I have the two books on my little work table in the kitchen (where my laptop sits, and permission slips for the kids' field trips, and little scribbled notes to myself, and the cable that connects my camera to my laptop. And sometimes my camera, if I'm shooting food pictures. And a stack of other cookbooks. And mail. And drawings the kids did in school. And a couple of pens. The usual stuff.
Anyway. In an effort to avoid doing the dishes in the sink, I started reading through this first book. It's a beautiful day today - a good day to maybe, oh, GRILL something for dinner instead of cooking inside. And also, we have asparagus coming up like they're on one of those speeded up films of a flower blooming on a nature program - from bud to full flower in a minute. These asparagus grow an inch or more every day. Bill already harvested one, sauteed it in butter and salt and pepper the other night, and graciously shared it with me. It was delicious.
So I thought, hey, maybe we can put some asparagus on our grilled pizzas!
And as I'm flipping through the different pizza recipes, lookie what I found:
The Asparago. It's made with asparagus (of course), pesto, pine nuts, and brie.
Some of my favorite things in food. It must be a sign of some sort.
So then I went back to the beginning and read about how Chef Priebe and his wife, Karla, achieved their success with the relatively novel idea of grilling pizzas. And I headed into the first chapter.
Grills & Gadgets.
The Grown-Up Toy section! Be still my heart.
First off, he recommends a charcoal grill for grilling pizza "because nothing beats the flavor of cooking over a natural fire." Amen to that. Pictured in that chapter is a Weber grill - JUST LIKE THE ONE WE HAVE!
I look through the next few pages...the indoor grills (we have a reversable one - ridges on one side, flat on the other...the tools (rolling pins, pastry brushes, knives, bench scraper or dough blade, mezzaluna (which I don't have but wish I did)...woo hoo - we're all set in those departments.
And next chapter - Pizza Dough.
Loaded with step-by-step photos and accompanying text, this chapter makes you want to dust your hands with flour and start kneading. Or at least that's the effect it has on me. Pizza Dough - like any basic bread dough - is not hard to make, it just requires a little patience and love and a few pantry items like flour and yeast and salt... And learn to knead by hand. It's theraputic. Meditative. Hands-on. Get in touch (pun INTENDED) with your food. It's good for you.
Anyway. Next chapter addresses Sauces and Toppings - - or as this chapter is subtitled - "The Building Blocks." Things like "Herbed Grill Oil," "Chunky Tomato Basil Sauce," "Roasted Red Pepper Strips" and on and on. Remember, when you're grilling a pizza, you're cooking it pretty fast, so you don't have time to cook uncooked ingredients once they top the pizza. So to make things work better, and to develop and enhance the natural flavors of these simple ingredients, cook them first and then just warm them back up on the grill. The chapter finishes up with a guide to constructing your own pizza. You want a nice balance of flavors and textures, and you don't want to pile it high - this isn't the Glutton Special at your local pizza delivery joint. "Go for a mosaic pattern rather than a big pile," Chef Priebe advises. Food appeals first to the eyes - so you want to make your pizza to look good as well as taste good.
Next chapter is about how to grill your pizza - trust me, it can be tricky, and that grill is hot, so you may have some less-than-successful adventures at first. But. Chef Priebe, again with all the step-by-step photos and directions, practically takes you by the hand and helps you through your first grilled pizza experience. I wish I'd had this book at my disposal the first time I grilled some pizzas. I don't think I would have had to call so many of my early attempts "blackened...Cajun style."
From that point on, the book explodes with one mouth-watering recipe after another. If we didn't have asparagus waving at us in the back yard, I think I'd still be sitting here, book in hand, drooling, and undecided.
Oh - and those piadinas. Nice little grilled, folded flatbread sandwiches. They look really good, too. Have to try them soon as well.
Also included are recipes for salads, which go so nicely with a warm and toasty pizza.
And the dessert chapter! Just listen to these - "The Apple Tart" "Grilled Banana Split" "Grilled Pears Saint Andre" - and, in keeping with the TWD theme this week - "The S'more." But the one that really caught my eye was this one - "Grasshopper Pie" - He writes "Before I was old enough to drink, I watched my dad mix up a green concoction in a blender and pour it into highball glasses. I begged him for a taste, only because I loved its emerald color. he said it was a Grasshopper. It was cool and minty with a hint of white chocolate and cream. Grasshoppers get their color from Creme de Menthe. I've used it in this dessert pizza, combined with marshmallow and an Oreo crumb crust, for a minty chocolate flavor."
Wow. My childhood is calling. My mother used to make a Grasshopper Pie...it wasn't an ice cream pie, either, which I've seen in more recent years. No, it was creamy and minty and that stunning bright green color. I loved it as a child. Hmmm...there's another idea.
Okay, enough of the talk.
Here's the deal:
1. Starting NOW, in the COMMENTS, I want to hear about the very best pizza you ever ate. And if there's a story behind it, so much the better, because I like food stories. So tell me - what was on the pizza, and/or what was going on AROUND the pizza that makes it so memorable.
2. The contest will END tomorrow night at midnight, Eastern Standard Time. If you want to share a story after that point, that's more than fine with me, but you won't be eligible for the contest.
3. This will be a random drawing, because try as I might, I couldn't figure out how I would pick the "best" pizza story. Every person's story is the best to them, right? So - a-random we will go.
And that's IT. Winner will receive, direct from the publisher, a brand new copy of Chef Criag Priebe's "Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas." Trust me - it's a lovely book and if you like to grill (indoors OR out) and like pizza - you want this book.
Okay, people, tell me your Very Best Pizza stories!!! GO!