We like to fancy ourselves natural cooks, but the fact is, most of the time we’d be lost without recipes. At least I would. Sarah has a knack for remembering the ingredient lists — which comes in handy when determining if we have to go shopping on the way home from work — or, if the need arises, improvising her way to a tasty dinner. Me, I’m a slave to the printed word.
Pizza’s the big exception. Once we’ve got our pizza crust ready to go, it sits on the counter like a blank canvas, daring us to paint our masterpiece. But with improvisation comes risk, and we like to mitigate that risk by only making pizza for or with crowds, which necessitates a wide variety of flavors, out of which surely some will be hits.
On Sunday we invited Scott, Rebecca, Emily and Henning over for a pizza-making party. Rebecca works part-time at The Chopping Block and also fancies herself a bit of a cook. We wanted to make something with the group, something where we’d all get to collaborate in the production of dinner. We settled on pizza, then went to supermarket to stock up on as many toppings as we could find. Our smorgasbord consisted of:
Prosciutto, leeks, garlic, olive oil, pesto, tomatoes, tomato sauce, figs, portobella mushrooms, chicken sausage, spinach, pine nuts, japanese eggplant, olives, basil, thyme, rosemary, fried sage, dried oregano, mozzarella balls, shredded mozzarella, aged provolone, parmesan, goat cheese, and kosher salt.
We went to work. I had made enough dough for four big crusts earlier in the day, which we then split into eight halves, giving us each enough dough for an individual pizza, plus two more for collaborative fun. Well, those individual sizes ended up being a bit larger than expected, and by the end of the night, after eating six whole pizzas between the six of us, we practically had to roll ourselves from room to room. (And yet, somehow, we found room for ice cream, strawberries and hot fudge.)
The pizzas were all outstanding. We eased ourselves into a system of eating the last pizza while both waiting for the next to cook and watching the one after that get prepared. We rated them all, on a scale of one to six. Here’s how they ranked, ordered from awesome to sublime:
- Olive, tomato & mozzarella: 23
- Pesto, tomato, goat cheese & pine nuts: 27
- Potato, herbs, garlic, sea salt and spicy garlic oil: 31.5
- Mushroom, spinach & herbs: 32
- Chicken sausage & leeks in a calzone: 32.5
- Figs, fig jam, proscuitto & provolone: 35
(I wish I could remember all the ingredients from each of them, or had pictures to go off of. They moved from oven to cutting board to mouth so quickly, I had no chance.)
After six pizzas, we still had enough dough for two more. We made one and slipped the other dough in the freezer. No one was in the mood to eat anything else, so that last pizza — leeks, eggplant, spinach, basil, provolone and sea salt — got slotted for the next day’s leftovers. It’d be unfair to slip it into the rankings, but I know, had it made a showing, it would have done well. I’m planning on making it again next week. Maybe I’ll even write it down and turn it into a recipe.