I am honored to have my poem ” On the Way Back Home” included in “Thunderclap” magazine’s commemorative book for National Poetry Month and humbled to be in the company of so many wonderful poets. Thanks and deep appreciation to Amanda Deo for this opportunity. Amanda announced the magazine will be on hiatus as she turns her attention to her own writing and her graduate work. I wish her all the best and Thanks to Amanda and to Robert Vaughan (Fiction editor) for publishing my work in Thunderclap. Deep gratitude, appreciation and respect for all of your good work. I will miss Thunderclap!
~The Lunch Lady Cookbook Presents ~
Lunch Lady Husky Tuscan Rustic Pizza
Hey there fellow gustatory travelers, gastronomic wanderers, and seekers on the epicurean path! This is the Lunch Laddy, Michael Gillan Maxwell coming to you across space and time with a spontaneous and unplanned outburst that has morphed into a new installment of The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Today we venture down the path of one of the most sacred and venerable of all comfort foods ~ the time honored classic with humble beginnings ~ PIZZA. Ah yes pizza ~ and I’m here to tell you, that unlike some of the other recipes in The Lunch Lady Cookbook, this IS a staple served in Middle School cafeterias by Lunch Ladies the world over.
Some of the most delicious pizza ever is an elemental combination of the most basic staples ~ dough topped with simple everyday foods such as tomato sauce, vegetables, cheese, and meat. The ‘traditional” pizza is about as simple as it gets ~ flattened dough topped with olive oil, fresh sliced plum tomatoes, chopped garlic, fresh shredded basil and baked in a wood fired brick oven. However, this simple dish can also be rendered as a gourmet delight with endless variations. Certainly entire books have been written on the subject. However this is not the realm of Lunch Lady Husky Tuscan Rustic Pizza.
Go ahead ~ sing it with me peeples ~ in fact ~ try saying it 10 times real fast and see what kind of trouble you get into ~ Husky Tuscan Rustic Pizza. It’s a tongue twister and a mouthful to say, and it’s also a mouthful to eat. You can make everything from scratch. It’s really not that difficult. Dedicated true believers will settle for nothing less. In fact I have a friend who went so far as to construct a wood fired brick oven for bread and pizza in his own backyard. However, even though the Lunch Laddy has a reputation for going to extremes, he took the path of least resistance on this one and this particular recipe uses commercially prepared fixin’s and leftovers from the Lunch Laddy larder. In fact it could just as easily have become Lunch Lady Slum Gullion Stew, but I’m glad it didn’t. By the way, “why Husky Tuscan,” you may ask? “Is the Tuscan husky or is the Tuscan rustic or why Tuscan at all Lunch Laddy? Just friggin’ tell me!” I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I am in love with the very IDEA of Tuscany, although I’ve never actually been to Tuscany. I’ve been to Tucson, which is no where near Tuscany, but it’s almost spelled like Tuscan. “Tucson ~ like Tuscany, only different.”
Sorry. I tried to find a sign that said “Tucson City Limits”, but this is the best that I could do. But I digress, so ~ getting to the point, I present:
Lunch Lady Husky Tuscan Rustic Pizza
This is the stuff I used:
(While this version is admittedly a carnivore’s delight, it’s easily adaptable to vegetarian or vegan cuisine. There’s undoubtedly gluten-free dough as well. If you’re lactose intolerant, well, I’m not even gonna go there. Just don’t use this recipe.)
1 Package pizza dough (already mixed from my local supermarket)
1 Jar Joey’s Famous Italian Pasta Sauce ~ Fra Diavalo (Hot&Spicy) Made in Syracuse
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Spices ~ basil, garlic powder, black pepper, red pepper flakes
Ground beef (Left over taco meat, but it worked)
1 Spinach and feta chicken sausage
Roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, chopped sweet onion (also from taco night)
8 0z package Italian Cheeses ~ mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, asiago, fontina & romano
- Lightly flour some surface ~ I used a butcher block, but a counter top will suffice.
- Bend, spindle, mutilate, roll, push, prod, poke, pinch, coax & coddle dough into whatever the hell shape it wants to take. (This is the “rustic” part) I somehow ended up with a shape that looked like the state of Minnesota. I kind of felt like Richard Dreyfuss with his mashed potato mountain in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. “This means something!”
- Coat lightly with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (Extra virgin olive oil in a 450 degree oven is about as close as you can get to sacrificing a virgin in a volcano without actually doing it.)
- Season the state of Minnesota (dough) accordingly with spices.
- Spread sauce evenly over crust. Don’t go right up to the edge because it gets legs, runs all over the place and makes a helluva mess. Nobody needs that.
- Top with the aforementioned meats and vegetables sliced and diced to your own discerning specifications.
- Spread 6 Italian cheeses.
- Pop in oven pre heated to 450 degrees. (Unless you’re at my friend’s house, in which case you open the door to a roaring fire, singe your eyebrows and set your hair on fire, & use a 6 foot paddle to place pizza on hot bricks dusted with cornmeal.)
- Bake for about 15 minutes (much less if you’re using my friend’s wood fired oven)
- Let rest and cool for at least 5 minutes. (unless, of course, the roof of your mouth is made of asbestos and impervious to the boiling hot cheese sticking to it)
MUSICAL PAIRING: “SHOWDOWN!”
One of my favorite blues albums of all times ~ Showdown ~ Albert Collins, Robert Cray & Johnny Copeland An absolute classic. Albert Collins’s telecaster is an icepick in the temple (in a good way) Robert Cray’s voice and strat ~ smooth as silk and Johnny Copeland is a funky, soulful, visceral presence throughout. Their cover of T-Bone Shuffle will blow you away and you’ll never be able to fall in love with another cover of that song again.
BEVERAGE PAIRING: Il Sogno Sangiovese
OK ~ so this is where things finally get totally Tuscan and you know we’re not in Tucson anymore Toto! One sip (or, in my case, one massive gulp) will have you saying: “Hmmm ~ Tastes like more!” That’s AMORE!
Hi boys and girls! This is Michael Gillan Maxwell, The Lunch Laddy, comin’ at ya with a new installment of The Lunch Lady Cookbook. Today we’re gonna do some gustatory galavanting with the ultimate “meal on the go” ~ “smoothies”. These recipes are good and good for you!
Stop all the moaning and groaning! I know what you’re about to say. People write me all the time to say: “ Lunch Laddy ~ W.T.F. dude? What kind of Lunch Lady Cookbook is this anyway? You promised us classic Lunch Lady comfort foods and you keep comin’ at us with whack stuff like vegan dishes, quiche and God knows what all? Where’s the good stuff like Lunch Lady Meatloaf and Lunch Lady Sloppy Joes? And by the way ~ no Lunch Lady Mac and Cheese? C’mon! What gives?” To which I reply: “Patience Grasshopper. All in good time. I promise. In fact, the recipe after this will be so heart-stoppingly unhealthy, you’ll need the crash cart and paddles to revive you!”
The first smoothie on today’s list is: (Tada!)
“All-Time Incredible Hulk Monster Behemoth Breakfast Smoothie”
For this you will need the following:
- 1 Banana
- 1 Mango
- 1 Handful Blueberries
- 2 Whopping Tablespoons Low Fat Greek Yogurt (I prefer vanilla)
- 1 Cup Chai Tea
( I use Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai Tea with 59 grams of soy protein per 52 oz. bottle. That’s “Soy Protein”, nimrod, not “Soylent Green” ~ there’s a big difference. It also has 18 amino acids and builds strong bodies in 12 ways like Wonder Bread ~ and no, it’s not the kind of acid you took at that outdoor music festival last year.)
- 1 Tablespoon Garden Greens Protein Shake
( This has soy, spirulina and pea proteins ~ that’s “pea” ~ not “pee!” Jeez ~ will you please get with the program?)
Toss that stuff in a blender and whip it into a frothing slosh. (Not to be confused with Old Frothingslosh a prosaic working man’s beer from Pittsburgh)
Drink heartily. You should be channeling Yule Gibbons within 10 minutes, but take his transmissions with a grain of salt because I think he met his untimely demise from eating pine cones, one of the very things he extolled the virtues of.
Follow with a brisk 40 minutes of nude Tai Chi and a sponge bath on your balcony. The neighbors love that kind of stuff.
Hamza El Din “A Wish”
Hamza El Din is a legendary Nubian composer and in my humble opinion, the greatest oud player in the world,
Now hang on to your hats kids because here comes the next one. I call this the Lunch Lady
“Lunch When You Ain’t Got Time to Munch Smoothie”
You’ll need to hit the produce department at your local grocery store pretty hard for this one. You’ll need:
- 1 Raw Beet
- 1 Handful Spinach
- 2 Stalks Celery
- 1 Handful Baby Carrots
- 1/2 Cup Carrot Juice
Again, throw that stuff in the blender and put the pedal to the metal. If you don’t have a blender, you can use a weed whacker or a boat propeller, but it’s not recommended. Whaddya mean you don’t like beets? Quit whining, ya big baby. If it helps, pour a couple of shots of vodka in there and call it a Bloody Mary. Anyway, beets are good for you. Just ask Dwight Shrute. You’ll be channeling Jack Lalane after this one. He lived to be 100 and had like a 26 inch waist. Although, if you hit the vodka too hard you’re more likely to be channeling Jack Palance. In either case, you should be levitating shortly.
Tinariwen is a band of Tuareg-Berber musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. The band was formed around 1979 in refugee camps in Libya but returned to Mali after a cease-fire in the 1990s. Their music totally kicks ass.
The Lunch Laddy is going to throw a bone to all you naysayers out there with one final recipe. The Lunch Laddie is a transplanted Wisconsin boy, die hard ex-pat and life-long cheesehead! This power packed concoction is called:
“The Bucky Badger Cheesehead Smoothie”
For this you’ll need:
- 1 20 oz micro brewed IPA or Stout
- 1 Bratwurst
- 1 healthy chunk of Sharp Cheddar
Toss all that in the old Bass-o-Matic and whip it up!
“Live From Camp Randall Stadium: The University of Wisconsin Marching Band Tuba Section Plays the Greatest College Fight Songs of All Time!”
Bottoms up and until next time ~ Keep on chooglin’!