Last night I attended my brother in law's birthday party, hosted by the dynamic and dashing Hubbard couple who live in the Riviera section of Santa Barbara's most beautiful hillside area where every outdoor deck is located in front of the homes to maximize the view of the city and the sea below. The Hubbards, who own the beloved Italian Pottery Outlet on State Street, have a stand alone outdoor pizza oven on their deck, and invited us all over for a homestyle contemporary Italian feast. Tables were strewn with traditional red and white checkered paper tablecloths and the air above was strewn with festive red and white globes. All of the adults showed up armed with wine and food to accompany the centerpiece pizzas that were made in batches throughout the evening. Menage a Trois red wine from Trader's, Cuban cigars for the men, and some upscale Patron, and we were good to go.
An amazing spread of prosciutto wrapped ham in a basket lined with salami and centered with various salty olives, a stilton and brie platter adorned with apples and walnuts, a black bean and cream cheese dip (made simply from Trader Joe's fat free black bean dip combined with a slab of cream cheese and microwaved and stirred till blended) and an insane hybrid avocado salad/guacamole dip set the stage for grazing while the pizzas cooked.
Rick Hubbard, who has mastered a light, thin crusted flaky dough for his outdoor pizzas, told me the secret to his pies was not only the light doughs, but also the use of quattro fromaggio in just a light smattering across the disks instead of the traditional "gummy" mozarella. He invited everyone to come and create their own pizza and the varieties that ensued were all tremendously delicious. Think pepperoni, cheese and kalamata olives, or a divine pesto, cashews and anchovies version. With four minutes in the super hot oven, the edges were perfect and crunchily blackened while the centers stayed virile enough to host the main ingredients.
The true hit of the night was a pizza first spread with a rich fig jam as the foundation sauce, then sprinkled with the quattro fromaggio and then laid with thin slices of prosciutto. After cooking a hearty pile of fresh arugula was thrown across the top. This was my favorite, and one I will attempt to make on my own often. I even woke up this morning still craving the tang of the fig jam mixed with the creamy cheese and peppery arugula.
I would also be completely remiss if I didn't go back to the hybrid avocado salad/guacamole that was so good, I could simply eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the rest of my life. Forget the chips, I could eat this with a spoon on its own. So creamy, sweet and delicious and healthy, I will be adding it to my palate's oeuvre often! Basically, you chop one red onion, a quarter of a red, green and yellow bell pepper, one tomato, and a healthy portion of cilantro and throw it all in a bowl with frozen corn kernels and let sit a few hours. Then you add seven large diced avocados, the juice of four small limes, salt, pepper, and white wine vinegar to taste and mix it all together into a beautifully scented mash with chunks still evident. This is so good that today, not even 24 hours later, my sister is in the kitchen whipping up another batch for our dinner!