Yesterday was pretty much my ideal day. I woke up in time to make my yoga class — and Muni didn’t thwart me after all though it was dodgy there for about 10 minutes while I waited for a bus that seemed like it would never come — and came home to eat prodigiously and well (breakfast: fried egg sandwich with potato chips; lunch: sauteed chard with feta, scoop of baked beans, toast, tomatoes), did a bit of laundry, and wrote some. I read the New York Times Sunday and part of a new book. I had a few phone chats, drank lots of tea, and spent a decent amount of time in the kitchen. It was sunny, too, so I stole a 1/2 hour on the roof to look up at the blue blue sky that was ever so appreciated after last week’s fog. I love days like that.
Also, I made a pizza.
Pizza, like InDesign, has long been my nemesis. I can never get the crust right — too hard on the edges but then too soggy in the middle — and I hardly ever make it. I’d rather go to Little Star, to be quite honest. But then darn New York magazine had a whole spread about pizza complete with an easy-looking “DIY pizza” recipe and what was I supposed to do? Not try it? C’mon now. This is me and I am always up for a challenge (so, um, please don’t ask me to climb Half Dome again because I don’t really want to but I will if you persuade nicely. Or just suggest it.).
Friday afternoon I hatched a plan to make pizza and a root beer float on Sunday; if it didn’t feel like summer I’d at least treat the dates on the calendar accordingly anyway. In a fit of ridiculous excitement I emailed several friends to tell them about said pizza-making plot and couldn’t wait to indulge in my experiment (I never said I wasn’t a nut). I also talked to my favorite Italian at my coffee spot and she gave me some helpful tips (note: essential to have helpful Italian to make you delicious coffee, talk about Roma, and discuss food on a regular basis). Plus it kind of kept me on track: if I said I was going to make pizza I’d really have to do so, right?
Pizza-making shouldn’t be that hard but somehow it always has been for me. Can’t say why exactly — maybe I didn’t have a good recipe for the crust or my yeast was old or or or. I actually didn’t end up using the dough recipe printed in the magazine — I went to my trusty “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” instead — because it needed 12 hours to rise, but I took bits and pieces from it (fresh mozzarella, ‘sauce’ from one heirloom tomato) and that was fine. There was nary a hint of sogginess to be found and when I took it out of the oven I exclaimed fervently Oh darling I love you! (Don’t you also talk to your food? It’s just me?) because oh, it was pretty.
I gave myself a good pat on the back for my efforts and while it rested for a bit I made a salad. This salad … Well, I’ll revisit it at a later date but suffice it to say I’m currently obsessed with fresh vegetables and can’t get enough. But the pizza was the real deal: crisp and just the tiniest bit chewy (which I liked), pungent with basil and tomatoes and mushrooms with a bit of salt and pepper added before sliding it into the oven. It dripped all over my hands while I ate it and was just fantastic.
The root beer float part was because I think pizza and root beer floats go together very well. OK fine: pizza and beer or pizza and red wine are a close second and third, but it’s July. I don’t care how fickle San Francisco is — it’s July. And in July one must treat oneself to soft serve ice cream, ice cream sundaes, and root beer floats.
The last root beer float I had was nearly a year ago, in a restaurant/bar/arcade type place near Garfield, N.J., with my friend Kate. She’d gone there a lot as a kid and reminisced about how they’d always go there for root beer floats; though we’d had a full day visiting both our grandmothers and still had the long drive back to Washington, DC, ahead of us of course we decided to stop in and have one for the road.
A proper ‘root beer float’ wasn’t listed on the menu anymore, though they sold dishes of vanilla ice cream and glasses of root beer. So we asked for that: two dishes of vanilla ice cream and two root beers, please, and made our own right there at the table. I was so tired I was propping my chin on my hand (and I wasn’t even driving!) while I sipped, but even through my fatigue I was glad to be there with one of my best girlfriends in a funny, out-of-the way spot near where she grew up. It felt so comfortable somehow. Actually, what it felt like was summer: a late, hot night with nowhere really to be the next morning except sleeping in a little with the day stretching ahead bare and possible. We talked about swimming and love and California and all the things you do when you drink a root beer float at a restaurant/bar/arcade type place near Garfield, N.J., with one of your best girlfriends.
Last night’s root beer float was composed of fancy-pants organic soda from my corner market and Hagen-Daz ice cream and it was truly delicious, if lacking that certain New Jersey je ne said quoi. In truth it was also missing an essential ingredient: my friend. Also, hot weather. But even sans these two very worthy companions it was summer in a glass and I tried to savor every drop. For those 10 minutes, wool socks be damned, it was so very sweet.
Pizza, adapted from many sources
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tsp. active dry yeast
2 Tb. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 cups white flour
Pour 1/2 cup of the water into a mixing bowl, stir in the yeast, ans et aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining water, olive oil, and salt, then add the whole wheat flour and the white flour, adding enough to form a shaggy dough. Turn it out onto a floured board and kneed a few minutes until smooth, adding more flour if necessary to keep it from sticking.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl, turn once to coat, then cover with a towl and set aside to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Turn dough onto the board and divide into the number of pizzas you want (this amount would make about 4 personal pizzas I found). Shape each piece into a ball ball, cover with a towel, and let rise for another 20-30 minutes.
Take one ball at a time and flatten into a disk, pushing it outward with your palm. Working from the middle, push the dough out with your fingers until it’s about 1/4 inch thick and fairly even, thickening slightly at the edge. Dust your pan with cornmeal or flour, set the dough on top, and let rest for about 10-15 minutes. Preheat oven to 500 F.
6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1.5 small mozzarella
salt and pepper
Blanch the tomato in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes. Run under cool water and remove skin. Press through a sieve to remove seeds. Add tomato flesh to tomato juice.
Meanwhile, saute the garlic and mushrooms until soft.
Put the tomato/sauce on the dough, leaving about 1/4-inch edge. Add the mushrooms and cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle basil over the top.
Bake for about 6-7 minutes until crust is crisp and the cheese is melted and bubbling. Remove from oven and let rest a few minutes before devouring.