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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Celebratory Pizza

I have yet to meet a kid who didn't like pizza. I have met many who look at falafel with disgust. However, my neighbor Carla's daughter isn't one of them. Mads is the single-most adventurous foodie of a child that I've ever met. And yesterday, she turned nine.

In the spirit of the day, we invited her and her mom over for dinner and cake. I learned about Mads' love of falafel on a day when her mom was running late at work and we took her to our apartment off the school bus. Dinner that night was falafel and though they were not staying for dinner, Mads was so excited about the prospect of this Mediterranean dish that I doggie bagged a few balls for her, for the road. So for the birthday dinner, falafel sounded perfect. Art and I commenced to the local Dave's, which is conveniently in walking distance from the apartment. Now, I have yet to make myself some homemade falafel, though I've always wanted to and will for a future blog, at an as yet undetermined time. Instead, we purchase the health food boxed mix falafel. Pretty much an add water and bake in the oven deal... not bad healthwise, due to the ability to bake instead of fry.

Of course, when I got to the store, I discovered, in dismay, that they had very recently stopped carrying falafel mix and I had no idea how much of what ingredients I'd need to make it from scratch. It was back to the drawing board, but, being in a store, it was hard to list out possible options. Instead, I opted for the age-old classic: pizza.

When I say pizza, I don't mean Marcos or Little Caesars or even Digorno or BoBoli crusts. I mean from-scratch crust with fresh ingredients. I have long since ceased eating store-bought pizza for the superior taste and whole wheat of a good homemade crust. The recipe I use is straight from the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver. I make their friday night pizza crust and then the group adds their favorite toppings to the two large-sized thin crust pizzas that result.

Art adds all the meat he can lay his hands on, plus mushroom, onion, and of course, cheese. Garet won't eat a pizza with anything more than the standard cheese pizza. For my part, I usually use a migor amount of cheese and a lot of sauce, plus whatever veggies are handy, but recently, I've discovered a delicious recipe. Instead of sauce, I use ranch dressing. Then a thin layer of cheddar, followed by diced brocolli florets, carrots, red pepper, and mushrooms. Then a thin layer of moz. cheese. For the purpose of the party, Art did a whole pizza with his meat mix for him and Carla. I did half of the other pizza in my veggie-ranch and half in plain cheese for the kids. Mads loved her pizza, as well as the devil's food two layer cake I made to come after it, and Carla brought some actual French Champagne and Bellini mix for the adults and sparking pink lemonade for the kids, as well as five champagne flutes with which to toast the birthday girl.

The night ended up a success, but I couldn't have pulled it off without Barbara Kingsolver.

Friday Night Pizza Crust:

3 T yeast (one packet)
1 t salt
2 c wheat flour
1 and 1/2 c warm water
2 and 1/2 c unbleached flour
3 T olive oil

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water and add oil and salt to the mix. Mix flours and knead them into the liquid until a ball of dough forms. Let dough rise 30-40 minutes.

2. Add toppings.

3. Bake pizzas at 425 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until crust is brown and crisp.

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