Friday Night Pizza Toss-Down

Chris and I are both high school teachers. I know what you’re thinking – how nice to only work half a year and have so much time off. Yeah, well, my answer to you would be that the old refrain from judging until you walk a mile in our shoes. The kids were crazy this week and we both felt like they had kicked our butts. So when we got home at 5 (yes 5, not 3 like most people think), we headed straight for the kitchen. I had called Chris and told him to pick up some pizza dough at the local market. I thought the process would be calming – we’d be cooking, saving money vs. ordering delivery, and I was all about carbs after the day I’d had. He agreed. He got home with the dough and we started the discussion. I had visions of a regular crust topped with good red sauce, lots of cheese and some sort of meat. He was thinking a really thin white pie. This was the start of the “Pizza Toss-Down.” We’d split the dough and have a little friendly competition, concentrating enough on beating the other that teenagers would be pushed out of our minds for the evening.

I began with a salsa simplice, or a simple red sauce. I emptied a 28-oz. can of Tuttarossa crushed tomatoes with basil into a bowl. I added a few shakes each of salt, basic and garlic seasoning, red pepper flakes and oregano. Next I added about a tablespoon each of garlic-infused olive oil and tomato paste (I recently discovered Amore’s line of products in a tube – tomato paste, garlic paste, and more, and I highly recommend them as being much more flavorful and efficient than cans). A pinch of sugar and a good stir finished it off. I heated my pizza stone in a 500-degree oven and began to stretch my dough. Let me admit that I am not good with dough. After a lot of stretching and pulling my dough was a strange oval shape, but I was hungry and getting frustrated so I went with it. I carefully spread the dough out on the hot stone and started to prep my toppings - some fresh mozzarella and a Chianti-salami that I bought at Trader Joe’s. After spreading on some of the sauce, I added the cheese and salami, then I sprinkled a handful of shredded four-cheese blend and some salt and pepper. It went in the oven for 25 minutes. Here’s what Chris had to say: “The sauce is delicious. It has a ripe density of flavor and really makes the pizza stand out.” We both thought it was a delicious pie although I thought the crust was a little too bread-like for me. Mine is the picture on the bottom.

Chris started his pizza journey by turning on the gas grill. We have grilled pizza before and loved the results, so my stomach was gurgling happily with high expectations. He sliced up four cloves of garlic razor-thin (think the dinner-in-prison scene from GoodFellas) using a knife. He got so into it, when he was done he said, “Wow. That was therapeutic. I was practically hypoxic for a minute.” Did I mention he’s a science teacher? Luckily, I’m a Latin teacher and I can figure out scientific words like hypoxic – lacking oxygen. In other words, he stopped breathing but in a good way. He, with more skill and patience than I, tossed the dough to a paper-thin level, brushing it with olive oil as he went. I saw him walk through the kitchen to the back deck with the dough over his arm and followed him. He threw it on the grill and brushed it again with oil. Then he sprinkled on the garlic and a few slices of fresh mozzarella. He only cooked it for a few minutes on a medium heat. After one taste, my first comment was, “It’s like the thinnest, least greasy, crispiest garlic cheese bread I’ve ever had.” C's is the picture on the top.

The verdict: It was very difficult to decide who won our little competition. Both pizzas were so different from the other that we couldn’t really compare. But that just means we were both winners, and with a Tenimenti Conti Novi Valpolicella Ripasso (2005), we settled into a wonderful start to a cold winter’s weekend.

No comments: