Working Titles

I’m guilty. I often judge books by their covers. Not in the metaphorical, life-lesson sense, but certainly in the literal sense. It is a life goal of mine to assemble a cookbook collection the beauty of which would make the paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago blush. I find joy in the sight of the pretty cookbooks and textbooks that fill my shelves and banner this blog. If I had to choose an image to capture the way in which I spend my days, it would be the one at the top of this page. Interpret that as you will, but at least it looks nice.

I judge books (and blogs) by their titles, too. When Joanna pitched me the name “sugar cured,”and her concept for a med student cooking blog, I knew I couldn’t pass on involvement in a project with such a perfect title. I think you can tell a lot about an author by the amount of effort she puts into her titles. A narcissistic confession: I think a lot about names for my as yet unwritten memoirs. Today, the frontrunning title is My Life in Pizza. Yes, I know it lacks poetry, but I think the theme would capture my culinary history quite well.

The intro to My Life in Pizza would tell about how I was the only child in modern history who refused to eat pizza. The early chapters would chronicle how I saw the madness in my incredibly-picky-eating ways and how my mom taught me how to make homemade pizza. I’d spend good 20 pages describing the lifetime pinnacle of pizza consumption, achieved at the young age of 16 on a trip to Italy. I’d write about my first summer in my own place, when my housemate Nolly and I made pizza every Friday night, a tradition that sparked one of my dearest friendships. The most recently penned chapter would chronicle one year spent cooking and studying in this city of deep dishes and brisk winds. It may be no “My Life in France,” but I think it has potential…
When you take the time to make pizza at home, you should use it to tell the story of your life in pizza. Use my recipe as a starting point, but the fun part of making your own pizza is letting your imagination dictate the results. The crust comes from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking. I love it for its simplicity and its balance of chewy-crunchy. You can mix it up in the morning and let it sit all day, and anything extra keeps well in the freezer.
For 2 pizzas:
1 1/2 t active dry yeast
1 c warm water
3 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 T salt
1 small can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
2 T goat cheese or feta crumbles
1/4 t salt
Dash of black or red pepper (depending on your spice comfort)
Dash of oregano
2 c grated mozzerella cheese
1 onion, carmelized
2 roma tomatoes, sliced thinly
5 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 large red bell pepper, sliced thinly
Fresh basil, shredded
Place 1/4c of the water in a large bowl and mix in the yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes until the yeast is mostly dissolved. Add 1c flour and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon As you continue to stir, add salt, olive oil, 1 c more flour, and 1/4 c more water. Mix well, then add the balance of the flour and water, adjusting the quantities to make the dough manageable- soft but not too sticky.
Take the dough out of the bowl and place it on a well-floured counter. Knead until the dough becomes elastic and well-combined, about 10 minutes. Add sprinkles of flour as needed, but don’t overdo it- you want the dough to be fairly soft. Drizzle a few teaspoons of olive oil in a large bowl and add the kneaded dough, turning it to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise. Rising time is flexible. It can be as short as 1.5 hours or as long as all day.
30 minutes before you are ready to bake, turn the oven to 450. Make the sauce: mix all the ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the cheese melts and the mixture bubbles. Prepare your toppings. Punch down the dough, divide in two pieces, and stretch or roll as thinly as you can get it, yielding rounds of 11-12″ diameter. Place on oiled cookie sheets. Bake each crust (without toppings or sauce) for 3-4 minutes. Add all toppings except the basil and return to the oven. Bake 8-10 minutes. Baking time can vary significantly based on the kind of cheese you use and how hot your oven actually gets when you turn it to 450 degrees. When the cheese is starting to brown in spots, take the pizza out, sprinkle on the basil, cut, and serve.

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