Since returning to my humble abode I have been unavoidably graced with an immeasurable amount of free time. I was well aware it was coming. I was looking forward to it in a way. Some days (like today) there is something oh-so-satisfying about lazing around in my pajamas until the early hours of the afternoon. Other days, I can’t imagine anything worse. On those days where my need to prance around begins to drive me crazy, I cheer myself up with a few fail-proof activities… shopping, taking pictures, and cooking. My triad of stress relievers.
I’d say shopping has fallen behind the other two activities for the time being due to my current unemployment and dwindling funds. The holiday season really brings a crushing blow on one’s account. The unemployment matter will be resolved in just two days however. I am about to begin part-time intern work, a perfect solution to earn money while still having enough time to maintain my same level of focus on ballet.
Photographing has come in second place. For a little time almost everyday I have either taken my camera out to take pictures or have sat and edited photos on my computer. When my mind is involved in a creative task (be it photographing, editing, dancing, or even cooking) I forget about all the other upsets that so frequently occupy my thoughts. It gives my mind freedom and thus helps me relax and enjoy the calmer moments, keeping me emotionally balanced.
Cooking has certainly been at the fore front of my activities in this past week at home. My dear mother has been loving my enthusiasm to cook and is enjoying the weight I’ve taken from her shoulders by aiding her with the task (or pleasure) of making dinner for my family nearly every night this week. The week began with us collaborating in the kitchen. As each day went by I began cooking the meals more and more on my own. From minestrone, to an omelet and roasted sweet potatoes, to homemade pizzas which I made from start to finish entirely on my own. Ok, I started with a pre-made pizza crust and sauce. Those were already in our fridge so why not use them? In fact, I put much of this meal together by creatively combining ingredients that were already present in our kitchen. An activity I rather enjoy the challenge of.
I made three different pies.
Grilled chicken and roasted broccoli.
To a certain extent this was a request from my little sister who is not the boldest when it comes to ingredient affection. For example, I left a corner of the spinach pizza without cheese because she doesn’t like goat cheese. (What a nice big sister.) The chicken I pulled from the freezer, it was left over from a previous meal, and the broccoli was hanging out in the veggie drawer of our fridge. I chopped the broccoli into bite size pieces and tossed it in a pan with some salt and olive oil and let it roast in the oven for about 15 minutes until it began to soften and get a nice brown to it. To assemble the pizza I first put just a few large spoonfuls of sauce onto the dough and spread it around. I left about an inch of dough around the edge that I then brushed with some herb infused olive oil to make a lovely golden crust. Sometimes the crust can be my favorite part of a pizza. On top of the sauce I arranged the pieces of chicken and broccoli and then slices of incredibly fresh mozzarella. I made sure to evenly place all the ingredients so each bite had a mix of different flavors. The pizza went in the oven directly on the wire rack and baked at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until the crust began to brown and the cheese was fully melted.
Mushroom and onion.
I sadly must admit this was the blandest of the three. I am an avid fan of mushrooms. I just did not put enough seasonings on this pizza, or maybe shiitake mushrooms were not the best choice. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t terrible. I just know I could’ve made it better. I began this one by sautéing some onion and the mushrooms with a bit of salt and olive oil. This is where I should’ve thrown in some extra seasonings. I spread the sauce out just as I did on the previous pizza, brushed the rim of the crust with olive oil, and laid the toppings on in the same fashion as before. In the oven under the same guidelines, yadda yadda. If I were to make this again I don;t think I would sauté the mushrooms first. They became too wet and lost much of their mushroom flavor. I would also put in more seasonings like oregano and basil and other pizza flavors. Maybe some crushed red pepper would’ve given it a nice level of excitement.
Spinach and egg with goat cheese.
This was the first time I have ever made a pizza with egg on it. I have eaten it in a restaurant before (Serious Pie in Seattle, WA) and absolutely loved it! The egg adds such a wonderful richness and depth of flavor. We had both spinach and eggs in our fridge… what better time than the present to give it a go? For this one I decided to forgo the traditional red sauce and instead brushed the entire crust with the herb-infused olive oil that I had brushed on the rim of the other pizzas. I then spread around the spinach that I had quickly wilted in a pot with a little water. I cracked two eggs into a bowl, one at a time, to make sure I didn’t get any stray eggshells. I delicately poured them on the pizza far enough from the center that they wouldn’t collide. Into the oven this one went. It was in there for a few minutes less than the others, I didn’t want to over cook the yolks so they would still be a little runny. Once the pizza came out I crumbled fresh goat cheese on all but the corner I left cheese-less for my sister. This pizza was my favorite. It was the simplest yet had the most interesting flavor combinations. Upon reflection of all the pizzas I have made, this night and previous nights, I don’t think I am always the biggest fan of red sauce on my pizza. It is hard to use jarred sauce and get the same flavor complexity as a sauce made from scratch that many restaurants use. I also have struggled with what is the best amount to spread on the pizza.
My family members all commented several times on how great the pizzas were. I was left unimpressed but I am most definitely my own worst critic. All three pizzas were completely gone by the end of the meal so I am happy they were well appreciated by my fellow diners. That is what matters most.