Shaved Zucchini, Feta and Bacon Pizza and Writing Like a Motherf*&er

I started this blog because I wanted to write more.  I have always written, and have always loved to write, but since finishing my Masters thesis (and writing like a motherfucker for a year to do it) didn’t really know if I had anything else to say.  Then I started writing about food, and tapped into a seemingly neverending wellspring of inspiration for my words.

Shaved Zucchini Pizza | www.purplehousecafe.com

The thing was, the little go-getter in me also wanted people to read my writing.  Blogging was the perfect platform for me, and it wasn’t long before I was snagging freelance gigs here and there.  It’s a dream come true.

Shaved Zucchini Pizza | www.purplehousecafe.com

Recently, though, I’ve been on deadline for more freelance gigs than I’d ever imagined I would be!  This is a good thing – don’t get me wrong – but it means that instead of my writing consisting of staring dreamily out a cafe window with my latte in hand, waiting for inspiration to arrive, I have to just sit down and write.  Write like it’s my job.  Write, as one of my favourite authors, Cheryl Strayed, would say, like a motherfucker.  As in, get the damn words on the damn paper, inspiration or no inspiration.

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On Love and Pizza, Part Two: Pear and Prosciutto Pizza

..continued from Part One….

We got married, and eventually moved into a larger home just outside of town.  We revelled in the quiet of the suburbs and the swath of forest off our kitchen patio as we honed the art of stretching dough, finding the perfect combination of herbs, and experimenting with spicy salamis, aged cheddars and Parmesans.  And, as is wont to happen when a couple moves out to the ‘burbs, we began to talk about starting a family.  But, while my darling husband’s heart filled with images of couch forts and hopscotch, I couldn’t seem to shake my travel bug.  We agreed:  we would go on “one last adventure,” a two-week dream vacation in Italy, and then we would start “trying.”

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Perhaps I was afflicted with the same fertility as the garden in my new yard, but as my tomatoes ripened over the summer before our big trip, so did a little person tenaciously determined to become a part of our lives, Italy or no Italy.  Despite questioning the purpose of embarking on an overseas culinary adventure when one is not supposed to imbibe in such earthly (and decidedly Italian) pleasures as cured meats, unpasteurized cheeses and wine, I found myself looking down at my ever-swelling belly and a perfect margarita pizza in a trattoria in Rome that fall.  We ate our way around the country, unabashedly consuming entire balls of mozzarella, licking cones of rich gelato thrice daily, and ordering pizza everywhere we went.  Fresh basil, tart tomatoes, salty prosciutto, fragrant truffle oil and hot strands of mozzarella:  we were taking notes, inventing new flavour combinations, and wishing we had a pizza oven of our own.

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Now, the pizzas in our house are primarily of my husband’s creation.  As I sit on the couch nursing our baby daughter, the smell of roasted garlic wafts through the house and I hear the sound of my love chopping tomatoes in the kitchen.  He’s a more patient, detail-oriented tomato-chopper than I am.  Where I quickly smash and chop uneven hunks of seedy fruit, he carefully and methodically dices tiny little cubes that distribute across the crust much more nicely than my tomatoes do.  He is inclined to roast an entire bulb of garlic to mash and layer under spicy Genoa salami and fresh cheese; perhaps this is his way making my breastmilk pungently flavoured enough to ensure that one day our daughter shares our enjoyment of the food that has been woven through the fabric of our lives together.  I know I hope she does.

 

For the pear and prosciutto pizza –

Here’s what you need:

1 pizza crust – I will leave this one up to you: store bought, homemade, just add water…whatever you normally use

Two pears, peeled, cored and sliced thinly (any type)

1 small white onion, diced finely

~1 cup white wine

Cheese (whatever you prefer:  mozza, goat cheese, cheddar, whatever!)

Prosciutto

 

Here’s what you do:

Preheat your oven to 400F.

To make the base of the pizza, throw the pears in a saucepan and cover with white wine and a bit of freshly ground black pepper.  Bring the wine to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has been cooked off and the pears are nice and soft.  You don’t want this mixture to be too runny as it will make your pizza crust soggy.

Place the poached pear slices on your pizza crust – this is your base.  Add the onion, and then lay the slices of prosciutto over the pears and onion.  Add the cheese and cook until the crust begins to brown and the cheese is bubbly.  Enjoy!

On Love and Pizza: Part One

For some inexplicable reason, it seems as though new couples often find the need to engage in displays of culinary prowess in the early days of dating.  Maybe it’s the thought of a romantic dinner where the dining room is conveniently located in close proximity to the bedroom; or, should one be so cheeky, the thought of frying up some bacon together the next morning.

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As my now-husband and I clumsily fumbled our way through the heady days of infatuation, we often found ourselves in the kitchen.  I remember a meal of pan-seared scallops prepared in the galley kitchen of my apartment, browned in melted butter and tossed with garlic and chives, served with a side of trepidation in hopes of impressing my parents, who had arrived in town eager to meet the young man who had captured their daughter’s heart.  I remember cooking meals in the retro-styled kitchen of the house my lover shared with his buddies…or at least, looking into the cupboard and upon finding a box of spaghetti and a small bottle of Chili powder he’d picked up on a trip to Mexico, ordering from our favourite Chinese place instead.

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Above all other foods, my husband and I have always shown our love for each other with pizza.  Our first pizza was at my place just a few weeks after we met, and it was a test.  I have always been a fan of more adventurous flavour combinations when it came to my favourite slices, and so I wanted to see if the new man in my life would try something that might challenge his palate a little, which it appeared had been well-honed on a steady diet of chicken wings and Kraft Dinner.  So onto a pre-prepared crust went a thin layer of basil pesto, a handful of shrimp, and a sprinkling of cashews.  For some reason I have a greater recollection of the process of making this pie than of how it actually tasted.  I remember pulling out these ingredients – so incongruous with my dear man’s established pizza standards – and piling them onto the crust, looking up at him to gauge his reaction as I did.  Though he didn’t flinch, shrimp never did make it back into our pizza topping rotation.

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Of course there were many many regular old pizzas – pre-packaged crusts, sauce out of a bottle, flavourless pepperoni slabs and handfuls of mozzarella.  But then, something magic happened.  Not even a year after our courtship began, we bought a house together.  It was a newly renovated house in a rough, or, as our realtor preferred to say, “up and coming” north end neighbourhood.  Though the little two-storey place near the harbour had lovely charm, it also came with a back yard full of gravel and several years worth of fast food containers pitched over the fence by our neighbours.  Our first task was to turn it into a yard.  As the daughter of avid gardeners, I was cautiously excited about the idea of a garden of my own.  Over the course of weeks, gravel was replaced by grass, and I had a little plot of dirt, an intimidating carte blanche for the amateur green thumb.  I had no idea what to plant, until I found six little tomato plants for five dollars each at the local farmers market.  In they went, and I watched them blossom and grow and sprout dozens and dozens of hard green fruit.  That fall, I had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with.  After making litres of salsa and bottles of green tomato chow, I decided to roast a little garlic, chop a few romas still warm from the autumn sun, and throw the mixture on some dough with pepperoni and cheese.  And so it was that, oh so quietly and unassumingly, our pizza epiphany dawned.  Homemade sauce.  Our lives would never be the same.

…stay tuned for Part Two…but until then, enjoy our favourite classic pizza.

It starts with Dylan’s awesome tomato sauce:

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This is just a bunch of tomatoes chopped coarsely and boiled down for a couple of hours (until it’s started to reduce and caramelize – which you’ll see happen when your volume of sauce decreases and starts to turn a browner red) with a full head of roasted garlic (to roast garlic:  place bulbs – skin on – in a baking dish with a good few glugs of olive oil.  Roast at 400F until soft.  Remove the skins and add to your sauce).  We usually add salt and pepper to taste for seasoning, as well as oregano and thyme.

Sometimes, though, we don’t even cook the sauce in advance.  We just finely chop some tomatoes, add the garlic and some finely chopped onions, and spread that right on our pizza crust.  Up to you!

Then we add some really lovely salami – usually a spicy genoa – and a few red peppers, mushrooms and cheese.  We find that keeping the toppings to a minimum makes for a better ‘za.

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Enjoy!