Hanging out with The Laughing Tomato

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Story and photos by Nikki Gardner

Its a blustery sun-drenched April morning in Northampton.

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The Laughing Tomato pizza duo, Armando and Sue, set up their mobile kitchen for the first Tuesday

Market of the season. Sue backs their Suburban and loaded trailer into their regular spot where, over the next few hours, an open-air pizza shop comes together. They unload the wood, tent, folding tables, dishwashing tubs, and refrigerated prep rail before unpacking a cooler filled with dough, toppings, cheeses, and sauce from their shared kitchen rental in the basement of Thornes Marketplace.

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Armando lights a fire in their custom-built oven, aka The Tomato, which reaches up to 800 and cooks 80 to 100 pizzas on market day. He tends the fire while Sue barters for local ingredients from New England Wild Edibles (ramps), Red Fire Farm (basil), and Old Friends Farm (spinach). Around noon, Giselle arrives ready to shape and dock the dough before it goes into the fire to par bake. Soon after, Amanda shows up to take orders: specialty and popular pies include the Snowball (red sauce, mozzarella, asiago, fresh garlic, spinach, grape tomatoes, and ricotta) and Nutella (Nutella, mascarpone whipped cream, and powdered sugar) pies.

Nearly 12 hours later, the couple packs up and heads home until the next market or catered event. The days are long and the seasons short, yet the people and food that gather in their mobile kitchen make it all worthwhile.

TheLaughingTomato.com

Nikki Gardner is a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Artful Blogging, The Huffington Post, Smithsonians Food & Think, and The Daily Meal. She shares seasonal vegan and vegetarian recipes on WWLPs Mass Appeal and in her cooking classes at Different Drummers Kitchen in Northampton. Find her online at Art & Lemons, where she chronicles everyday life in food, photos, and stories.

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Behind the Kitchen Door: The Hungry Ghost

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By Nikki Gardner

Best known for their signature sourdough breads and sweet and savory pastries, Hungry Ghost Bread also dishes out Neapolitan-style thin-crust pizzas. Five nights a week, pizza maker Chris Figge feeds another log into the wood-fired Llopis brick oven.

On busy nights, Figge turns out 75 to 80 pizzas from their take-out menu. Made with organic unbleached flour (Champlain Valley Milling in Westport, NY) and seasonally sourced ingredients, each pie begins as a humble sourdough ball.

Dough prep starts the previous day: It’s mixed and then proofed overnight in a refrigerator; 12 hours later, Figge weighs and shapes dough rounds that rest for an hour or so before he forms them into 12- or 16-inch pies to order.

The sought-after Margherita pizza goes into the oven with a layer of seasoned tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella from Maplebrook Farm in Vermont. Ten minutes later, it comes out bubbling and charred. A sprinkling of fresh chopped basil and a drizzle of olive oil completes the pie. The hardest part is choosing which one of their 15 (meat, vegetarian, and vegan) pizzas to try.

Recipe: Hungry Ghost Bread’s Margherita Pizza Recipe

Hungry Ghost Bread bakes pizzas to order Wednesday through Sunday starting at 5pm.
62 State St., Northampton
413-582-9009 ◆ HungryGhostBread.com

Nikki Gardner is a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in Artful Blogging, The Huffington Post, Smithsonian’s Food & Think, and The Daily Meal. She shares seasonal recipes on WWLP’s Mass Appeal and in her cooking classes at Different Drummer’s Kitchen in Northampton. Find her online at Art & Lemons (ArtAndLemons.com).