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Entries in pizza (36)

Monday
Aug202012

Sweet Cherry Pizza

We haven't thrown a pizza recipe at you in quite some time. And with harvest time (read: autumn) approaching, now is a great time to gather up the last of the summer fruits and make the best of them.

And when we say make the best of something, we generally mean, "make pizza with them".

So, today, we would like to encourage you to gather the last of the cherries and make a sweet Marinated Cherry, Farmer's Cheese and Mint Pizza

Why should you do this? Well, if you know us, you know we love pizza. And you know we would never give you faulty advice (knowingly) about it. This pizza is different, delicious, and delightfully balanced. It's true!

This is a fantastic brunch pizza, dessert pie or even a warm-up appetizer cut into bite-sized pieces and served along with a nice prosecco. Actually, I would prefer a rosé, but I like pink (and so does John).

Here's how it goes:

What You Need
1 cup cherries, halved and pitted
1 cup sweet wine
(I used Chateau Piada Sauternes. It has honey, orange, apricot and pineapple flavors that work well with the cherries)
1 cup Farmer’s Cheese
Honey (as much as you like)
Fresh mint, chopped (as much as you like) 

What You Do:

1. Marinate your cherry halves in the sweet wine overnight. Keep them in the fridge.
2. Stretch out your pizza dough into a round and spread a layer of the farmer’s cheese onto the dough.
3. Top the cheese with the marinated cherries.
4. Drizzle with honey.
5. Bake in the oven at 500 degrees for about 10 minutes.
6. When it is finished cooking, remove the pizza from the oven and drizzle with a little bit more honey and sprinkle with mint.

Need a reminder on how to make the dough? Have at it:

Pizza dough recipe
*You can also buy pre-made pizza dough at your grocery store.
* NOTE: For this recipe, I substituted 1 cup of all purpose flour for 1 cup of millet flour. Millet is slightly sweet, and makes for a nice dessert pizza crust).


Yields 4-5 pizza rounds
Ingredients:
1 envelope active dried yeast
1 ½ cups warm water – 100 degrees F
3 cups flour (all purpose, bread, or 00 flour)
1 cup millet or almond flour
¾ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Tools:
Pizza stone and pizza peel, semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting
If you don’t have a peel or a pizza stone, you can also use a cookie sheet. If you are using a cookie sheet, it’s not necessary to use semolina flour or cornmeal. Just place your dough round directly onto the cookie sheet and add toppings.

Process:
1. In a medium mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the warm water.
2. Stir in ½ cup of the all-purpose flour.
3. Cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let stand for 30 minutes to let the mixture bubble and rise.
4. After the 30 minutes are up, pour the yeast mixture into the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer. You can mix by hand as well in a large bowl.
5. Add the remaining ½ cup of warm water, salt and the olive oil to the food processor.
6.  Slowly begin to add the remaining flour, ½ cup at a time.
7. The dough will start to hold together and form into a ball.
8. When this happens, remove the dough from the bowl, and place on a floured counter top.
9. Knead the dough until it is smooth. This may take about 10 minutes.
10.  Dust the dough lightly all over with flour and place in a large bowl, covered with a kitchen towel.
11. Let it rise for 1 hour.
12.   After an hour, the dough will be doubled in size. Punch it down in the center and divide the dough into four or five equal parts.
13.   Form each part into a smooth ball and let them rise, covered, on a floured surface for 30 minutes.

Before you top your pizza, heat your oven to 500 degrees F. If you are using a pizza stone, place the stone in the oven and heat it up for at least 30 minutes prior to baking on it.

When the time comes to top your pizza, begin by stretching out your ball of dough on a floured surface. Start in the middle of the dough, and press outward until you have a flat, round disc, about 10-12 inches in diameter.

Side note: Neapolitan pizza is characterized by a thin crust with a slightly puffy outer crust, or “cornicone.” Feel free to stretch out your dough as much as you feel you can handle, but watch out for tears in the dough.

Take out your pizza peel and dust it with semolina flour or cornmeal.

Place your stretched dough onto the dusted peel. Make sure that you can easily slide the dough around on the peel.

Now you are ready for toppings!

 

Monday
Jul022012

Meatballs and Muffins, Muffins and Meatballs

Sometimes I can't decide what to eat - it's the age-old, "salty or sweet" question, which is often solved by either a literal or metaphorical (in terms of taste combinations) chocolate covered pretzel.

But a woman cannot live on chocolate pretzels alone. Trust me, I've tried. You need some more nutrients.

And, being Italian, what better thing to supplement chocolate covered pretzels with than meatballs? Yes - meatballs! Now, it being July 4th, you may be wracking your brains for various foodstuffs that you can throw on the grill. For me, I've always found that time awaiting the grill to be sufficiently heated a bit tedious.

Elana fires up the grill, back in the day.Myself and my guests might like munchies. Snackables. Whatever you wanna call it.

Enter MEATBALLS. These are mini bison meatballs with dill and fresh parsley. You can throw tiny toothpicks in them and serve them with a side of this yogurt dipping sauce.

Bison Meatballs
makes about 20 mini meatballs - for more, double the recipe! 

What You Need:
1/2 lb ground bison meat
4 small fingerling potatoes, boiled and peeled
4 scallions, chopped (white parts only!)
2 eggs
fresh dill - chopped (as much as you like)
fresh parsley - chopped (as much as you like)
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and black pepper to taste
Olive oil

What To Do:
Remove the potato skins andbBoil the potatoes in a pot of water until they are very soft when pierced with a fork. Remove them from the water and set aside to cool.

Place the ground bison meat in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, the crushed red pepper flakes, the dill and the scallions

Add the cooled potatoes, crushing them with your fingers as you add them to the meat.

Drop in the two eggs.

Now it's time to get dirty. Use your hands, people! That's why you've got 'em. Mix and mash all this wonderful gooey-ness together until it's holding.

Is it holding together? Good. Now, still using your hands, roll them into small balls and place them on a platter. Roll it all! You will be a master by the time this is over.

Heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet.

Drop in your meatballs, one at a time. Turn them around occassionally so that they brown evenly on all sides. Bison meat can be pink on the inside, but you are the master of your meatballs. Do you like them rare? Medium? Well done? For rare, I like to cook about 2 minutes on each side. I know meatballs don't really have a "side" being round, but just make it up.

Now keep in mind, bison meat has a lower fat content than beef. That means is will cook FASTER (also good for parties as your guests are HUNGRY people, I know they are). Because of this, bison tastes best at rare and medium cooked levels. It can dry out when it's well done. If you really like your meatballs well done, lower the heat and cook them slowly for a longer period of time.

Also, use tongs to rotate your meatballs...a fork will pierce them and then all the tasty juices will run away. Which is sad, especially when you've done so much work. Also, it's best to let the little guys rest for a few minutes before you throw 'em in your meatball hole. They like to settle, they've been through a lot in that skillet.

Now, I know I mentioned chocolate covered pretzels before, but instead I made muffins. You know that guests that ate all your meatballs? Well, they probably drank all your beer too. And they might be sleeping in your bathtub - watch out when you go in there in the morning! 

To be a nice host, you may want to offer them something in the morning. Something...healthy. With antioxidants. Heaven knows they need 'em.

Enter Goji Berry Oatmeal Muffins. They have lots of good grains, and Goji berries for antioxidant quality. If your guests choose to slather them with butter, just turn a blind eye. The bathtub is not the most comfortable place to sleep, after all. Here is the recipe:

Makes about 12 muffins

What You Need:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats (the real stuff, if you can)
1/2 all-purpose flour (you can also use millet flour if you want to be healthier. I find it has a nice sweet taste)
1/3 cup dried Goji berries, soaked in hot water to rehydrate
1/2 cup salted pistachios
1 tablespoon ground flax seeds (optional, but they're really good for you) 
3/4 cup soy milk (you can also use regular milk)
1 egg and 1 egg white
4 tablespoons of butter - at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt 
Drizzle of honey - to equal about 1/8 of a cup

What To Do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a muffin tin, or those fancy silicone muffin cups (I have them and I love them).

Soak the dried Goji berries in hot water for about 10 minutes.

While the berries are soaking, pull out your food processor, and throw in all your flours and the oats and the flaz seeds if you're using them. Give it a pulse or two to combine.

Add in the baking powder, baking soda and salt and pulse again.

Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until it is incorporated into the dry ingredients. The mixture should resemble a coarse meal, holding together in very small balls.

Now it's time to add the wet ingredients. Pour in the milk (soy or regular), the eggs and the honey. Blend until well combined. 

Drain your goji berries and add them, along with the pistachios to the batter. Blend just a tiny bit. You don't want to mash up the pistachios too much, it's nice to get a good CRUNCH in there.

If your batter is a little thick, you can add more milk.

Fill the muffin cups 3/4 of the way to the top. You can sprinkle the tops with a few oats for decoration. It does look nice that way...

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Now wait for the bathtub sleepers to surface...

And if you're still looking for things to throw on the grill, may we suggest PIZZA? We just can't help ourselves.

Just a few of our options...

Friday
Jun012012

Pizzeria Carillon in Bellagio

I may have mentioned this, but the way Lake Como works is this: You stay in one of the little towns (we stayed in Tremezzo) and then you water-taxi-it around the lake to the other little towns for the purposes of sight-seeing, food, shopping and general merriment.

Pretty sweet, right? Right.

One of our water taxi stops was Bellagio, a tiny town built into the hills around the lake. Restaurants and shops greet you at the harbor, and you can wander up the steep, perilous steps to find more shopping and restaurants. Marmo and I loved it.

I even found a REAL cycling shop in one of the crevices of the town, proceeded to talk with the shopkeeper IN ITALIAN (thank you very much) about cycling, and left with this cool Italia cycling kit at a hugely discounted price.

I was pretty excited. So was The Box, as I dragged him into the shop and then proceeded to squeal with delight at the selection of Italian spandex. The Box, as you might imagine, is opposed to spandex, unless it's being used to encase sausage.

And speaking of food - we haven't yet spoken of PIZZA.  We go all the way to Italy, and no talk (yet) of pizza. To be fair, we didn't visit Naples or Rome...two of our favorite cities for pizza. Pizza is traditionally a Southern Italian food. But pizza can be found everywhere. And we found some quality examples at Pizzeria Carillon on the Bellagio harbor.

I asked John for his notes on our pizza experience, and he supplied the following:

Brick Oven. Floppy, Runny, that is all I have. (via gchat)

Ummmm, yeah. John's lack of verbosity should not be confused with a lack of enthusiasm. In fact, we very much enjoyed our pizza, and his notes hit the nail on the head. Besides, who can talk or note-take when you have your cheeks full of oven-toasted pizza pie?

Brick oven? Check. The crusts were nicely charred and crispy, but still retained....wait for it....

that FLOPPY, squishy-bready quality that is characteristic of Neapolitan pizza crusts. 

And they were mildly RUNNY – also a Neapolitan feature. The centers of the pie are JUST cooked. Picking up a slice often encourages the tip of the pizza to droop and contents to sliiiiiiiide gently from bread to plate. Not a bad thing. The featured pepperoni pie above had just the right amount of grease and merged perfectly with the mozzarella cheese.

This above number was quite tasty with copious amounts of fresh basil and sweet cherry tomatoes. You will also notice from the fork and knife photos above that the pizzas were not pre-sliced. Points for authenticity on that one. Italians don't slice their pizza, because then they can't "fold and go"... pizza was one of the original "to-go" foods. 

Let's pause a moment for the flop shot...a piece of pepperoni droops perilously on the tip, only to be devoured moments later by John's watering chops.

A sign of a well done pizza lunch: the pizza swop. John, Marmo and I frequently traded slices, looking for just one more bite of each other's variations. 

Monday
May072012

I Don't Know Where We Are Going, But We Are Going There

The title of this post is in honor of my Full Throttle Endurance teammate Guillaume, who organized my triathlon team's recent cycling trip to France. The team was taking a break from cycling, gawking at some beautiful French scenery, and having our photos taken by obliging tourists ("say, 'frommage!'"), but it was time to get on with the ride. Turning to Guillaume, someone innocently asked, "Hey, Gee, where are we going?" His response, "I don't know, but we are going there."

In much the same spirit, John and I have returned from our European vacation. We have many stories to tell  - food related and otherwise. But the first story is mine. It's an epic tale with action, adventure, 125 km per hour wind gusts, an airborne dog, a nervous breakdown and a champignon omelette with hot chocolate.

So, tuck in, reader, because you are going there.

As I mentioned, the first leg of my vacation was spent cycling in the south of France with my triathlon team. We cycled a challenging terrain, covering anywhere from 50-75 miles a day and riding some segments of the Tour de France course.
I imagined rolling hills peppered with crumbling but cozy stone farmhouses, fields of lavender and wild flowers, medieval towns, and lots of post-ride cheese plates. The trip delivered on all those counts. Headed by Guillaume, our hotels, meals and cheese plates were all lined up like canards in a row.

Two memorable meals for me included the softest, richest nuggets of beef I have yet sampled....something like melted chocolate truffles of the meat variety.

Restaurant Le Parvis, Orange, FranceWhile another finished with an elaborate cheese plate, in which I partook heartily and have no clue as to the identities of the individual cheeses.

Restaurant at the Hotel Clos de la Glycine, Roussillon, FranceOur riding courses were also predetermined. We were all aware before the trip commenced that we would be scaling the intimidating Mont Ventoux. With an elevation of 6,273 feet and an average grade of 7.43%, we were all appropriately intimidated, scared, apprehensive and downright terrified.

The night before, we soothed our terrified bellies at a French gelateria. I chose a salted caramel flavor, but was tempted by the blue "Mont Ventoux" marshmallow gelato (as that is how your legs feel after ascending to the peak).

Régal Tendance, Orange, FranceOur ride began benignly enough. I was quiet during the ride to the mountain, inwardly terrified of what lay ahead.  As Guillaume warned us, "it will be a battle only with yourself."

View 5km from the top. We had to stop to put on extra clothes, as it's very oold up there.Luckily, I had company. My teammate Colleen and I ascended the mountain together. I honestly don't think I could have done it without her, so I must take a moment to thank her (THANKS!). In the two hours it took us to climb to the top, we didn't talk much. Talking was impossible in the face of the effort of climbing, but it was enough to know she was there. She and I climbed for two hours. Sometimes slowly and painfully, sometimes just slowly, and sometimes we threw in a little "weaving action" to give our legs a break.

Colleen and I just before climbing to the very top of the mountain.So what happens when you've been climbing a relentless, switchbacked mountain for 2 hours, finally see the top and are greeted with hurricane force winds? You get blown off your bike, that's what. Or at least I did.

No sooner did I reach the summit area (grunting like a wild boar from the effort) than the full force of the winds that Ventoux is famous for launched me right off my bike and into a cozy snowdrift. I had three consecutive thoughts during this episode:

1. Thank goodness I landed in the snow....those rocks over there look sharp.
2. I should get up, this is going to get cold quickly.
3. I can't get up, I'm pinned to the ground by the wind.

At this point, I made some very dramatic "leave me, save yourself" arm motions at Colleen, which she graciously ignored. When I was finally able to get up, I noticed a stream of my other teammates making their way down the hill, by walking, staying low and hanging on to their bikes for dear life (lest they blow away and take the owners with them).

I made my way across the top, trying to get to the pathway downhill, only to be smacked down again in the middle of the street. So, I sat there, in the street, holding my bike by its back wheel so it wouldn't blow away. As I was using all the strength in my right arm to hold it down,  I had the following thoughts:

1. Well, I could just sit here and wait for the wind to die down.....sometime next month?
2. I should let go of this bike and just let the mountain have it if it wants it so badly.
3. I should really move, I'm in the middle of the street and there are cars.

So, I began pushing my bike to the side of the street, as I still couldn't manage standing, to avoid the cars that refused to stop and help.

Finally, I got up for the second time and began walking downhill, crouching low so I would be less of a flight risk.

At this point, Colleen asked me if I'd like to get on my bike and try riding downhill. I had a hard time conveying the terror in my soul at the very idea, as the winds were still raging full force, so I said meekly, "I think I need to walk for a little while longer."

After a while, I tried riding. I went full white knuckles, clenching the breaks with all my hand strength, one foot clipped into my pedals, the other one out just in case I had to make a quick escape....to where I do not know.

This was really not the best way to achieve forward motion. I would have done much better to ride, as the wind was taking advantage of my slowness and messing with me. But I was really, really scared. Really scared.

When I finally made it to the restaurant, where we were meeting the team for lunch, I had a meltdown. I cried about three separate times, on various people's shoulders (thank you Billy, Tommy and Stacy).

I then consumed two hot chocolates and a champignon (mushroom) omelette with fries, without much idea of how it tasted, or if i was even hungry. I also realized I was very cold.


My teammate Billy summed up the adventure accurately, when he told our guide and van driver, "You said it would be hell, but you didn't mention it would be life threatening."

Luckily, our destination village of Mazan was quaint and charming. I found the following diversions, including an ages-old bread oven (can you say pizza?), a man selling white asparagus from his flat window, and a very friendly salumeria (French sausage!).

I did get back on my bike the next day. I had a fantastic morning ride, packed with lovely French bucolic scenery, medieval towns and a pizza lunch!

The pizza was average, but I enjoyed sitting in the restaurant's warm porch, surrounded by carbohydrates and teammates retelling their Mont Ventoux stories, which included other people being knocked sideways by the wind, a small dog being launched straight into the air (subsequently caught by his owner), and bikes lifted into the air like kites.

As I had to leave the group early to make my way to Milan for Iaciofano family madness, I took a car to Aix en Provence the next day with my teammate Nicole. In Aix, we found a plethora of gourmet shops, including one featuring a cookie bar of epic proportions.

We each claimed an empty tin which we loaded with strawberry, orange, anise, and chocolate "biscuits," some filled with jam or chocolate. I have only a few left, which I'm protecting like Golem watches over his ring. My PRECIOUS! Seriously, though, I'm sure this shop is a tourist trap, and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. And I would do it again. The cookies are buttery and soft - not too crunchy or crumbly. The fillings keep the round versions moist, while the oblong versions are perfect for coffee dipping.

For lunch we enjoyed a damp (it was raining) picnic of what Nicole called, "a fancy pig in a blanket." Her description is accurate, as it was essentially a challah-like loaf of bread stuffed with a mild creamy cheese (like a ricotta) and lardons. C'est magnifique!

By the time I arrived in Milan to meet the family, I didn't know where I was going, but I was going there.

I was four trains in, had tried speaking a few different languages of which I know not all that much, and had received a free extra croissant from the Milan train station cafe attendant. I must have looked hungry.

Confused and hungry seems to be a good way to introduce the Italian segment of the trip. John and I will continue to entertain you with our Italian adventures this week and next, giving you all the tips, tastes and triumphs.

Tommy consults the map. We all got lost repeatedly anyway.

Monday
Mar122012

Pizzas I've Made and Liked

I haven't posted about pizza in a while....home made pizza that is. Don't worry! I've still been firing up the Laboratorio Semi Moderno for the purposes of pizza experimentation.

But lately, I've been taking my show on the road. Oh yes! I am a travelling pizzaiola now. You can rent me out. And I come with accessories: a pizza stone, peel, and excessive amount of ingredients.

And by excessive, I mean ridiculous. Case in point, I recently overtook a friend's kitchen and made 14 different pies. FOURTEEN. 

Anyway, here are two pies that I really didn't think would work, but did. And not only did they work, but they were smashing successes! I'd like to tell you about them.

Smoked Salmon Pizza (pictured above):

What You Need:

1 package smoke salmon
Goat cheese
Fresh dill (as much as you like
Salt to taste
Olive oil

1 recipe whole wheat pizza dough (recipe here) You substitute 1 of the cups of regular flour with 1 cup of whole wheat flour.

What To Do:
Preheat you pizza-stoned-out oven to 500 degrees for at least a half an hour.

Stretch out your pizza dough ball into a round and drizzle the top with olive oil.

Dollop teaspoon-sized amounts of goat cheese liberally around the surface of your pizza dough. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Place the pizza with only goat cheese in the oven for about 8-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and place the slices of smoked salmon on top of the cooked dough and cheese. Sprinkle with fresh dill.

Slice immediately and eat – makes a fantastic brunch pizza!

This next one was a doozy. I'm not sure if it was the Buratta Mozarella, the bacon or the perfectly simmered mushrooms....but they all worked harmoniously together to produce the:

Mushroom Reduction and Bacon Pizza

What You Need:

3 large portobello mushroom, chopped into tiny cubes
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed (just SMASH it with the blunt side of a knife)
4 strips of bacon cooked, but not browned or crispy and then chopped
Chopped fresh thyme (as much as you like)
Water, chicken stock or white wine (about 2 cups)
Salt and pepper to taste 
Olive oil
Buratta mozzarella
1 recipe pizza dough (recipe here)

Parchment paper so you can make a fancy paper lid for your mushroom mix like THIS:

What To Do:
In a large frying pan, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Add in the chopped onions, mushrooms, bacon, crushed garlic cloves and fresh thyme.

Pour in the water (or substitute chicken stock or white wine). Don't submerge the veggies completely, but fill the water about 1/3 up to the level of the veggies.

Turn the heat on medium, plop on the parchment hat (I SWEAR to you the parchment hat is worth it - it lets in the perfect amount of air and allow the perfect amount of steam out).

Simmer until all the liquid is reduced. The mushrooms should be moist and soft. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Your oven (complete with pizza stone) should be heated to 500 degrees.

Stretch out a ball of pizza dough into a round and drizzle with olive oil.

Break apart a large ball of Buratta Mozarella and evenly distribute it on the dough.

Scoop out the mushroom reduction and place that on the dough as well.

Add another drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt....and perhaps an additional garnish of fresh thyme.

Slide it onto the pizza stone in the oven and bake for about 8-10 minutes.

When this comes out of the oven, but your gloves on. Boxing gloves, that is, as you will be fighting off everyone else for another slice. Trust me.

Would I lie to you? For no good reason?

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