Tag Archives: homemade pizza

In the Zone: Pizza Zone (“P’Zone”)

Do you remember the Pizza Hut P’zone? I don’t: I’ve never had one. I do remember an old friend telling me the story of how she made out with some dude who offered to buy her a P’zone* (and who reneged on his promise: tsk!).


I share this story 1) because it’s funny; and 2) because P’zone is going to be my new term for the slothful mood I fall into about once a week. Oh, jesus: Thursday was such a P’zone day. I woke up well before my alarm went off (hours before? Hard to say), haunted by dreams of getting edged out of the bathroom and being late to work. Despite a fleeting headache, I was hella productive at the office, but came home feeling wiped — Wednesday’s late-night spaghetti and Jameson adventures, coupled with those mundane nightmares, resulted in sub par sleep. I did what I had to do. I changed into comfypants, headed to Sabina’s, and ate the most Irving Pizza. OK, and drank wine and watched my first-ever episode of “Jersey Shore.” (I’m not sure how I feel about this viewing decision; I rather liked the rock I was living under before I ever heard Snooki’s voice. Sadly, what’s done cannot be undone.)

My relationship with Irving Pizza is as contentious as it is longstanding. Before I’d tried Pi (or Little Star, or Arizmendi), I claimed Irving as my favorite pie in the city. The crust is thick — but not too thick — and doughy enough to satisfy any carb-lover’s cravings. Irving’s toppings are solid: not gourmet, by any stretch, but the jalapenos sear the roof of my mouth, and the Pizza Master uses a heavy hand when portioning pineapple. Also, the sauce: the sauce is the boss, nimbly treading the line between saccharine and acidic. Yep: it’s safe to say that the sauce is Irving’s most finely crafted component.

What’s not to love? The service. Irving’s customer service leaves so much to be desired. When I moved here, nearly two years ago, delivery was consistent, if not exactly quick. (Gone are the days of “3o minutes or less.”) Delivery times grew steadily longer; I, being the assertive lady that I am, would call Irving for status updates.

“Oh, it’s on its way,” the cashier would assure me. Really? I wondered. Like, where on its way? Ten or twenty (or thirty) minutes later, the delivery dude would arrive, hella late and frustratingly un-sheepish.

Irving pizza is cunning, though, wooing me back with its gooey cheese and its crisp-exteriored jalapeno poppers. Despite the inconsistent service, I just couldn’t quit Irving, so ingrained in my routine it had become. Which leads us to the subject at hand: pizza traditions.

In keeping with my age, country of origin, year of birth, SES, and so forth, pizza has played a major role in my culinary history. My first pizza memory is of my parents’ homemade pie; weekends, my mom would make a batch of dough, letting it rise in the orange Pyrex bowl, draped gently with a clean towel. She made her own sauce, too, wilting onions in olive oil, adding minced garlic and her secret spice blend that, to this day, I’ve never faithfully replicated. In a nod to economic housekeeping, we shredded our own mozzarella from giant bricks; Ali and I, charged with this task, would sneak handfuls as we worked. My parents topped their ‘za with Italian sausage (gently browned) and green peppers; I fancied nothing more than cheese, or sometimes cheese and mushrooms. The taste of fennel revolted me then: it was too bitter, too strong. It disrupted the soothingly familiar flavor combination.

Frozen and delivery pizzas were rare in my childhood house (the latter more so than the former). The Red Baron made the occasional appearance, as did DiGiorno (oh, mid-90s!). If we did order pizza, we’d nearly always pick it up.

Chanticlear Pizza is, without a doubt, the pizza of my youth. A local chain that specialized in wafer-thin pies the size of manhole covers, Chanticlear’s nearest outpost was in a strip mall a few miles from our house. The crust was really marginal — too crispy for my liking, too sodden with sauce — and the cheese was unremarkable (gluey, paste-tasting). What I did love was Chanticlear’s tendency to cut their pies into tiny squares: perfect for snacking on the next day.For years, Chanticlear had an ingenious rewards program. Consumers were instructed to save the small portion of each pizza box known as the “Chanti-tab.” After collecting 15 tabs, you earned a free pizza — sweet, eh? I hated the kitchen drawer, already stuffed with dish cloths, rubber bands, Box Tops for Education, and 70s-hued kitchen implements, where my mom stashed the tabs. The Chanti-tab program lasted until recently, when Chanitclear, aware that it was whittling its profit margins, discontinued it. Which is a shame: I think we still have tabs in that kitchen drawer.


I’ve spent quality time developing my own pizza traditions. Like my parents, I make my own pizza. (I buy pre-shredded mozz, though: sorry, mom!) Nothing — nothing — beats homemade pizza.

Irving is synonymous with ritual relaxation; its associations are inextricably linked to sweatpants, cheap beer, and time spent on the couch.

Of course, no Irving experience is complete without an appetizer sampler, which includes chicken wings, mozzarella sticks, steak fries, and poppers. You might argue that fried food is hard to fuck up (and that my praise for the platter is rooted purely in ideology), but I’d tell you you’re wrong. Fried food is easy to fuck up; as a former grill cook, I’ve made and sampled far more soggy/burned/refried fries than any person should have to sample. Irving’s steak fries are a thing of beauty: consistent in size, pale gold in color, their exteriors are crisp and their interiors are pillowy. The poppers, though, are the star of the platter. Irving doesn’t skimp on the cream cheese (generic, no doubt, but decadent nonetheless), and the breading offers the correct level of crunch (smack dab between soggy and eyetooth-shattering).

Flavorwise, Irving pizza may be solidly middle-of-the-pack, but symbolically, it’s king.


*This friend was in college at the time, and drunk. She’s not the sort who normally swaps spit for fast-food, OK?


The Love Continues: More Ways to Use Basil

Happy weekend, Garkyfans! (You are my fans, right? If you’re reading, I hope you hold  me in at least tepid regard.) It’s been a hectic week at the ranch, and my dinner choices reflect my krazy schedule; indeed, I ate egg sandwiches two nights of the week, a Pop Tart and wine another night, and went out another night. You may be wondering whether I’ll have anything at all to write about (aside from which flavor of Pop Tart goes best with a pinot noir, and I’d be happy to expound on that topic). Don’t worry your pretty little heads: of course I do!

Even though this week I was eating like a bachelor(ette), I did some solid cooking last weekend. First up was a from-scratch pizza:

Pretty basic stuff. I used my standby dough recipe (1 c. warm water + 1 pkg. dry yeast + 2.5 c. flour + 2 tbsp. EVOO + 1 tsp. salt) and topped my ‘za with fresh mozzarella, tomato slices, sliced olives, and basil. I used only half the dough I made, reserving the other half for the pizza I’m going to make tonight!, and so the crust was thin in the center, puffy around the edges — a strange combination, but not bad-strange. Just nothing you’d ever get from a pizza store.

Of more interest, perhaps, was this unintentionally low-carb dinner I created from Random Stuff I Had On Hand:

(The photo is abysmal, I know, but this was really truly the best of the Instagram options. And even though it’s bad, I kind of like it — looks like an early 20th-century hand-tinted print, amirite?)

The nature of the dish isn’t revealed by the photo — this I realize — so I’ll provide a description. The above entrée contained a breast of chicken, cleaned and trimmed, topped with four (4) cloves of garlic, a scattering of diced green onions, a fat wedge of mozzarella, various spices (black pepper, parsley, oregano), and basil leaves.

The result? Not bad. It would have been excellent with less garlic. As much as I love garlic, the amount I used overwhelmed this dish. Live and learn, eh?

The good news is that my basil plant is thriving and my goal, these coming weeks, is to generate new uses for the herb. Suggestions, as always, are welcome!

Back to the routine — briefly.

Another crazy weekend around these parts, and look: it only took me until Wednesday Friday to update about it! (Note: HOT DAMN!) I know: it’s the busiest time of year for pretty much everyone*, but the reach of this hecticness doesn’t make me feel too much better about everything I’ve let slide off my plate. And why should it? The fact that every person I know is scrambling to get their Amazon orders in before express shipping is the only feasible option, to get their cards [hastily] written and mailed, their ribbons curled, their Xmas bottles of white and lambic properly chilled — well, their busyness doesn’t lessen my own. Sure, there’s comfort to be taken in camaraderie, but at the end of the day, I alone am responsible for baking that batch of Snickerdoodles and stamping that stack of envelopes.

Anyway. Hook and I got a lot of Xmassy things done this weekend: shopping, card writing, putting one ornament on our Chrimbus Bush. In the midst of all this activity, we even detoured for a lunch at Hooters (only my second trip to the chain!), where we enjoyed spicy spicy boneless wings, a platter of curly fries, and sodas served in 64-gallon drums. But Hooters isn’t what I meant to write about — I meant to say that, despite our hella jammed schedule, I made time to make from-scratch pizza on Sunday evening.

I started with the sauce, roughly following my mom’s [unwritten] recipe. Saturday, I’d purchased a new bottle of olive oil — a different brand whose sharp packaging enticed me. Is the oil better than the standard brand? Hard to say, but the bottle looks great on our countertop. (Note: Photo of this awesome bottle coming soon. I was going to snap a pic last night, but the light was low and the bottle was still dusted with flour (flour that I was too lazy to wipe off, might I add!).)

I never make sauce the same way twice; I think that’s the best way to approach the process (at least, that’s what I tell myself). Into hot oil I placed the chopped onions, the finer chopped garlic. Then, the tomato sauce, the oregano, parsley, basil, salt, pepper, sugar. A few other secret touches. I let that pot simmer for a good hour while I puttered around the kitchen, washing dishes, listening to Hook practice clarinet. (Note: Hook got a clarinet for $35 at the Goodwill. HELL YEAH! Our jazz band plan can finally be brought to fruition.)

Next, I made the dough. I use Michael Ruhlman’s recipe (the one printed in “Ratio”), and it turns out awesomely every time. Didn’t use the food scale this time around, but the dough was still fantabulous. (Note: Though the book doesn’t specify, I’ve come to believe that the recipe given actually makes two crusts. How do I know this? Because our pizza’s crust was totally out of control, sizewise. I’m not complaining — I love crust! — but the breadiness of the dish was too much for Hook.)

The beautiful crust, waiting to be topped.

After the dough rose, I rolled out my crust (and even tossed the dough, stereotype-style), spread it with sauce, and topped that bad boy. Hook’s half of the pie had simply cheese and pepperoni. Mine had, in addition to Mozzarella, pickled jalapenos, feta, and sliced mushrooms. 22 minutes of baketime later, we had ourselves a winner of a dinner.

Check out those jalapenos: YUM.

I wish every night could be homemade pizza night: wouldn’t that be the true definition of Livin the Dream? It would in my book, at least. Sadly, other responsibilities (i.e., my job) prevent me from making fresh sauce and dough on a daily basis, but here’s the good news: I made a ton of extra sauce to freeze so that my pizza dreams may more frequently become reality(!) I’d like to make at least one more homemade pizza before I head back to MN; I’m thinking that Monday will be the night of Pizza and Baking Christmas Cookies (varieties yet TBD), and maybe some wine and carols, too. So cozy: can it be Monday night yet?



*Except hermits and those who “opt out” of all holiday celebrations, religious and secular alike. There’s a lot of overlap between the two groups, when you think about it.