Thursday, January 12, 2006

Knitting Rain and Pizza R n' D

Hey, look out the window. Surprise! Here comes the rain again. I've had that Eurythmic's song running through my head all day yesterday (...talk to me...like lovers dooooo.) At least it replaced that stupid hippo song. Scratch that, stupid hippo song just came back.

Well, this last spell of rain is proving why this is the rusty coast of Canada. We're in the last stretch of days before we break a record for the most consecutive days of rain. Go rain go!

So, according to the Grand Poobah of Weatherametrics of Canadaland, you could actually count the number of hours of sunlight that we've had since Dec. 19, 2005 on your fingers, even if you had one stuck up your nose.

So Rusty Coasters (or is that Coasterinias, or maybe it's Coasterites, how about Coasterese?) have to find ways to combat the soggy winter blahs. Some try light therapy, some run off to somewhere else where it doesn't feel like the sky is a leaky faucet and others just bitch and moan and count the number of hours of sunlight on their snot-covered fingers.

I like to embrace the fact that there is a season where I can listen to old Eurythmics songs and new Radiohead songs and lots and lots Chet Baker in between and read a bushel of Dylan Thomas' poetry and re-read the LOTR for the 50th time and knit a sweat factory full of sweaters and scarves and other cozies and drink pots and pots of tea and be glad that I don't have to wash the car for months. As Neil Young sings it, be the rain. Yes, my darlings, sometimes it's fun just to drown in clich├ęs.

Speaking of knitting, I just picked up a skein of the most gorgeous mohair yarn. The yarn is made by Fleece Artist and is from their HandMaiden line. Fleece Artist is based in Halifax and make the most delicious hand-dyed yarns. They are my favorite yarn producer and are quite affordable. I picked up the Baby Kid (http://www.fleeceartist.com/yarn_babykid.html) in Blue Lagoon. Some of it is going into a short scarf I'm making for my my sister. The rest I think I'm going to fashion into a shawl of rain.

Last night we got to do some research and development with our backcountry oven. We had some friends over for dinner and I had made a couple of homemade pizzas. Just when I was about to pop them into the oven, I realized that the oven wasn't working. So out comes the backcountry oven. A backcountry oven is basically a non-stick pan with a lid that has a built-in thermometer for baking stuff on camping trips. There's a 'pot cozy' that fits over the whole thing that helps keep the heat in. The whole thing sits ontop of your camping stove. Ours is made by Backpacker's Pantry.

So we heated it up, popped in the pizza, had another glass of red wine and chatted. We were drinking Cono Sur's organic Cab Sav which was had a nice earthiness to it. Luckily, I had also made a pot of chorizo sausage and black bean soup, so I wasn't too worried about not having anything for dinner.

Since the backcountry oven works best when the temp hovers around 350F and I usually bake pizza at around 500F, I was curious to see how the temp difference would affect the end product. Obviously, it would take longer but would it affect the taste and texture of the pizza? Hmmm, enquiring bellies wanted to know.

Halfway through the baking, the kitchen oven decided to work again and so I popped the second pizza into that at 500F for 12 mins. I was excited to be able to do a taste comparison of the two pizzas (I know, I'm such a geek).

Well, the pizza baked in the kitchen oven turned out great. I had made a whole wheat pizza dough and topped it with pesto, artichoke hearts, olives, cooked chorizo sausages, sun-dried tomatoes, peppers and mozzarella cheese. The crust was perfect with a nice crunch and a tender inside and the cheese was nicely golden.

The backcountry oven pizza turned out pretty good too with only a few minor issues. One was that it took a bit longer, about 30 mins. to bake. We didn't have the stove fully pumped and weren't exactly keeping close watch on the fuel output. We also had it cooking outside on the porch where the winds were probably pulling a bit of heat away.

Obviously, you can only make one pizza at a time. There's enough pizza to feed 2 bellies for dinner (or one very hungry belly.) So if you have more bellies, you either have to make more pizza or supplement it with a hearty soup.
Another thing is that the crust didn't really get crusty. It was baked fine and was soft and tender but there was no crunch to the crust. Maybe we should have let it baked for another 10 mins but my belly was grumbling. Also, the cheese didn't get golden but I didn't expect for it to. Since all the toppings just needed to get warmed through, they worked well.

In the past I have found that wetter ingredients (fresh tomatoes and other veggies) and a too thin of a sauce don't fair well in a backcountry oven pizza. The moisture pools ontop of the pizza. I'd suggest using a basil or parsley pesto or a tapenade instead of tomato sauce and stick with toppings that don't need cooking so they won't release much moisture. That said, if I was on a kayaking trip or car camping, this pizza would be a pretty deluxe way to end the day.

That's it for now. I'm off to be the rain.

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