think our production would please the creators of the show, though it might not: although our rehearsal materials include the “Definitive” score, our budget doesn’t allow for the “definitive” 18-piece orchestra. I’ve got seven players (including myself, not-quite-ideally conducting from the keyboard). Rather than a large theatre orchestra with a strong rhythm section, I have thought of us as a rock band with strings and horns. It’s enough; and thinking of the band this way gives me a way to make a virtue of what some might consider a deficiency.

After nine performances or run-throughs in a week, it was time for dinner at home. I sent her an iMessage as I was getting into the car:

Please set the oven to 400 and take the pizza dough out of the refrigerator (unless you’d rather have something else for dinner).

She replied that she had done—and as for the possibility of something else,

Nope! 🙂

She went back to her chores and I continued driving home, thinking about the pizza-to-be. I knew we had a package of turkey pepperoni and an a open jar of sauce. We’d had some mozzarella, cheese but I wasn’t sure if there were any left; if not, I was confident there’d be some other variety. I didn’t know about vegetables, but was determined not to stop at the market. This week had been exhausting; I didn’t want dinner to be ready at bedtime.  Whatever was there would be fine.

The dough had rested nicely on the counter and rolled out beautifully thin. I slid it onto a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel and spooned on a little sauce–just a little. There were olives and onions and a yellow bell pepper; I thinly sliced just a little of each. There was just enough mozzarella to dot the top of the pie. It slid perfectly smoothly onto the waiting pizza stone. I set the oven timer and made a little salad: romaine lettuce, a few halved grape tomatoes, and a little pickled cauliflower. I added a bit of guacamole to some good bottled salad dressing and whisked it into creamy togetherness.

Painted in Waterlogue

A composition teacher of mine says, “When something is good, you must ask yourself, ‘Should there be more?’” Often, the answer is yes. But not always. I’ve disappointed myself with plenty of soggy-crust pizzas laden with piles of cheese, puddles of of sauce, and piles of toppings. Not this time. A little restraint, and there was a pretty perfect pizza and a simple salad.

Over dinner, we enjoyed an episode of Tea Leone Maintains World Peace While Wearing Great ClothesWe watched a second. We considered a third, and then thought better of it; on Sunday night at the end of a long week that was leading into another quite like it, it was bedtime.

There are pot-roast Sundays and take-out Sundays and bowls of cereal Sundays; there are big family dinners and cheese and crackers eaten alone; and there are some in between. A little cooking, a little conversation, a little entertainment. Just enough.



Why-Not Pizza

Mixer Closeup

I knew I’d be alone for dinner last night, as she was having a dinner meeting with some people on the committee for her big summer event. The cats would be home, too, of course, but I’d be cooking only for myself. When I’m going to be home alone–which isn’t all that often–I try to make something I like that she doesn’t. Brussels sprouts were an obvious choice, but they’re not in season.

By the time I finished a rehearsal at which my kids were frustratingly unfocused, I considered just having a bottle of wine for dinner. But I knew that wouldn’t happen, not least because I wanted to be able to drive to meet her late-arriving train–and I had work I wanted to do for which clear-headedness was a good idea. So not wine, or at least not just wine.

We’ve been trying to eat from our pantry as much as possible. She reminded me the other day of a couple of tins on the top shelf, so I decided to use those. They were smoked oysters, which I had on a pizza a long time ago and really enjoyed. I’ve made that pizza many times over the years, and if it was never quite as wonderful as that first time, it was always pretty good.  I knew it was something she wouldn’t want to share, so it was the perfect choice. I knew I had an open jar of marinara sauce and plenty of cheese.

I stopped at the market on the way home to pick up pre-made pizza dough. I could have made dough from scratch, but I was trying to speed things along; if the oven was internet-equpped I would have sent it a “preheat” command. While my off-line oven warmed, I gathered cheese and sauce (and mushrooms, for good measure) from the fridge, and cleaned some broccoli to steam as a side. (Yes, pizza and broccoli. I wanted something green, and remember that the object was a dinner she wouldn’t want to share.) I pulled down the cans from the top shelf and opened them into a strainer.

The tins weren’t smoked oysters after all.  They were octopus and squid. (Well, at least now I had a dinner she really wouldn’t want to eat.) As for why I had tinned octopus and squid in the house, it probably had to do with thinking, “Well, I like oysters, so why not?” I like smoked oyster pizza, so why not try octopus and squid?

The dough stretched into a beautiful thin round. I topped it and slid it onto the hot pizza stone. I set the timer, fed the cats, and headed to the office. In almost no time I’d recorded a pretty good vocal part for the demo I was working on–but then I realized a measure of accompaniment I’d wanted to cut was still in the track. It didn’t take long to get rid of it and stitch back together the vocal part to make the transition seamless. By the time I finished, I figured the timer was about to go off, so I happily saved my work and went upstairs.

That’s when I realized I’d set the timer on the microwave oven, which isn’t nearly loud or insistent enough to get my attention. It had beeped and then went silent, not being smart enough to alert me again. If I had an internet-equipped microwave, maybe it would have sent me a text message: Your pizza is ready. Oh, and by the way, it’s in the OVEN, not in the microwave.

It was overdone, but not too far gone. The outer crust was too crisp, but the rest of the pie wasn’t destroyed. I let it rest on the counter for a couple of minutes while the broccoli steamed in the microwave, then sliced and plated pizza and green thing.

Octopus and squid can get terribly tough if it isn’t cooked properly. The tinned varieties are already cooked, so I was really only reheating them. I didn’t do much damage. Perhaps if I’d gotten the pie out of the oven sooner, it would have been a little less chewy, but it was far from awful.

As for my “why-not” pizza, the real question is, “why bother?” I’ll have the leftovers for lunch today, and then I won’t make it again. There are lots of things I prefer to put on pizza–and lots of pizza toppings she enjoys sharing. If I go to the tinned-fish section of the market again, it’ll be for tuna. Cooking for one–even eccentrically and somewhat experimentally–is fine, but cooking for us both is better.

This waveform is not of me saying, "Damn! I burned the pizza!"--though that would have been clever.

This waveform is not of me saying, “Damn! I burned the pizza!”–though that would have been clever.

It’s Mostly Greek to Me

Usually when I work late, so does she, or she has dinner with a friend. Sometimes we leave a car for her at the train station, or she takes a cab home; in good weather, she walks. Good weather still seems distant.

I wasn’t expecting to learn that she was on a late train, but I offered to collect her at the train.  And to pick up pizza on the way.

Or Chinese, she replied. Or a cow.

It was that sort of day, apparently.

There was a pizza place on my route. We don’t order take-out pizza very often, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been to this place, but it seemed worth a try. (We don’t have a reliable Chinese-food vendor, and I had no idea where to source livestock, much less butcher it.) The small pie looked too small; the large looked too big, but better to err on the side of leftovers. Pepperoni, mushroom, and–since I doubted either one of us would feel like a salad–spinach.

In the time it took the pizza to bake and be boxed, I did most of my post-rehearsal homework. I vented the box a little so the crust wouldn’t get soggy, and made it to the station before she did, narrowly resisting the temptation to eat a slice before the train got in.

We, and our intact pie, made it back to the Country House and tucked in.  We got out plates, but didn’t use them.  We didn’t go to the table. This was an evening of pizza from the box. It felt like college.

She’s a fan of thick-crust pizza.  I like it well enough, though I prefer thin.  This place serves a sort of pan-pizza variant that has a medium-thick, crunchy crust. There was plenty of cheese, and a nice thick sauce. The pepperoni was especially spicy. The mushrooms were canned rather than fresh-sliced, but one can’t have everything.  The spinach, though, that was the real surprise. It was chopped finely and pre-cooked. I guess that makes sense, lest the spinach release too much moisture during baking. It was also spiced, and slightly sweet. Was that nutmeg?

Of course it was. This place serves pizza, but also Greek food.  The spinach came, no doubt, from the same supply they use to make spanakopita.

We probably could have done with a small pizza, but we made quite a dent in this large one, with leftovers for dinner tonight–which, since we’re both working late again, won’t be early. I’m hoping we don’t both have rough days again, but I wouldn’t bet against it.  Since we work in such different fields, it’s hard to compare.  And even if it were easy, we don’t keep score about such things; we just take care of each other. Which, so far, is not an incomprehensible language.  Most days, it’s easy as pie.

Sure, the photo is a little blurry. So were we.

Sure, the photo is a little blurry. So were we.

Very Meta

We didn’t have dinner at the Country House last night, but we did have dinner near the Country House.  Or, rather, near The Country House.

I finished teaching and walked downtown; she finished at the office and walked north; we met in the middle for the fall’s first “school night” trip to the theatre.

Theatre-date dinners require some strategizing.  When a show has an 8 PM curtain, there’s time for a relaxed meal before; an intermissionless play with a 7 PM curtain means it won’t be too late for dinner after; but a full-length play starting at 7 leaves just enough time to grab something nearby.

A respectable pizza-and-sandwich shop awaited us at the corner of 47th and 8th. There were two stools at the counter by the window from which we could people-watch while eating. (After she took a photo of our dinner, she realized she hadn’t been mindful of the passers-by. “That could have been Alec Baldwin!” I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.)

My pepperoni-spinach-and-onion slice was remarkably tasty, a little like getting a salad along with the pizza.  She went with the cheese-only variety; a purist.  Thin but pliable NYC-style crust, hot and quick. It wasn’t the most luxurious meal we’ve ever had, but it was just right.

photo 2

Dinner, near…



(The Country House  is a new play about a theatrical family–actors and a playwright-to-be–and contains lots of literary references, as well as a “reading” of a new play.  Since last night was only the second preview, it wouldn’t be fair to discuss the performance in detail.  The play is very self-referential.  But then, so is writing about it in a blog about dinner.)

Running out for Pizza

She sent me an email one day, a long time ago.  (I believe she sent the same message to many friends, but I could be misremembering.)

My doctor said I should get more exercise.  I’m going to try this thing called Couch to 5K.  Care to join me?

I figured exercise was a good thing, since I basically sit for a living, so I followed the link she included, looked at the plan described there, and thought:

5K?  Five kilometers?  3.1 miles? I can’t run from here to the corner!

But then I read further, and realized that on the first day of the program I’d have to run (or jog, or waddle, or whatever) for 60 seconds, then walk for 90 seconds, and then run for 60 more, walk for 60 more, and so on.

60 seconds–that’s the lightning round on Password.  I can do anything for 60 seconds.

I finished my work for the day, put on some old shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of sneakers, and went outside to give it a try. Although by the fifth or sixth repetition of that 60-90 cycle my butt was well and truly kicked, I kind of enjoyed the experience.  Half an hour, three days a week, nine weeks.  Let’s do this.

I was into week 5 of the program before I learned that she’d hated it and given up long before. But I finished–in 16 weeks, not 9, but who was keeping score?–and was encouraged by the success and the thought that if I could do that, what else could I do? I continued, with a program called Bridge to 10K. And then trained for and ran a half-marathon. And another. And another. I haven’t tried a full marathon yet, but I hope to one day. I gave up old sneakers and cut-off shorts long ago in favor of specialized shirts and shorts and socks, and I actually have a favorite brand and model of running shoe. Eventually, she took up the program again; now she’s done 5K races with me and by herself, and we run together whenever we can.

There’s a Labor Day race in New Haven–20 kilometers, the national championship at that distance.  That’s not far from the Country House, so I signed up to run in it, and she came to cheer me on. To say that it was humid in New Haven on Labor Day does no justice to the drippiness of the runners in that field. My running clothes aren’t as wet when I take them out of the washing machine as they were when I took them off when we got home.  Drippy.  Disgusting.  Although my finishing time was not my best, it was very satisfying to finish safely under such nasty conditions. Which means, officially, that I am the 1327th fastest person in America at the distance of 20 kilometers.  (Well, at least of those who entered.)

As she drove us home, we saw a billboard.  “Is that the place with the awesome pizza?” she asked. Yes, it was; not the original location where we’d gone after shopping trips to Ikea, but another restaurant owned by the same family. “Wanna get pizza?” “Always.  Especially after a race.  But I’d like a shower first.”

We continued home, I cleaned up. We did some gardening and cleaned up again, and then phoned in our order.

We arrived at the restaurant to find the doors locked. There were plenty of customers inside, and closing time was listed as two hours away, so eventually we got the attention of the hostess who unlocked the door for us. I went to the counter to ask if our order was ready and waited patiently while the hostess discussed something with the cashier.  After several minutes, the hostess looked up and was startled. “Oh!” “Yeah, me.” “I thought you were looking at a menu.” “No, just waiting.” I gave her my name, she pulled the boxed pizza off the rack; I paid and we headed home.

I’m not going to name the restaurant, because I’d like to think that what we experienced was an anomaly.  I don’t want to believe the owners think that when your pizza is world famous, shoddy service is acceptable. It isn’t. We’ll try again someday. If it’s another bad experience, names will be named.

World famous or not, the pizza was excellent: thin crust, topped lightly with tomato, mozzarella, mushrooms and sausage.  (My salad, made with the last of this week’s CSA greens and green pepper, cherry tomatoes, and an avocado vinaigrette, was crisp and refreshing alongside it.)

Was this pizza better than we could have made at home? Different, certainly, considering they have a coal-fired oven that gets to 1600ºF, and we don’t. Also, we make our crust a little thicker. But on one of the hottest nights of the summer, after a long run and a lot of gardening, excellent take-out was worth the drive and the questionable customer service.

I’ve registered for a race over Columbus Day weekend in Hartford. Wonder if there’s good pizza there…