Sunday, May 17, 2015

"Cook As I Say, Not As I Do" - Mother's Day Pizza Margherita

Date I made this recipe:  May 10, 2015 – Mother's Day

Cook As I Say, Not As I Do by Margaret Sullivan
Published by:  Chicago Press Review
ISBN: 1-55652-224-X
Purchased at Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores
Recipe:  "Pizza I Would Name After You If I Didn't Think It Already Had A Name" – p. 87 a/k/a "Pizza Margherita," made using "An All-Purpose Pizza Dough for Mother's Day" – p. 85

I seem to be on a roll of finding cookbooks oriented toward younger and budding chefs but this one especially seemed appropriate for Mother's Day.  I mean, the title – Cook As I Say, Not As I Do - says it all, does it not?  (For the record, my mother was one of those women who did not do what she wasn't supposed to do but alas, I cannot say I was like her in that respect.)

Like a lot of people, I posted a couple pictures of my mom on Facebook that day, one of which was me "photo-bombing" my mother when she was making something in the kitchen of a house we rented when I was very young ( we called it "The Little House" – NOT on the prairie).  One of my friends commented that the photo "looked like a very Betty Crocker moment" but that is somewhat misleading.  And that's because my mom was very selective about how much time I spent in the kitchen and on what projects I got to play her assistant.

In my early years, I probably "helped" a lot—until I became a nuisance, that is.  And then there was a good long stretch where I was only allowed to lick the beaters, something many kids of that era remember fondly until early iterations of the salmonella scare ruined everything!

For several years, my mom left my culinary education up to the Girl Scout leaders who taught us how to cook over an open fire.  No doubt my mom thought that if I had to burn something down, it was best to burn down the school that hosted our
Girl Scout Day Camp than her kitchen.  She had something there.

Somewhere around 5th or 6th grade, I got on a roll making a very easy applesauce recipe.  Lots and lots of applesauce that we froze in small, neatly-labeled containers – her handwriting, not mine.  Mom handled the canning and/or freezing of all other fruits and vegetables from our garden.  I got to watch. 

One of the things that most fascinated me was my mom's pressure cooker.  A few years ago, they came back in vogue but my mom had a veritable lock and load on both the lid and the process; you do not want to mishandle a pressure cooker, especially the lid, or you will end up with food all over your ceiling.  I let my mom drive the big rig.

So all told, my actual kitchen time at home was limited, and what little cooking I did was in 7th and 8th grade Home Ec classes (LOVED the cooking part.), along with a bit here and there in high school and then nothing  until my junior year in college.  That year, I moved to an apartment with three other women and my mom gave me an updated version of her favorite cookbook – Better Homes and Gardens.  My roommates and I cooked the hell out of that book.

Years later, I am pretty handy in the kitchen and also have a "thing" about my kitchen – it's my turf.  My mother was the same way; upon finally getting a kitchen of her own when she got married, she never let up off the throttle until the day she died.

When it came to pizza, my non-Sicilian mother relied on Chef Boyarde's pizza kit that came with the dough mix, canned sauce and even canned cheese.  We didn't have that too often though since my dad's mother, Vita, made the real deal.  The only problem was that she was miles away in New Jersey while we were in Michigan.  So we got our proper Sicilian-pizza fix on once a year and that had to do.

This recipe is very similar to my grandmother's pizza and with a few tweaks, I made it even more so.  When my grandmother taught me and my cousin, Mary Pat, how to make pizza (a disaster on many levels given that most pizza dough should not contain large, gaping holes) she taught us her way:  lightly oil the bottom of the pan, put the mozzarella on top of the dough, sauce on the top, drizzle olive oil on top of the sauce and bake.  Easy as a pizza pie!  And delicious.  I've told my husband, Andy, a million times that if you make it like that, you can eat the pizza cold and it will taste delicious because the cheese remains wonderfully moist instead of congealing into something that could be used as a drain plug. (In my opinion.)

Now because I'm somewhat lazy, I didn't make the pizza dough as directed in this cookbook, instead picking up a small dough from Broder's Cucina Italiana where I used to work.  I don't "do" yeast and this recipe calls for yeast.  Why stress myself out on Mother's Day?

And then – and this was my fault – instead of picking up what I thought was "regular" basil from Lunds & Byerlys, I accidentally grabbed Thai Basil which is similar and yet not. And if I am allowed to vent for a moment – what the heck Lunds and Byerlys?  I had never seen Thai Basil in any grocery store outside of an Asian market ever and the day I shopped, there it was front and center?  The nerve!  So rather than risk ruining my very traditional Italian pizza, I used dried basil, adding it to my sauce to allow the flavors to mellow.

I am happy to report though, that the mozzarella made it through the entire process unscathed.  Well, what was left of it after I nibbled on it the entire time I was cutting it for the pizza. 

And that really, was that.  I could have done a roast, I could have made some toast but instead, I made a quick and easy pizza that reminded me of all the good times spent in the kitchen with all my female relatives, all of whom are greatly missed, Mother's Day and always.

An All Purpose Pizza Dough for Mother's Day – makes 1 12-inch pizza
1 to 1 ½ cups water at bath temperature
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried yeast
2 cups flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Add a little of the warm water to the sugar and yeast, and let it express itself, the way you say you never got to.  It will get foamy when it's ready.  Meanwhile, sift your flour, cornmeal, and salt together.  When the yeast water is ready, combine everything, and knead thoroughly; ten minutes is good.  Leave it covered for an hour to rise.  Then you knead it again.  Some Mother's Day, huh?  At this point, all the handling you do is just for fun.  You could be glamorous wiht it like your Dad and twirl it over your head, but I just move it into a 12-inch round and place it on a pizza pan greased with the olive oil.  Bake according to the pizza recipe you are using.

"A Pizza I Would Name After You If I Didn't Think It Already Had a Name" a/k/a Pizza Margherita – makes enough sauce for 1 12-inch pizza
"Don't buy tomatoes from just anybody."
All-Purpose Pizza Dough for Mother's Day (above)
4 tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and minced
1 white onion, minced
1 clove garlic, crushed
¼ cup olive oil
12 thin slices mozzarella
12 leaves of basil
Ground white and black pepper to taste

Start your oven at 450 degrees.

Make the sauce by frying your tomatoes, onions, and garlic in most of the oil.  (Ann's Note:  Sautéing the mixture is better than frying and use only enough oil to coat the pan or you will have a very oily sauce.).  When the onions are transparent, the sauce is ready.  Spread the rest of the olive oil on the dough and then spread the sauce on top of it.  Next apply the slices of mozzarella and basil in an artful fashion, as only you know how to do.  Bake for 15 minutes.

And now a word about this cookbook:  it stinks.  I don't mean that the recipes are bad, I mean that it smells as if it fell into a vat of perfume and stayed in it for a year or so. And this is not the first time this has happened with some of the cookbooks I've purchased leading me to wonder just what on earth these women are doing with their cookbooks anyway?  I've tried my usual methods to get the smell out to no avail (a baking soda "bath" then wrap it up in a plastic bag or letting it sit in the sun) and so I spent just about zero time looking for a recipe.  It appears that the author writes "mom" letters of advice to her kids and breaks out the sections by food group and by kid but that's all I can tell you.  'Tis a shame, really, but my nose is already running and all I did was look at the book for two seconds to get clarification on something in the recipe.  Since I have now taken to storing many of the books I've already used for this blog, this one is going into cold storage, still wrapped in plastic, still showered with baking soda because I'll be damned if I let it contaminate my other books! (Or worse, stink up my garage.)

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