Sunday, May 31, 2009

Of Pizza,Things and a Canceled Trip to Palm Springs

Well, I hate to disappoint everyone, but I didn't get to go to Palm Springs. My radiator had an issue about 2 freeway exits away from my apartment. It's in the shop now, until Monday afternoon. Thus the only pizza that was made Saturday night was mine. (sigh) Oh well, it was still tasty, even if I was a little depressed about not going... (stupid car).

I also ended up having Pizza for breakfast Sunday morning. My very first "Sweet" Pizza. Then, luckily, one of my friends came to my rescue and helped me eat Pizza this evening. So now, that is 4 down, only 4 more to go... Whew!

Saturday night, I had decided that I would console myself by wandering through my container garden again. There's not really a whole lot to harvest yet, it's still pretty early, but I did manage some more squash blossoms. This made me think of a garden pizza, so a jar of Roasted Red Peppers, and a can (not marinated) of Artichoke Hearts came out of the pantry. Then I grabbed a Leek and some Crimini mushrooms from the refrigerator. Voile!

Garden Pizza
(although not necessarily from my garden)

As with most pizza, there really is not a recipe, past the dough. I always wing it, and just try to keep everything a little on the light side, to make sure it cooks properly, and the crust does not become soggy. This is part of the appeal of pizza, it is complete free flowing creativity. The dough is simply your canvas. So allow me to paint you a pizza.

Roll or press out the dough, and move to a corn floured peel. (mine are never actually round)
I chose olive oil for a base this time...

Layer with a little Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano or Grana Padano (your choice of grating cheese) but just a little.
Sprinkle with Leeks

Add mushrooms and Roasted Red Peppers

Add Artichoke hearts and your first layer of Mozzarella.

Lay out squash blossoms.

Add a final sprinkle of Mozzarella cheese and just a little more of your chosen grating cheese...

Toss it onto your cornmeal covered stone at 500 degrees and bake for 8-10 minutes.
Let rest on the counter for 3-5 minutes before cutting.

I cut mine on the peel now, because I have a wooden pizza cutter, if you have a metal one, remove the pizza from the peel first or you will scar it.

Now the best part... Eat the Pizza... !!!!

I was originally going to do this in 2 separate posts, but time was an issue, and since it is Sunday night, and I have not published the first post yet, I am simply combining them.

After the Garden Pizza of Saturday night, I decided to try my first actual "sweet" pizza. I already had figs, since that was what I had originally went to Whole Foods to find when I came across the Morel mushrooms. I also had Rossini, a blue cheese from the Lombardy area of Italy. The difference between Rossini and oh, say Gorgonzola is that there is an unexpected "sweet" aftertaste. I will admit, that while I find the cheese extremely intriguing, Gorgonzola may have been a better choice here since, for me, the pizza was just a little too sweet. Again, not so much a recipe as a creative process.

Fig and Rossini Pizza with Honey and Mascarpone

It was actually a very simple thing to prepare.
"Sauce" the dough with a light coating of honey.
Place alternating dollops of Mascarpone and quartered figs.
Simply place small pieces of Rossini (or Gorgonzola) on each fig.
Drizzle with a little more honey and bake for 7 minute.

Breakfast of champions!

Then I had pizza again for dinner after walking around downtown today. I called one of my friends in SD, who is a pizza fanatic, and invited him over for a pie. These were more the quintessential meat lovers pizza... A little much for me, but still tasty.

Dry Salami, Pepperoni, Mushroom and Black Olive

Spread Tomato Sauce, sprinkle lightly with Parmigiano-Reggiano for a base coat.
Add Salami and Pepperoni, then sprinkle with dry mozzarella.
Add sliced black olive and mushrooms.
Top with More mozzarella and a little more Parmigiano-Reggiano.
I like to sprinkle mine with a little more Cracked Black pepper.
Bake 8 Minutes.


P.S. Oh yes, there will be at least 3 more pizza posts.... It's not over yet... Stay tuned....

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pizza With a Peel

OK, so here is the deal... My friends (Parents of my Godson) from Redondo Beach and I are all meeting in Palm Springs to visit our mutual friend Andy. Since my Godson will be there, it is time for me to dust off the Peel & Stone (they're not REALLY dusty, just a figure of speech) and throw together a big old batch of Pizza Dough to drag with me...

For it will be a Pizzafest... I use Larry's dough recipe, with a couple of modifications. Larry is a pizza guru, you should check out his vlog (The Coldhitz Vlog), it's awesome!

My main alteration, is to replace 2 cups of the AP Flour with Bread Flour, or "hard" flour. I like the "chew" that is produced by the higher gluten content. I also like to place my dough in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours to slow rise. I feel this makes a more flavorful dough. It's just a personal preference... Everything else is subject to change, and usually does... Like the Sicilian Olive oil,

the Trapani Sea Salt,

or the San Pellegrino Mineral Water (I used 1 cup along with 1 cup of plain water).

These were lying around so I thought, Hey, What the heck.... I have used them before, but they are not necessary for great crust. Especially the Trapani Sea salt. If I had not found it in the food section at a TJ Max, for dirt cheap, I would have , and normally do, used Kosher salt.

But enough chit chat out of me... I need to hop in the car this morning and head out... :)

Pizza Dough
(Double Batch)

2 pkg (4 1/2 tsp) Active Dry Yeast
2 cups water 110 degrees (or 1 cup water and 1 cup S. Pellegrino Mineral water)
2 cups AP flour
4 cups Bread Flour
2 tsp Kosher of Sicilian Sea Salt
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive oil; Plus more for rubbing bowl

Heat waters to 110 degrees, add yeast and stir, let sit 10 minutes.

Whisk flours and salt together in a medium bowl.

When the yeast looks like this....

It's ready to be added to the dough (stir it up again first though)

Add the olive oil to flour mixture,

and stir with a fork until a soft dough is formed.

Most likely it will look like this, my forks are thin, so I have to get my hands all in it.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until a silken elastic dough is formed.
This is a pretty soft dough, so you don't need a lot of force, just fold it towards you,

And push away,

Give it a turn to the left,

Fold and push away.

It takes about 10 minutes, then simply form it into a ball and rub it with some oil.

Lubricate a bowl with olive oil as well,

add the dough ball and turn to coat.

Cover dough ball with plastic wrap (on the surface)

Cover the bowl with foil and refrigerate for 24 hours.

This is what it will look like in about 12 hours

Because I doubled the batch, there should be enough dough for 8 pizzas.

I will post all the finished pizzas tomorrow after I return from Palm Springs...


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spring Has Finally Sprung - Risotto alla Springtime in Oregon

I probly shouldna dun it. But I did. I could not help myself..... And I'd do it again...

Normally I am a very patient individual, obsessive compulsive, but still fairly patient about it, at least on some things. I know it doesn't make a lot of sense. But this evening's meal is a perfect example...
I have been patiently waiting to get my grubby little hands on Zucchini Blossoms for years now, mainly because it reminds me of my farm boy roots in the "wilds" of Oregon. Well, my patients finally wore thin this spring, and I now have a couple of 20 inch pots on my patio, with Zucchini squash plants...

I have also been patiently waiting to acquire some morel mushrooms. Yes, the ever elusive Morel mushroom... In my humble opinion, the epitome of mushroomdom, white truffles from Alba aside, followed closely by the Bolete family (which includes porcini). Although this is up for some debate... Not because morels aren't tasty. But "mushrooms" are actually a very ancient organism, but morels didn't appear until the last ice age. They are actually a genetic mutation of yeast, not the bloom of a subterranean fungus like most mushrooms.

Mycology lesson aside, I was blessed this weekend, just by chance. I was at Whole Foods, looking for the first figs of the season, when mine eyes beheld a tiny basket full of atrociously priced Morel mushrooms... IN SoCAL... Who'd a thunk it? I broke down...
Morels are a quintessential flavor of spring, at least to an Oregonian farm boy. So I bought 5 medium sized mushrooms, which came to less than 1/4 lb (Thank GOD!) I always forget they are lighter since the stem is hollow.

This brings me to tonights meal. I had two problems....
  • I had Morels and they NEEDED to be used before they went bad (they don't last long in captivity) and they had to be in a dish where their flavor would not be masked by ANYTHING.
  • One of my Zucchini had started blooming, well, 1 bloom was open this morning... This meant it was time to do something with it, for once picked, they don't last long in captivity either...
So I attacked my poor zucchini plants, picking 2 of the male blossoms that were ready, and two others that really weren't, but they were close enough. None of the females are opened yet, so I hope another male opens before then so the zucchini will actually develop... Oops... (the zucchini in the picture came from Trader Joe's)

But it was worth finally giving in to my base instincts... well at least my "gatherer" instincts. After all, there isn't much game to hunt in the city, except maybe a skunk or two (yuck!).
I decided on Risotto ai Fiori di Zucca (Zucchini Blossom Risotto)... With Morels added. Yes, Yes, Yes. Absolutely delicious...!! I was SO pleased.

The light flavor of zucchini from the blossoms (cause they taste like zucchini, just fainter) and nutty yet sultry earthiness of the morels (They really are almost as incredible as white truffles). It tasted just like spring, at least to an Oregonian Farm boy. Now all I need are some Fiddleheads (and some more morels, or course) ;)

Risotto ai Fiori di Zucca e Fungi Morel

1 Shallot, minced
3 TB Olive oil
10 Morel Mushrooms, sliced into rings
1 cup Arborio or Vialone Nano
3/4 cup Prosecco (warm); Divided
2 3/4 – 3 1/2 cups Vegetable Stock; Simmering
8 Zucchini Blossoms; Thinly sliced
3 TB Grana Padano; freshly Grated
3 TB Unsalted butter
Salt and Fresh Ground Green Pepper to taste

Gently Wash the blossoms, removing the stems and pistils,

pat the blossoms dry and slice thinly and set aside.

Slice morels and mince the shallot.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and sweat the shallot for 2 minutes.

Add Morel Mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes.

Remove Shallot and Morels from Pan, leaving flavored oil

Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the grains have become translucent; about 4 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup of the warm Prosecco and stir until absorbed

Begin adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until each addition is absorbed.
When the rice is almost done, about 3 minutes remaining, stir in the zucchini blossoms and the Morel/Shallot mixture.

When rice is al dente, remove from heat, stir in the Grana Padano and Butter.

Cover and let stand for about 5 minutes.
Remove cover and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup warm Prosecco.

Season with Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Green Pepper.

Serve immediately and swoon....

Oh, in case you were wondering what happened to the little zucchini I had sliced up... I was originally going to add them, but decided to serve them on the side.

After a brief sauté in a little butter. ;)