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Pizza Nut

Barbarella
Barbarella

There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won’t, and that’s a wife who can’t cook and will. — Robert Frost

I felt a twinge in my stomach and looked at the clock: 12:30 p.m. Lunchtime. It was over an hour ago that David had left to deliver a birthday gift to one of our friends, and I had opted to stay behind and work. Now that Christmas had passed, Martha’s Vineyard, where david’s parents live, had quieted down. David’s mother was out shopping; his father, Robert, sat beside the Christmas tree in the next room, watching Fox News and playing sudoku; I was at the kitchen table, lavishing my laptop with attention.

My preferred leftovers were gone. It was cold outside, so I craved something warm and substantial, ruling out cheese and crackers. I suddenly remembered the ball of dough in the fridge — David had purchased three but had only used two for the pizzas he’d made for his parents’ holiday party two nights before. I was excited at the prospect of pizza, but only until I recalled its naked, unformed state, a gooey mass that, were it not for the plastic keeping it in a ball-ish form, threatened to gross me out with its sticky blobbishness.

David likes to joke about the first time I “cooked” for him. But I wasn’t cooking for him so much as I was satisfying a craving for hot dogs and beans and had merely extended the invitation for him to share in my nostalgic bounty. I classified the preparation as “cooking” because I sliced the hot dogs before placing them on a plate and into the microwave and poured the beans from the can into a saucepan, then stirred while it simmered on the stove — it’s as close to culinary toil as I get. David must have forgotten that Valentine’s Day a few years ago, when I baked feta-stuffed chicken breasts in the oven and served pasta with sautéed zucchini. I’m not a complete nitwit. It’s just that I’d rather press a few buttons on the microwave than dirty my hands with raw food and wait for however long it takes the stuff to smolder in an oven.

The way I saw it, there was only one way to transform that blob in the fridge into something edible. I texted David: Want to make pizza for lunch, Hm? After a few seconds, I received his response: I don’t think I’ll be home soon enough. How’s your work coming? It was a delicate situation. I needed to coax him back to his parents’ house without making it sound like a demand. I tried reverse psychology: It’s coming. I can try making pizza. My brows furrowed when my bluff was called with an irritating exclamation: Sure, you can try! I opted next for a more direct, passive-aggressive approach: I thought you were just dropping off the gift. David retorted: You’re working so I’m visiting. This wasn’t good. I was stranded with ingredients while my man was out gallivanting. The downside, or in this case also an upside, of texting, is that David could not hear the intended tone of sarcasm and the unintended air of bitterness in my final three words: Okay. Have fun.

Frustrated, I opened every cabinet in search of an alternative. Both David and I knew I’d never break down and actually cook. A ball of dough! I wouldn’t know the first thing about handling it. Despite David’s goading, or in spite of it, my indignation rose to a feverish pitch; my increasing hunger only further fed my aggravation. I was about to slam my hand on the granite counter in exasperation when a strange notion occurred to me. What if I tried? Sure, it could ruin my mood for the rest of the week if I failed, but if I succeeded... If I pulled it off, I’d not only have my desired meal, I’d also regain some dignity. David didn’t think I would. And I didn’t think I could. There was only one way to prove both of us wrong, only one way for me to win this little one-sided argument I was having, and that was to fetch that goddamn ball of dough from the stupid fridge.

Fortunately, that wooden platter with a handle David used to slide pizza into the oven had been left to dry on the counter, so I wouldn’t have to go crazy searching for it. Most of the time, while David is cooking at home, I tend to stand on the other side of our counter, reading a magazine and sipping wine while chatting with the chef. Like watching the safety video on an airplane, I never really paid attention to what he was doing. And yet, in my time of need, it became clear to me that I had somehow gleaned the essentials.

I hunted and gathered components almost mindlessly, afraid that if I deliberated, I would most certainly bungle things. For his gourmet pizzas, David uses grapes, Fontina cheese, and bacon. There was some leftover meat sauce he had made for pasta, but I craved that salty-savory-sweet combo. Robert followed the sound of commotion into the kitchen just as I was discovering there was no bacon. The audience of my father-in-law guided my reaction — if alone, I might have thrown up my hands in defeat, but now I stoically searched for a replacement, letting out an elated A-HA! when I uncovered a trove of sliced Hungarian sausage in one of the drawers.

I enlisted Robert’s help, asking him to render the fat from the sausage in a skillet (thus sparing myself the fear of splatter). Meanwhile, I shredded the Fontina, not an easy task given how soft that cheese is. I knew from past complaints about the house heating up that I was supposed to set the oven as high as it could go, which, for this oven at least, was 500 degrees.

By the time I’d finished cutting the grapes in half, Robert was done rendering. Now all I had to do was deal with the dough. An infuriating endeavor, as the taffy-like glop kept sticking to my hands and bouncing back on itself. I poured corn meal all over it, hoping that might minimize the glue effect, but the tiny beads just disappeared into the dough as I tried to flatten it. I lifted one end and let the whole thing sag, but then it began to tear. With no other options at the ready, I grabbed the olive oil. I was surprised I didn’t gag when I used my hands to work the slick stuff over the dough — my relief at having it not stick to me eclipsed the disgust I would have normally felt for greasy fingers.

I smothered the dough with the sausage, sliced grapes, and cheese, and slid it into the oven using the wooden-plate thingy. Thirteen minutes later, I pulled out a funky-shaped pizza with an absurdly thick crust and sliced it up. Upon tasting my creation, I was overcome with surprise and delight — my pizza was delicious. For the first time, I could almost understand why people go to all the trouble to cook.

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Barbarella
Barbarella

There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won’t, and that’s a wife who can’t cook and will. — Robert Frost

I felt a twinge in my stomach and looked at the clock: 12:30 p.m. Lunchtime. It was over an hour ago that David had left to deliver a birthday gift to one of our friends, and I had opted to stay behind and work. Now that Christmas had passed, Martha’s Vineyard, where david’s parents live, had quieted down. David’s mother was out shopping; his father, Robert, sat beside the Christmas tree in the next room, watching Fox News and playing sudoku; I was at the kitchen table, lavishing my laptop with attention.

My preferred leftovers were gone. It was cold outside, so I craved something warm and substantial, ruling out cheese and crackers. I suddenly remembered the ball of dough in the fridge — David had purchased three but had only used two for the pizzas he’d made for his parents’ holiday party two nights before. I was excited at the prospect of pizza, but only until I recalled its naked, unformed state, a gooey mass that, were it not for the plastic keeping it in a ball-ish form, threatened to gross me out with its sticky blobbishness.

David likes to joke about the first time I “cooked” for him. But I wasn’t cooking for him so much as I was satisfying a craving for hot dogs and beans and had merely extended the invitation for him to share in my nostalgic bounty. I classified the preparation as “cooking” because I sliced the hot dogs before placing them on a plate and into the microwave and poured the beans from the can into a saucepan, then stirred while it simmered on the stove — it’s as close to culinary toil as I get. David must have forgotten that Valentine’s Day a few years ago, when I baked feta-stuffed chicken breasts in the oven and served pasta with sautéed zucchini. I’m not a complete nitwit. It’s just that I’d rather press a few buttons on the microwave than dirty my hands with raw food and wait for however long it takes the stuff to smolder in an oven.

The way I saw it, there was only one way to transform that blob in the fridge into something edible. I texted David: Want to make pizza for lunch, Hm? After a few seconds, I received his response: I don’t think I’ll be home soon enough. How’s your work coming? It was a delicate situation. I needed to coax him back to his parents’ house without making it sound like a demand. I tried reverse psychology: It’s coming. I can try making pizza. My brows furrowed when my bluff was called with an irritating exclamation: Sure, you can try! I opted next for a more direct, passive-aggressive approach: I thought you were just dropping off the gift. David retorted: You’re working so I’m visiting. This wasn’t good. I was stranded with ingredients while my man was out gallivanting. The downside, or in this case also an upside, of texting, is that David could not hear the intended tone of sarcasm and the unintended air of bitterness in my final three words: Okay. Have fun.

Frustrated, I opened every cabinet in search of an alternative. Both David and I knew I’d never break down and actually cook. A ball of dough! I wouldn’t know the first thing about handling it. Despite David’s goading, or in spite of it, my indignation rose to a feverish pitch; my increasing hunger only further fed my aggravation. I was about to slam my hand on the granite counter in exasperation when a strange notion occurred to me. What if I tried? Sure, it could ruin my mood for the rest of the week if I failed, but if I succeeded... If I pulled it off, I’d not only have my desired meal, I’d also regain some dignity. David didn’t think I would. And I didn’t think I could. There was only one way to prove both of us wrong, only one way for me to win this little one-sided argument I was having, and that was to fetch that goddamn ball of dough from the stupid fridge.

Fortunately, that wooden platter with a handle David used to slide pizza into the oven had been left to dry on the counter, so I wouldn’t have to go crazy searching for it. Most of the time, while David is cooking at home, I tend to stand on the other side of our counter, reading a magazine and sipping wine while chatting with the chef. Like watching the safety video on an airplane, I never really paid attention to what he was doing. And yet, in my time of need, it became clear to me that I had somehow gleaned the essentials.

I hunted and gathered components almost mindlessly, afraid that if I deliberated, I would most certainly bungle things. For his gourmet pizzas, David uses grapes, Fontina cheese, and bacon. There was some leftover meat sauce he had made for pasta, but I craved that salty-savory-sweet combo. Robert followed the sound of commotion into the kitchen just as I was discovering there was no bacon. The audience of my father-in-law guided my reaction — if alone, I might have thrown up my hands in defeat, but now I stoically searched for a replacement, letting out an elated A-HA! when I uncovered a trove of sliced Hungarian sausage in one of the drawers.

I enlisted Robert’s help, asking him to render the fat from the sausage in a skillet (thus sparing myself the fear of splatter). Meanwhile, I shredded the Fontina, not an easy task given how soft that cheese is. I knew from past complaints about the house heating up that I was supposed to set the oven as high as it could go, which, for this oven at least, was 500 degrees.

By the time I’d finished cutting the grapes in half, Robert was done rendering. Now all I had to do was deal with the dough. An infuriating endeavor, as the taffy-like glop kept sticking to my hands and bouncing back on itself. I poured corn meal all over it, hoping that might minimize the glue effect, but the tiny beads just disappeared into the dough as I tried to flatten it. I lifted one end and let the whole thing sag, but then it began to tear. With no other options at the ready, I grabbed the olive oil. I was surprised I didn’t gag when I used my hands to work the slick stuff over the dough — my relief at having it not stick to me eclipsed the disgust I would have normally felt for greasy fingers.

I smothered the dough with the sausage, sliced grapes, and cheese, and slid it into the oven using the wooden-plate thingy. Thirteen minutes later, I pulled out a funky-shaped pizza with an absurdly thick crust and sliced it up. Upon tasting my creation, I was overcome with surprise and delight — my pizza was delicious. For the first time, I could almost understand why people go to all the trouble to cook.

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26

Ah, the glow of accomplishment. It's always good to get outside your comfort level and try something new, especially when you end up succeeding.

Oh, and please tell me you meant "grape tomatoes" were on the pizza, so I can sleep at night. I shudder when fruits are mixed in with an entree like pineapple/canadian bacon pizza or those mandarin oranges in a chicken salad. :-)

Jan. 14, 2009

I hate to be the bearer of bad news for you, but those are "grape" grapes, like the kind you use to make wine. But don't knock it! You know the whole "salt, sugar" thing? Salty and sweet is a great combo, and the grapes add a juicy light sweetness that perfectly counters the salt and savory of the Hungarian sausage. SO GOOD. ;) And I made it a second time for the video. Oh, and we have some more grapes left in the fridge, so, well, you know. I might just do it again.

Jan. 14, 2009

I haven't rocked the beanie-weenie in a long time.

  • Joe
Jan. 14, 2009

Franks & beans have their own special place in my heart. Thanks to Mom. ;)

Jan. 15, 2009

Hmm, grapes actually sounds like it might be tasty. I remember the first time I tried to spread pizza dough. I didn't have a rolling pin so I used a tall glass to roll it. It stuck to the cup so I tried powdering it and got it all over the kitchen. When it was all said and done, man did it taste good.

Jan. 18, 2009

Salty sweet rocks -- think fried chicken & waffles, salted caramels, sea salt on dark chocolate, and so on. My friend Jen puts jelly and tobasco sauce on her pizza. I like to order pizzas with all the "P"s = pepperoni, pineapple, pepperoncini, then parmesan & red pepper flakes. Oh, yeah, mmmm.

Never thought about a rolling pin. Is that what they're for? Man, I have much to learn. ;)

Jan. 18, 2009

I was of the no sweet with savory persuasion. I couldn't stand anything sweet on pizza, or in any savory dish, for that matter. Until.....one time someone brought in this really simple dish - cream cheese with pepper jelly on it. At first, I was grossed out. Then, I ventured in, and much to my suprise, it was really good!! I realized then how much I was missing out when I denied food that had the peculiar mix of sweet and savory. It is a gradual sophistication of the taste buds that allows you to move on to foods you had convinced yourself were off-limits. When I was a kid, I hated fish, blue cheese, cherries, and green beans. All favorites now. But I still won't put pineapple on my pizza!

Jan. 18, 2009

I'm ok with the whole sweet/salty idea. In fact one of my favorite treats is chocolate-covered potato chips. But when the sweetness comes from a fruit and the savory is a main entree, it just makes me gag. I've tried it many times and I still can't stand fruit on anything considered a "meal", like waldorf chicken salads with grapes in them or sweet & sour pork with pineapple.

Jan. 18, 2009

I have an idea for a new column....It's called "Crasher." But it's different than the existing Crasher. The new Crasher would involve Josh Board "crashing" on your couch. Do you think David would kick his ass? I bet they wouldn't get along well at all. Josh would always be playing HORSE and eating chocolate cake and talking to interesting black guys and David would always be taking photos and indulging in fine art and cuisine.

Jan. 18, 2009

Or maybe Josh could crash at Ollie's place and they could fight over the remote control. Who do you think would win?

Jan. 18, 2009

Ollie, hands down.

Jan. 19, 2009

MsGrant, I once heard the taste buds change every 7 years. I believe it, but I think it's more along the lines of what you're saying, as our palates grow more sophisticated, we can handle and appreciate greater combinations. I used to hate mustard, thought it was too sour, same with sour kraut, etc. Now I enjoy these flavors as much as any others. All this talk of food is making me hungry. ;)

Jan. 19, 2009

i just had to get pizza this weekend. it was because the one you made sounded so good, feel free to bring some to the office if you ever make it again...lol

Jan. 19, 2009

You can make a pizza with a combination of anything... here's proof: http://www.chachich.com/mdchachi/jpizza.html

To Pete, the column you propose should be called "Sofa Surfer."

Jan. 19, 2009

my fav pizza is a cold one from CPK it there BLT pizza But they have the best pizzas in general

Jan. 19, 2009

BLT pizza? That sounds like fun. My friend Josue makes flatbread pizzas with jalapeno jellies -- really hot, sweet, and savory. Ponzi, thanks for the link! Even more ideas!

Another classic is to put homemade bolognese or lamb ragu on the dough beneath the cheese. You just can't go wrong with anything pizza.

Jan. 19, 2009

It's true about our tastebuds changing...every 7 years sounds about right. The taste for sweets is the last to go. That's why many elderly people, oh, i know not JUST elderly people ;) but anyway they do love their sweets. And like to add salt to many food items. Well at least that's what i learned in nursing school, and by observing them in the nursing homes. Ahh, but then what do I know. I work in mental health now... Oh and I really miss San Diego!!!!!!!! I now keep in touch with you from Issaquah, WA. xoxo

Jan. 19, 2009

That's it... I'm going to buy a pizza stone and get some Trader Joe's dough.

One of my favorite pizzas is a "Hot Hawaiian" - ham, pineapple and jalapenos. That and an ice cold Modelo Especial - perfect.

Jan. 20, 2009

my husband wants to try the hot hawaiian... as for salty and sweet, next time you have a pesto save some of the sauce and put it on a salad with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing reduction. YUMMY i also love to get the sweet and sour dressing and mix it with the blue cheese dressing from CPK creamy and sweet. Enjoy

Jan. 21, 2009

Nice article Barbarella. I love salty and sweet. When I visit my mother, she goes crazy when I buy a melon, cut it up and sprinkle with salt.

Jan. 21, 2009

My dad puts salt on his watermelon. Everyone thinks he's crazy.

Jan. 21, 2009

"my husband wants to try the hot hawaiian..."

that has to be the best innuendo I have heard in a while. - Joe

Jan. 22, 2009

Magicsfive, thanks for keeping up all the way from Issaquah! As I get older, I can handle spicier and spicier foods. The tongue ages too!

Jan. 22, 2009

Heff aka puffin puts salt on his melons too. They showed it on The Girls Next Door

re:Joe hope you like this one too but i mean the fruit...lol

Jan. 23, 2009

The wife bought me a William Sonoma pizza stone for V-day.. and she made up some pizza dough from scratch for me and the kids.

It turned out perfect.

thanks for the inspiration! - Joe

Feb. 17, 2009

Any time, Joe! I just picked up a small gourmet pizza cookbook at Williams Sonoma. So many fabulous ideas! And the pictures alone are mouth-watering. Have fun with that stone, and don't forget to cornmeal!

Feb. 17, 2009

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