For our Literary Lunch this month we chose to focus on a series that we both just finished listening to on audiobook—The Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson, which is comprised of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Stieg Larsson’s eye for detail, skill at creating believable characters, and intriguing plot lines have a way of completely immersing the reader in a world that is familiar because of its extremely realistic feel, but also driven by larger than life characters. The protagonists of the series are Lisbeth Salander, an oft-persecuted and socially awkward computer hacker, and Mikail Blomkvist, a moralistic journalist with whom Lisbeth gets entangled in the course of the first novel.
The series is as much a critique as it is a thriller, exploring how easily modern society, when unaccompanied by a sense of equality, can be set loose against women in a nightmarish barrage of bureaucratically-sanctioned and medically-backed physical and mental torture, a veritable hell of misogynists and sadists administering what they dub as justice under the pretext of reason but ultimately driven by the need for dominance over women, very often in the form of sexual violence. And this would all be too much to take if not for the clearly delineated good characters, who go to unheard of lengths before the series concludes to fight back against a conspiracy designed to keep the systems of control firmly in place.
Along the way we watch this cast of mainly Swedes (Larsson was Swedish, the series itself was written in Swedish and then translated into English by Reg Keeland) doing a lot of normal, everyday things. Larsson especially likes describing what the characters are eating and drinking, which is what gave us the idea to include this in our Literary Lunch.
If you’ve read any of the books, you might think we’d post about some sort of sandwich, as Swedes, according to the books at least, seem to eat sandwiches morning, noon, and night, along with a fresh brewed cup of coffee. It’s conceivable that the series could be cut down to a single book if Larsson had simply not included coffee breaks in the narrative flow. But these details are exactly what make the books so compelling, and each time a new pot is brewed and a sandwich is prepared, we get to sit back along with the character and dwell on recent developments in the story.
But as far as blogging goes, sandwiches are pretty boring fare, so we decided to go with something that pops up almost as often as sandwiches in the story—pan pizza. Specifically, Billy’s Pan Pizza, one of the foods Lisbeth Salander is so fond of buying from the convenience store (she has a horrible diet!). Although we’ve never tried Billy’s Pan Pizza (yes, it’s apparently a real product), we imagine that it’s similar to other frozen pizzas, and so decided to honor one of our favorite literary characters by making a pan pizza worthy of writing home about, although Lisbeth would probably just shrug if we served it to her and say it was ok.
We decided to make a sausage pizza since most of Lisbeth's choices usually included some sort of meat. You can choose your own toppings, but we wanted to share the whole wheat pan pizza dough recipe because it really turned out great. We used to be fans of thin crust pizzas, but I think from now on we will be making pan pizzas instead.
Whole Wheat Pan Pizza Dough
Adapted from Vegetarian Classics by Jeanne Lemlin
Makes 1-2 medium pan pizzas (depending on how thick you want the crust).
1 c. warm water, divided
1 t. evaporated cane juice
2 1/4 t. yeast (1 packet)
3 c. whole wheat flour (white wheat works best)
1 t. salt
3 T. olive oil, plus more for greasing
1) Combine 1/4 c. of the warm water and the evaporated cane juice. Stir until the cane juice is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and let it sit for 1 minute. Stir the yeast in and let it proof for 10 minutes.
2) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook add the flour, salt, remaining 3/4 c. water, olive oil and yeast mixture. Knead on medium for 10 minutes. Remove the dough and set aside for a moment. If needed clean out the bowl of the stand mixer. Oil the bowl and press the dough into the bottom. Flip the dough over and so both sides are covering in the oil. Let rise for 30 minutes.
3) Roll dough out to desired thickness. For our pizza above we used about 2/3 of the dough for the 1 pan pizza and made a small thin crust pizza with the rest. Place the dough in a well oiled large cast iron skillet. Cover the pan with a tea towel and let rise another 30 minutes.
4) Bake dough in a preheated 450 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Top with desired toppings and then bake for an additional 8-12 minutes until your cheese is brown and bubbly. Slice and enjoy.