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PIZZA LESSON

November 30, 2008

Wow, yesterday feels like so long ago. I can hardly remember what I did earlier in the day!
I woke up not completely starving and feeling like I just needed to get out of the house, or just out of the apartment, and do some exercise. I woke up with “the urge,” as Kath calls it. I felt like swimming, so I went down to the pool… but unfortunately, there were people in it. In my building this is a problem because everybody is old and there wouldn’t be room to swim, or else I might knock them out of the way. I figured I would go back later, but still needed to get out, so I went for a walk by the lake. I’ve actually never done this before, but I read part of the way… this Interview with the Vampire is so good! I’m a bit addicted to vampire novels now– I might do a mini personal project where I read all the vampire literature I can find… Of the “old” stuff, I’ve only read Dracula.
Anyways, it was FREEZING! Apparently it was 28 degrees… below freezing, and I didn’t have glove or boots or anything. When I sat down on a bench, there was frost on it and when I stood up there were imprints where my butt had melted it.
After a while I got really hungry and cold, so I walked home. I challenged myself again by giving myself half the breakfast I usually would to see if it would fill me up.
I started with a piece of toast with 1 tbsp crunchy peanut butter and half a banana, plus 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt with a few spoonfuls of cranberry sauce and wheat germ. I ate really slowly, waited after I was done, and realized I was still hungry. I went back for more yogurt and cranberry sauce, plus a little flax. Then I felt perfectly full and satisfied.
After I had digested, my dad and I went down to the pool, but surprise, there were still old people in it! This was kind of frustrating because I don’t always have the urge and I want to get out and do exercise the second I feel like it. I really should get a membership to the University Pool.
Finally, we got down to the pool and did the same workout I did last time– 10 warmup and cool down, plus 4 sets of the kick-swim drill-swim alternating 4 strokes and one IM (again, took about 45 minutes, or a little less than half a swim practice). However, not to sound like a total whiner, but aside from the fact that the pool is 3 feet in the shallow end so it’s virtually impossible to do flip turns, the pool was 85 DEGREES! It was so hot, I felt like I was in a sauna. I’m not sure if that helped or hindered my workout… does working out at high temperatures really burn more calories?
Anyways, it felt great to get moving and for lunch, we just had more leftovers. I had 1/2 cup of brown rice, the last sliver of cornbread, leftover zucchini, and the last pieces of tofu, except I ate them with chopsticks. It was fun. I went back for some more zucchini.

Then I had a pear.

I did some other stuff after lunch, and later in the afternoon I went back to Istria to finish Moby-Dick. I was really tempted to get a coffee or something milky, but I stopped myself and got chamomile tea (I added a little milk and honey). It was really fun to people watch, because I was there a while. I got so wrapped up in the Chase chapter that I was a little late to Paola’s for my pizza date!
I was hungry before I left, so I grabbed some dates and dried apricots on my way out.

There is a lot to say about this, but I want to be fast. Once again, Paola is from Naples, and she’s a pescetarian, like me. She thinks it’s weird that I call her a “foodie”, but she is. Her husband Jacob (pronounced Yah-cohb) is German and bakes bread every couple of days. He mainly makes sourdough. This is their starter.

Now, just like a Food Network chef, Jacob showed me how to make the dough, but he already had one rising so we could eat on time. To make the dough, you need 3 cups of flour. Then you dissolve some yeast in 2 cups of water (they used this live yeast, which I’ve never seen before– It looks like Sculpy!)
and wait for about 5 minutes until it starts bubbling.


You mix it together to form the dough, adding more water if necessary. Then you knead it– Jacob did it in the bowl with a wooden spoon, but I found this too hard and just used my hands, which I find much more fun. The kneading motion was similar to the one you use when making pasta.
We kneaded the dough until it was elastic and it snapped back when poked. Then you have to wait for it to rise for about an hour.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen (we were doing this on the dining room table), Paola was roasting and chopping vegetables for toppings. She was also making an eggplant antipasto.
These other Chinese grad students came over, and they helped us with the toppings. For toppings there were:
-thinly sliced potato
-cherry tomatoes
-rapini
-roasted peppers
-sliced mushrooms
-arugula
-raddichio
and for cheeses, mozzarella, blue cheese, goat cheese, and parmesan.
Sounds like a feast, doesn’t it?



I rolled out the dough with a rolling pin– Jacob hasn’t learned how to do the fancy Italian trick where you toss it in the air. We rolled the dough out REALLY thinly– it was almost like a cracker when we finally baked it!


We called my dad to get him to come over and eat, and he came bearing some Italian wine and my leftover apple quince crisp.
Meanwhile, the pizza stones were being heated. They had two, but they said the fewer you cook at a time the better because the temperature goes down.
The first pizza we baked was the potato pizza, which had very little cheese and a bit of rosemary, plus a lot of olive oil.

Because we were eating these as they came out, I REALLY wanted to just treat it like a tasting menu, so I don’t think I finished a single slice of pizza. In fact, they were more like flat breads, given the amount of cheese.
The potato-rosemary-blue cheese combination was great, and the crust was perfectly thin and crispy.
We also sampled the eggplant, which she had sauteed WITHOUT oil in a nonstick pan, then marinated in vinegar, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, then garnished with mint.

The next pizza to come out of the oven was half roasted red pepper and olive, half cherry tomato and arugula.
Although the red peppers were wonderful, my absolute FAVORITE was the cherry tomatoes… the tomatoes had burst, letting the pizza soak up their slightly sour juices. It was also interesting to try arugula wilted in topping form, and its bitter bite was the perfect way to counterbalance the sweet tomatoes and salty cheese (which once again, there wasn’t a lot of).
Then there was the bitter rapini pizza with lots of garlic and parmesan.

Next pizza, the eclectic one: half mushroom-radicchio-blue cheese, half mushroom arugula.
The radicchio was supremely bitter, but the sharp blue cheese literally sent shivers down my spine. At some point during these tastings, my eyes were shut, since I was just picturing all the flavors going on in my mouth at that moment.

I thought we were done for sure by then, but Paola wanted to make us the most classic pizza with canned tomatoes, more like a marinara sauce. When it came out of the oven, I was so tempted, but I could tell that by this point I really didn’t want anymore. I had mainly just nibbled and not eaten that much, but I felt satisfied. Instead, I had a bite of my dad’s, and that was probably the best bite I had. The bite I had was the classic Neopolitan pizza, with no mozzarella, but only tomatoes and basil and garlic.
Nibbles:

On to dessert, which I didn’t have. Paola made CHESTNUT MOUSSE, which she had actually made from these vacuum-packed chestnuts we get in Chinatown that we gave her. She said it had no eggs– just chestnuts and cream and rum. At the bottom of the rammekin she had put some rum-soaked biscuits.
I had a tiny bite of my dad’s just to try it– if there had been an Iron Chef battle Chestnut, this would have been ideal, because the taste was purely chestnut, with the rum merely accentuating it.

My crisp was also eaten, and honestly, it was delicious while it lasted, but I was happy to get it out of the house. Paola and Jacob were really excited about the quinces because they say that they’re hard to find around here.

We also drank this weird imitation coffee stuff made from roasted barley. It wouldn’t fool a coffee addict, but with a little honey, it really did taste like a cup of coffee!


With the leftover dough (the dough that I helped make at the beginning), Jacob made a little pillow of bread that he gave us to take home. They also gave us a huge amount of leftovers, plus some Panettone (did I spell that right) and marmalade that Paola’s father made in Italy.
All in all, an explosion of flavors… and the thing is, it wasn’t even that difficult! This is definitely something I’ll be trying to make at home.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Santa Barbara Dreaming permalink
    December 1, 2008 1:30 am

    oh boy oh boy oh boy look at all that yumminess! Those photos are way too much for me to handle! My mouth is drooling so bad, haha.
    That is so cool that you made the dough from scratch. I don’t think I’ve ever used yeast before; I’ve always been too intimidated. But I bet the crust tasted sooo fresh and delicious. I love the crispy type of pizzas! yum.
    As for the question about circuits you left me on my blog; I usually do circuits that focus on one body part, such as abs, or legs. I will pick two or three exercises (about 10 to 20 reps,) and do 2 to 3 sets. That’s one circuit. Then I will pice a couple more exercises, and do another circuit. Or, I would do a circuit using multiple body parts. I find that this keeps my heart rate up, and keeps me from getting bored. If you want more ideas, let me know! 🙂
    Hope you had a super duper weekend!

  2. ghostologist permalink
    December 1, 2008 10:19 am

    Reading this made me homesick (the willoware bowl) and jealous–those pizzas looked fantastic–and I would have loved to be part of it. Another day with no food–some left over dabing (Chinese flat bread) but microwaved because the stove isn’t igniting with some fermented beancurd and some left over boiled peanuts, plus some fruit.

    Great descriptions of pizzas–can almost taste them.

  3. Sammy permalink
    December 2, 2008 1:40 pm

    That Greek Yogurt with the cranberry sauce + wheat germ, sounds so good! We have no Greek yogurt in our stores at all haha. And all the pizzas, yum 🙂

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