Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I Love You, Martha

Even though we are first generation Italian-Americans I grew up with meat-n-potatoes for dinner, Fritos after school and Devil Dogs for dessert. Oh, our Christmas and Easter celebrations were as much like Settimo's - my grandmothers' hometown - as the family could manage. And Nonni's and Nonno's house was always filled with magazines, foods, and photos from the "Old Country". But Mom and Dad were fully Americanized and so were we. I had friends whose parents held closer to the traditions and each of them had their own specialty: homemade tomato sauce "put up" in big batches every fall; honey-glazed pyramids of miniature fried dough balls, decorated with sprinkles; handmade pizza with basil and fresh mozzarella that neither looked nor tasted like anything from our grocers' freezer. Yet it wasn't until years after I had ventured out on my own and exhausted all the fast food and "to-go" options that I became drawn to the possibility of freshly made pizza. Occasionally I'd pick up an intriguingly soft and spongy package of dough from the refrigerator case but invariably I would end up with a rock-hard sheet of nothing resembling that tantalizing crust an authentic Italian pizza should have. Enter Martha Stewart. Martha Stewart! She (or rather her myriad of writers, editors, cooks and stylists) showed me how to take that plausible substitute for homemade dough, gently caress and coax it into a cast iron pan, carefully subject it to just the right amount of open flame and controlled heat to yield an amazing and delicious, crisp and tender, faux wood-fired pizza - like a love letter from the land of my forefathers and foremothers.

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