Thursday, March 02, 2006

Dinner with old friends

Dear friends of ours and their two children came by for dinner last night.

They live in Washington, on the Olympic Peninsula, but a rather convoluted set of circumstances brought them through Chambana on a road trip. (For the full story, in four part orchestration, with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back, see their blog:

These friends and Ellen and I have some history--we've been friends since high school, and we have not always gotten along spectacularly, but they have also been true friends. When we all lived in Seattle, and we worked downtown, one of them was a partner in diner-surfing and coffee guzzling. This visit was nice, in part because the long past, which sometimes occupies far too much space in our conversations, was hardly part of the conversation at all. I'm thrilled to see their lives seeming so good.

It is so hard to believe we are adults. I often feel wierd about this, and all the more so when I see my old friends. I know we're not kids any more, but I still feel like pretty much the same person I was back when we used to hang out more often. I wonder if I will ever feel any different.

It was lovely to see all of them--in fact, it was exactly right. I often wish they (and certain other people...) lived in town so that we could do this more often. They got here about 5:00, we made pizza, drank piles of wine, and sat and chatted till late in the evening. Around 6, just as we were getting ready to cook the pizzas, Lynn came by (she and Xanthe and Bella, our daughters, were working on an album of children's songs). The house was warm, noisy, a little higglety-pigglety, but not too chaotic; just the way I like it. In fact, this is the essence of hominess to me: warm lighting, a fire in the grate, a kaleidescope of noise and cooking smells.

Pizza, fresh made, is a perfect food for these sorts of dinners. It's special and a bit of work, but easy to eat and easy to serve to a big crowd. I like to make 8-10 inch pizzas so you can have lots of different kinds. Figure on one per person.

Making the dough is not quick, but it isn't really very hard, and is absolutely worth it. Ellen usually makes it, but I did last night and it didn't turn out badly. We use a recipe we got from Eating Well twenty years ago or so:

1 tsp active dry yeast
1-2/3 cups UAP flour (I really think King Arthur is the only flour to use)
1 cup cake flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water

Mix 1/4 cup water and yeast. Stir until dissolved.

In a mixing bowl combine 1-2/3 cups flour, cake flour and salt (I've started running dry ingredients in the cuisinart for a few seconds instead of sifting). Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in yeast mixture. Gradually stir the flour, adding the rest of the water.

Knead until smooth and not sticky, about 10 minutes. (you may need to add more water). Dough will be fairly moist.

Let rise in an oiled bowl 2 to 2-1/2 hours, or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down and knead breifly. Divide into pieces, make into balls and flatten into discs.

I bake on a very high heat, and when I put the pizzas in the oven, I also like to throw in a cup of water, to make a steamy environment. It makes the dough a little chewier.


Blogger Tell Them It Was a Friend of a Friend said...

Glad to see a fellow cheese lover guiding cheese to its highest evolution!

Salad HA!

10:10 PM  
Blogger Lynndi said...

Yes, I was there!
The bubbles in your wine were pretty, and as I loitered where that pesky wall once separated your kitchen from the other areas of the house, I thought we should install a periscope all along the dining room ceiling, past the fireplace, across the living room, up the stairs, and into the kids' rooms so we could know at all times what the screaming was about. But then I had to go, so we never got around to it. I made a salad, though! And then tonight I made another salad, and the Jessbot made some pesto pasta, and X set up the living room for a big surprise party for ME. It was as fabulous as the goings on over at your place! Better than the restaurant.

10:15 PM  
Blogger The Modesto Kid said...

A good trick with pizza, is to put one or two bricks in your oven while you are heating it. It will take a bit longer to heat up but when you open the door to put the pizza in, it will retain its heat better. This makes the edges of the crust puff up nicely and get a good crust.

8:45 AM  

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