Friday, March 17, 2006

Pizza Revealed. Or not.

What is the real history of pizza? Who knows! There are lots of good guesses. However I found no Internet consensus. Maybe Italy, maybe Greece, maybe Eygpt. I am sure every culture wrestles with it's own claim to pizza fame. For me, I can imagine a caveman flattening out a bread textured mushroom or gourd with his club to make a 'plate', slapping down some pieces of bloody game and a few leaves, maybe topping with some curdled goats milk and throwing it on the fire to heat up. He would eat the whole thing and call it good. And where did this caveman reside? Chicago? Italy? Armenia? Surely there must be an undiscovered sketch of the first pizza carved in a rock somewhere. Or a yet-to-be found fossilized pepperoni supreme buried in a tomb.

Well, whatever, it was interesting to read about the various forms of pizza and of some of the topping origins. Some traced the first pizzas to early Greece where they topped pita bread with assorted foods like goat cheese and olives; others wrote of Italians finally getting up the courage to taste the tomato. Up until about the 16th century Italians thought tomatoes were poisonous. I wonder who they got to try the first one? A Pagan?

In this country it is generally accepted historically that Gennaro Lombardi opened the first pizzeria in New York City in 1895. And that Chicago reigns supreme with the invention of the deep dish pizza.

But another pizza style that is often overlooked, and wonderful is the Armenian meat pie. It is close to a meat covered pizza, but without a dripping sauce. You can find these pies ready-made in LA, San Francisco and New York. Here follows a recipe to make some yourself.

Armenian Meat Pie.



One pound of lean ground beef.

One large can of whole tomatoes crushed and drained.

One medium yellow onion finely chopped

One small green bell pepper seeded and finely chopped.

One teaspoon crushed garlic or to taste.

One quarter cup chopped parsley

One tablespoon fresh mint leaves finely chopped

One tablespoon tomato paste

One half teaspoon each paprika and allspice.

Salt and pepper

One portion of ready made pizza dough .

( Or you can find a from scratch recipe anywhere on the web or cookbook. But why work so hard?)

Divide into 12 balls and flatten into 6-7 inch discs. Place the discs on a lightly greased baking sheet and let rise slightly. Then spread the meat sauce over each disc coming close but not up to the edge. Bake at 375 degrees 25 - 35 minutes.

Here's a quick and easy veggie pizza recipe.

Two packages of dinner rolls. Unroll and place flat on a baking sheet folding up the edges to form a crust edging. Bake for about 7 minutes and cool.


Two eight ounce packages of cream cheese softened with three quarter cup salad dressing and one quarter cup skim milk, one teaspoon dillweed and one teaspoon of basil. Garlic salt to taste.

Spread the mixed ingredients over the cooled crust. Cut up broccoli, cauliflower, onions, green and red bell peppers, carrots and black olives and sprinkle over top. Press this into the cheese topping slightly. Add some grated Romano and Parmesan cheese and bake in the lower portion of your oven for 10 minutes or so.

Etiquette tip: Amy Vanderbilt says that while eating pizza with a fork and knife is ok, generally you can just go for it and use your hands, that's what they're there for. But use a napkin and forget using the tablecloth.

Wines that go good with pizza?

Chardonnay, Beaujolais, and Chianti go well with cheese pizzas.

Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris or White Zinfandel with pepperoni.

Chardonnay or Syrah with sausage or mushroom and onion.

Sauvignon Blanc with veggie pizza

Sauvignon Blanc or Reisling with Hawaiian.

We prefer ice cold beer on tap. Sorry.

Find a pizza place in your neighborhood, or tell us about your fave - go here to

Diningroom Diva is a writer and precariously employed by Guide Communications. *And is married to an Italian.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Breakfast in the Northwest

We who live in the Great Northwest welcome sunshine even though it means
a 20 degree drop in temperature! Finding interesting and different
breakfasts has become an obsession to ease off both the dark mornings and
chilling temperatures, sun or not.

When dining at home, eggs are enduringly popular, as are waffles, bacon, sausage, crepes, french toast and the like. But once in awhile we like to reach out for something a bit different but easy to do too.

I have a tasty recipe to share that is quick and will add some variety to the
traditional breakfast fare.

It's called Hangtown Fry:

Prep time is about 5 minutes and cooking takes about 10 minutes.

For two people in love: Start with 4 oysters well drained; 1 beaten egg;
cracker crumbs; butter; 3 eggs; 2 tbsp water; salt and pepper; crisp bacon, lemon and
orange slices.

(For four people simply double the ingredients with the exception of the egg.)

Dip the oysters in the beaten egg, then in the cracker crumbs. Fry in
butter until golden. Beat the eggs well with the water, add salt and
pepper to taste. Pour the eggs over the oysters and cook as for an
omelet. Roll the omelet onto a hot platter and garnish with strips
of bacon and some sunny lemon and orange slices.

One thing about living in the northwest, there is an espresso
stand on every corner - we just need to find one that delivers!

Portland, Oregon,
If you are in Portland and looking for a good place to have breakfast, here's a couple of great breakfast places we'd like to tell you about. The first is a little restaurant on the southeast side called Zell's an American Cafe. Great atmosphere, very interesting menu for both vegetarians and meat eaters. Good prices. You'll find them at 1300 SE Morrison.

The second restaurant is Hawthorne Street Cafe, 3354 SE Hawthorne Blvd. Nice variety, sunny windows, friendly staff. Everything we tried was fresh, great looking and delivered promptly.

If you are going to Naples, Florida for a little sun, stop in the Cove Inn Coffee Shop for a great breakfast; try their famous pancakes. You'll find them at 900 Broad Avenue South.

Etiquette tip of the day:
'When to begin dining': At a small dinner party guests should wait until the host or hostess has been served and begins to pick up her utensils. At larger dinner parties guests should feel free to eat as they are served, as the food is better hot. Children should wait for their parents to begin. For more etiquette information check out our etiquette references here.

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