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Archive for November 23rd, 2009

Pizza memories

When I was in the eighth grade, at least a lifetime ago, my family spent a year living in a small town in the mountains of central Mexico called San Miguel de Allende.  At the time we lived there the town was still small and, while it did attract its fair share of tourists, somewhat sleepy.  Now San Miguel has become well-known as a retirement community for wealthy Amercans.

Living in Mexico was an eye opening experience for me.  We rented a modern, glass-walled apartment in a building that remained under construction the whole time we were there.  Our neighbors included American college students taking classes at the Instituto Allende, a local, bilingual art school, as well as Mexican families living in traditional homes built around open air patios.

As I became more fluent in Spanish I made friends with other kids my age, learned to cook a traditional Mexican comida (including how to make homemade corn tortillas) and how to shop and haggle for bargains in the daily market.  I still remember that year with incredible clarity.

What does all that have to do with pizza?  After our year there ended, we spent several additional summers in San Miguel and my parents eventually bought (and then, sadly, sold) a house there.  In those later years I became more familiar with the San Miguel restaurant scene.  One place in particular was a great hit with my brother and sister and me:  a small, somewhat touristy restaurant called Mama Mia’s, famous for, among other things, pizza.

My favorite pizza there was one that perfectly blended local flavors with traditional cheese pizza:  the avocado pizza.  Given my predilection both for making pizza and for translating favorite restaurant recipes into dishes I can make at home, avocado pizza is a current Sunday evening staple in our kitchen.

It’s not hard to pull this one off.  I make the dough in my bread maker (the best use for a home bread machine I can think of, since you can toss in the ingredients and set the timer before you head out for the day and have pizza dough ready to bake when you return), and a simple tomato and onion sauce on top of the stove.

Last night I also had some mushrooms that needed to be used, so I sauteed them and tossed them on before covering everything with cheese (I used an aged goat cheese last night, probably not a typical Mama Mia’s ingredient) and baking the pizza at 500 degrees for about 15 minutes.  I add the avocado last, after the pizza comes out of the oven.

I’m sure that different tastes, smells and sounds trigger memories of San Miguel for my brother and sister, but this does it for me every time.

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