If you google “National Pizza Month” you will find a gazillion hits alleging that Congress designated this holiday in 1987. However, if you check through the bills passed by Congress that year, you will not find such a declaration. [You will, however, find all kinds of other designations, such as for a National Dairy Goat Awareness Week and a National Tap Dance Day and even a National Day of Excellence (wait: just one DAY?)].
But no matter: Congress should have done it, so we’ll celebrate anyway! Because approximately three BILLION pizzas are sold in the U.S. every year, two billion of them going to MY house.
On average, every person in the U.S. consumes around 23 pounds of pizza each year. (Again, that average is skewed by the number of pounds eaten by my husband and me, and for that matter, by the number of pounds acquired by my husband and me after consuming all that pizza.)
The top 5 pizza sales days are Super Bowl Sunday, New Year’s Eve, Halloween, the night before Thanksgiving, & New Year’s Day. In our house, the top pizza consumption days are Saturday and Sunday (“treat days”) and then other days for leftovers.
In spite of the fact that this pizza consumption kills off some 252 million pounds of pepperonis a year, we don’t do pepperoni. Neither do we go for the pizza toppings popular in Japan, which include squid and Mayo Jaga (mayonaise, potato and bacon).
According to the Guinness World Records site, the most expensive pizza commercially available is a thin-crust, wood fire-baked pizza topped with onion puree, white truffle paste, fontina cheese, baby mozzarella, pancetta, cep mushrooms, freshly picked wild mizuna lettuce and garnished with fresh shavings of a rare Italian white truffle. Depending upon the amount of truffles available each season, the pizza is regularly sold at £100 each to customers of Gordon Ramsey’s Maze restaurant, London, UK.
We don’t do that kind of pizza either. We like lots of cheese. I like mushrooms and onions. Jim occasionally insists on an add-on of sausage because he, after all, was born in Chicago. But I insist on strict lines of demarcation between his half and mine. Here is a recipe I have used for a wonderful pizza. It is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks: The Vegetarian Epicure: Book Two by Anna Thomas:
Basic Short-Crust Pastry
1 ½ cups flour
½ to ¾ tsp. salt
½ cup butter, well chilled
scant 1/3 cup ice water
Sift together the flour and the salt. Slice the cold butter rapidly and drop the slices into the flour. With a pastry cutter or two sharp knives, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse corn meal.
Sprinkle the ice water over the flour-butter mixture and stir it in very quickly with a fork, until the dough gathers together. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in wax paper or foil, and chill it for about 2 hours.
Makes enough dough for 1 large (11 or 12 inch) quiche shell.
Preparing the shell
On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough out in a circle about 2 ½ inches larer than your quiche pan. Roll the circle of dough loosely around your rolling in and unroll it over the quiche pan, centering it as well as possible. Press the sides in against the rim of the pan, pushing the extra dough down a bit to make an edge that is slightly thicker than the bottom. Trim the dough off with a sharp knife, about ¼ inch above the rim of the pan.
Crimp the ridge of dough neatly just about the rim of the pan. Prick the bottom of the shell all over with a fork, and chill the shell for ½ hr.
Prebake the shell in a preheated 450 oven for about 8 minutes, prick again with a fork, and return to the hot oven for another 4-5 minutes, or until the bottom of the shell begins to color. Allow the shell to cool slightly on a rack, then fill and finish baking according to recipe.
Cheese and Tomato Deep Dish Pizza
1 recipe Basic Short-Crust Pastry (or what the heck, buy it pre-made)
3 lbs. ripe tomatoes
3 Tbs. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed or minced
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. dried basil, crushed
fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1 lbs. yellow onions
2 Tbs. butter
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ lb. mozzarella cheese
Prepare the short crust, line an 11-inch quiche pan with it, and prebake according to instructions above.
Chop the tomatoes coarsely, reserving their juice. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the garlic in it for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice, ½ tsp of the salt, the basil, and a little fresh-ground black pepper. Simmer this sauce, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced by about half. It should be quite thick.
Peel, halve, and thickly slice the onions. Saute them in the butter until they are golden and sprinkle them with the ¼ tsp salt.
Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the bottom of the quiche shell. Arrange the sautéed onion slices over it in an even layer. Cover the onions with the tomato sauce.
Cut the mozzarella in thin strips and arrange them evenly on top of the tomato sauce. Slice the olives off their pits and sprinkle the olive bits over the mozzarella cheese.
Bake the pie for 35 minutes in a preheated oven at 375 and serve hot.
Serves 6 to 8.