Licking up the Pieces

31 May

It was turkey and mashed potatoes day in the cafeteria today.  Our staff also celebrated the May birthdays today which comprised of a small potluck in the teacher’s lounge featuring the main event: chocolate cake.  By 10:45 this morning, I was licking an already licked clean gravy spoon and using my first three fingers for what they do best: smooshing moist cake crumbs one by one onto my fingers to make sure not one morsel got left behind.  Can anyone relate?  Anyone?

Mashed potatoes count as a veggie serving, right?

Well, without going into too much detail, I didn’t sleep much last night.  And if chocolate cake and mashed potatoes is what kept me going today, then so be it.  Our new addition, an adorable little sheepdog mutt puppy, is a handful.  It’s a good thing he’s cute – it’s hard to stay mad at him for long.  But, I have to keep remembering that he’s a puppy, and puppies do puppy things, that’s why they’re called puppies.  Ah, I’m very tired.

But I must say, our little Sig (named after Sig Hansen) is a dog after my own heart; he is a foodie.  Well, maybe not so much a foodie, but a fury vacuum cleaner.  It took Sig only a very short time to figure out that the kitchen is where the action is in our house, and the noise of the stove lighting and pantry opening will most likely trigger rogue crumbs.  Per my mom’s great teaching, I’ve learned to be a fairly clean cook.  That said, chopped herbs still often become airborne, and diced vegetables do have an occasional tendency to go AWOL.

Enter Sig.  He sits between my feet with one little paw resting on my toe, physically anticipating my next move.  After the accidental kick or two, followed by a few choice words, he realizes he’s in the way and moves to a less precarious, but still observable position.  Then, while plates are coming together and dishes are about to be served, there will be one more inevitable soft trip over the sneaky little fur ball, as, by that time, his anticipation is overflowing and he’s sprawled out on his belly, his tiny hiney sticking out from under the cabinets as he goes to town literally licking up the pieces.

Rob enjoys this, as he is the one who usually mops the floor every few days – Sig is making his job much easier.

Sig got a treat this weekend – it was Memorial Day Weekend – the first day of grilling season!  The first twinge of summer in the air!  So the three of us lived it up.  Starting early Sunday morning, I made breakfast cookies, and laid out my plan for the day.   Straying away from the normal burgers and hotdogs, we decided to grill one of our fave
foods: pizza.  My grilled pizza needs homemade pizza dough, and fresh ricotta.  Both completely doable, but need time (I generally like to bulk ferment my pizza dough in the fridge for a few days, but this time I kind of sped up the process by letting it rise twice, and then bulk fermenting for a shorter time).  Then it was onto the fresh ricotta and changing Rob’s face from are-you-crazy-disbelief to delicious amazement that we were actually going to make cheese.

We made the cheese, and the rest was super easy to put together.  My mom’s grilled mustard onions and some melon with pepper and prosciutto served as fabulous side dishes to our two grilled pizzas: White Pizza with Arugula and Spicy Mushrooms with Mozzarella and Basil.  Brushing the dough with almost too much olive oil and then throwing it onto a super-hot grill makes a bubbly, crispy, and wonderfully chewy way to prepare the base.  And on top of good dough, simple ingredients are all you need to keep the pizza modest and magnificent.  Both pizzas turned out well, but we agreed the White Pizza was a definite homerun (and when Sig gets older, maybe he’ll even be treated with the crust, rather than just the crumbs).

During the cooking process, Sig chased us around, hopping from the kitchen to the backyard grill, sensing the tangible anticipation of the exciting dinner.  When we ate, he sat and looked at us – not begging, but in a way that was wondering why we got pizza while he got kibble.  Such is a dog’s life, I guess.  The night ended with a little bit of wine tasting and a very strategic game of Killer Bunnies with our neighbors.  With leftovers to look forward to the next day, we all went to bed happy and full (including Sig).  It was a fabulous way to celebrate the holiday.

But now, it’s time for a  nap…

Grilled White Pizza with Arugula (serves 4)

  • about 1/2 lb pizza dough, about the size of a softball (make yourself, or buy – Trader Joes has a good whole wheat dough ready to be cooked)
  • 1 c fresh ricotta (homemade is the best, but if you don’t want to venture into the cheese-making world, then find a really good brand)
  • 1/4 c finely grated parmesan regiano
  • 2 c baby arugula, rinsed and dried
  • 1/2 c olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • juice 1/2 lemon
  • sea salt and coarsely cracked pepper (fancy s&p) 
  • sprinkle of cornmeal 

Preheat the grill until about 500 degrees.  While grill is heating, prepare dough by sprinkling your surface with cornmeal.  Spread the dough out using the tips of your fingers pressing out equally around the surface.  Spread dough until you have desired thickness and shape (I like this pizza very rustic looking).  Liberally spread the olive oil on the top of the pizza, and bring out to the grill.  In a quick motion, lay the pizza dough on the grill, not over the direct flame (if using a gas grill).  Cover and let cook for about 5 minutes. 

After 5 minutes, spread the ricotta cheese and sprinkle the parmesan regiano cheese on the dough.  Then give a decent sprinkle of sea salt and cracked pepper.  Heat until ricotta is slightly melted and creamy, and the dough lifts off from the grill without any resistance (the hot grill gives the dough a very crispy crust with a chewy, airy center).  

Place on serving plate, and while hot, pour on the baby arugula leaves, a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of s&p, and squeeze the lemon on top.  Serve with a great oaked chardonnay and red pepper flakes (for those who like a bit of spice!). 







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