Busy weeks like this are not meant for dinner parties! At least not dinner parties of my own, anyways. I’m catering a humongous party this weekend, my biggest one yet. So lately, all my dinner party energy has been focused on this one event. I can’t wait - It’s going to be fabulous!
Anyways, I’ve had just a little time over the last few days to throw together a quick blog-worthy dinner party. And as in busy-weeks past, it may be a stretch to call it an actually dinner party. More like a dinner meeting. I had Katelyn – my sous chef /angel straight from heaven – over the other night, mainly to go over our game plan, but also mainly to make and eat pizza!
I wish I had the time to elaborate on my fondness for pizza. Perhaps that’s fortunate though - An ode to pizza could easily become quite trite – for who doesn’t love pizza!? Rather than going on and on about how much I love the stuff, I’ll simply share with you my favorite recipe.
I definitely should tell you, as far as I have ever been able to tell, the only way to make good pizza at home is with a pizza stone, a pizza peel (you know, a large wooden paddle/spatula thingy) and a wicked hot oven. I usually shy away from recipes that require special equipment or ingredients, but pizza is definitely an exception. A hot, hot pizza stone is the only thing that’s going to give you a crisp but tender, thin, blistery crust.
Speaking of crust (well I suppose not crust, per se, but the dough responsible for the crust). So, speaking of dough… Having experimented in the past with lots and lots of pizza dough recipes, we tried the one below – from one of my favorite chefs, Deborah Madison – a few years ago, and came to a quick conclusion that it was our absolute favorite. And it’s the only one we’ve used since. It calls for a combination of whole wheat and all purpose flour. The whole wheat lends an extra touch of texture, without taking away from the tender lightness of the crust. And don’t worry, just because there’s something healthy in there, doesn’t make it ‘health food’. It’s still pizza, for goodness sake! If you weren’t told about the whole grain, you’d probably never even guess it was there.
Crust, check! Onto the sauce. I like to whip up a quick and easy tomato-basil sauce, with just a few simple ingredients – onions, garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, canned whole tomatoes (best brand ever!), lots and lots of basil, and of course, salt and pepper. It’s a breeze to make, and the results are fabulous – subtly sweet and packed with bright flavor, with rustic chunks of tomato and onion and bright flecks of fresh green basil.
Crust, check! Sauce, check! Now, onto the toppings. For a classic Margherita pizza, a few slices of fresh mozzarella, a few whole leaves of basil, and a sprinkling of grated parmesan. What could be better than this?!
Maybe not better, but equally delicious, we topped a couple other pizzas with some finely chopped fresh rosemary, some thinly sliced radicchio, a few ribbons of shaved prosciutto, fresh mozzarella and parmesan. Truthfully, this was a use-up-the-left-overs kind of pizza. But just because we’d already had all this stuff, lingering in the fridge, doesn’t mean this a pie was second rate. On the contrary, it was awesome! Next time we make pizza, I’ll probably go out and buy these ingredients especially for the occasion.
I’ve been on a thinly-sliced vegetable kick for a while now, and I’ve been waiting all winter to thinly-slice me some asparagus! This salad, made from raw, thin ribbons of fresh asparagus, lightly dressed in a lemony parmesan vinaigrette, is so lovely I think. And absolutely tasty too. The crunchy, delicate shavings of asparagus taste of subtle earthiness and new green life, a true embodiment of spring itself. The parmesan adds a touch of salty complexity, the extra-virgin olive oil a bit of fruity smoothness, and the lemon a sunny jolt of bright acidity. Together, these few ingredients compose a dish that is at once simple yet surprisingly complex, subtle yet certainly sensational.
For dessert, a strawberry-rhubarb semifreddo tart. Semifreddo is an Italian sort of frozen custard. It’s similar to ice cream, but not reliant on an ice cream maker for its existence. Which is good, because our ice cream maker sadly kicked the bucket a while back. The recipe for this tart, I found on Epicurious.com. Thinking it would be a beautiful dessert for springtime catered events, I’ve been wanting to give it a try for a while. It turned out wonderfully, with its crumbly shortbread cookie crust and lovely pink frozen filling. A deliciously elegant twist on ice cream cake. And a perfect springtime dessert for any occasion.
Well, that’s it for now. I’ve gotta run. Back to work! Wish me luck this weekend!