Happy Boxing Day, Ordinary friends. In keeping with my recent holiday tradition, I’m feeling under the weather, all tired and achey. Fortunately Malcolm declared this a day that nobody has to get anything done and everybody can stay in pajamas all day, so all will be well. Since it’s boxing day, I’ll tell you about two of my favorite presents this year, which were, in fact, boxes. One is a pencil box, and it’s the prettiest pencil box you’ve ever seen. It’s strangely like a pencil box I was obsessed with as a third grader. All of the other girls had pencil boxes with sliding tops from WH Smith, and I wanted one so badly. And I got one! And I still remember how it smelled, and what a satisfying feeling it was to pack it with pencils and pens and erasers and how it felt like a box full of possibility for all the things I could write or draw. This box is a similar shape and size, with a sliding top, but instead of being made out of some weird plastic-wood, it’s made out of beautiful walnut, with a grain like flame or waves. and it’s hand-dovetailed by my favorite hands in the world. I put my special pen inside, and I’m fairly sure the box’s magical powers will imbue the pen with motivation or inspiration, and I’ll be able to write again. The other box is a Trojan DJ box set, and I’m COMPLETELY OBSESSED!! OBSESSED! This is 50 tracks (!), and each one is better than the one before, there are no stinkers. I love this music so much I want to eat it! This music is from the very late 60s and very early 70s, and it involves deejays taking popular tracks and mixing them up, and then toasting over them. Toasting is all good things! It’s blessing and praise, but it’s a little bit roasting and boasting as well. It’s poetry. It’s strange catch phrases or noises that are so simple but express so much. [What does this sound like? Hip hop! Of course! (Did you know that DJ Kool Herc was born in Jamaica?!?!)] This is simultaneously the most moving, fragile, wobbly, and icily cool music I’ve heard in a while. I imagine a culture of DJs who support one another in friendly competition. They know one another and quote one another. It’s alternately funny and profound, or both at once. One of my favorite DJs in the box is King Stitt. He got the name King Stitt because he stuttered as a child, and he got the name “The Ugly One” because he was born with a facial malformation and had very few teeth. But he was discovered because he could dance. I love that! And then he made a name by talking, and I love that too. He embraced what made him different, and realized that it made him cooler than cool. And he was one of the first DJs. He achieved success and everyone followed him. I like to imagine a community where this story is possible. I like to have these voices, which are so perfect and alive, in my foggy dispirited brain. To quote King Stitt, “Hot it from the top, to the very last drop!”
We have a forest of chervil growing in our garden. It’s the one herb that has thrived despite the few frosty nights, the drizzly days, and my constant picking. So I gathered some to make a pesto. Chervil is a lot more delicate than basil. It’s got a slight lemony-anise flavor, and it makes a lovely pesto. I made this like a normal basil pesto, with pine nuts and olive oil and garlic. Then I put it on a pizza with mashed potatoes for comfort and fresh tomatoes for liveliness. And that’s that.
Here’s King Stitt doing Fire Corner.
(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.
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup loosely packed chervil, washed and dried
1 clove garlic, roasted
1/4 cup olive oil
a few tablespoons of grated parmesan
squeeze of lemon or teaspoon of balsamic
1/2 cup milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup grated cheese. I used a combination of mozzarella and sharp cheddar
1 cup grated mozzarella for the top
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or sliced
small handful toasted chopped pine nuts
Combine everything in a food processor and whizz until fairly smooth. It will still have some texture.
Combine the nuts, cheese, garlic and chervil in a food processor and whiz until coarsely ground. Add the olive oil and a little balsamic or lemon and continue to blend until fairly smooth.
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…
Add the eggs, milk and one cup cheese to the pesto in the food processor and whizz till smooth.
Pour the pesto mixture into the crust. Dollop the potatoes and scatter the tomatoes over the top of that, then scatter mozzarella over that, then scatter a small handful of pine nuts 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.