Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cooking and Housekeeping

My wife Karen doesn't eat gluten. Sometime I may write up a little post on the how and why of that, but for today it's enough to know that wheat-based products are usually off the menu at our house.

It's not as great a sacrifice as you might expect. Good corn- and rice-based substitutes exist for most products, such as pasta, and potatoes and rice fill a lot of gaps. Overall, the ban has made us better, more creative cooks. Still . . . when the wife's away, as she was for a business conference last night, the chef likes to play. With gluten.

My favorite gluteny (glutenous? gluttonous?) indulgence is scratch-made pizza and my favorite scratch-made pizza is a Margherita, whose classic ingredients are olive oil, sliced tomatoes (not tomato sauce), sliced mozzarella (not grated), and basil. Clean and simple.

Homemade dough is a piece of cake (heh!). Note that all the measurements below are eyeballed, not precise. For a small pizza, I start with about a cup of flour, a small spoonful of yeast (think 1 tsp), a big spoonful of sugar (think 1 Tbsp), a glug of olive oil or butter, a generous sprinkle of salt, then slowly add warm-hot water and mix/knead. You want the dough to ball up and just begin pulling away from the side of the bowl instead of sticking to it. Balance with more flour as needed. Too wet is better than too dry. Don't work too hard at it.

Set the bowl in a warm place (I float it in a hot water bath in the sink or a larger bowl) a few hours to let the dough rise. You can do the whole "punch it down, knead it and let it rise again" thing but I don't think it's necessary. Plop it out onto a floured board or counter and shape it into a crust. If it's sticky, keep sprinkling flour until it isn't. The ideal result has a smooth velvety rubbery texture and smells fantastic.

Simple ingredients: olive oil, sliced mozzarella, fresh basil from the garden, and sliced tomato (which could have come from our garden except we didn't happen to have any ripe last night). Why, it's practically health food!

Give the dough a light coating of olive oil, then layer on the tomatoes, basil and cheese. I add crushed garlic and a sprinkle of oregano. I also top it with a sprinkle of coarse salt (e.g., kosher or sea salt) so that the crust edge in particular comes out almost like a pretzel.


Get the oven as blazing hot as you can. I have used a pizza stone before but didn't find the results significantly better and the stone is hard to clean, so I don't bother. Pop it in, check it in 8 or 9 minutes, bake until the crust is golden and the cheese starts to brown. Finish with some Parmesan if you want.

This is actually a pretty big pizza for one person, although I managed to plow through it all by myself last night. I think it'd be just right for two, or maybe a dinner and some leftovers for lunch the next day. It's very easy to make; also easy to clean up. Dough-rising time requires some forethought, but the actual time devoted to mixing, slicing, kneading and other hands-on labor is probably less than 20 minutes. Highly recommended!

* * *

"Housekeeping," by which I mean some thoughts on managing and tidying my Internet life.

In addition to my original "Mom's Cancer" website, which is now static and basically just directs people here, I maintain these here Fies Files, a personal Facebook page (yes I will be your friend), and a Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow Facebook fan page. I try to minimize duplication and overlap. For example, I usually only mention WHTTWOT reviews on the fan page, unless they're especially noteworthy. I use my personal Facebook page for chatty little stuff that doesn't merit full blog posts, which I like to regard as more polished mini-essays with a point. I don't always achieve that, but that's the ideal.

Did I just imply that Facebook is pointless? Perhaps I did.

I've noticed a couple of things. One is that the blog draws fewer visitors than it used to unless I post a link on Facebook telling everyone there's a new post. Then they flock. I infer that fewer people check a regular roster of bookmarked sites, and instead rely on Facebook to alert them to new content. That's interesting to me. Now when I sit down to write something, I not only have to decide if it's more appropriate for Facebook or The Fies Files, but whether it's worth a post on Facebook directing people to The Fies Files.

I've also noticed that fewer visitors are commenting on blog posts, preferring to leave notes on the Facebook posts that link to them. That's also interesting to me. Do you start on Facebook, come here to read the post, then go back to Facebook to comment on it? I appreciate a Facebook "Like," which I take to mean "I read it and liked it but don't really have much more to say about it." But I miss the conversation over here. Facebook is so ephemeral: here now, gone in six hours. By comparison, a blog post is freakin' Stonehenge.

Fascinating how we use technology, how the technology trains us to use it, and how that changes what we say to each other.

That's as deep as I get first thing in the morning.


Emily said...

Ugh, I really dislike Facebook. Almost everything about it grates. I really have tried to use and like the site, but just can't make myself.

I miss Usenet (I am a dinosaur).

I use Google Reader to let me know when a site files a new blog post. So convenient! So much easier on my nerves than FB.


Mita said...

I am so making that pizza tonight, Brian! And I am NOT going to like the link to this post on facebook.

That being said, I am about to go like the WHTTWOT facebook page!

It IS strange, though. I miss the long commentary I would get on my old blog--which felt akin to actual conversation. Facebook "approval" doesn't seem to encourage much conversing, does it? At least that's been my experience. I think of facebook as a checking-in system, I guess. An "I see you." And then I hope for fuller conversations through other media or offline.

Brian Fies said...

I still do Usenet occasionally! There are a few good Groups left.

I am not a big fan of Facebook but it has probably done me more good than not, particularly staying connected with friends and family. Necessary evil for me.

And thanks for commenting!

Brian Fies said...

Mita, I hope the recipe works out for you. I think it's foolproof but fear I forgot to mention some crucial step that'll ruin everything. I know: be sure to oil the pan or sheet you bake the pizza on or it'll stick!

I agree with you about the deeper conversations that seem possible on blogs vs. Facebook. "I see you": I like that!

I fear we are short-attention-spanning ourselves into stupidity.

Billy said...

I'm glad you're on Facebook!
Otherwise I'd have a harder time keeping up with you.

Just when I thought I might organize my blog links into categories, like "writer's blogs", and "dog blogs" and "horse blogs" you go and blow me out of the water with cute puppy videos and cooking blogs to rival the Pioneer Woman. I just don't know where to categorize you!

Anytime you want to fix something with gluten you are welcome to come on over. That pizza looks wonderful! Maybe when I retire...if that day ever comes. (I doubt it...)

That said I agree it seems most folks are more focused on Facebook these days and less on the blogs. But I do have your blog linked to mine so I am watching you for when you post an update. What exactly does merit a blog post? It can be almost anything though perhaps not as little as a Fbk post.
Keep up the good writing and cooking!

Brian Fies said...

Can't put me in a box!

Brian Fies: Writer. Cartoonist. Dog Trainer. Pizza Maker. Pioneer Woman.

My next business card practially writes itself.

Mike said...

As usual, I agree with you ... which sometimes is why you get a "like" and not an essay in response. If I had Facebook to do over, I'd have two accounts -- one business, one personal, because friends can get buried in the detritus of reposted rants and artwork and such. What I find is that I not only don't email or check blogs as often because of it, but I also don't phone family because, hey, I know what they're up to. And yet Facebook isn't really searchable, it all scrolls down and disappears and "ephemeral" doesn't begin to cover its lack of substance.

Oh, and I like my pizza with tomatoes instead of tomato sauce, too.