Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded mushrooms and eggplant
Yesterday we had torrential rain on and off all day. In the middle of the grey morning, Malcolm came home sick from school. We sat on the couch with his soft blanket and soft grey dog, and he ate a warm blueberry bagel, and asked if I’d read aloud to him from Go Saddle the Sea, one of my favorite books when I was his age. It’s the tale of a boy named Felix traveling through Spain on a beloved, bad-tempered mule. The boy is about Malcolm’s age, and he’s fair and strong and smart and resourceful, like my Malcolm is. It felt so perfect to sit with Malcolm on this icy wet day, warm and dry, reading this book, thinking about how, when I first read it and loved it, I could never have guessed about Malcolm, never have guessed that someday I’d have a boy so sweet and clever and complex. Malcolm is so strong and capable and level-headed that I’ve come to rely on him to help me with so many things, and it seemed so strange to see him miserable and sick, lying on the couch “crying without even trying.” I’ve probably mentioned it before, but one of my favorite quotes of all time is this one, “Do you know, Lise, my elder told me once to care for most people exactly as one would for children, and for some of them as one would for the sick in hospitals.” It’s Alyosha from Brother’s Karmazov, who is kind and thoughtful to everybody that he meets. It might sound condescending, but I think the point is that we were all children once, and everybody gets sick sometimes. We’re all in it together, we’re all here to care for each other. I think about this passage sometimes when I’m waiting on tables, or talking to co-workers or teachers or total strangers, when I’m feeling bitter and ill-used, when somebody is rude to me. It’s hard sometimes, but with an effort I can remember that they were children once, they’re still somebody’s children, somebody cared for them as I care for my boys. I can remember that they have been sick, or imagine that they’re even in present pain, that they certainly have cares and worries that I’ll never know about. Yesterday I was thinking that being sick makes us into children again. It makes us needy and vulnerable. Everybody wants to be taken care of when they’re not feeling well, no matter how old and important they may be. Malcolm’s so strong and capable, he’s growing up so fast, he does everything so fast, he never stands still. It felt like a rare gift to have this rainy day with him, though I’m sorry he was so miserable. It’s like a rare chance to slow things down a little, to travel back in time to his (younger) childhood, to my childhood. It seems like a reminder that though we’re always looking forward, always looking inward, everything goes in cycles and turns in circles, and we can take an afternoon to sit under blankets and read an old book, watch cartoons, eat crackers and ginger beer, doze and wake. A day well-spent.
Pizza with olive-pistachio tapenade and breaded eggplant and mushrooms
This was really two meals. The first night I marinated and breaded some mushrooms and slices of eggplant until they were tender and crispy. We ate these over couscous, with a sauce of pistachios and castelvetrano olives. The second night, I made some pizza dough, spread the sauce over, topped it with a mixture of smoked gouda, sharp cheddar and mozzarella, and then scattered the leftover mushrooms and eggplant over that. Delicious!
Here’s A Tribe Called Quest with Excursions, “I said, well daddy don’t you know that things go in cycles”
1/2 cup castelvetrano (or other green) olives
1/2 cup roasted unsalted pistachios
1 slice crustless white bread (french or ciabatta) soaked in water
1 t fresh rosemary, chopped
1 clove garlic roasted or toasted in the toaster oven
1 t balsamic
about 1 cup warm water
salt and black pepper to taste
In a food processor, combine the olives, bread, pistachios rosemary and garlic, and process until everything is well chopped and combined. Add the balsamic and about 1/2 cup water and process until very smooth. If you’re using this as a topping for pizza, you might want to leave it quite thick. If you’re using it as a sauce for dipping or drizzling you’ll probably want to add about another half cup of warm water.
(enough for two largish pies. I generally make one with red sauce and mozzarella for the boys, and a “fancy” one for us)
1 t yeast
1 t sugar
1/2 cup warm water
3 cups flour
lots of freshly ground black pepper
1 t salt
1/3 cup olive oil
Combine the yeast, sugar and half a cup warm water in a small bowl, and leave in a warm place for about ten minutes to get foamy.
In a large bowl combine the flour, pepper, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture and the olive oil. Stir well, and add enough warm water to form a soft dough. You want it to be as wet as it can that you can still comfortably knead it. Knead for about 5 minutes until soft and elastic. Put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large bowl. Roll the dough in this so that it’s evenly coated. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside for two to five hours, till it’s doubled in size.
Make the eggplant like this. And follow all of these steps exactly for the mushrooms. I used 1 medium-sized eggplant and ten ounces of baby bella mushrooms cut in half. Enough for these two meals.
TO MAKE THE PIZZA
Preheat the oven to 450. Lightly coat two large baking sheets or pizza pans with olive oil. Spread the dough on sheets, spreading it with your palms and fingers till it’s quite thin, and building up a crust on the edges. I like thin crusts, so mine are nearly transparent at this stage, though they’ll rise a bit as they’re cooking. Prebake the crusts for about five minutes till they just lose their shine.
I always top one crust with tomato sauce and mozzarella. And the other…top with the olive pistachio sauce, then scatter about two cups of grated smoked gouda, mozzarella and cheddar over, then top with the eggplant and mushrooms. Bake for ten to fifteen minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and season well with pepper.