Casa Mia

Casa Mia

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lent is here and so is Friday night pizza!

February is winding down, it's been snowing for 2 days and it's a Friday night during Lent. Though Lent is a time of fasting, repenting, mourning, and examining our conscience, I've always liked this time of year: maybe it's because I like the rituals of old Catholicism that involve mass in Latin, incense, bells ringing, novennas and holy water which resurface meaningfully during this period as we prepare for Christ's resurrection using ashes, reciting the Stations of the Cross and exchanging palm. While I giggled my way throughout church services back then, moaning all the while about having to give up candy, there were no complaints from me about no meat on Fridays.

Back in the day, fish wasn't all that it is today. Most of us didn't like it and those of us who did, like us Moli's, ate it sparingly - only on Fridays, Lent or not, and usually flounder or sea squab - no salmon, chilean sea bass or red snapper. But on Fridays in Lent we didn't necessarily dine on fish; sometimes there was spaghetti "aglia ool," (garlic and oil), pasta "vazool," (with beans), lentils or, hold on to your hats, canned sardines usually accompanied by some doughy, stretchy, basily, homemade pizza. Maybe because of the snow, it being a Friday in Lent and ipod tunes like "Build Me up Buttercup" and "Ferry Cross the Mersey" filling the kitchen, I was reminded of those days of yore and made homemade pizza... with sardines on the side.

My father loved sardines and my mother bought a tin of those boneless, skinless things in oil each week. Dad would gingerly peel back the top of the tin with a special key that was glued to side of it, being careful not to spill any oil on the tablecloth or counter, and not a one of us could do it but him. I don't recall my mother, sister or brother liking sardines but I sure did, so much so that my mother would put them into a sandwich on toast that I would take in my lunch bag when I was in grammar school. When I unwrapped the wax papered sandwich, the bread soaked with oil from the sardines, and took a bite from one of the cut quarters, my best friend, Kathy Porter, would publicly and loudly "ew" and "gross" and hold her nose until I wrapped up the remains and tossed it in the cafeteria garbage pail along with Kathy's sour milk container.

Tonight I ate sardines out of a flip top can, without the help of my father, the squishy toast and Porter whose zany ways and tastes in food have grown in leaps and bounds since she was an 11-year old tall, skinny girl frying up and eating her own peeled skin. (Gotcha back, Kath!) Ok so she would still hate the sardines but there's the homemade pizza....

Pizza Dough
(for 2 large pizzas)

2 packages of active dry yeast
1-1/2 C. lukewarm water
Pinch of sugar
4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. olive oil

• Sprinkle the yeast into 1/4 cup of lukewarm water with pinch of sugar. Let it sit for a minute or so and then stir it to mix. Keep in a warm place for about 5 minutes until the mixture doubles in volume.

• Mix the flour and salt in a bowl or large pot and make a well in the middle. Add the yeast mixture, 1 cup of lukewarm water and the oil.

• Gradually blend the flour into the liquid with your hands until all the flour is mixed in. If more water is needed, add a little at a time. The dough should form a ball but not be too dry or too tacky.

• On a floured surface, knead the dough until pliable, about 10 minutes. Put back into the bowl, dust with flour and cover with a plate or pot cover and kitchen towel. Keep in a warm spot for 1-1/2 - 2 hours. Punch down and let rise again.

Sprinkle 2 large cookie sheets with cornmeal. Divide the dough in two parts. Stretch each piece with hands and roll out to an oval/rectangle to fit the cookie sheet on a floured surface. You'll notice that homemade pizza dough is much softer and pliable than store bought so this shouldn't take much time.

Top the pizza with desired toppings. I made them simply with just tomato sauce and mozzarella. Earlier today I made the sauce using one large can of tomatoes, a clove of garlic, drop of olive oil, pinch of salt and several leaves of fresh basil. Don't puree these tomatoes - while the sauce is cooking, use a fork to squeeze the tomatoes and cook the sauce on low heat until it's reduced, about an hour.

When you spread the sauce, use your fingers to press it into the dough. Top with grated mozzarella, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with ground black pepper. Cook on the bottom rack of a preheated 500 degree oven for 10 minutes, making sure the bottom crust is browned.

You can’t really prepare in advance for this meal but if scheduled properly, you should have plenty of time to make it to Friday’s Stations of the Cross. Amen.


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