“The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thanks to pathetic peer pressure and the omnipresent, often misguided, social media ambitions, FOMO has taken on a peculiar meaning in the 21st century: Fear Of Missing Out.  It seems to be a pernicious attempt at aggrandizing adult childhood by going out almost forcibly, bereft of funds for clothing, heels, food and drink — to some shallow event, whether it be a film or theater opening, club, restaurant, cafe, bar to view the shit show of vacuous, edgily dressed people pushing, prospecting, shoving, grinding, forever using outside voices, queuing up to dreadful separate bathroom lines (boring), heaping on bouts of drama, shame and often rejection.  All this folderal which costs an arm and a leg.

You must know already what OCD denotes.  If not, search on DSM-5 which equips clinicians with criteria for diagnosing mental disorders and dysfunctions.  A hint: obsessive compulsive disorder = OCD.

There are sound reasons to remain a homebody, whether alone, with lovers, friends or others.  They include good grub, wine and beer for feasible prices, casually watching movies, cable or TV, saving stacks of mula on tight clothes, Jimmy Choo(s), indulgent often disappointing food and exorbitant drinks — relaxing with fewer distractions, dressing with a soft tee with no bra, hair up and sweats or yoga pants donned ever alone, a reasonable bedtime and behind (whether with self or …), and no post drunk coitus and tomorrow’s awkward awakening.  Oh, and bare feet as not only does it feel liberating, the toes are such a delectable appetizer and/or dessert, and the fare becomes much preferred, as one well knows. No regrets, even more appeal, crack food to boot and a bar tab you can afford.

PIZZA WITH CHEESES

Preheat oven to 500 F with stone inside

Extra virgin olive oil to coat large bowl

1 C warm water (105 F to 115 F)
1 envelope active “rapid rise” dry yeast packet
1 T organic honey
Small glass bowl

3+ C all purpose flour
1 t sea salt
3 T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 C mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2 C taleggio cheese, shredded
1/2 C gruyere cheese, shredded

4 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and diced

1/2 C parmaggiano-regianno cheese, grated

1/2 C torn basil leaves

Pour warm water into small bowl and then stir in yeast and honey until they dissolve. Let stand until yeast activates and forms foam and/or bubbles on the surface, about 5 minutes.

Rub large bowl lightly with olive oil. Mix flour and salt in stand up, heavy duty mixer equipped with flat paddle. Add yeast mixture, flour, salt and olive oil. Mix on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Refit mixer with dough hook and process at medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic — or transfer to lightly floured surface and knead dough by hand until smooth. Kneading helps develop strength and elasticity in the dough. During this step, add more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is too sticky. Work dough with hands into a smooth ball.

Transfer to large oiled bowl, turning dough until fully coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then a dish towel and let dough rise in warm draft free area until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes for quick rising yeast and 1 1/2 hours for regular yeast. Punch down dough and work with hands into a smooth ball. Cut and divide into two rounded equal balls and let rest, sometimes overnight.

Place dough on well floured board or large work surface and roll out, starting in center and working outward toward edges but not rolling over them. Roll the dough to roughly 12 inches in diameter, but always feel free to create any shape to your liking or whim.

Then, transfer to a pizza paddle which is either covered in cornmeal or heavily floured so it can slide off easily into the oven. Lightly brush the top with olive oil. Then add the three cheeses and garlic toppings, which were shredded, peeled, and diced in advance.

Gently shake the paddle attired with the already topped dough to make sure the pizza is loose enough to slide onto the hot stone. With a flip of the wrist, slowly slide the pizza from the paddle onto the stone and cook until slightly browned and crisp, about 10-12 minutes. Once removed, immediately grate fresh parmiggiano-reggiano on top. Add basil leaves, slice and serve.

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The universe is but one great city, full of beloved ones, divine and human, by nature endeared to each other.
~Epictetus, Greek stoic philosopher (55-135 AD)

Stated otherwise, the city is but one great universe, full of beloved ones, divine and human, by nature endeared to each other. I am officially citified, a committed and content urbanite. The caste driven trappings of sprawling suburbia are gladly things of the past. From an elevated vantage I contemplate the urban aesthetics of sharp geometry, polygons, cubes, facets, shadows, hues, lights, lunar scapes. Autumn palettes, naked winter light, shrill sunrises breaking the horizon, seductive twilights, soupy skies, spring forwards, and summer street hiss all unfold before me. Church bells peal by day, and trains moan at night. And humanity, and more humanity heaps by. A story stashed behind each window and sometimes played out on gridded streets, sidewalks and random alleys at arbitrary times.

Each day, I awake to the world from on high here. It is a humble place with ample views and a simple kitchen. Swaddled in a warm nest right at treetop level I overlook a bustling, closely knit yet isolated, ethnically robust, ‘hood far from the homogeneous crowd. Not viewing experience from the ground upward as before, but looking down and across from my tree house…roofs of varying heights and shades, birds huddling in frigid air on sills, cats foraging, sirens blaring, faces passing, street scents, gentle showers, electric skies, chatter, piercing sounds of passion, then occasional silence. A vassal’s vertical oasis, a gentle place to embrace.

So, give me your lonely and homeless to my humble table.

Which brings me to two soulful sister au gratins.

POTATO & TOMATO AU GRATIN

1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed
Butter, unsalted

1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 lbs ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, sliced 1/4″ thick, well drained

2 C grated gruyère cheese
1 C heavy cream

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh thyme, stemmed and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 F

Thoroughly rub a shallow gratin or baking dish with a crushed garlic clove, and then lightly butter the dish with the end of a stick of butter. Alternately arrange one half of the sliced potatoes and drained tomatoes slightly overlapped in a single layer. Sprinkle with half of the cheese and then half of the cream. Add salt, pepper and thyme. Add a second layer of potatoes and drained tomatoes with cheese, cream and season with salt, pepper and thyme.

Place the baking dish in the center of the oven and bake until golden, about 1 hour. Should the top begin to brown too rapidly, simply cover with aluminum foil. Remove from oven, let rest for 10 minutes, and then serve.

POTATO & CARAMELIZED ONION AU GRATIN

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
3 sweet onions (Vidalia, Walla Walla, et al.), peeled, and thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 t sugar
3 T fresh sage leaves, stemmed and finely chopped

1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and lightly crushed
Butter, unsalted
1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

2 C grated gruyère cheese
1 C heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 375 F

Over medium high, heat olive oil and butter in a large, heavy sauté pan. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper and cook slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Blend in the salt and sugar, raise heat to moderately high, and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color, another 30-35 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sage. Let cool slightly.

Thoroughly rub a shallow gratin or baking dish with a crushed garlic clove, and then lightly butter the dish with the end of a stick of butter. Layer and overlap one half of the sliced potatoes, season to taste with salt and pepper, and spread one half of the onion mixture over the overlapped potatoes, strew with cheese and drizzle with the cream. Repeat by again overlapping another layer of potatoes, spread with remaining caramelized onions, cheese and cream. Season again with salt and pepper.

Place the baking dish in the center of the oven and bake until golden, about 1 hour. Should the top begin to brown too rapidly, simply cover with aluminum foil. Remove from oven, let rest for 10 minutes, and then serve.

Pourboire: For a change of pace, consider other fine melting cheeses, such as emmenthal, manchego, tallegio, asiago, fontina, mozzarella, bleu, chèvre.