Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Family Rolling Pin

A week ago during my spring break cooking frenzy I made a pizza. I had thought that making the pizza dough would be extremely hard, and I wasn't wrong, but I wasn't exactly right either. Following Brittany's recipe for Shaved Asparagus Pizza, I managed to create a rather reasonably looking dough, except then I realized I didn't have a rolling pin in the house. May I remind you, I was in Chris's house, and why would a guy who had only big boxes of sliced cheese, a huge container of soy sauce, a big jar of mayonnaise and countless coke zeroes in his fridge, ever, ever, have a rolling pin in the house?! Arrgh... I thought I had come prepared!
This is the rolling pin I have in my apartment.
It may not look like a regular rolling pin that you normally see or use, but it has seen many good years and bad years in my family and is certainly a very well traveled rolling pin.
During the Chinese Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, many Chinese city teenagers of the ages from 14 to 17 were pulled away from their classrooms and sent away from home to the far west or far north to remote villages to learn about growing crops and to help develop the local agriculture. My aunt, was among the generation of the "honorable youth." She was sent to the farthest north province of China, Heilongjiang where she spent several years enduring the unbearable winters. She left home with nothing more than a bundle of clothes and this rolling pin and came back to Tianjin with a local boy that she was to marry. She is turning sixty next year, and she and her husband have been living in Tianjin ever since: he had left his hometown for her and settled in Tianjin. They are now proud grandparents of a little 4-year-old girl. My aunt gave me the rolling pin last time I came to the States in 2003 so I could make dumplings for my host family. I had left it with my American parents when I went back to China in 2004. Now the rolling pin is back in my hands again eight years later. I used it to make dumplings during Chinese New Year this year and to make pie crusts. However, I did not have it with me when I made my virgin pizza.
Therefore, my pizza was of a very odd shape.

Shaved Asparagus Pizza
Pizza Dough
7tbsps warm water
2 tbsps white wine
3/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups of flour

Whisk together the water, wine and yeast in a medium bowl till the yeast is desolved. (I didn't have white wine in the house so I omitted it. My pizza turned out to be a little dry and crispy, I'm not sure if it's because of the lack of the wine or because it was slightly over baked.) Mix in the honey, salt and olive oil, and stir until combined. Add flour and mix with your fingers till it forms a dough, add more water, 1 tbsp at a time if it's terribly crumbly.
Sprinkle some flour on a clean working surface and roll out the dough, kneading it for about 2 minutes. Coat the inside of a bowl with olive oil and turn the dough into the bowl and rotate till it's coated with olive oil. Cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise till it's double-sized, should be about two hours. It's ready when you press two dingers into the dough and it doesn't rise back.

The topping
1/2 pound of asparagus, shaved into thin slices with a peeler
1/2 pound of shredded three Italian cheeses
one half of a red bell pepper, minced
2 tsps of olive oil
1/2 tsp coarse salt
a few grinds of black pepper
juice of one lemon

Mix the asparagus and red pepper in a bowl with olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper.
Preheat your oven to the highest possible temperature, mine was 550.
Roll out the pizza dough to a 12-inch round, (or in my case, flatten it out with any object resembling a rolling pin, such as a wine bottle, but cleaned of course.) sprinkle the pizza with half of the cheese. Add the asparagus mixture, and top with the rest of the cheese. (I actually didn't measure the cheese, I just kept on sprinkling until Chris said it was enough: he's the cheese lover you see.)
Bake for about 10 minutes, check around 6, the asparagus should be wilted and the cheese melted and the pizza slightly browned on the edge.

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