Last month I hit the half century mark. I thought I’d celebrate it in relative quiet considering I’d had my “surprise 50th party” last year. Long story. The upshot of it is that a girlfriend wanted to host what she thought was my 50th and pulled it all together LAST YEAR. It was great! She has both a pool and a hot tub in her back yard so it was a grand time. There was barbecue, a large selection of desserts, a ton of friends, including some I certainly wouldn’t have expected, and, most importantly, lovely gifts. It was great. I must admit that I was a bit puzzled at the timing, but then I thought, “well, it’s fun” and left it at that. A few days later, she posted pictures of the event on an online bulletin board we belong to and it hit me that she’d gotten the timing of the party wrong. Why did it hit me then??? Because she titled the album “Roxx’s 50th”. We laughed about it and chalked it up to a REAL surprise.
Fast forward now, one year later. This time, it really is my 50th. We’ve planned dinner out on the actual day of (a Wednesday) and the Sunday I’ve planned a barbecue with just the kids and a couple of good friends. Sunday arrives. I have a whole spate of errands to do so we set out early, my significant other insists that we stop at our favourite breakfast place for Eggs Benedict. We did our errands and started to head home. It needs to be noted here that he gave a valiant effort at keeping me out longer. As it was, we arrived about ten minutes early. Afterwards I told them that if they’d let me know, I would have made sure that I didn’t show up early. For some reason, they did not appreciate the humour in that!!!
But it was awesome!!! I can’t thank my children and their partners enough for putting together such a wonderful surprise for me. I was not only surprised, I was taken aback. In the time I was gone, they transformed my house into party central. The back yard had tents, balloons, tables, chairs, people!!! And presents!!! And FOOD!!! Seriously though, my kids, with my daughter orchestrating, had put in a gigantic effort. She made spiedini (Italian style shish kabobs), battered zucchini, roasted rosemary potatoes. There were veggies, chips, bread, cheeses. But the hit of the party was PIZZA.
When my daughter makes pizza, she takes no short cuts. I run out to the local Italian bakery and buy ready made dough. Marina makes hers from scratch. I think she made 12 or 15 for that day. And at the end of the night, there was barely enough left over for lunches.
Make 4 cups of all purpose flour into a mound on a large board or use your kitchen table.
Make a well in the centre and throw in 3 generous teaspoons of salt, one teaspoon (or more, or not at all) rubbed oregano, and 3 generous tablespoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil.
While stirring gently to combine all ingredients, add 1 ½ cups warm water into which you have dissolved 2 teaspoons traditional yeast.
Once it’s all well combined, form into a ball and knead on a lightly floured surface for five minutes or until the dough feels smooth and elastic, form back into a ball.
Liberally coat a non metal bowl with olive oil, roll the dough ball in it until it’s totally coated then cover with a clean cloth and set in a warm place to rise for at least two hours, though longer is better.
When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down, knead another minute or so and then stretch out to fit your pan. Marina prefers to just pull it and shape it by hand, though you can use a floured rolling pin if you prefer.
Once the dough is settled in the pan, poke it in several places with a fork and then allow to rest about half an hour before topping.
For toppings, we use a jar of pureed tomato that we season with salt, pepper, oregano and a drizzle of olive oil and coat the dough lightly. From there we keep it fairly simple, because that’s our preference, and use only one or two topping choices besides cheese for each pizza. Sliced mushrooms, zucchini, prosciutto, bacon, sliced bocconcini, grated parmesan, thinly sliced peppers, roasted chicken, sausage thinly sliced, thinly sliced parboiled potatoes, or any of your favourites.
Cook in a 425 oven for ten minutes, then pull them out, top with shredded mozzarella and return to the oven for approximately ten more minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when the cheese is melty and gooey and slightly browned.
We make a white version as well. Instead of the tomato, we coat the dough lightly with olive oil then sprinkle it with seasonings; salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, cayenne, garlic etc., again, it’s purely a matter of personal preferences and tastes. We don’t use mozzarella on white pizzas, though we do sometimes sprinkle them lightly with grated parmesan.