pizza at midnight.

Well hello there, strangers.

I haven't been around in, oh, about two weeks.
But I have my reasons.

I just spent a few days with my peeps, and I learned some things while I was gone, things like I never want to grow old, and I straight up love my friends. I just do, it can't be helped.

Give me a little space, an extra glup of oxygen and fresh air, and I end up figuring out what I believe in. I believe in not opening my laptop for 3 days straight. I believe in crazy wallpaper. I believe (always) that floral is a neutral.

I believe in living in the moment.

I believe I landed the best friends on the planet.

I believe there's a thread of solidarity and humanity stitched between every one of us. I believe our differences make us stronger. I believe in telling the truth.

I believe in lime La Croix. I believe my family loves me enough to draw me in and settle me down, every single time, no matter what.

I believe the best way to keep writing is to sometimes stop for a while.

I believe in affirming each other and laughing. a lot.

If I have one regret from my time away it's that I didn't properly prioritize my snack consumption at the barn. I just can't shake the guilt.

Which may explain why the first thing I did after not eating dinner at our reunion dinner was to order up one of my favorite meals in the history of always. pizza. At midnight.

Because I believe a sausage and mushroom pizza is the perfect re-entry plan.

So, I am back from my high school reunion.  Back from the time machine set to 1969. Back from the friends I haven't seen in forty years, or more.  Back from the friends that I've reconnected with, all of my beautiful friends I have missed. Back from Friday night fish fry, Saturday afternoon barn parties and dinner with yearbooks and faded photos. Back from memory lane.

Back from the security of people I never have to tell my back story to.
I've been thinking a lot about friendships lately.  Maybe it's because we just celebrated our forty fifth reunion. maybe it's just all that midlife reevaluation stuff starts deciding that the field seats weren't that great and it begins pushing and shoving it's way down front next to the stage.

I've been thinking lately that my friendships are a passion. I love having a passion.  It's when something is a "labor of love".  Like a red bull and vodka, (which you should never drink) it's that glorious mixture of opposites that gives you that unexplainable high but without the vomiting at the end.

I want to be even more passionate about my friendships.

I certainly want to be better than I have in the past.  I haven't always been a good friend.

Yikes.  What?  Don't those just come naturally and easily?  Nope.  Not for me.

I know what you're thinking, "she seemed nice enough when I met her".  Yeah, I can do initial meetings pretty well.  But a true friendship requires discipline and hard work on my part.

Now to be exact, I'm not talking about acquaintances or people in your social circle that you meet several times a year. I can do that in my sleep.  I'm not a psychopath for heaven's sake.

What I'm talking about is down deep I'm there for you day or night, walls down, here's my insanity, oh crap that's yours?, you're pushing my buttons, sorry I snapped, you're driving me crazy, I'll talk you off that ledge... again, thick and thin, are those my jeans?, diet and bloating, I'm truly happy for you, hold you while you sob, love you back, call you again tomorrow friendships.

I know what I've done wrong in the past.  I've glorified the path of least resistance. As soon as things get dicey, out comes the "I'm too old for this sh*t" or "I don't have time for this crap'.  But I'm not too old and I most certainly do have time. 

The thing is, sometimes friendships do get dicey and crazy and stubborn and prideful and snotty and jealous and insecure... and that's just my side of it.

Sometimes they hurt and sometimes we want to run away.  Sometimes we feel rejected and like a bad grade school memory, we stuff down the urge to scream SO WHAT I'M NOT YOUR FRIEND ANYMORE ANYWAY STUPID HEAD!.

Sometimes it will look like that.

But if we endure, if we are committed to working it through, we get love and understanding and nurture and support.  We get "no you're not crazy" and "I have your back no matter what" and "you're more beautiful than Cinderella, you smell like a field of wild flowers and your face is like sunshine."

and... pizza at midnight.
Isn't that the stuff?

This year I am determined to be passionate about my small group of friends who love me for who I am, ornery and all.  I have committed to loving them back with all my heart, no matter what the ride looks like, because they have quietly and without fuss made the same commitment to me.

Nothing but love for y'all.

just sayin'.

  Margherita Pizza
2 12-inch round or 9×13 rectangular pizza doughs (pizza dough recipe below)
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Pinch of sugar, if desired
8 ounces aged mozzarella (sold in plastic, not water) (use more if you like your pizza with extra cheese)
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
Two glugs of olive oil
Few leaves of fresh basil, torn or sliced

Place tomatoes in a colander set over a bowl and give the tomatoes a little squeeze so they release any trapped juices. Let them drain for 30 minutes, if you can spare it.

Meanwhile, heat oven, if you have not already, to its top temperature, usually 500 to 550 degrees F. If you’re using a pizza stone, place this in the oven so that it heats too.
Add salt, garlic, red pepper flakes and sugar (if the tomatoes taste overly acidic to you), to the tomatoes and blend in a blender or with an immersion blender until they reach your desired sauce texture. (I like it smooth, personally.) This will make more sauce than you need; you can save the remainder in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for longer.

Add 1/3 cup of sauce to each stretched-out dough and spread it evenly. Tear or crumble mozzarella into tiny bits and scatter it over the pizzas. Some people like their basil and parmesan or pecorino added only after the pizza comes out of the oven, some like it baked on; I tend to add half the sharp cheese before and half after. I’ll let you decide. Finally, give each assembled pizza a quick drizzle with olive oil and bake it for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating once if needed, until the top is bubbled and lightly charred and the crust is golden. (You’ll get better color on the crust if you use a baking pan without sides, or if you bake it on the back of your baking sheet.) As soon as the pizza comes out of the oven and is still blazing hot, finish with basil and parmesan or pecorino, if this is when you prefer to add it.

Slide pizza onto cutting board or serving plate and cut into squares or wedges.

pizza dough

3 cups (375 grams) all-purpose flour (bread flour works too)
Slightly heaped 1/8, 1/4 or 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast (for Overnight, All-Day, or Part-Day Schedules respectively, see * below)
1 1/2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
1 1/4 cup water, plus an additional tablespoon or two if needed

In a very large bowl, mix all ingredients with a spoon. The dough will be craggy and rough; this is fine, but if it feels excessively so, add another spoonful or even two of water. Cover bowl with plastic and keep at room temperature for approximately 22 (for *Overnight schedule), 12 (for *All-Day schedule) or 6 (for *Part-Day schedule) hours, or until the dough has more than doubled. This takes longer in a chilly room and less in a very warm one, but don’t fret too much over this, as the dough is generally forgiving of a loosened schedule.

About 30 minutes before dough is ready, begin draining tomatoes for the margherita recipe below. Prepare pizza stone and paddle sprinkling it with cornmeal. You can also use any old baking sheet you have around, however, based on early commenters, the pizza tends to stick to these more, so I now recommend that you prepare it by very lightly, thinly coat it with olive oil or a nonstick cooking spray before sprinkling it with cornmeal. Heat oven to its highest temperature, usually between 500 and 550 degrees F. If you’re using a pizza stone, place it in the oven so that it heats too.

Flour your counter very well. Scrape dough out of bowl onto floured counter; in the time it has risen it should change from that craggy rough ball to something very loose, soft, sticky and stretchy. Flour the top of the dough, and divide dough in half (or more pieces, if you’re making smaller pizzas). Form them into ball-like shapes. Grab first round with floured hands and let the loose, soft dough stretch and fall away from your hands a few times before landing the dough on your prepared baking sheet/paddle. Use floured fingers to press and nudge dough into a roughly round or rectangular shape. Add desired fixings and bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating if it’s baking unevenly, until the top is blistered and the crust is golden. Repeat with remaining dough.

*Overnight Dough Schedule: Begin between 8 and 9 p.m the evening before for dinner between 6 to 8 p.m. (approx. 22-hour dough)
*All-Day Dough Schedule: Begin between 6 and 8 a.m that day for dinner between 6 to 8 p.m. (approx. 12-hour dough)
*Part-Day Dough Schedule: Begin around noon that day for dinner between 6 to 8 p.m. (approx. 6-hour dough)
Do ahead: Once risen and formed into ball-like shapes, the dough can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 3 days. when you're ready to use a refrigerated dough, you should return it to room temperature by leaving it on a counter covered with a damp cloth for 2 to 3 hours before using it.


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