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Cooking With Myra: Finding purpose, eating pizza

By By Myra Starkey
Sept. 24, 2013 at 4:24 a.m.

Pizza with calabrese salame, tomatoes and pistachios

Pizza with Calabrese Salame, Tomatoes and Pistachios

Be sure to read entire recipe before beginning.

Roasted tomatoes

• 15 cherry tomatoes

• 2 Tbsp. olive oil

• Pinch kosher salt

If using pizza stone to bake pizza, stone should be placed in the cold oven at this time, then turn on oven, preheating to 400 degrees.* Place cherry tomatoes is shallow pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt. Roast in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Pan may be placed on top of the pizza stone or on another shelf of the oven to bake. When tomatoes are done, remove from the oven and increase the oven temperature to 500 degrees, leaving the pizza stone in the hot oven to continue heating. Prepare pizza dough.

*If using a metal cookie sheet or pizza pan, it should be placed in the oven to preheat about 15 minutes before the pizza is ready to be baked.

Basic pizza dough

• 1 cup warm water (110 degrees)

• 1 envelope active dry yeast

• 1 Tbsp. honey

• 31/4 cup bread flour

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• 1 tsp. salt

• 2 Tbsp. cornmeal for dusting pan

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Spoon 1 Tbsp. honey into bowl and allow to sit until yeast starts foaming. This will take about five minutes.

Combine flour, yeast mixture, oil and salt in large bowl of stand mixer. Attach a dough hook and knead at medium speed for five minutes. If the dough is too dry, add water by the teaspoon, or if too wet, then add more flour. Continue to knead until the dough is glossy. Place ball of dough in a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, then set to rise in draft-free area for about one hour. Punch down and turn dough over again. Allow to rise about 35 minutes. Remove dough onto a floured work surface and begin to shape by hand. Roll out into a circle, doing your best to keep an edge around the outside.

Place one hand on dough and gently pull from edge to stretch dough, working your way around in a circle, and pull dough into a 15-inch round. You may also roll out dough on floured surface to desired size.

Pizza topping

• 1 (8 oz.) Calabrese salame, thinly sliced

• 15 roasted cherry tomatoes

• 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

• 4 ounces pistachio nuts, finely chopped

• 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley

• 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Place cheese on prepared pizza dough, sprinkling evenly over dough. Place salame slices on top of cheese and scatter the roasted tomatoes over the salame. Mix nuts, parsley and garlic and sprinkle over the top. Sprinkle cornmeal on hot pizza stone or baking pan. Remove the prepared pizza from work surface with large spatulas or pizza peel. Exercising caution, place dough onto very hot pizza stone or baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until crust is golden.

A preacher I was listening to told a story of his 5-year-old coming into the living room and saying she had a surprise for him.

The little girl told him to cover his eyes while she led him to her bedroom. "Now, look," she exclaimed as she pointed to her bed and told him proudly how she had made it up all by herself.

He rejoiced with her but in his mind thought it didn't look so good - not that he would expect a kid that age could make a bed like an experienced adult. As rumpled and crooked as it was, he praised her for her efforts.

With a little time and help from her parents, she would master the task.

Just as the church service was beginning, a guy and his wife, both late middle-aged, came wheeling down the center aisle. They were smiling, neatly dressed and happy to be there, even if they had arrived late. They had a place picked out up front.

The thing was, she was in a wheelchair and had some sort of respirator tube hooked to the front of her neck. They listened to the sermon just like the rest of us. The message was about how we were called to serve others and not ourselves.

At another church we go to, there is an old woman who sings joyfully each week in the choir. Her makeup is neat, and she usually has a nice bow in her hair. When this group goes up on the stage midway through the service to sing, I've noticed that one of the younger guys will steady her as she goes up the steps because she doesn't seem to have much control of her arms. And so I always wonder how her hair and makeup look so good. Somebody cares enough to help.

Moms and dads routinely make great sacrifices to care for their helpless infants because it takes at least a year or two for a child to even begin to do anything for themselves.

And for those disabled kids who never make the step to self-sufficiency, those same parents seem to rise to the challenge of serving with no end in sight.

Teachers, aides and therapists tirelessly work with challenged kids in our schools. Nurses and certified nurse assistants help elderly and other disabled folks live with dignity. Some would say they do this work simply because it is their job, but the reality is that they find great joy in helping those who can't care for themselves.

Taylor and I were in Houston this past weekend to visit our daughter and son-in-law. It always amazes me to see the level of wealth in the beautiful neighborhoods. The stores are packed with shoppers, and there are lots of pretty things to buy. The restaurants are so numerous that one could never eat in them all. There were fancy cars and fancy people everywhere I looked.

There are museums filled with priceless art - some of it so strange that I cannot even tell what it represents. Million-dollar athletes compete in stadiums while the fans cheer them on from their high-priced seats. Everyone seemed to be in a rush to go here and there. For a small-town person, it is almost exhausting.

I am not saying that each of us should devote each minute of our lives to doing meaningful things such as serving those in need. There is no doubt that serving others without expecting payment or reward is one of the most gratifying things that we can do as humans.

And conversely, to endlessly seek self-gratification and self-promotion leads to a miserable, empty dead end. As in most things, there is a balance we have to find. If we never spend money on food, clothes, homes and cars, then our economy will crash, and no one will have jobs. Live within your means while you enjoy yourself.

There will be people in your path who need help. Take the time to show kindness when you have the opportunity, and you will be blessed.

Hannah's in-laws, Randy and Patti, joined us in seeing the "kids" this weekend. We did the usual things parents do when they visit their offspring: They take them out to eat. We dined well all weekend. One of my favorite places was The Pass & Provisions, a relatively new restaurant. The restaurant is beautiful, and we ate lunch there Saturday.

The dishes are presented on large, slate tiles and shared among those at the table, so everyone got to taste a little of everything. We ordered a salumi pizza topped with parmesan cheese, roasted cherry tomatoes and chopped pistachios. It was delicious. Here is my version, which may not be quite as good, but to have the real thing you will have to get in your car and head to the city.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email myra@vicad.com.

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