It was an ambitious plan, if not downright insane.
A BBQ to launch the summer (and my latest circle around the sun) with an Italian food theme, starring grilled pizza.
Er. Uh. How. Many. People. Did. You. Invite. To. This Party. asked The Librarian, trying not to sound nervous, as we prepped the six different dishes I had planned.
I. Have. No. Idea. I replied as I chopped wild mushrooms, caramelized onions, crumbled Gorgonzola cheese. Maybe. Twenty. Maybe. Thirty. Who. Knows.
It had been a long month. Hell, it had been a long year. Six-day weeks, ten-hour days. A bit of heartbreak, a ton of work, a lot of stress.
And friends,old and new, tumbling through the door, coming up the stairs of the deck, appearing out of nowhere, bearing homemade gnocchi, panzanella, pasta salad, and transnational items like guacamole, Brie, quiche, and Korean spare ribs. Witty friends, thoughtful, silly, sarcastic friends, slightly moody or completely cheerful, kooky, quiet, loquacious, insightful, nervous and calm friends. Colleagues, students and a huge dog, too.
Hair Dude calmly grilled the mushrooms and calamari for two different salads. Amid bytes of conversation and sips of wine, I put out a Sicilian sweet and sour eggplant salad. I returned to the kitchen, joined a conversation about really bad queer films, and prepped the pizza dough.
What’s. Up. With. That. Dough. said The Scrabble Player in her casual low-key way, sauntering over with a caiperinha (made by The Novelist) in her hand.
I. Have. No. Idea. I said for the second time that day. The store-bought dough was limp, washed out. People cast doubtful glances at it and made mental notes to fill up on salad.
Leave it to me said Scrabble Player in a resolute voice, as though she was planning to ace a Triple Word Score. Balkan Babe called me over the settle a dispute about the identity of a particular character in this blog (I’ll never say). Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a pair of biceps kneading dough.
It’s an amazing thing to throw a party and then feel like someone else is hosting it. The Librarian got plates and cutlery out, and The Novelist made sure everyone had one of her killer drinks. Everyone pitched in. Before I knew it, there was a full plate of food my hands, including two pieces of pizza: Pear-Walnut-Gorgonzola, and Sundried-Tomato-Goat-cheese. They were fantastic. They had a smoky taste, and the crust, from the grill, was crisp and chewy, almost like a Neapolitan pie.
It was one of those luminious spring evenings, shades of green glowing in the last of the evening’s light, sky like a swath of dark blue silk. It was one of those parties where hearts and minds are open to new people and new conversations, and the food creates sense and meaning and possibility out of it all.
Caramelized-Onion, Pear and Gorgonzola Grilled Pizza
* 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 1/4 lb onions (2 large), halved and thinly sliced
* 14 to 16 oz pizza dough, thawed if frozen
* 1/4 lb Gorgonzola dolce, crumbled (1 cup)
* 2 pears, peeled and coarsely chopped
* 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
* 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook onions with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, covered, stirring occasionally, until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and keep warm, covered.
Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over low charcoal (medium heat for gas).
Stretch dough into a roughly 12- by 10-inch rectangle on a large floured baking sheet and brush with 1 Tbsp oil.
Bring dough, onions, cheese, nuts, pears, parsley, and remaining Tbsp oil to grill area.
Oil grill rack, then put dough, oiled side down, on grill and brush top with remaining Tbsp oil. Grill, covered, until underside is golden brown, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes.
Using tongs, return crust to baking sheet, turning crust over (grilled side up). Sprinkle evenly with onions, cheese, nuts, pears and parsley. Slide pizza from sheet onto grill and grill, covered, until underside is golden brown and cheese is partially melted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into pieces.
It really was fantastic. The crust had the texture that pizza was probably originally meant to have.