Michael Pollan has quite the knack for reading my mind sometimes. I check his web site regularly for new articles that he has written, but there hasn’t been a new one up since May; that is, until yesterday! He posted a mouth-watering article entitled “The 36 Hour Dinner Party”, about a weekend spent with a group of people all creating different aspects of different meals together in an earth oven and and over a nearby fire pit. It’s got a very peaceful vibe about community and taking time to prepare all aspects of a meal, and the relationships you build during that time. It also made me super hungry…so many delicious foods! I aspire to someday having a garden and the ability to host something like that. Read the article here.
Sometimes there’s nothing better than creating good food with good friends. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially after eating a communal meal with a group of friends a couple of weeks ago – which is why that article was so awesome to read. My friend Elena has an adorable little apartment of her own on the second floor of the house of her landlord, Joe, in Minneapolis. She has people over for dinner from time to time, but a couple of weeks ago was the first time I was able to attend.
It was make-your-own pizza night (just like the article!), so we all (a group of about fifteen people) contributed ideas about what we wanted on our pizzas, and then divided up who would bring what. I chose the task of bringing fruit, and ended up bringing whole oranges, apples, and pears, along with raspberries and strawberries, which I cut into smaller chunks and mixed in a bowl with grapes. Yum, yum, and yum. Others brought the cheese, some vegetables, meat toppings, and dessert.
A lot of the veggies actually ended up coming from Joe’s garden; I got there early and helped Elena out by running down to pick basil, zucchini, and peppers, along with an eggplant that didn’t quite make it onto the pizzas…I was feeling ambitious (hey, if Punch Pizza can do it, why can’t I?), but quickly realized it would take more prep than the other vegetables (some possible roasting or baking ahead of time). Baby steps.
People started trickling in as we finished cutting up the fruit and veggies, and pretty soon we were starting to construct our own pizzas. The dough (whole wheat dough, recipe provided by my friend Sam) was already prepared, courtesy of Elena. It was a pretty sticky, so our friend Alison (homemade pizza expert extraordinaire) advised that we knead some flour in to help it stay together, and off of our hands, a little better.
Let me quickly digress: I know nothing about making homemade pizza. I was wholly impressed by the dough that Elena made, and Alison directed many of us through the whole process…but honestly, beyond the dough (which I’m going to try to make on my own sometime soon), it’s a super simple meal to make. We cooked each pizza for fifteen to twenty minutes (about the time it takes to cook a frozen pizza), monitoring them based on how soft or crunchy we wanted them to be. All it takes are some good toppings and lots of cheesy goodness. I was pretty surprised by how easy it was.
For toppings, I decided on a layer of mozzarella cheese covered in red and yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, basil, and zucchini, covered by another layer of cheese. Into the oven it went, and out it came twenty minutes later, round and crisp and absolutely delicious, if I do say so myself. I paired it with a good ol’ Fat Tire, and I was a happy camper.
The rest of the night was taken up by eating, laughing, drinking some good wines and beers, and overall enjoying each others’ company. A few of our friends had run in the Twin Cities Marathon earlier in the day, and seemed very content to sip a beer and chow down on pizza and fruit, followed by some great desserts.
I left that get-together with a great feeling of contentment, fully reminded of just how wonderful it is to have friends who are willing to take the time to cook a meal, however simple, and to slow down and enjoy time together on a Sunday evening. Elena is planning on having more Make-Your-Own nights (could tacos and burritos be on the menu?!), so I look forward to more good times ahead.