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Birthday Pizza on the Grill for The Box

I make people pizza. It's what I do. If you have an oven, or better yet a grill, and some people, I'll come over and make pizza for you. Really. Sometimes my family even gets lucky, and I'll come over and make pizza for them.

Two weekends ago it was The Box's birthday. So I hurried home like a dutiful daughter for the celebrations (which also occurred in tandem with Aunt Emily's 99th birthday. Yes, 99.)

A party just isn't a party unless it's a pizza party. Therefore, I set to work over a hot grill making fresh pies for The Box, Marmo, John and even Toby.

This isn't going to be your usual exhaustive instructional on how to make pizza. This will be a handy list and basic how to on how to GRILL pizza. In order to successfully grill pizza, you need a few things:

1. A reckless disregard for eyebrow singe.

2. Quick hands.

3. An assistant (one who will preferably keep pouring you good wine).

4. Pizza dough. You can use our basic recipe here, or our whole wheat recipe here.

5. Mise en place. This is a French term meaning everything should be in its place. This means your toppings. Slice the cheese, put seasonings in bowls, have that olive oil bottle handy, along with a brush to apply it. Get the cutting board ready for the finished pie, etc. That grill gets HOT and you don't have much time to get everything in its place ON the pie, so everything should be in its place BEFOREHAND. This minimizes disaster.

6. Oven mitt and tongs are useful in hot situations (not always grill related).

7. Oil your dough beforehand (use aforementioned pastry brush). 

8. Stretch the dough out.

9. Place it on the grill. Close the lid. Bake for 2 minutes.

10. Flip the dough.

11. Put the toppings on. Close the lid. Bake for 2 minutes.

12. Remove the pizza. Eat.

13. Repeat.

14. Where is that assistant with the wine???

For The Box, I made two pizzas: Cherry Tomato, Salami, Goat Cheese and Arugula Pizza and Apple, Smoked Gouda, Onion Jam and Arugula Pizza. You can see how it all played out here:

Here are the finished results:


Sometimes, the grill gets a little crazy and the flipping and placing of the dough gets a little wonky:

Pizzas are not always round. And the irregular shapes are good for grabbing. This was not the result of too much wine. 

You may be wondering how to make onion jam. Check out Martha Stewart's super easy recipe. Mess around with it and see how it turns out for you. 

Everyone was very pleased with the results.

Except for John who looks moderately skeptical.

And just downright angry. It could've been the golf. Or the hair. Or perhaps he didn't like the wine. But you can't blame the pizza. Not if I'm making it, anyway.

Even Toby got some.

And see how happy he was?


It's About the Process – Gluten Free Graham Crackers

I'm writing today about process. In cooking and in life.

Whoa. This is a heavy topic for a Friday, yes? Not really.

A few things have gotten away from me this year. I've been very focused on end results. And in doing so, I've been forgetting the most enjoyable part – the process of getting there (or not getting there, as the case may be).

So, I've been taking more detours and trying to focus on the step-by-step process, regardless of where I am going. 

I've been doing this in the kitchen too. Often, I get very caught up in presenting to you the whole shebang. Eight million photos of the in-depth process of pizza making! 

You don't always need this. And I don't always have time to do it. So I'm going to give you something simple today. It's the first of a many-part series. I'll eventually get to the other steps, but I'm going to take a moment to celebrate this first one: Graham Crackers.

These grahams are also gluten-free. Why? I felt like it, that's why. I know gluten is a hot-button ingredient these days. It may also be a hot-button issue for me. I'm in the process of finding out. So while I await some blood-work, I decided to embrace some experimental baking in the form of these crackers.

They are delicious. They're not exactly like regular graham crackers. I used molasses to stick everything together and sweeten, so they are a bit firmer than a regular crumbly graham. I might like these better.

See what happens when you deviate from the path? Happy accidents. Here's a recipe for Happy Accident Gluten Free Graham Crackers:

What You Need:

3/4 cup almond flour

3/4 cup brown rice flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch (yes cornstarch is gluten free! You can also use arrowroot powder)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons molasses (you might need a bit more, you can be the judge)

What You Do:

1. In a food processor combine almond flour, cornstarch, salt and molasses.

2. Blend until everything starts to stick together. You may need to add more molasses. Go ahead - a little at a time.

3. Form the dough into a ball and roll it out between two pieces of parchment paper to ¼ inch thick.

4. Cut dough into rectangles (however large you like your crackers).

5. Score rectangles into 4 equal parts and poke holes in the surface – make a fun pattern!

6. Bake at 350° for 6-9 minutes.

7. Cool completely, then serve!


Keep on Truckin' -The Pizza Vita Truck in Hoboken

Is Hoboken getting hip before my very eyes?  Not long ago, it got its own artisinal pizzeria, Dozzino.  Then, it opened up a pretty bad ass biergarten.  More boutique shops are opening. Even the residents it seems like are sporting more pompadours and thick framed glasses than Eli Manning jerseys.  And now, we have an awesome food truck strip giving way to a beautiful outdoor bar scene at Pier 13, one of Hoboken's greatest developments in recent memory.

One of the food trucks is from Piza Vita, an actual pizzeria in Summit New Jersey with, apparently, it's own mobile brick oven.  And, make no mistake, this is a full functioning, hot as hell, brick oven that breathes fire out the side of a truck.  A tatted up pizzaiolo named Ernesto expertly slings dough and peels blistering pies from the oven's scorching mouth with a skillful swag.  This is a serious, Neapolitan-like operation.  The last Italian that I can remember with this cool of a truck was Lincoln Hawk. I order a margherita at the slightly-below market price of $10.00. 

Upon tasting the pie, my lofty suspicions are pretty much confirmed: this is very good.   Does the setting help?  It sure doesn't hurt, but this pizza is wonderful on its own.  The pie has a perfectly crisp, yet soft, salted and cooked dough.  The tomato is tangy, rich, but not overpowering; the cheese is creamy and perfectly melted, and the basil leaves gently grace certain bites with a cool, minty tingle.  Consistency is just about perfect: charred, yet floppy, sturdy but soft. Bravo.

But back to that setting.  Where else can you enjoy beautiful an expertly cooked Neapolitan pie with a view like this?

Soon, I'll have to head to Summit to try Pizza Vita itself but, for now, this will more than do.  Bravo.


July Slice of the Month - Fig & Pesto Picnic Pizza

We are all of us melting here on the East Coast (and beyond) in a heat wave. It is July. This stuff happens. However, don't let it happen to your pizza. Melted cheese = good. Flopping, listless pizza with frizzy hair and disengaged toppings = bad.

This has not happened to you? Clearly, you do not eat enough pizza in the mid summer sun's direct light.

Picture yourself in a bucolic field, surrounded by daisies, tweeting birds and copious amounts of sunshine. You have just produced a picnic basket of epic proportions and your companion looks on, eagerly anticipating the delicious contents. As you pull napkins, utensils and other non-perishables from it's wickery depths, you reach for the pizza, when - GASP! - you realize it has dematerialized into something resembling the Wicked Witch of the West at ending credits. Hmmm.

Time to rethink everything. 

To combat this all-to-prevalent problem, I present you with PICNIC PIZZA (did you hear an echo?). This is thick crust pizza at it's best, stuffed with an assortment of the high summer fruit, figs, jammed with ricotta cheese and prosciutto, and slathered in arugula pesto. You keep the pesto in a jar and slather on-site to reduce transport-related mess.

Genius, no? YES!

You should make some. In order to do so, head on over to Colavita's Facebook Page, like them and download the cookbook. You will find:

1. Instructions on toppings and assembly

2. A thick crust pizza recipe

3. An arugula pesto recipe

4. The photographical stylings of yours truly.

Go do it!! You've got a weekend ahead!


Hoboken Farms and a Special Baked Pasta Recipe

A few weeks ago, I attended the Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center in NYC. This was such an insane collection of food entrepreneurs (both old and new), that went into sensory overload just trying to absorb it all...not to mention all the samples.

While I was there, I visited the Hoboken Farms booth. I had heard of Hoboken Farms before, but had not tried their product. At the show I was able to do that and talk with the founder, Brad Finkel.

Brad was incredibily enthusiastic about his brand and product, as he should be. The Big Red Sauce he was sampling was fantastic. He sent me on my way with an entire jar of it, and chatted with me over the phone about his brand, product and recipes.

First, a note on the Big Red Sauce: this is the sauce that your grandma made. That is, if your grandma was my grandma who spent all Sunday afternoon in the kitchen over a steaming pot of tomatoes simmered to a perfect reduction of sweetness and tanginess, with a touch of olive-oiliness and peppery punch. 

This is a difficult sauce to bottle. How do you bottle time? Or effort? Or grandmas? No comment on the last, but Hoboken Farms has figured it out. Their sauce comes out of the jar just as if it was poured directly from that giant pot on the stove. Instant Sunday afternoon.

Hoboken Farms commitment to quality goes way back to 1992. A time before hipster foodies. In 1992, John and I were drowning each other with Super Soaker 100's to the musical stylings of Heavy D (R.I.P.) and Kris Kros. I had not yet learned to pluck my eyebrows. John had not learned how to match his Jams shorts with his Bart Simpson t-shirts. But we had learned about good red sauce, from both our mom and our grandmother.

So had Brad. He learned cooking at his grandmother's knee, and in 1992 started to make his own mozzarella and sell it at local farm markets. Brad admits that he didn't know what a farm market was at this time. But he found eager customers there, and in one half hour, 50 pounds of his fresh mozzarella and 50 fresh loaves of bread sold out. He kept going and kept selling out.

Now, he has expanded to 30 farm markets (see locations here), a sandwich shop in Summit, NJ, the Juice Bar at NJ Equinox locations, and a Big Red Marinara Sauce that is sold in Whole Foods and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Through the farm markets, he maintains of loyal base of customers that keep returning. "The babies are growing up, having babies and shopping with us," says Brad proudly. The community extends online where menu offerings, events and recipes are shared. 

Brad shared one such recipe with me, which I vowed to create and share on this blog. It's a Baked Pasta recipe that he makes for his son, who is gluten intolerant. Gluten-free pasta is used in place of regular pasta. You can see the original recipe here, but I've also recreated it below to the best of my ability.

Side note: I ate this BEFORE and AFTER one of my recent races. Before, I ate it piping hot, taking my time to savor each melted cheese flavor blending with the tangy Big Red Sauce. After, I ate the cold leftovers with my bare hands like a raccoon in the trash. Both servings were excellent.

Here's how you can do the same:

What you need:

1 jar Hoboken Farms Big Red Marinara Sauce

1 lb Gluten-free pasta (I used a ziti cut, but you can use whatever you like)

1/2 lb fresh mozzarella cheese

1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

sea salt

What To Do:

Boil a large pot of water over medium-high heat on your stove top. When the water is boiling, season with a healthy pinch of sea salt. 

Throw in your gluten-free pasta and cook just under the recommended cooking time. The pasta will later be baked with sauce and will continue to absorb moisture, so to avoid "pasta mush" (a real and terrifying phenomenon), under cook your pasta slightly.

Drain the pasta.

In a baking dish, sprinkle in half of the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses. Pour some Big Red sauce over the cheese. Add the pasta to the dish, and the remaining Big Red sauce. Top with the rest of the cheeses, and a few sprinkles of red pepper. 

Bake at 450' till golden brown (about 7 minutes).

I made mine in small ramekin for portion control and/or cute antipasto servings!

Eat hot, cold, with utensils or without...