Sunday, June 16, 2019
The Day of Pentecost, Birthday of the Church
Funny how when one visits somewhere on the other side of the planet, there is simply an expectation that everything you know and love where you are from will be waiting for you there as well, or at least it will be available in a similar sort of way. This is my sixth time visiting Russia, and each time I attempt to make New York style pizza for our guests/hosts with varying degrees of success.
The French teach that the first step to any great dish is mise en place: the gathering and assessment of ingredients. Pizza is basic enough that the ingredients are not hard to come by, but finding ingredients that exactly match the original is what makes the difference. For example, the Russians raise amazing vegetables, and especially the ones bought at rinok (open air market) which burst with flavor. I will need to make tomato sauce from scratch next time, because the Russians really only use the stuff to flavor meat, so the choices are few at the supermarket and the ones that don’t taste like ketchup are mad expensive. Dough does very well in the dry, relatively warm summer climate, and a place by the window with a cup of tea and this journal gives the lump adequate time to rise.
The next challenge is portions. Everything in America is super-sized. With the proportions I am used to, 3 pizzas is the accustomed yield, but our Russian/European oven only has room for two. Luckily, the pans I make them on are themselves racks is order to maximize space. The oven is electrically powered which ensures consistency of temperature throughout. This is important for getting a crisp crust without overcooking the cheese or other toppings. Then, last but not least is the need to convert my Fahrenheit temperature to Celsius, and presto! In just 30 minutes, the pizzas are born!
Of course the kitchen does not come with a pizza cutter, so the slices are a bit irregular and squarish, but our guests seemed to enjoy the fact the the crust was homemade and the dish is rare enough to be a treat regardless of the quality of the tomato sauce. Every last slice disappeared before the first cup of tea was poured, and I was pleased especially with the crust on the one with just cheese. Guess where there is a will, there is a way, and foreign food always tastes better among friends.