When you press the “start” button, you expect electronics to…start. So, when something doesn’t, like your computer, it can be unsettling. At first, you don’t panic. You check the cords and the outlet. You remove the battery, wait ten seconds, replace it, press the “start” button again and nothing happens – at all. Frustrated at this point, you try pressing the “on” button multiple times (although this tactic never works) then try holding the button down, yet you are still met with a black screen – not a blue screen of death, not a beep, not a whir. Nothing. Now, you are frightened.
You know you should backup your files on a regular basis. You know your laptop has been unreliable in recent months, and yet you just assume it’ll turn on nightly, as needed. You’ve been contemplating buying a new one (an expense you don’t really need right now), and rue the realization that you should have spent the dough (cost be damned!). You envision the hundreds of food photos saved only there and the photos of you with family and friends, long dead. You recall your resume and the retirement documents you worked on diligently and saved nowhere else. You are acutely aware of the hours your fingers have massaged the keyboard this past month – first finishing a 60-page memoir on love that hadn’t been touched in 11 years and, more recently, the beginnings of a book and the 16,000 words you have typed already – and you thank providence that you at least backed up both on a jump drive last week – only some of the work will be lost. You think about the list of book club selections for 2021 only saved on the desktop and multiple half-finished blog posts and recipes that are irretrievable. You feel sick.
You hope it’s merely the AC adaptor, order a new one, and deflate when you see it’s not scheduled to arrive for 12 days. Can you wait 12 days? If not the adaptor, the next step is the computer hospital, but they weren’t much help on the last visit, just a few weeks ago. You had plans to write this weekend. It’s rainy, it’s cold, and your plans for the day included a log in the fireplace, candles scattered on your desk, a sleeping kitty on your lap and words, words, word. You try to remain calm; you adjust your weekend plans for more time in the kitchen. If not writing memoirs, then perfecting recipes it is.
You promise yourself that if you can, just one last time, retrieve your files, you’ll buy that new laptop immediately. You write all these thoughts out longhand – your hopes, your frustrations, your disappointments, your fears, and realize you just need to put your panic aside and move forward. 12 days cannot come soon enough.
(Update: The AC adaptor did the trick – sort of – it still took me five tries to boot up. I need a new laptop – and a backup drive – today. )
With unexpected kitchen time on my hands, and a 25-lbs. bag of “OO” flour reaching its expiration date, I decided to try my hand at a simple Pizza Margherita. Many of you probably have a pizza stone – I don’t buy a lot of kitchen gadgets, including a pizza stone, so I don’t mention one here, but if you have one, please feel free to use it – it’s only going to help.
The perfect pizza margherita is crisp along the outside and, when you cut a slice, the tip just slightly dips down.
- ¾ cup water, 105⁰ – 110⁰
- 2 ¼ teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
- 1 ¾ cups “OO” flour, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 14-oz. can whole San Marzano tomatoes in juice, chopped*
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 6 oz. fresh mozzarella, cut into ¼” slices
- 6-10 fresh basil leaves, torn if large
- In a liquid measuring cup, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and set aside for about 5 minutes.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine yeast mixture, 1¼ cups flour, salt, and olive oil. Mix ingredients on low until fully combined. Add additional flour until dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. On medium-low, knead the dough until smooth, soft and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Form into a ball, place into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap in a warm draft-free area until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cook garlic in a little oil until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes with juice and tomato paste. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat to 500⁰ F. Scrape dough onto a large piece of lightly-floured parchment. Pat, stretch, or roll dough into a 14” circle on parchment.
- Spread sauce over dough, leaving a 1” border. Arrange cheese on top, leaving a 2” border (cheese bubbles and spreads). Slide pizza on parchment onto preheated baking sheet. Bake until pizza is crisp and golden and cheese is bubbling and browning in spots, about 15 minutes. With a spatula, look underneath the pizza to ensure it is well browned. Transfer pizza to cutting board, cool 5 minutes, sprinkle with basil leaves, slice and serve.
* You may be tempted to pick up a can of diced tomatoes to save yourself the work. I don’t recommend it. Diced tomatoes contain calcium chloride, which means they won’t break down like regular tomatoes. They’ll retain their bite and shape even when cooked and we are not looking for a chunky tomato sauce.