Monday, July 6, 2009

Hand Made Pizza Dough Attempt # 1

Few things give me a greater sense of satisfaction than cooking by hand.  To me, cooking by hand means soaking my beans and cooking them slowly all day long instead of opening a can. It means measuring out the flour and sugar for cupcakes instead of opening a box.  It means frosting that tastes a million times better than anything you'll ever get from a tub.  Handmade can be as simple as a bowl of fresh cut fruit to spoon on top of our yogurt.  Or as elaborate as ratatouille, with all the peeling, chopping, cutting, broiling, steaming and cooking that recipe involves. Whatever it is, I'd much prefer to make it by hand.  
Sometimes cooking by hand works out wonderfully.  Other times, the results are less that perfect.  I know that cooking requires time and often multiple attempts to get it right.  Still, I struggle with the less than perfect results because I have 3 little ones under foot, and time spent in the kitchen trying out new recipes is not easy to come by.  It means someone should probably be sleeping, and the other 2 happily occupied with play or helping me.  If it is a new recipe, the helping me part doesn't always work out so well--for me or the end result.  But I digress.  

Yesterday was one of those days when I wanted to try something new.  Pizza dough was it, I decided.  Usually I buy my dough from Trader Joe's.  it's whole wheat, it's cheap, it's fast and it's good.  Who could ask for more?  Me.  I just wanted to do it myself.  So I checked out some of my favorite blogs, sure that one of my blogging pals would have the perfect recipe.  No one did. Hmm.  Instead, I just found one that looked easy, fast and had good reviews and gave it a whirl. Literally, I gave it a whirl in the food processor.  Which I don't recommend, by the way.  Next time I'll mix entirely by hand.  Still the process felt good.  I love the smell of yeast.  The feel of dough in my hands and the simple happiness I feel when I set the dough to rising in a bowl. 
I was feeling so giddy from my handmade pizza dough, that I decided to try another new recipe. I am reading The Art of Simple Food, by Alive Waters.  It is a great cookbook.  Her recipe for Salsa Verde sounded so good I had to try it.  Besides, I have a lot of Italian parsley growing in the garden right now.  I made it outside, on the picnic table, so I could watch Lilly play on the slip and slide with her brothers. (see what I mean about distractions?)  Luckily this is a very easy recipe, so there were no problems.

A little bit later, I called my dripping kids to the picnic table for handmade pizza and salsa verde.  As is our way in the summer, more than 1/2 the group was nearly naked and the meal was accompanied by fruit fresh from the farmer's market.  I love summertime meals.
The pizza dough was not that great.  It was a little tough.  Maybe it was the whole wheat flour I used.  Or the food processor.  I have already researched some new recipes that I will be trying. Maybe tonight.  
The Salsa Verde, however, was fantastic.  I mean, really, really good.  It was wonderful on the pizza.  And so easy.  It was a nice change of pace from basil pesto, or tomato based bruschetta, which is what we usually have.  I will be making this again.  I wonder if I can freeze it like pesto?  More research. 
No pizza dough recipes today, but try the Salsa Verde.  You won't be disappointed.

Salsa Verde  (adapted from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food)
Combine in a small bowl:
1/3 cup coarsely chopped parsley (leaves and thin stems only)
Grated zest of one lemon
1 small garlic clove, chopped very fine or pounded into a puree
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
Mix well and taste for salt.  Let sauce sit a while to develop flavors.

Notes: Here are some things I changed to suit my tastes.  
I used 1/2 a clove of garlic.  It still had that nice garlic bite, but wasn't overwhelming.  Actually, the kids thought it was, but what do they know?
Also, I don't have a mortar and pestle to make the garlic paste.  But I remembered reading somewhere, that if you chop the garlic fine, sprinkle it with coarse salt and rub, you get a paste. I tried it and it worked great.  This means you don't have to add any more salt to the salsa.  
I also added a few squeezes of lemon juice for brightness.
Lastly, I ended up dumping the salsa into the food processor and giving it a few whirls.  I wanted the consistency to be more of a paste, a bit like pesto, but a little bit more coarse.

One last thing.  After all my feeling of happiness and serenity as I used my hands to make dinner for my family, what the boys ate mostly was bread and olive oil.  William, not really a fan of pizza anyway, ate 3 bites.  James ate a whole piece, but was unimpressed by the squash I added to the cheese.  They both declared the salsa "toooo spicy!"  Oh well, you win some and you loose some.  The important thing to remember is to never give up.
Lilly ate 3 pieces.  I love that girl.

1 comment:

Lillian said...

That's my girl........."I'd rather do it myself". I like that.