Welcome respite

*Note: composed a few days after Christmas, finished a few days after New Year’s.

Today I’m telling you about pizza sauce.

(Seriously?  Seriously.)

Hear me out.

I haven’t made anything resembling a meal or a side in at least a couple of weeks.  I sabotaged the last batch of kale salad I planned to make by snacking on the wedge of ricotta salata intended for the salad until there wasn’t enough left to properly adorn it.  In the jollity of the holiday, we’ve been going out for dinner with friends from hither and yon and across the land, which has been heart-warming and happy-making in itself, but maybe only sometimes have I assembled a flatbread or charcuterie board beforehand, calling for little to zero prep, and resulting only in very threadbare stories worth telling here.

For Christmas, we were in Michigan with Danny’s folks, which provided some lovely family time and also a welcome respite from the annual gauntlet of ricotta making and shell stuffing that usually graces the calendar this time of year.  I made roasted sweet/salty/spicy nuts (which, come to think of it, are worth writing about, maybe another time), and some ginger chocolate cookies to bring north with us.  That was it.

So now we are getting ready for what my side of the family has adorably been referring to as “2.0.”  For our first Second Christmas (titled thus after the charming concept of “second breakfast“), my mom, who herself has already hosted what was surely an extravagant First Christmas, had a vision of a low-maintenance pajama/movie/nap day that, though certainly not lacking in delights for the tummy, would not necessarily have to culminate in the triumphant unveiling of a large hunk of roasted beast and other painstakingly prepared side items.  After our few days of conspicuous consumption in MI, a Second Christmas that stands on zero ceremony (except, obviously, for the rather rigid order in which presents are to be opened) sounds perfect.

I suspect that many of you may be feeling similar feelings:  maybe you overindulged, maybe you  have a desire to slow things back down, clean out your fridge, give your stirring arm a rest, cut it out with the steaming-pots-of-whatever facials; a desire to enjoy your favorite people a little bit more before the good hard work of the new year begins.

So I give you pizza sauce.  Because on Saturday, we are trotting out all of the bits & pieces of the antipasti that surely lurk in the fridge.  We are rolling out balls of pizza dough that – YES, I did – I purchased, pre-made, from the grocery store.  We will not care if they are in true circles OR rectangles.  (Note from Future Me:  they were neither.)  We are throwing together topping combinations never before seen during this civilization.  We are drizzling olive oil and squeezing lemon and shaving whatever hard cheese is lying around onto a MOUNTAIN of greens and calling it salad, and then, friends, we are calling it a day.

Don’t worry, we had salad too.  (See?  Up there?)

This recipe is borrowed from my lovely and truly amazing friend Margaret, who, among other charms such as her sunny, sweet irreverence and enormous brain, also has a knack for showing up with tasty things in Mason jars.  Last summer, a small herd of us descended upon a house in northern Wisconsin for a long weekend and made pizzas one night using her sauce.  It is a perfect homemade sauce, in my estimation – tomatoey but smooth enough to anchor a pizza with any number of toppings, and with a twinge of sweetness.  It is a sauce for lazy and/or busy people, which I often try to pretend I’m not, but the dried herbs in this – including an impressive dose of dried oregano – are such a relief after the piles of fresh herbs I have chopped in the last few months.  It is also incredibly cheap to make, which, after holiday expenditures this year for both gifts and out-of-home culinary experiences, is also a welcome change.

I’m not saying that I don’t love the holidays.  Because I do.  This year I strung a real balsam garland across the length of our living room windows, littering my hair, slippers, and surrounding furniture with evergreen leaves.  We taped holiday cards from friends and family – with pictures of babies, angels, baby angels, dogs, baby dogs, baby angel dogs, and snowmen – on our mantel and officially became My Parents.  I dog-eared roughly half the pages in the Gourmet holiday issue, which was true work, considering that issue is literally 100% recipes and zero writing.  Danny curated an impressive holiday music playlist that, thanks to the magic of Spotify, we learned was also the soundtrack to a friend’s holiday party all the way down in St. Louis.  Messy home decor projects involving ladders!  Embarassing/heart-warming displays of unabashed holiday cheer!  The food geek equivalent of extreme couponing!  Louis Armstrong and Michael Buble set to a LAN party!  This is commitment, folks.

What I also love about the holidays, though, is the Comedown.  The appreciation for all that you have, followed by using all that you have.  To do more, to do better, to clean out and start again.  Seriously.  This is the most wonderful time of the year, but not in the least because, in a sense, it fuels the rest of the year.  There is no other time of year that causes me to more deeply desire and look forward to a spartan season full of quiet, routine, kale, sleep, soup, and yoga so that we can bloom and go crazy all over again in a few more months.

Happy old year!  And happy new year!

Hiding in the top corner:  ginger chocolate cookies.
Hiding on the bottom:  one of many glasses of bubbly.

Here is how you make that sauce.  I doubled it to make 4 pizzas, because we are animals. 

Get this:
1/4 c tomato paste
1/4 c water
2 T olive oil
2 t dried oregano
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1/2 t Kosher salt
1 T maple syrup
(Trust me on the maple syrup.  It is just enough to smooth out the flavors in the sauce and make it an easy companion for any number of toppings.)
Do this:
Get this all together in a small saucepan and whisk over medium-low heat until warmed through and combined.  This should be enough to top 2 pizzas.  Stick sauce in a jar or directly onto your pizza dough.  Eat everything.

Tell me what you think...

%d bloggers like this: