Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Purity of Pizza

Modern life is far too complicated, and a trip to Starbucks reinforces my suspicion that we've got no one to blame but ourselves. Sometime in the last decade and a half, we went from regular or decaf to tall, grande, or venti; non-fat or 2%; caramel, vanilla, or hazelnut; and my personal favorite, 'with whip.'

So I decided to make pizza.

What's simpler than flour, yeast, and water? The recipe for the dough comes from Alice Water's Chez Panisse Pasta Pizza & Calzone. She uses a small amount of rye flour for a bread-y flavored pizza dough. I love kneading the sticky dough and seeing the fine flecks of grain distributed throughout.

My favorite is also the most basic: pizza margherita. You don't need a recipe, but you need great ingredients. The best mozzarella you can find is a must. Grande Cheese in Wisconsin makes a deliciously creamy whole milk mozzarella. I bought an eight-ounce slice from Andronico's and had more than enough for two 12" pizzas.

I always keep a batch of tomato sauce in the fridge. Again, there's no recipe. Roast some tomatoes in a pan with garlic, oregano, and olive oil. When the tomatoes are slightly charred and have collapsed, they're ready to be pureed into a sauce that's the essence of tomato.

And when the pizza comes out of the oven, shower it with a handful of torn basil. It's one of the best aromas in the world.

We sat down with pizza margherita and glasses of 2000 Ridge Paso Robles Zinfandel. Simple, satisfying, and no mind-bending customization required.

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