Last weekend, we were honored to have been invited to the home of one of my husband’s colleagues, a successful fashion designer living in New Jersey. We gladly accepted and were eagerly looking forward to a welcome escape from the hustle & bustle of the city, and the opportunity to get to know this lovely lady and her family.
From the beginning, we felt as though we were on holiday, hopping on a ferry and traveling no more than an hour, south from the East River of New York City towards the Jersey shore. It was beyond lovely. The sun was shining, the breeze was blowing and in just a moment’s time, it felt as though we were whisked away to a far off land. We really should leave New York more often.
Once ashore, we took a short ride and arrived at this magnificent home, a dream home really. We were welcomed inside and felt immediately at home amongst Mary and her enchanting family.
Let me just say oh, that kitchen. What I could do in that kitchen! A kitchen designed by Mary herself, it looked as though it had been featured in a home & decor magazine. It was sensational. It literally took my breath away. It was simply my dream kitchen. It was the complete opposite of my itty bitty little New York kitchen. It was bright, spacious, and had all the bells and whistles. It was filled with food! Loads of food! Glorious, colorful, delicious food. There were pizzas being prepared in one area, a plethora of toppings in gorgeous ceramic bowls all about, and fabulous hors d’oeurves scattered around for all to enjoy as they sipped their chilled rose, superb red wine and ice cold beer.
While the house was jaw-droppingly beautiful, the food, to die for, the biggest impression made upon me was the hostess herself, Mary. Here was a mother of three, not just a working mom, but a successful fashion designer. She was running a home, a family and a career. This was a woman to admire. She was doing it all, and killing it. And here she was playing her umpteenth role: hostess with the mostest! She prepared pizza upon pizza, chit-chatted and mingled all along the way. I consider myself a decent hostess, but this lady put me to shame.
She was so gracious to allow me to invade her process, ask question upon question as to how this was made, how that was prepared. I wanted to know it all. My pen couldn’t write fast enough. She didn’t hold back and allowed me to hear about every little recipe, down to every last detail, all whilst preparing the 30-something pizzas she prepared that day, all without batting an eye. She is simply a phenomenon.
Let’s talk about that pizza. After having spent seven years in Italy, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I know pizza. And this pizza was gooooooooood. As the Italians would say, it’s all in the ingredients. The actual cooking time was a mere minute and a half in an 800 degree wood-burning stove made of stone, personally designed and built by Mary’s husband, in their magnificent backyard. The ingredients were selected amongst the freshest of produce and cheese, the most savory of meat and sauce. The dough was prepared two days prior and stored in a refrigerator, while the toppings, as Mary explained, had only been bought fresh that very morning! Amazing.
Pizza Dough (Made 48 hours in advance)
4 1/2 cups flour (Type 00 – Mary had used two different types of 00 Flour: the 1st was from Naples, Italy, the 2nd was called “Caputo”, also from Italy)
2 tsp instant yeast (she used Saf)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
3 tbsp olive oil
- Using an electric mixer, mix for 3 minutes, until you’ve attained the desired consistency
- Divide, place in Ziplock bags and refrigerate for 24-48 hours
Note: It is also common to place kneaded dough in a lightly oiled, large mixing bowl, covered tightly with plastic wrap to refrigerate.
- When it is time to roll out your dough, lightly flour your clean work space, spread dough (you can use your hands or a rolling pin)
- Spread sauce on the dough (You can be creative here! You can use traditional tomato sauce, pesto or even a white sauce, made with Parmesan cheese, milk and garlic!)
- Add cheese (Some choices include fresh Mozzarella di Bufala, crumbled Feta, Parmesan shavings, or even Gorgonzola! But be creative! You could potentially put ANY cheese on a pizza!)
- Add toppings:
Veggie Topping Options:
- bell pepper
- cherry tomato
- hot peppers
- sun-dried tomato
- fresh basil
Meat/Fish Topping Options:
- Ground beef
- Fried seafood (ie. shrimp, calamari)
Place in 800 degree wood-burning oven for 45 seconds, remove and rotate pizza, placing it in the oven again for another 30 seconds.
Note: If you are like me and do not have a wood-burning oven, you can use your own oven at home.
- Heat oven to 550 degrees or higher (pre-heat for minimum 30 minutes)
- Arrange a rack in the lower-middle part of oven
- Place your pizza on a pizza stone or a baking sheet
- Bake for 5 minutes, remove, rotate and bake until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese is melted and browned in spots (about 3-5 minutes)
You may have the best of ingredients, the tastiest of treats, the most gorgeous location, but what really makes a pizza party a success, is its host. Thank you Mary for being the loveliest of hosts and making us feel like family.