Archive for December 7th, 2010

Home made

Before I start on the subject of this post, I just have to share with you the exact content of one of the pieces of spam that was in my spam comment file today.   It read:  “I¡¯m so happy to find out there is actually some terrific content online. I¡¯ve gotten fed up with google sending me junk.”  The irony of it all made me laugh.

Now, to the subject at hand:  Home made.

Regular readers of this blog will recognize the term; it gets used a great deal here at The Havens.  As Jim is fond of observing, “I can make it better than I can buy it.”   Then he’ll add, “At least here in the Midwest.   If I lived in a big city like San Francisco or Chicago or London, that might not be true.”

His favorite example of the truth of this is the fact that the readers of the Springfield newspaper saw fit to vote Pizza Hut as the restaurant that makes the best pizza in the city.   Now granted, as commercial franchise pizzas go, Pizza Hut is not horrible and it more than likely will never make you sick with salmonella or listeria.   But “The Best Pizza in the City” ??   Say what?! ?

NOT Pizza Hut pizza.   Jim’s pizza.

With visions of North Beach Pizza and Lococo’s in our heads, we started trying to achieve a great crust for pizza many years ago.   Or I should say, Jim began the quest.  I was merely along for the ride tasting portion of it.   The search began when he came across Boboli prebaked pizza crusts at the local Safeway store, and discovered that a very good home made pizza could be fashioned using that as a base.

Then the Navy saw fit to move us to a location where these convenient items were not available.   Jim started making pizza dough at that time, but the search for perfection was put on hold by the existence of actually quite good pizza at a joint with a wood fired oven in Hadlock, a mere 24 mile drive up the road.   Then we went back to the Bay Area, where the aforementioned pizza Mecca (can I use that term?   Is it PC?)  called Lococo’s was located, so we didn’t make a lot of pizza.

But then we unwittingly found ourselves in the arid pizza desert that was the Ozarks.

Peter Reinhart’s book “American Pie:   My Search for the Perfect Pizza” was our savior.   It had a recipe for a quite wonderful Neapolitan crust that meant we no longer had to long for the crispy perfection of the crust at Lococo’s.    We had already pretty much gotten the sauce right long ago, using our own tomato puree canned from heirloom tomatoes from our garden and laced with pesto made right here in the kitchen from our very own basil, garlic, parsley, and oregano.  (If only we could make olive oil, parmesan and grow pine nuts we’d have complete control of the ingredients in our pesto.)   Recently we have stopped using the canned puree and have started utilizing the roasted tomatoes that we have been producing lately, a huge step up in the quality sweeps.

Since we formed the association with a dairy that is only three miles down the road from here, we have been able to make our own fresh mozzarella cheese upon occasion.   While it is true that our fresh, home made cheese is truly wonderful and far superior to the cheese available in the grocery stores around here, it is also a lot of trouble to make and the home made version is also fairly expensive, since you only get about 12 oz. of cheese from a gallon of milk.   So most of the time we don’t make our own mozzarella.

The final step to pizza independence here at The Havens happened when Jim was introduced to the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day , a volume that changed our lives forever.   We now have a tub of bread dough living in the bottom right corner of our refrigerator.   It was well worth finding the space for that container in that appliance, I can testify.   Now we no longer have to know half a day in advance that we wish to eat a pizza.   We can decide shortly before dinner.

Hence Jim’s assertion that he can make it better.    I’d stack his pizza up against any franchise or frozen pizza and most restaurant versions any day.   It’s cheaper, too.

Here’s something else he makes better:

Those are egg noodles which he made to go under the beef stroganoff we had the other night.

I put the  left-over noodles and sauce in a casserole dish which got baked and served last night for dinner.   We had peas rather than beans last night.  It was all fantastic.

Now honestly, I don’t understand why more people don’t make their own noodles and pasta rather than buying them dry and premade.   Okay, granted, you only have to have the package of noodles available rather than having flour, salt, eggs and water available in your kitchen.   And it does take a couple of minutes to mix the ingredients and form the ball of dough, and then it takes a few more minutes to run the dough through the pasta machine.

But the mouthwatering tenderness of fresh noodles is indescribable.  In addition to being more nutritionally complete, the home made ones are quite a lot less expensive to make than the ones in the box.   This makes me wonder why it is that a product whose list of ingredients contains only durum flour, iron, and niacin costs so darn much.   Wait!   Could it be the processing, the workers to tend the machines, the factory, the shipping, the packaging, and goodness knows what all else add to the costs of the product?

Which brings me to how we find the time to be so “home made” in our lives.   Since we put our own time into the production of our food, we don’t have to earn the money to pay for all those things that are overhead incorporated into the price of the manufactured items many people call “food.”   I stand in the line at the grocery store and I notice that I am buying ingredients for making dishes, while my neighbors are buying the dishes, all stuffed with preservatives, flavorings and dyes, frozen and packaged and ready for their microwave.

For some reason, these same people get every cold and flu virus going around which almost always blows up into bronchitis or some other condition necessitating a trip to their physician and treatment with pharmaceuticals.   All of that costs money too, money I don’t have to spend time earning.

The time I save not being sick and going to the doctor or having to earn the money to pay for the kid at McDonalds who fries the fries and the other one that microwaves the burger and the third one that throws it all across the counter I utilize to grow a few tomatoes and some basil so Jim can make a better pizza.

He can make it better than we can buy it, and that’s the truth.

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