03 May 2009

[Insert Italian Sausage Joke]

This post is dedicated to another couple in Paris, as it wouldn't have been possible without them.

They recently shared with us some goodies shipped over from family in Italy, and we had to honor the gift by consuming it as elegantly as possible. As much as I'd personally have no problem simply biting chunks out of a hunk of twine-wrapped provolone cheese, or shave off chunks of spiced soppresatta sausage with my pocket knife like a country bumpkin, I have to pretend I'm as classy as the wife sometimes.

So we went all trendy and had it on the cutting board, along with a super fresh baby spinach leaf salad drizzled in olive oil, balsamic, and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. There's something almost primal about eating off of a well-used cutting board - maybe the way it invites you to pick things up with your fingers and lick off bits of olive oil here and there, rolling slices of cheese and meat between your fingers... That whole classy thing went right out the window.

Sticking with the board theme, we served up a from-scratch pizza the same way. The smell of the proofing pizza dough (yeast + warm water + flour) drove me nuts all day, and it remained untainted and perfect by being baked as the simplest and best of all pizzas: The Margherita. Mozarella cheese, tomatoes, basil. Nothing else.

The simplicity of this pizza demands the best ingredients, as it can reveal any and all faults. Our only shortcoming was not having a pizza stone or slab to really retain the necessary heat underneath the crust as it cooks. While our oven is pretty admirable, reaching 260ºC/500ºF, that's still nowhere near the heat of a proper pizza oven. And somehow, I don't think installing a wood-burning oven with a reflector dome to achieve 375ºC/700ºF would really be up to code... Mmm, but think of the tandoori we could make!

'Til then, these simple Italian fixin's will do us just fine... We'll put up with slightly less than perfect, as long as the ingredients are...

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