Monday, July 21, 2008

Tasty Pizza Research

We love the idea Squash Blossom Farm being a pizza farm: we would grow the vegetables and herbs for making pizzas and get flour, cheeses and meats from nearby organic farmers. A night or two a week in the summer we would make wood-fired pizzas in our outdoor oven. People would bring their own lawn chairs or picnic blanket and maybe a bottle of wine and feast upon pizza and listen to live music in the garden. We are currently in the hands-on research stage of this vision.

For the past week, Rog has been babying his sourdough starter, created with wild-caught yeasts from the air in a flour-water mixture, boosted by the naturally occuring yeasts from on a few grapes from our back-yard vine. He is using the book "Nancy Silverton's Breads from LaBrea Bakery" as his guide.This was to be the weekend we tested out baking pizza and bread in our little earth oven.

But first, on Friday night we had to make a research trip: wood-fired pizza at The Stone Barn in Nelson, WI. Our friends Norm and Mary joined us. The Stone Barn is in a beautiful coulee, and the pizza was delicious (altho not our top pick among the wood-fired pizzas we have tested so far.) We shared a balsamic-chicken and asparagus pizza with feta and a more traditional spicy sausage pizza. They grow their own herbs for sauces and meats for the pizzas and also sell wine and ice cream. The atmosphere is casual restaurant, with tables both indoors and outside along the herb gardens in the remains of the stone barn foundation. (I was expecting it to be picnic-style and for them to raise more of their own ingredients.)

On Sunday I was at an art event all afternoon, so Rog was on his own with the Pizza Project. He spent several hours building a fire to heat up the clay oven. He prepared his sourdough pizza dough and 2 beautiful boules that he let rise in proofing baskets in the traditional way. Cadence made some fabulous red sauce. We built three little pizzas with mozarella & parmesan, mushrooms, spicy Italian sausage, roasted red peppers and fresh basil, and Rog carefully slid them into the earth oven. A few minutes later we had lovely and scrumptious pizzas!

Then Rog put the round boule loaves in to bake. Because we haven't insulated the oven yet, it was losing heat too fast to accomlish the entire baking,so he had to finish them off in the oven inside. But they turned out great, with a gentle sourdough tanginess, and a slight smoky hint. Yum!

We were joined by a fun unexpected guest this weekend, our long-time friend and Rog's former singing partner(about 25 years ago!), Scott Stroot. Scott and Mary Ann now live in Bowling Green, KY, where he teaches theater at the University. Scott was taking a road trip on his red motorcycle to visit his Mom in Wisconsin, via our house. He was eager to tell us about his entrepreneurial career-change vision: to create a small, sustainable, off-the-grid farm-- He didn't even know about our Squash Blossom Farm dream and was surprised to discover that we are on the same path, just a couple steps ahead of him!

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