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Entries in pizza (36)


Fearful Pizza, Midnight Snacks and Emotional Indigestion

That's quite a title, isn't it? With an intro like that, you can't afford NOT to read this post. Am I right?

Well, that seems to be the problem, doesn't it?

A lot of things have been happening in Elana-land. A lot of change. And with change comes uncertainty, midnight snacking and emotional indigestion. Usually EI is brought on by three factors: anxiety, stress and FEAR.

On one such anxious, stressful and fearful day not so long ago, I just couldn't eat. Because of that, I woke up in the middle of the night starving. So I snuck downstairs (I was at my parents' house) and made myself some peanut butter and jam sandwiches, as shown in the above and below illustrations.

But it's fear that I'd like to focus on for this post. Lately, I feel like I'm riddled with it. Like it's an infection or a disease.

In my mind, much of this fear is rooted in the perfectionism that that I am trying very hard to beat out of my system. I'm sure many of you can relate. This problem is not very original, but our experience of it is.

For me, this means doing things right. What's the best way to do it? Get people's approval. Don't rock the boat. Do what everybody else does, and make them happy. That will lead to your happiness. Right?
I've tried this route many different times in any number of ways. I always end up depressed.
As a career, I'm choosing something...different. Sometimes I have a hard time explaining it to other people. My parents have a hard time explaining it to their friends. This can be stressful.
Essentially, though, I am an artist. 
Deep breath. It's taken me a long to to accept that and also to say it.
Specifically, I harness that creativity and apply it to many things. Some people write. Some people paint. Some dance.
I like to combine art and food.
I am passionate about creativity, health and cooking. And I feel like my purpose is to teach people to bring art into their cooking using pizza as a canvas. To help me do this, I am building a mobile, artisanal pizza cooking school.
In a truck. Which I will drive from place to place (I hope across the country) teaching and cooking, cooking and teaching. And making art along the way. It's called:
This scares the ever-loving olive oil out of me.
I have constant fear that I'm doing it WRONG. What am I doing wrong? All of it. I'm making the wrong choices, going about those choices in the wrong way, and generally walking backwards on my hands without getting my shots beforehand. Sometimes it even seems that other people think these things about me, too. I can see it in their eyes. They fear FOR me. It's not encouraging.
I'm also fearful that the truck will fail because I will fail the truck. Meaning I won't do enough for it, can't do enough (I'm only one person), or even worse, it's a terrible idea.
To be honest, I know it's a fantastic idea. That does not mean the world will like it and that it will make money. And that's ok (really). If it can't float in this world as an idea because people don't appreciate it, that is very, very sad, but I can live with it. I will be plunged into a depression related to the undesirable state of humanity and question my position as a member of the human race, but I can live with that.
What I CAN'T live with is having the concept fail because I can't pull it off. I don't want it to be because of something I did. Whether it's that I didn't work hard enough, didn't put my energy toward the right things, or whatever.
I'm also having fear related to the overwhelm of getting something I want. I read a quote somewhere that says something like, "It's much easier to be almost something, than to actually be it." I am actually it right now. This thing is happening. There are dollars being exchanged and I am proposing the idea to companies, getting help from individuals, and attempting to make a plan for a cross country tour. And all the while I am trying to convince these same companies and individuals that I am a perfectly sane and capable person who just happens to be building a mobile pizza school.
Because that happens.
I have not seen it happen. And this is what faith is built on, correct? The idea that even though you have not seen, you believe. You believe because all the evidence to the contrary (people saying you can't do it, it doesn't exist, you are bananas... and you can't put bananas on a pizza), is not entirely convincing (I have appropriated that last line from Agent Mulder of the X-Files when he talks about why he believes in aliens).
Faith also assumes that there is something bigger than yourself out there.  I'm creating this school as an expression of myself, yes. It's personal. But it's also to reach out to others. To build a community and help, teach and learn from and for that community. To do that, you need believers. I need people to believe in me. People I know, and even people I don't know. I need them to jump on board.
And I have fear that they won't. This might be the scariest thing of all. I'm not sure if I know how to be a leader. Or if people will follow. I've been working as a solitary artist for the last few years so this outreach feels like going out into the very cold weather without a coat. I'm exposed and uncomfortable. I have to ask a LOT of people for help. I have to introduce myself to strangers, put my idea on the table and ask, "do you like this?" And hey, "How about helping me with it?"
And to be completely practical, I have to drive a giant van around the country that has a 3,000lb oven in it and teach people, hoping none of us will catch on fire.
I guess it boils down to, "Am I good enough?" And if I can get comfortable with the answer being yes (because I know that to be true) and also with the idea that many might disagree, then I should be ok.
Because you can't make all the people happy all of the time. Even after making my pear & gorgonzola pizza, there will always be those that prefer the caramelized onion & gruyere option.
I also have a completely separate but related fear and that is: the truck will take me away from my other art. The painting, the photographing, the creating. As I write that, I see how this isn't true. I see that the truck is an opportunity to inform my art and to have it grow because it provides a way to get direct feedback from people. I plan to use my painting and photographing as teaching tools, and also as ways to create other art pieces like cookbooks.
Finally, I have a fear of focusing. I've been doing about 100,000 different things for a long time, juggling them all in the air like some kind of professional clown. I've even figured out how to bill hours for said juggling. But now I'm saying, "This is it." This is the THING that I want to do. It's kind of like getting married—you're picking, with finality in your intention (even if not as an ultimate result) one person over the others.
I have been the bachelorette of jobs. The one-woman band who can play the harmonica, spoons and cymbals all at once. Now, I'm saying, "Pizza truck, will you marry me?" And instead of a ring, I bought an oven from Italy that burns things to seal the deal.
This kind of decision brings on a lot of anxiety, often referred to in the pre-wedding days as "cold feet." But I have already started my walk down the aisle, and even though I am occasionally casting glances back at the door behind me, I keep marching on.
I have faith in my choices. I have faith that this will work. And if it doesn't, I will have faith in the belief that I will have done everything I could, everything I possibly could. 
Now, who wants pizza?




Papa John's Frito Pizza. Yes, this exists. 

I admit I'm a bit late to the game on this, as this topic has already garnered some attention from the interwebs, but, Elana and I are just a small sister-bro operation here; so cut us some slack.

Still, I suspect many of you are unaware as to what the title of this blog post actually references.  You're probably thinking, "Is Frito-Lay making their own Pizza?"  Or, "John, are you talking about Fried pizza?"  It's not about either, actually.  Let's just cut to the chase here: recently, I ordered a pizza from Papa John's - an act of likely stupidity perhaps it its own right.  Yet this wasn't just any ol' Papa J's pie... this was a pizza that was purposefully topped with, among other things, Fritos. (Read that sentence again).

Everyone here should be familiar with Papa John's and their skeptical but seemingly everywhere "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. Papa Johns!" advertising campaign that it rams down our throats every other day and twice on NFL Sundays (which, actually, is the only way I could ever eat this pizza again.  If it was literally rammed down my throat). Hey, even Peyton Manning has shamelessly offered his support behind the brand, which really means jack shit of course, unless however you think you should be taking food and lifestyle advice from a dad-jeans wearing country boy who spends 4 hours every Sunday with his hands pressed firmly up against a 300 pound dude's sweaty grundle. 

On a recent day at work, I mustered up the courage to actually go out and buy one of these pizzas.  Notice the unintentionally funny "pizza maker/play maker" box.

For the first time, I was actually scared to eat a pizza; on one end of the spectrum, I might have a gag reflex or spend the rest of the afternoon in the men's room.  On the other end, what if I actually liked the pizza?  What would that even say about me as a person?  As a man?  As an Italian son?  I closed my office door, sat down at my desk, and took a deep breath.

Opening the box was bit like the immediate aftermath of the Con Edison shut down of the Ghostbusters' containment unit.  Indescribable scents were attacking my poor nostrils. I couldn't believe what I was  experiencing. I may have coughed, I can't remember.  I may have blacked out, too. 

(Newsflash, only dingbats douse their pies with needless goop like ranch dressing or, in this case, garlic sauce)

I'm going to be honest: whatever lunatic dreamed up this pizza is an asshole.  Ditto for anyone who likes it.  Getting behind this pizza in any way shape or form essentially tells me you are a tactless imbecile. Never mind that this pizza makes an otherwise innocent bystander (Fritos) guilty by association, but it is amazingly bad. Let's discuss. 

The Fritos, most of which fall off, are stale.  I mean, I could not even pick the Fritos off the pie and enjoy them separately (although I'm not sure I would even want to anyway since they just spent the last few minutes wading in this mess).  The tomatoes have no tang or sweetness.  The cheese, if i was to place them on taste's hierarchical ladder, would be somewhere below ice cubes drizzled with novocaine.  But where this pizza really starts to go bunny-in-the-pot crazy is in its application of bbq sauce which - if we are going to be honest with one another, has as much business being on pizza as garden mulch - is way too strong and salty.  Thankfully, the geniuses at Papa-John's offset the alkaline nature of the sauce with ground beef/taco meat.  Except I'm being sarcastic.  I'm not thankful for this.  I'm horrified.  This only expedites the pie's tumble down its spiral of spectacular shittiness.

Who put thought into creating this? Fraternity pledge-masters? Stoned 1st graders? Guantanamo interrogators?  It's really that bad, I'm not exaggerating.  And, look, I am a man who both needs and appreciates the occasional detour down roads of unrationalizable fun.  Funnel cakes, McDonald's fries, beer pong, Rocky IV - these are all harmless, Americana-born lapses in judgment that can nonetheless be enjoyed with mere modest suspension of belief or awareness. But this... this is something far worse. This is a speeding runaway train that is on fire, transporting toxic waste, while Rebecca Black blares on its loud speakers

I finished my lone slice (which, actually, featured somewhat fresh, spongy dough I should disclose) and contemplated our country's future. Really. How did we get to this point?  I mean, it's 2015 (almost). Aren't we supposed to be getting smarter with our foods and what we put into our body? Isn't America in the midst of an artistic/lifestyle comeback of sorts? It's a bit demoralizing to be honest. 

I suppose there will always be idiots in this world; climate change deniers, snake wielding preachers, the Kardashians, New York Jets fans (of which I'm one), etc.  The expression of such foolery is a part of the American way and, occasionally, can even ultimately yield masterful creations, like the cronut or cornhole.  But, I don't envision the Frito pizza heading down this path. 

Now, excuse me while I watch the new Expendables movie.


Pizza Class & A Come-to-Jamie (Oliver) Moment

I spent the past week and will spend the next one teaching classes on the book I wrote for Colavita, Top Your Pizza.

Yes, I teach people how to make pizza. We cover homemade dough, four different kinds of toppings and a salad for balance. I talk about how to caramelize onions and wax poetical about mozzarella cheese. People actually listen. They pay attention and ask questions. They even laugh at my jokes (sometimes). I'm finding the process rewarding, energizing, fun and definitely exhausting and challenging.

I am aware that my students are a self-selected population — they've signed up and have an interest in the subject matter — and that I'm not imparting life-saving information. This is pizza making...or is it??

Buy a man a pizza and he has a meal for that day. Teach a man to make a pizza and... 

...he has apps for every Super Bowl Sunday??

Along those lines, I touch on the topic of nutrition in class, as I believe pizza can be a healthy, balanced meal depending on your topping choice and application. Now, I'm not suggesting we can improve the health of the nation with pizza (or am I??), but during my trip, I had a come-to-Jamie moment when I stopped at a roadside IHOP restaurant.

To clarify, I meant Jamie Oliver.

I've been a fan of his since I first watched his TED talk and saw how passionate he seemed about food education, nutrition and helping people change their diets in order to change their lives.

That IS life-altering information, folks. As I watched Jamie show a few clips from his show Food Revolution, I thought, "Damn, that's gotta be HARD."

And I mean a serious challenge, as it's hard to change people's minds about anything, and that is no less true with their diets. Consider my efforts with The Box. Part of the problem, as Jaimie addresses, is that people just don't know. They're not education on the topic of nutrition, so you can't really blame them for making poor choices. That's fair.

So it becomes a two-fold problem:

1. Education

2. Changing people's taste

I'm here to suggest that the latter might be the more difficult of the two.

On my class tour on the road from Boca Raton to Jacksonville, my driver and I decided to stop at an IHOP nestled snuggly on the side of Route 95 for lunch. Also known as The International (which other nation?) House of Pancakes.

I assumed I could get something moderately healthy like a veggie omelette, and in fact IHOP has about two "Simple and Fit" entrees, one of them being a veggie omelette, which is made with egg substitute. How a chemical combination made to resemble the taste and texture of eggs is healthier than the real thing, I do not know.

All the "Simple and Fit" entrees were listed as under 600 calories, which lead me to believe that the other dishes on the menu were all well over that number, including Dulche de Leche Pancakes featuring what resembled large tubes of icing sandwiched between pancakes.

Time out. 

I like pancakes. In fact, at the end of this post, I'm going to list all the pancake recipes I've posted on this blog. However, I recognize that I'm what some would call, "a healthy eater." I like vegetables. Even kale. I'll go out of my way to eat them. I exercise. Maybe more than some. Definitely less than others. I watch my food intake, not by counting calories, but by trying to make good choices and recognizing when I'm full. 

But I'm not perfect. I've attacked a carton of ice cream with a spoon. I've eaten more than my share of pizza. I've come home late at night and ransacked the fridge like a racoon in the trash. This is life.

I also realize I'm lucky. I live in a city that has more food choices than most with access to farmers' markets, classes, independent food producers, locavore/organic restaurants and the like. I'm able to take advantage of these options. I'm very grateful for this, and I know this is not the case for many who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. This is a topic for another essay, and it's financial and access issue that I didn't list in my two-fold numeration above.

But I take issue with places like IHOP that are continuing to serve nutritionally negligent, over-portioned sugar delivery systems. Yes, there are "Simple and Fit" offerings on the menu, but like my pizza class attendees, only a self-selected group are going to look for them and then actually order them (and also try not to feel like a total ass when you say, "Yeah...I'd like the Simple and Fit Egg Substitute Omelette").

Additionally, the resulting egg substitute omelette looked so sad and watery in comparison to its fluffy, whipped and stacked neighbors, that who, indeed WOULD choose that option. It didn't look good. And, in fact, it was probably the worst omelette I've ever had. And IHOP isn't the only one. There are many more, as you know. John has a post coming up about Papa John's Frito Pizza that will alarm you.

This makes me sad. It makes me sad because I want to be able to convince people that healthy food is delicious. I cook for myself, my friends, and now complete strangers frequently, and manage to make delicious dishes that are nutritionally redeeming. And I know I'm not making a positive difference in the nutritional education system of this country, but I'd like to.

I want to think that the way to stop having items like this on restaurant menus is for people to stop ordering them. But that requires a change in taste. HOW do you change people's taste? How do you convince people that beets are tasty? Or that a quarter pound of sugar-laced lard has no place between pancakes?

I don't know. But I'd like to make an attempt with this blog post. With pancakes. Here are some recipes that I think are both nutritionally redeeming (in moderation, people) and delicious. I created them for Colavita and I'm reposting them here in the hopes that they might inspire you to think of pancakes, food and nutrition in a different light. And, uh...Jamie? If you're listening, I'd love to talk.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Recipe here and video below:

7 (ish) Grain Pancakess.

What You Need:

1/2 cup rolled oats (the real stuff)
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked farro
4 tablespoons chia seeds
4 teaspoons ground flax seeds 
1 cup almond or soy milk (you can use regular milk if you like)
2 eggs, beaten
a few swirls of agave syrup for sweetening (you can also use honey)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt 

Butter, oil or non-stick cooking spray for you frying pan or griddle.

What To Do:

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl (don't forget the salt and cinnamon!). You can even use a food processor if you like. 

Add in the milk, eggs, vanilla and agave syrup. 

Blend until well incorporated. If the mixture appears too dry or sticky, you can add more milk.

Heat up your frying pan or griddle and grease with oil, butter or spray.

Ladle the batter onto the griddle in 1/4 cup sized scoops. Keep in mind, you might like to make mini pancakes, or HUGE BIG AS YOUR FACE ones. Go nuts, I'm not gonna stop you.

Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes on one side. Break out your spatula and give those suckers a flip. Let them toast up on the opposite side for about 2 minutes.

Flop them onto a plate and serve with cinnamon butter (I used Ronnybrook's) and more agave or maple syrup. You can also store these in the frigde for quite some time and use them as pre or post-workout energy pancakes.

Feel free to add fresh fruit and nuts!

Blueberry Oat and Polenta Pancakes

Recipe here.

Oat and Whole Wheat Waffles (<-- Loosely Related to Pancakes!) with Fruit and Nuts

What You Need:

A waffle maker (gifted by your boss or bought by your own self. Either works)
2 1/2 cups warm (about 100 degrees) almond milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 egg whites
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds for garnish

What To Do:
Mix the almond milk, sugar and yeast in a medium bowl. Let it stand until it becomes foamy (this is the yeast working its magic) - about 10 minutes.

Mix both flours, oats, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl.

Add the yeast mixture and stir to blend it all together. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. You can also leave it to chill overnight so you will be ready for hungry brunchers in the morning.

Separate the eggs, setting aside two of the egg yolks. Mix these two yolks into the batter.

Put the three egg whites in large bowl and with a hand held mixer beat them until they are white and foamy and peaks form (ex: when you lift up the beaters the egg foam will stand up).

Fold the egg whites into the batter with a spatula.

Heat up your waffle iron and spray it with a non stick spray (you can also use butter). When it is hot enough, pour the batter into the iron. Cook until the waffle iron gives you the green light (literally). Your waffles should be golden brown.

Serve with extra blueberries, slivered almonds and maple syrup.



I'd like you to meet someone

I'd like for you to meet Zaza. Zaza is me and she's you...if you love pizza. I'd love for you to follow Zaza around as she bikes around with her little dog Pecorino in seach of THE PERFECT PIE.

You can follow Zaza and 'Ino HERE.


Birthday Pizza on the Grill for The Box

I make people pizza. It's what I do. If you have an oven, or better yet a grill, and some people, I'll come over and make pizza for you. Really. Sometimes my family even gets lucky, and I'll come over and make pizza for them.

Two weekends ago it was The Box's birthday. So I hurried home like a dutiful daughter for the celebrations (which also occurred in tandem with Aunt Emily's 99th birthday. Yes, 99.)

A party just isn't a party unless it's a pizza party. Therefore, I set to work over a hot grill making fresh pies for The Box, Marmo, John and even Toby.

This isn't going to be your usual exhaustive instructional on how to make pizza. This will be a handy list and basic how to on how to GRILL pizza. In order to successfully grill pizza, you need a few things:

1. A reckless disregard for eyebrow singe.

2. Quick hands.

3. An assistant (one who will preferably keep pouring you good wine).

4. Pizza dough. You can use our basic recipe here, or our whole wheat recipe here.

5. Mise en place. This is a French term meaning everything should be in its place. This means your toppings. Slice the cheese, put seasonings in bowls, have that olive oil bottle handy, along with a brush to apply it. Get the cutting board ready for the finished pie, etc. That grill gets HOT and you don't have much time to get everything in its place ON the pie, so everything should be in its place BEFOREHAND. This minimizes disaster.

6. Oven mitt and tongs are useful in hot situations (not always grill related).

7. Oil your dough beforehand (use aforementioned pastry brush). 

8. Stretch the dough out.

9. Place it on the grill. Close the lid. Bake for 2 minutes.

10. Flip the dough.

11. Put the toppings on. Close the lid. Bake for 2 minutes.

12. Remove the pizza. Eat.

13. Repeat.

14. Where is that assistant with the wine???

For The Box, I made two pizzas: Cherry Tomato, Salami, Goat Cheese and Arugula Pizza and Apple, Smoked Gouda, Onion Jam and Arugula Pizza. You can see how it all played out here:

Here are the finished results:


Sometimes, the grill gets a little crazy and the flipping and placing of the dough gets a little wonky:

Pizzas are not always round. And the irregular shapes are good for grabbing. This was not the result of too much wine. 

You may be wondering how to make onion jam. Check out Martha Stewart's super easy recipe. Mess around with it and see how it turns out for you. 

Everyone was very pleased with the results.

Except for John who looks moderately skeptical.

And just downright angry. It could've been the golf. Or the hair. Or perhaps he didn't like the wine. But you can't blame the pizza. Not if I'm making it, anyway.

Even Toby got some.

And see how happy he was?