Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Monday, July 28, 2014

PANEM ET CASEUM

Three-Cheese Pizza - up close
Homemade three-cheese pizza with mozzarella, taleggio, Parmesan, and a shitload of black pepper.

Never mind bread and circuses... give me bread and cheese and I’ll be a happy camper. And what is a better exemplar of the glories of bread and cheese than the pizza?

[OK, there is the Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Made with good bread and a flavorsome cheddar or Gruy√®re, it’s a perfectly fine alternative... but that’s a story for another post.]

Having grown up in the New York area, pizza was a part of our lives from Day One. After all, I lived in Massapequa, a village on the south shore of Long Island that was called Matzoh-Pizza by many of the locals, owing to the relatively large proportion of Jewish and Italian residents. The local product consisted of two types of pies: the round Neapolitan, with a thin, floppy crust laden with cheese and tomato; and the Sicilian, a rectangular version with a substantially thicker and breadier crust. I was a Neapolitan fan from Day One... or at least as far back as I can remember.

When I left the northeast and moved to Texas, I was horrified to find that I had moved to a pizza desert. Oh, there was pizza a-plenty, but the Real Thing - that glorious Neapolitan pie of my youth - was thin on the ground, available in only a few places. Mostly there was the crap available from places like Pizza Hut and Pizza Inn... and, later, Domino’s. Year later, though, Houston was where I first discovered the Tuscan-style pie, with a shatteringly crisp crust that - as Laurence Simon was wont to say - you could slit your wrists with. Wow.

Pizza options abound these days. In our neighborhood - assuming you have no interest in the fast food offerings of Domino’s, Papa John’s, and the like - you have places like Capozzi’s, Aurelio’s and Uncle Maddio’s. Of these, Capozzi’s offers the closest thing to the Pies of My Youth. Oh, and there’s a California Pizza Kitchen, an outfit that I liked a lot more when they had duck sausage pizza with spinach on the menu. Oh, well.

It wasn’t until last week that I tried my hand at making my own pizza from scratch. That was a mistake. It’s way better than the commercial stuff, so now I have a new Food-Temptation to resist.

The key is to let the dough - made with a blend of finely ground 00 flour and all-purpose flour - rise in the fridge overnight or longer. The long fermentation allows all sorts of nice flavors to develop.

And what to enjoy with this cheesy delight? How about a Nantucket Red?

2 ounces white tequila
1 ounce Aperol
Juice of half a lemon
Grapefruit soda

Combine the tequila, Aperol, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a highball glass with ice. Top with grapefruit soda; stir. Garnish with a lemon peel.

One of the trendy Atlanta restaurants was advertising this drink, so I made my own version. It’s named, strangely enough, for a style and color of pants - presumably one that is popular in certain New England vacation spots. Nantucket Red: That sounds so much more appetizing than “Charleston Chino,” doesn’t it?

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