Tag Archives: pizza

Tutti a Tavola…

“Tutti a tavola a mangiare” or ‘everyone to the table to eat’ is Lidia Bastianich‘s closing on her Italian cooking show.

I thought it was an appropriate title for this Italian themed menu.

Strozzapreti (priest-strangler) pasta made with flour, a pinch of salt and hot water. Kneaded for five or six minutes until smooth and supple, this simple pasta is rolled out about 1/8th of an inch thick with a rolling pin and then cut into one inch strips with a pizza cutter.

The strips of pasta are then stretched a bit before being rolled between the palms of your hands to form little ‘snakes’ of pasta. Tear the pasta into 3-3 1/2 inch pieces and let dry for half an hour before cooking. Depending on how thick your pasta is, it will take five or six minutes to cook to al dente.

Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce of your choice.

Individual beef and mushroom braciole

Beef and Mushroom Braciole – serves 4

1 pound/454 gm eye of round, cut into four 1/2 inch slices**
1/2 cup finely diced mushrooms
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 slices bacon, finely diced
1/8 tsp dried parsley flakes
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
bundle of fresh basil leaves (6-8)
2 1/2-3 cups spaghetti sauce
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp ground black pepper, divided

Hot cooked pasta or polenta

** Eye of round cut into 1/2 inch thick slices, pounded to 1/4 inch thick with a meat tenderizer. Set aside.

Add the mushrooms, onion, cheese, bacon, parsley flakes, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp ground black pepper to a food processor. Pulse a few times until you have a homogenous mixture which still has some texture to it. Remove the mixture to a small bowl and divide by eye into four even portions.

Season the beef cutlets on both sides with some of the remaining salt and pepper. Spoon the mushroom mixture onto each cutlet, spread out leaving about 1/2 inch free on all sides. Starting on the longer side, roll up the beef cutlet to enclose the mushroom mixture. Tie up each roll with butcher’s twine. (Or use toothpicks to seal.)

Preheat the oven to 325 deg F.

Place a dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when hot, sear off each beef roll until browned on all sides. Transfer the rolls to a plate.

Drain off any remaining oil from the dutch oven and add the spaghetti sauce and the basil leaves. Add the seared beef rolls and any juices that have drained off. The sauce level should be almost to the top of the rolls. If needed, add some water to the sauce. Bring the spaghetti sauce to a simmer. Put the lid on and transfer into the preheated oven.

Bake for 1 1/2-2 hrs, turning over about half way through the cooking time, until the beef is tender.

Remove the string from the braciole, slice into 3/4-1 inch slices and serve over the polenta with some of the spaghetti sauce spooned over the top. Alternatively, toss freshly cooked pasta with some of the spaghetti sauce and serve the sliced braciole on top.

Dessert was a quick and easy affogato or ice cream ‘drowned’ in a shot of espresso.

And, a couple of ham, bacon, mushroom and mozzarella cheese pizzas for work lunches.

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Sourdough Bagels

My sourdough starter jar was getting a bit full (relatively speaking, as it was in a BIG jar, rather than my usual 2 cup one) so I had planned on refreshing the contents by making a batch of sourdough flour tortillas.

And then I was inspired by a themed post on a FB group I belong to to make sourdough bagels. After posting a request for a recommended recipe, I decided on the simplest of the bunch, which I actually found by net-surfing. And it only made eight bagels, which was perfect as my upstairs freezer is getting VERY full, again. I used up the last drop of starter in the jar (though I’ve got a couple of jars of dried starter in the pantry) so I won’t have to do weekly starter feedings for a while.

The results were very tasty, dense and chewy in texture. Breaking out the stand mixer to knead the dough was a smart idea as that’s a tough dough to knead by hand. And, although the bagels weren’t shaped as nicely as I’d hoped, none of them came undone during the boiling step even though I used the “sealed rope” method of shaping. The hydration of this dough meant that the two ends stuck together during the shaping, especially as I didn’t use additional flour when rolling out the dough into a rope.

Fried Egg, Bacon and Cheese Bagel Sandwich

Bagel Pizzas

Sourdough Bagel Pictorial

Dough was kneaded in a stand mixer for 10-15 min on medium speed, rested, shaped and proofed at room temperature for 3-4 hrs until puffy and then cold retarded for 4-8 hrs before being boiled and baked. The cold retarding develops flavour and lets the bagels harden enough to be easily picked up and transferred to their boiling water bath without deformation. (Especially if you don’t crowd your fridge and end up dropping a container on top of a couple of your bagels.)

Even though the bagels spread during refrigeration and I was sure I was going to end up with bagel pancakes, oven spring during the baking gave them a nice lift so they were plump and lovely.

Crumb – Sliced into while still warm, because who can resist a bagel fresh out of the oven? I know I can’t.

Tipo 00 Flour Pizza Crust and Herbs Inside and Out

Last year I was feeling a bit adventurous so, along with my usual purchase of a 20 kg bag of Canadian all purpose flour ($19.99 including tax), I came home with a 1 kg bag of imported Italian Tipo 00 flour (Camino brand, $2.99). This is a very finely milled wheat flour often used for pizza dough and pasta, in Italy. This particular bag is listed as being made from soft wheat flour, though that’s not necessarily the case with all Tipo 00 flours.

I decided that, at that price, it better make some pretty amazing pizza dough.

And I kept putting off trying it out.

Until NOW … mostly because I want pizza and I’ve got less than a cup of all purpose flour in the house, and no intention of replacing my stash until some time in August.

NOTE: I calculated the protein content (5 gm per 42 gm of flour) at 11.9% confirming, that in this case, it IS a low protein flour.

Tipo 00 Flour Pizza Crust – makes enough dough for one 12 inch pizza

250 gm Tipo 00 flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant/bread machine yeast
140 gm room temperature water
1 1/2 tsp olive oil

In a medium sized bowl, add the flour and salt. Stir to mix through. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast, water and olive oil. Mix through with your finger tips until all the flour has been moistened and then gather together into a ball.

Transfer the ball of dough to a clean working surface and knead, without adding any additional flour, for 5 minutes. Cover with the mixing bowl and let rest for 5 minutes. Knead for another 3-5 minutes until the ball of dough is smooth and elastic.

Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled medium sized bowl, turning the ball in the oil to lightly cover. Cover tightly with a sheet of food wrap and drape a towel over the bowl. Put the bowl of dough into a warm place and let rise for 1 1/2-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Degas the dough and round up into a ball, cover with the food wrap and then the towel and let the dough rest for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 450-500 deg F about an hour before you want to bake your pizza.

Prepare your pizza baking sheet by sprinkling ground cornmeal lightly over the top. Stretch the dough onto your baking sheet. Top and place into the preheated oven.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the ingredients are cooked, the cheese is nice and bubbly and the underside and crust is golden brown. Remove the pizza to a cooling rack and let rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting so that the cheese has a chance to set.

Trial 1: The dough weighed 403 gm and it took 13 1/2 minutes to bake the pizza. I estimate that the oven had only been at temp (500 deg F) for about 15-20 minutes. The next time, I’ll start preheating the oven as soon as the pizza dough is ready for its hour of rest instead of waiting half an hour.

Review: There were only a few big bubbles in the pizza crust but they WERE there. I have a couple ideas of ways in which to get more of those bubbles. The underside of the crust was crisp, relatively thin and golden brown and the pizza crust itself was nice and chewy. It’s a good pizza, similar in taste and texture to one available from a popular local pizza restaurant and delivery place. And a lot cheaper. I’d buy the flour again if it was a good price.

And, on a side note: I like using fresh herbs in my cooking but nurturing them is a chore.

Cause … I get bored.

And distracted … so I don’t use them at their peak. In any case, this is my current inventory of culinary herbs.

Inside

Italian Basil

Japanese shiso/ perilla (3 overcrowded pots) and a sad lavender plant

Outside

Mint and Thyme – with a couple of green onion bulbs that I transplanted after harvesting the tops a few times

Thai Basil and Sage

Bulk Impulse Buys … Jarred Pasta Sauce

Freezer clear-out is going well with about eighty percent of the contents of the upstairs freezer having been transferred to the basement freezer. However, meals are going to be pretty unimaginative this coming week, as I scrounge out previously made and frozen mains and sides. The same old dishes are making an appearance so I thought I’d wax poetical on one of my recent big purchases.

Even though I usually make out a grocery list for my week’s shopping, late Wednesday evening when the online grocery store flyers are posted, impulse buys are my weakness. Sometimes though, you have to take advantage of an unexpected really GOOD sale.

Recently, I had occasion to visit a nearby Freshco grocery store for a few odds and ends, since it is conveniently located at the same mini mall where I just got my hair cut. While walking down the pasta/sauce aisle, I spotted a sale on my favourite pasta and pizza sauce … Prego. Since this brand isn’t available at Food Basics, at all, and there was none at Metro, my usual place to buy this, on my last visit, I decided to snap up a few bottles. Especially since the price was $1.99. Usually, this is product is $3.49 or even more. A sale price of $2.49 is really good and this was even better than that.

As I was checking out, the cashier noted the four bottles she was ringing in and asked if it was a good product. Of course, I said yes and she mused that at 99 cents she should pick up a jar or two herself. 99 cents?? A DOLLAR 99 cents, I corrected her … to have her point out that it was ringing in at 99 CENTS.

I took my groceries to the car, turned around and went back in for six more bottles and a wedge of Parmesan cheese as well as a few other things that I knew I could use.

Convenience and good flavour at a great price is worth going over your planned budget if possible.

Here are a couple of quick dishes made recently using the jarred sauce:

Tagliatelle using whole wheat pasta … for a meatier topping, add some cooked hot Italian sausages (previously bbq’d and frozen, in this case) to the sauce when warming it up to add to the pasta.

Individual pizzas made with sourdough flour tortilla

Cauliflower-Rice Pizza Crust

Because Karen, of “Back Road Journal”, posed an interesting question about getting a pizza crust, using cauliflower rice, that was firm enough to pick up … and because I was bored, I decided to attempt a technique and recipe found here.

The recipe was scaled down to accommodate the reality that I only had 300 gm of cauliflower rice in the house. And it was frozen.

It’s possible that using fresh cauliflower, rather than frozen, may give you a drier cauliflower rice preparation to start with, and require less effort to get as much excess water out of your cooked cauliflower as possible. Instead of poaching/steaming the cauliflower, I used the microwave to cook the cauliflower rice directly from frozen.

Pick-upable Crust

Cauliflower Rice Pizza Crust for One – makes 1 16 1/2 cm (6 1/2 inch) diameter pizza crust

300 gm cauli-rice, frozen
1 tbsp beaten egg**
1 tbsp soft goat cheese (chevre) or cream cheese
1-2 pinches of salt
1/4 tsp dry oregano, rubbed between the palms of your hand to a powder

NOTE: One large egg has a volume of about 1/4 cups. Using 1/4 of an egg means that you use about 1 tbsp of well beaten egg.

Place frozen cauli-rice in a microwave safe container with lid. Cook on high for 5 minutes. With a fork break up the cauli-rice, replace the lid, and return to the microwave and cook on high for another 2 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 deg Fahrenheit. Cover a metal baking dish or sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.

Let the cauli-rice cool for 5-10 min until it’s cool enough to handle. Transfer the cauli-rice to a sturdy linen towel and squeeze as much of the liquid as you can out of it. NOTE: I got about 160 ml (2/3 cup) of water out of the cauli-rice.

Transfer the cooled cauli-rice to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Transfer the cauli-rice ‘crust’ into the center of the parchment paper and pat out into a 16 1/2 cm (6 1/2 inch) diameter circle. It will be about 5 cm (1/3 inch) thick.

Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the top is golden brown. With a spatula, flip the ‘crust’ over, in case of sticky areas, and add the toppings.

Crust Top and bottom

Return to the oven and bake 5-7 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the toppings are cooked.

Cut and serve immediately.

Mushroom Duo

Spring is finally here … daffodils are the first flowers that bloom in my ‘garden’.

I didn’t grow up eating mushrooms. In fact, my first exposure to them came in the form of canned mushrooms which, texturally, didn’t appeal to me at all.

And then I discovered fresh mushrooms, especially the ubiquitous white, button mushrooms that are often found on sale. They used to be available loose in grocery stores but now, they’re usually packaged in half and full pound versions, sliced or whole.

BUYING TIPS for button mushrooms: If possible, buy them whole as they’ll last longer. Also, make sure that the mushrooms in the package are compact and white without the browning ‘gills’ being exposed. Gills are an indicator of maturing/mature mushrooms and the flavour is more intense. If you want a ‘cleaner’ presentation, stick to the young, solid white mushrooms. Size is not an indicator of maturity so don’t be fooled. There’s also less wastage if you buy young mushrooms since, as they mature, the stems become tough and ‘woody’ and you’ll want to discard them.

Bacon and Mushroom Quiche

I used one of the pre-baked shells from the coconut cream pie recipe. With the additional baking and the savoury filling the pastry was perfect, backing up my belief that under-baking was one reasons for the disappointing cream pie result.

Bacon and Mushroom Quiche – serves 1

1 5 1/2 inch pre-baked pie shell
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
pinch of salt
pinch of ground nutmeg
2-3 strips crispy bacon, sliced
1-3 (depending on size) mushrooms, diced
2-3 tbsp grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 deg Fahrenheit.

Place the pie shell on a baking sheet to prevent spillage during transport. Spread the bacon and mushrooms over the base of the pie shell.  Sprinkle some of the cheese over the top.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, salt and nutmeg. Pour the custard mixture over the contents of the pie shell. Sprinkle the rest of the grated cheddar over the top.

Transfer the baking sheet and quiche into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the custard is set. Let cool and serve with a salad for a light lunch.

Mushroom and Shrimp Scampi

Mushroom and Shrimp Scampi – serves 2

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound white button mushrooms, sliced and diced
1 small red, orange or yellow sweet pepper, medium diced
9-12 large raw shrimp, peeled except for the tail
2-3 tbsp green onion tops for garnish
salt and white pepper to taste
1/4 tsp garlic powder

200 gm fettuccine or spaghetti, cooked according to package directions

In a small bowl, combine the raw shrimp, a pinch or two of salt and the garlic powder. Let sit for a few minutes.

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the butter and olive oil. When hot, add the mushrooms. Sprinkle about 1/2 tsp of salt over the top and saute until most of the moisture is gone and the mushrooms are lightly golden. Add the diced peppers and saute for another couple of minute until barely tender.

Push the vegetables to one side and add the seasoned shrimp. Saute just until the start getting pink on one side and then turn and continue sauteing until the second side is also pink and the shrimp have started to curl up. Combine the shrimp and veggies, taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Add the cooked pasta, stir through to coat with the butter and olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning a final time.

Divide the pasta evenly onto two plates, sprinkle the green onion tops over the pasta and serve

BONUS: Tortilla pizzas topped with the last of the mushrooms in the veggie crisper.

Sourdough Thin Crust Pizza Dough

A recent request by someone on one of my FB groups for a thin crust pizza recipe got me thinking.

I’ve made a delicious thin crust pizza using sourdough tortillas as a base but, was it possible to use the sourdough starter directly to get similar results?

I used the Genius Kitchen recipe, with some minor adjustments posted below, for my first attempt.

Underside of the pizza crust on the metal baking sheet (not preheated)

Sourdough Pizza Crust – makes enough dough for 2 12 inch pizzas

1 1/2 cups (365 gm) fresh sourdough starter*
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus another 3-4 tbsp more for brushing the crust with before pre-baking and before topping
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups (154 gm) all purpose flour**, more as needed

* If possible, make sure your starter has been freshly fed, 2-4 times if possible, before using it, if you’re keeping it in the fridge, like I am.
** Start with one cup of the flour if your starter is on the thick side

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, mix together one cup of flour and the salt. Add the sourdough starter and the EVOO and stir together until it forms a homogeneous mixture. Gradually stir in more flour, as needed until the mixture starts to gather into a ball. Transfer onto a very lightly floured work surface and knead until you get a pizza dough consistency.

Cover your ball of dough with the bowl you used to make it in and let rest for 30 minutes, so it will be easier to roll out. (It won’t rise much, if at all, but will get a bit softer.)
Roll the dough out into a circle using the minimum amount of flour needed to prevent sticking.

Brush with extra virgin olive oil and use the tines of a fork to dock (prick all over the dough) to prevent excess bubbling up of the crust during prebaking.

Bake the crust for 5-7 minutes, depending on your oven’s performance. (I decided to pull the crust out after 5 min.)

Remove the crust from the oven and brush on a bit more oil to prevent the toppings from soaking into the crust and making it soggy.

Add the desired toppings and bake the pizza until the crust browns on the top and underside, and the cheese melts, ~10 minutes.

REVIEW: The dough was very tasty. I fed my starter with a few tablespoons of whole wheat flour early on in rehydrating it from dry, so the texture was nice and chewy. The dough could have been rolled out a bit thinner but the amount of dough used (260 gm) was pretty much spot on. I didn’t get dark brown spots on the edge of the crust, like in a wood burning pizza oven, but it was crispy enough on the underside for my taste, even without a pizza stone or preheat the baking sheet, a cheap black pan that’s more than 30 yrs old.

The second half of the pizza dough was baked without prebaking. The result: The crust was NOT as crispy without prebaking. Perhaps because the toppings were fully cooked after 10 minutes so the total baking time was only 10 minutes compared with the 15 minutes total for the prebaked crust. And, even though it was expected that baking the pizza with the toppings on (without prebaking or docking) would prevent the formation of bubbles, that was not the case. Four large bubbles developed during the 10 minute baking period. They deflated somewhat once the pizza was removed but did not disappear completely.

Calzone … a Pizza Alternative

Getting tired of making the same old pizzas??

Make a calzone instead, using the same basic pizza dough. In whatever size you like … 4, 6 or 8 inch.

NOTE: For another alternative to pizza, see the Buffalo chicken stromboli I posted a while ago.

Serve with a bowl of marinara sauce for dipping

I decided to make a regular sized (12 inch/20 cm diameter) pizza for work lunches and divided the rest of the dough into three 8 inch/20 cm calzone which can each serve one hungry person, or two moderately peckish people. I used a generous 1/4 lb (115-130 gm) of dough per calzone.

Filling amounts:

4 inch – 1 tablespoon
6 inch – 1/3 cup
8 inch – 1/2 cup

Broccoli rabe, ricotta and Parmesan cheese filling – fold over and seal the edges by crimping or with the tines of a fork

Brushed with extra virgin olive oil and baked at 450 deg F/230 deg C in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 min. Make vent slits in the top of the calzone before baking. These were marked with the initials of the fillings … R (broccoli rabe), BR, B (bacon)

Regular pizza … pepperoni sauce, sweet peppers (red, orange, yellow), bacon and mozzarella cheese.

Leek Duo … from the Sublime to the Ridiculous

The first time I ever tasted leeks was in soup made from a packet of “Knorr Cream of Leek”. It was creamy and subtly flavoured and became my ‘standard’ of a leek soup. This soup surpasses that in flavour, nutrition and, time wise, it’s not bad either.

Cream of Leek and Potato Soup

I didn’t use any thickeners (cream, cornstarch or flour) to make this soup, other than the two diced potatoes. Although I was tempted to use bacon fat to sautee the 1/2 cup of diced onions, one clove of minced garlic and one large sliced leek, I decided to use 2 tbsp unsalted butter, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp white pepper to highlight the subtle flavours of the leeks. I wish I had had some home made chicken stock, but I didn’t, so I used a tablespoon of low sodium “Better than Bouillon” to 4 cups of water, which isn’t bad at all. The thickness of the soup was perfect for me, but if you find that as your soup cools, it gets too thick, you can thin it out with some extra chicken stock, or even just some water, in a pinch. Check for seasoning before serving, in that case.

I often make pizza dough from scratch but, having a package or two of flatbreads or flour tortillas, in the freezer, is convenient for quick, last minute meals.

Shiso Pesto, Roasted Leek and Paneer Flatbread Pizza

I ran across some tasty pizza topping ideas using leeks in my recent web search and adapted them to what I had on hand so the leeks sauteed in white wine and cream became leftover roasted leeks with a base of shiso pesto, from the freezer. And, instead of goat cheese, I crumbled some home made paneer cheese, also from the freezer, over the leeks. A sprinkle of green onion for a fresh touch was added, about half way through the baking process and, before serving, grated Parmesan cheese was sprinkled over the top.

Re-post of Old Standbys

PICSPAM BELOW:

Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to research/cook/post new recipes. So I dig out the tried and true recipes of the past. Pork is featured in some form in almost everything below, except for the chili.

Like pork crackling biscuits.

I use bacon fat instead of lard or butter for the lamination.

You don’t need to cross-hatch the top of the dough before cutting out the biscuits, but it does make them pretty.

Ham and bean (pinto) soup flavoured with bay leaves and thyme

Chili topped tostadas

Debrecener (Hungarian style pork) smoked sausages served over sauteed coleslaw flavoured with balsamic vinegar

Sometimes I just fry the sliced sausage rings and serve them with fried eggs and cottage cheese for breakfast.

Pizzas made with Greek flatbread

… or with my regular white bread/pizza dough. Half of the dough was used to make a 12 inch diameter pepperoni, mozzarella and fresh basil pizza and the rest was shaped into buns for work lunches.

Nice fluffy crumb in the pizza crust

Underside of the buns – baked for 20 minutes at 400 deg F then basted with melted butter