Pizza Margherita Experiment

July 22, 2012

I mentioned a problem earlier that I had looked at my expenses. That post had to do with my attempt at breaking my addiction to going to the nearby corporate coffee shop, which I still enjoy doing. I like to sit and watch the people there, aside from drinking the coffee. At the same time that I looked at how much I spend on coffee and covert people watching I looked at how much I spend a month on food and clearly I should weigh 458 pounds by now. The lesson from all of that is that I've been broke for the past 6 months and didn't realize it and that I will be broke until the 2nd week in November. I don't know how this works out, but I did a basic budget and that's what it tells me. This is assuming, of course, that I keep within my budget, which allows for much less money being spent on food.

I've been eating at home. Sandwiches, salads, chicken, sausage, rice, pasta... things that I have in the house already or don't cost that much. I do allow myself fresh vegetables. However, I've also felt the need to be more creative with my food because, while I buy good deli meat, sandwiches get old after a while.

I have a basil plant, so I did a search for things that I could do with it. The most popular was a pizza margherita. There a zillion different varieties of recipes so I read a few and decided to do something that would work for my home.

First is the crust. I'm not about to buy yeast and begin making bread. One of the ideas was to do something quick, so making a crust, though it would be immensely fulfilling, would be too involved at the moment. Maybe later. I decided to buy a crust, but when I got to the store a focaccia bread in the bakery caught my eye and it was about the same price, so I picked it up. Of course, it's almost universally understood that pizza margherita is supposed to use a very thin crust, but I'm not trying to be traditional here.

I wish, I WISH that I had had homegrown tomatoes. I picked up a vine-ripened tomato. I already had mozzarella cheese in the fridge. It's not the balls of fresh cheese, though that would have been even better. Again, we're thinking budget and I already had this ingredient.

So, I cut the bread in half. It was slightly over a foot long, and that's a bit much for one sitting. I brushed the half with olive oil – after drizzling it from my Jason Hooper hand-thrown ceramic olive oil bottle. I put very thinly sliced tomato, I put kosher salt and fresh ground pepper on the tomatoes, and added mozzarella sliced about 1/4 inch thick. I tore up pieces of basil, sprinkled it across the top, and drizzled the whole thing with more olive oil. Then I put it into on a cookie sheet into the oven, preheated at 400º. Almost all of the recipes called for 8 – 9 minutes, but this was done in 6.

Once I took it out of the oven, I added more fresh basil to the top.

Result: I would probably skip the basil before cooking; I think cooking it killed the flavor. Again, using home grown tomatoes would make it SO much better (I just LOVE home grown tomatoes) and I can see that a thinner crust would be good, but this bread toasted and was slightly crunchy and was wonderful to eat even without anything on top. Another thing that is almost universally agreed is to be spare with the ingredients – don't cover every millimeter of crust with stuff.

The tomatoes cooked down to be like a sauce and I had layered mozzarella on top of some of the pieces, and basil on some. I did a pretty good job of mixing up the stuff on top for a variety of flavors in each bite.

I will definitely do this again. I will also try to find a market for homegrown tomatoes because there's just nothing like fresh homegrown tomatoes to make life better.

Thank you for reading.


The Oasis

♪ I put on some make-up
Turn on the eight-track
I'm pulling the wig down from the shelf... ♪ ♫

Oh, hi there. Sorry, I was just singing to myself.

So, choir practice is out for the summer. Who knew that choirs did this? The Southern Baptist church I sang in didn't. Not that I remember, anyway. It was over 20 years ago, though.

The reason for mentioning this is that our last big hoorah was Pentecost Sunday. We worked for a few weeks on the songs and it was a special Pentecost choir, not just the every-week one. So, I told Nameless that he needed to come see me sing this time. I actually asked if he would like to come, but there was a definite undercurrent of "you'd better say yes" to the way I asked. Being that he's the only one I told (in person) about my post-Easter meltdown – mid-meltdown – I think he understood that it was more than just a casual invitation in case he happened to already be planning on driving 40 miles from his home on a Sunday morning to attend Mass in a parish not his own.

And, I think we did a darn good job. Somehow he and Patricia (she also showed up) got it into their heads that I was going to be singing a solo. I suppose a normal person wouldn't have asked friends to come see them unless they were singing a solo, but I'm still a little delicate and I didn't want to be alone after we finished. Just in case.

After mass we went to lunch. Patricia (who will have her own little entry here soon) has been trying to get Nameless to go see the art gallery at The Oasis restaurant on Lake Travis. I had never been to The Oasis, so it seemed like a pretty good idea to take advantage of the fact that Nameless was already so close. They're always looking for galleries to sell their art in, even though they almost never want to sell their art in galleries.

The main draw of The Oasis is the view. Situated on a cliff overlooking Lake Travis, it is the self-proclaimed Sunset Capital of Texas. So, we didn't have a problem being seated for lunch, which is definitely not the sunset hour at this latitude. We ate outside under one of the 19,192 umbrellas. (Even still, my scalp got sunburned. I have GOT to remember to wear a hat!) Nameless ordered fried avocado tacos and I ordered a hamburger and we split them both between us. Patricia had a vegetarian dish, because she's a vegetarian when eating out. (This is part of a long, yet morbidly fascinating story.) I think it would be cliché to say that I'd had better food in my life and that you're paying for the location. The food was good and the view was nice. We saw islands in the lake that aren't supposed to be there (caused by the drought.) We saw disgustingly large houses. I don't think I saw any boats, but I'm not sure they are able to get on the water, again due to the drought.

I was expecting a restaurant with many patios. I got that, plus a small shopping center that apparently sprung up around it. A flag was flying announcing Oasis, TX, and that was kind of the feel. The shops were up and downstairs, and it was all very rustic.

There is a gallery on the ground floor, Texas Treasures. They had some very lovely antiques and contemporary art. An artist I know from Elgin named Greg Silkenson (Talking Wood) has work there. He has some nicely designed wooden boxes there. He might have some of his furniture there as well, but I didn't see it if he does. (I own one of his boxes. I keep hand-fabricated jewelry in it.)

The Blue Genie is on the second floor and they do have nice work. They are more contemporary. They actually have a show close to Christmastime in town. I'm not certain about their entire history; I don't think they've been in Oasis, TX very long, because I don't think it's been there very long. I don't know if they existed as a gallery before the Christmas Bazaar or if it was the other way around. One way or another, I recognized a couple of artists there. For instance, a potter named Jason Hooper.

After checking out the galleries we retired for a cup of coffee. Then Patricia decided that we were going to go sit on her friend's dock and watch the lake, even though neither Nameless or I really wanted to. She disappeared for about 20 minutes to look for her friend's phone number, because the fact that somebody says no has never bothered her for one minute.

We ended up sitting in the courtyard until around 7. In case you're keeping track, we were there from around noon until around 7. Yes, that's a very long time. We saw the line grow longer and longer as people began showing up to watch the sunset from the famous patios. Nameless was apparently enjoying relaxing and not feeling the urgent need to be doing something, a feeling that overwhelms him any time he's around his home. I'm certain that I would not have chosen to be out there that long, though it was fun and we did enjoy the courtyard and its sculptures, which we would have otherwise missed.

eArnie on the patio at The Oasis

Statue in the courtyard

Gymnast statue in the courtyard

Gymnast statue in the courtyard

Statue of Wishing Well in the courtyard

When we finally left we discovered that the line waiting for a table extended from the people waiting in line to cars waiting to get in to be able to park so that they could get in line. The line of cars went out of the parking area and up the road, and people were parking along the side of the road and walking very long distances for the privilege of enjoying the Sunset Capital of Texas at sunset. Perhaps it was busier than usual because it was a holiday weekend, but people seemed to think this was all perfectly normal. I can't imagine a sunset over a half-empty man-made lake could possibly be that impressive, but clearly there are plenty of people who disagree.

After that we went to Torchy's Taco's because upon leaving the restaurant Nameless and I decided that we were hungry. Again, Nameless and I split our orders and again Patricia had a vegetarian option. I mentioned the story behind the name of one of the items on the menu. I don't think I'm going to say which one here, but you could look up their menu and see if you can figure out which one I'm talking about. After I told them they both momentarily wondered if they were still hungry enough to eat. (They were.)

Then we went to HEB for ONE THING and ended up leaving an hour later with a miniature shopping cart overflowing because they weren't going to get a normal-sized shopping cart because they only came in for one thing, never mind that the minicart was so full that we were carrying the overflow in our hands. I did get a nice basil plant, which I've been looking for for weeks, and I ended up getting an Esperanza so that Nameless could get the 4th potted plant for free.

In the end I got home at almost 11pm. I'll have to think twice before I invite Nameless to see me sing at church again. Fortunately Monday was Labor Day and I was off from work. I might not have been in a very good mood about the whole thing otherwise.

So, that's my Oasis experience. I've only lived in Austin since 1998; that's what, 14 years it took me to eat there? That's about par for the course in my life.

I'm ready for bed now. I'll write more later.


e A r n i e

P.S. If you happen to visit the web sites that are linked from this blog, please let them know that eArnie sent you. Thanks.