Monday, March 26, 2007

A Tale of Three Pizzas, Horseshoes and an Irresistable Chef

Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello
Horseshoes Tournament

Grilled Eggplant Pizza
Hummus Piadine with Cucumber and Feta Salad
Strawberry Rhubarb Calzone
Venetian Wine Spritzer

To get the recipes:
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Michael Chiarello's having an old fashioned outdoor get-together. Folks are coming over to play horseshoes. That requires a special kind of menu - one where the food can be held in one hand and the horseshoe in the other. He's decided on 3 pizzas, each very different and wonderful on its own.

The first is a crostata filled with Rhubarb. That's good news. I've kind of forgotten about rhubarb and how wonderfully tart it is. It makes a terrific filling here with strawberries. He shows us a good way to rid strawberries of their stems, without losing half the berry. He digs it out using a small teaspoon. It keeps its rounded shape too, which for this recipe is moot since it's getting cooked, but remember it for when you're keeping them whole. He adds the strawberries to rhubarb. Ruby Red Gloriousness. Cools entire mixture on tray. (I told you about using a dinner plate too a while ago.)

He rolls out individual rounds of bought pizza dough (see last paragraph). (At least, he bought it from a good pizza place as I instructed you to do on 3/24.) Tops with rhubarb mixture. DO NOT OVERSTUFF. Folds over. I like how he pinches the edges and then folds them over. Very nice looking. Egg wash. Sprinkle of sugar (I think it might need a lot.) He adds anise seed. HEY what's going on? Are all our favorite Italian FN chefs adding anise these days. (I will be skipping that.) He puts them in oven.

Next is Piadine. Cold salad on top of hot pizza. WAIT A MINUTE! I ALWAYS DO THAT. When I have salad and pizza together, to save myself a fork, I always load the pizza with salad and eat it together (not in public by the way...) Michael whips up a quick tomato and cucumber salad for the top. (Keep that recipe, you'll want it for the summer.) Very tasty looking and that's "All she wrote." Michael, that's one of my favorite expressions too AND song. Maybe we should get together and "talk" about it. That IS an awfully cute stripy shirt you're wearing today...

Ok, now he's doing something very exotic and unusual that I've never seen before . (Yes, we're still in the kitchen...Darn!) He's putting hummus on the UNBAKED pizza dough. I have made and served buckets of hummus in my life and I have never, number one, COOKED with it and, number two, I have never BAKED it on top of a pizza. Interesting. Slides that into the oven on a pizza peel.

For pizza number 3 - a grilled one - he's doing a grilled vegetable topping. He salts the eggplant for 30 minutes. Rinses, squeezes and dries them. Oils and seasons them up and off to the grill they go, a PREHEATED grill, with red pepper too. Lays them on and LEAVES THEM ALONE for 4 to 5 minutes on each side. He's "shutting the grill down" during the cooking time. Hold on, what does that mean? Is he turning off the grill, or is that some Northern California or even rap expression for how good the eggplant will be? As in, "This is sooooo good, byatch, it'll shut the place down." Don't mock me, I DON'T KNOW.

Veggies come off and are set aside. Pizza dough, generously brushed with olive oil on one side, is put on the grill. I can just smell the yeasty crispy browned garlic infused pizza disks. Place a little eggplant and peppers on top. Then herbs, olives and mozzarella. 30 seconds with "the grill shut down'. Here we go again. Opens grill. "That's all she wrote." Oooh, I GET IT. The grill shut down means the grill IS CLOSED. In other words, THE TOP IS DOWN. Why couldn't he just have said that? Ok, so maybe I was off base, really off-base, but I think my explanation is way cooler. He brings out all the pizzas. The hummus one looks really yummy. He cuts it up into pieces and tops it with the fabulous tom and cuke salad and some feta. Okay, so basically it's like a pita with the hummus baked on. I'm feeling it.

He slices the rhubarb crostini into pieces. They came out really well.

Oh, one more thing - the drink. A Venetian cocktail. How cool and refreshing it looks. So light you can have 3 or 4. The guests are arriving. The pizzas are served and horseshoes are being flung.

The only disappointment here today was that Michael BOUGHT the pizza dough - from a great pizza place - but still...I would have liked him to have showed us HIS recipe. I guess he had a lot to accomplish on this episode and there WAS that game of horseshoes (with 3 cocktails under his belt) to get to.

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