Pizza with pecan sage pesto and roasted mushrooms and potatoes

Pizza with pecan sage pesto

Pizza with pecan sage pesto

I’m feeling a little foggy in my brain lately, and if I’m being honest I’ve been in a bad mood. A terrible bad mood. (As opposed to my usual wonderful bad mood.) I’ve been epically discouraged, and I don’t really feel like doing anything. Blame it on the hibernating weather, if you like. So today I sat down to do nothing in the form of watching the supplementary material on a DVD we watched a week or so ago. Interviews with the director and the stars. This wasn’t the usual Hollywood miasma of self-congratulatory celebrities recounting hijinks with forced jollity. This was people remembering a film they worked on fifty-two years ago, reflecting on their lives at that time and on what they had become. And I swear to god the director had a message for me. It’s an odd story. Serge Bourguignon made Sundays and Cybele in 1962. It was his first feature and he was thirty-three years old. It didn’t do very well in France, it didn’t get distribution, but it got rave reviews at the Venice film festival, a New York Times reporter called it a masterpiece, and it won the oscar for best foreign language film. Needless to say, all this attention and affection from critics and Americans meant that the film got distribution in France, and also that it earned scorn from the other French filmmakers of the New Wave. Their films were fast, unplanned, edgy. Sundays and Cybele is slow and dreamlike, and it’s finely made. I’ve always admired the collaborative nature of the French New Wave, how they made films together and talked about films together and wrote about films together. It’s always seemed like it would be fun to live in such a time, to have friends like that. Bourguignon describes the new wavers as a club of cool kids, which he wasn’t part of, and I’d never really thought of it in that light. And then I read a modern scholarly essay on the film, and the author talked about how differently the film would be received now than it was then, because we’re all so jaded and cynical now and people grow up so fast. But to hear the people talking, people were always jaded and cynical and even in 1962 they watched the film with doubt and suspicion. The film tells the story of a thirty-year-old soldier, scarred by his experiences in Vietnam, who has trouble remembering, trouble fitting in. He meets a twelve-year-old girl, abandoned by her parents, who develops a strong attachment to him. They love each other, they’re good friends, and that is all. They’re children together, and she helps him as much as he helps her. Complicated, of course, but beautiful, like most human relationships. The director and the stars describe the filmmaking process as a wonderfully serendipitous time. Everything happened exactly as it should, everyone was happy, every moment was perfectly captured just as it should be. And the film is ridiculously beautiful, gorgeously filmed, so perfectly acted it doesn’t feel like acting, with a wonderful score, and a strangely dizzyingly clear feeling of looking at the world through patterns in glass or water.

Bourguignon talks about his career after Sundays and Cybele, which went really nowhere. He doesn’t sound bitter. And he says, I have written films since, I have dreamed films, and maybe someday another little miracle will happen, and I will make another film. Well! I have dreamed films! I have written films! And the film I have written, which on my good days I know that I will make someday, has almost exactly the same plot as Sundays and Cybele. That’s why I first noticed the film! That’s why I watched the DVD as soon as it became available on DVD! It’s the strangest thing, I tell you, the strangest thing, to sit here feeling old and discouraged and watch Bourguignon, who by any account has had remarkable success in his life, sounding old and discouraged. And then sounding so hopeful! It’s discombobulating. Well, I will make my film one day, and I look forward to watching Bourguignon’s next small miracle of a film as well.

pizza with pecan sage pesto

pizza with pecan sage pesto

I’ve been making lots of cheesy crusty things lately, to set myself up for hibernation, and this was no exception. Very autumnal! It’s smoky and flavorful. It’s more of a custard than a pesto, I guess, but either way…

Here’s Marisa Anderson in a tiny desk concert for NPR. I think she’s remarkable.

THE CRUST

(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.

ROASTED MUSHROOMS

10 oz mushrooms (I used baby bella, but “ordinary” mushrooms would be fine)
a few T olive oil
2t sage
2t rosemary
1t thyme
one medium shallot
one clove garlic

preheat oven to 400.

cut the mushrooms into thin slices. It doesn’t need to be completely even – variation will just give the mushrooms nice texture.

add finely diced shallot and finely chopped herbs. Drizzle olive oil over and mix well. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Stir frequently. After about 10 minutes add finely diced garlic.

The mushrooms go through a few stages while they cook. They’ll release their juices, and then they’ll dry up again, and eventually get crispy and caramelized. This is what we’re going for! You don’t want them to be black and charred, but don’t be afraid to let them get quite dark brown. They’ll reduce a lot, too, you might end up with about a cup.

Season well with salt and pepper.

ROASTED POTATOES

I used small thin potatoes and cut them into slivers about 1/4 inch thick. I had maybe 1 1/2 cups. If you use larger potatoes you can cut them into slices or cubes of about this size. Toss with enough olive oil to coat lightly but evenly. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and pop in the oven with the mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until browned and crispy, maybe 20 – 25 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes.

THE PESTO

1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
4 or 5 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 clove garlic, roasted
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 t smoked paprika
1 t balsamic
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated cheese. I used a combination of smoked gouda, mozzarella and sharp cheddar

1 cup grated mozzarella for the top
small handful toasted chopped pecans

Combine everything in a food processor and whizz until fairly smooth. It will still have some texture.

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…Pour the pesto mixture into the crust. Scatter the mushrooms and potatoes over the top of that, then scatter mozzarella over that, then scatter a small handful of pecans over that.

Bake for about fifteen minutes until it’s puffed golden and bubbly. Keep an eye on it, though, at this temperature it can burn very quickly!

Let cool slightly, slice and serve.

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