Thursday, September 03, 2015

Eating Around the World - Italy

Our third stop on our culinary journey around the world was Italy. Collin and I debated whether my ancestral homeland of Germany, or his motherland of Italy should come next, each arguing in the favor of the other's country of familial origin. In the end we went with Italy because it's tomato season, and we had to do something with the abundance that's pouring in from our garden right now!

Of course, we had to make Pizza Margherita for our Italian supper. I used this recipe tutorial called "How To Make Pizza Like An Italian." The crust was good, but not vastly different than other pizza crusts I've tried. I think the thing that really makes Italian pizza authentic is a wood fired oven - in fact, in the article they say that "any real Italian pizza should always be cooked in a wood-fired oven; in fact, a pizzeria without one can’t even, legally, call itself a pizzeria!" Not having a wood-fired pizza oven, I'd have to say that this crust was just ok, and probably not a replacement for my favorite American pizza recipe, "Garlic Parmesan Pizza Crust". 

I also think that it would be better to turn the oven hotter than the recipe calls for in the Walks of Italy recipe. Pizza ovens are supposed to be HOT, and 400 degrees wasn't quite enough. I did like the part about par-baking the crust with the sauce before adding the toppings. It helped keep the sauce from being too liquidy, and made the pizza come out with a strong enough crust to pick it up and eat it with your hands.

The recipe made enough dough for two pizzas, so we made one on my pizza stone and the other as an Italian flag on a sheet pan. The pizza flag was super fun to make, but the blending the flavors like on the other pizza was tastier.

For the white stripe on the flag pizza we made homemade mozzarella. This was one of those decisions that, even in hindsight, I can't decide if it was crazy or not. Although the recipe (which I've made several times before) calls itself "30-minute mozzarella", it takes me over an hour and a lot of worry about if it'll turn out or not. I wouldn't make it just to put on pizza, but I thought making mozzarella with the girls would be a fun thing to do as an Italian specialty in itself. Plus, milk is super cheap at our Aldi these days, so we only had $1.69 and a lot of sanity to lose. Fortunately, it came out well in then end, and we have another big log of it for snacking left over.

Yesterday was also my birthday, so we had my favorite German chocolate cake (which is actually American, not German) with Italian Crema Gelato. On its own, the gelato wasn't quite as delicious as my favorite ice cream recipe, but as a foil to rich chocolate cake it was better than a super-rich ice cream. The main difference between ice cream and gelato is that gelato is lower-fat than ice cream, made mostly of milk thickened either with egg yolks or corn starch. It's also usually served at a slightly warmer temperature than American ice cream, which allows you to taste the flavor of the gelato better. Mmm.

Eliza was scared of the birthday candles, and started crying as soon as Collin handed me the cake covered in flames.

...And still crying...

She pretty much fussed until I put her to bed. She didn't even appreciate the amazing Bolga basket Collin gave me for my birthday. Bolga baskets, also called African market baskets, are made in Ghana, and I've wanted one since I was a newlywed and working as a cook in a hippie co-op where we sold baskets like this. The midwife I saw when I was pregnant with Eliza had a basket like this that she brought to prenatal visits instead of a black doctor bag, and it was awesome. And now I finally have my own, and I love it!

Oh, and here's an update on the peaches from the last post. Working as fast as we could, Collin, my mother-in-law, and I turned that bushel of peaches into 10 quarts of cold-pack peaches, 4 pints of spiced peaches (à la Miss Katherine from Holes), 18 pints of spiced peach jam, and three large freezer bags of frozen sliced peaches. And all that doesn't count the dozens of peaches we ate fresh over the weekend. This winter we'll be singing along with Greg Brown...

Peaches on the shelf
Potatoes in the bin
Supper's ready, everybody come on in
Taste a little of the summer,
Taste a little of the summer,
You can taste a little of the summer
My grandma's put it all in jars.

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