Pizza crust

We love pizza around here. I can remember several family gatherings when I was growing up where all of the adults would hang around the kitchen sipping wine which came from jugs pretending to have something to do with Burgundy. They would be discussing the day’s going-ons, spilling cornmeal, laughing, and assembling handmade pizzas. Those pizzas were the best! I always looked forward to pizza night (and taco night) when I was a kid.

I have made pizza a regular staple with my family and it’s always a hit… After a few tries, it’s easy to throw them together; even on work nights when you don’t really feel like putting in much effort. It’s an easy formula:  dough + sauce + toppings = YUM, or as some would say, “nom nom nom”.

Helpful equipment: Baker’s peel, baking stone

Method:

Preheat oven and baking stone to 425 degrees. Let it heat up for about 30 minutes. Spread about 1 tablespoon of cornmeal on the baker’s peel. Roll out and stretch dough to roughly the size of the baker’s peel and place the dough on the peel. At this point, there is judgement and taste involved, so adjust volumes according to taste. Add about 1 cup of sauce and spread evenly, being careful not to slop it onto the peel making it more difficult to slide the pizza off. Next, add slices of mozzarella to cover, then your onion and then your sausage. This is the tricky part… First, assuming that the oven and stone are hot, open the oven and carefully spread a tablespoon or 2 of cornmeal on the hot stone, then lift the pizza on the peel and give it a quick, but small, jolt to ensure that the pizza will slide a little. If it doesn’t, peak under the pizza and make sure you have adequate coverage with your cornmeal and try to unstick any wet and sticky dough from the peel. Next, with pizza/peel in hand, go over to the oven. Tilting the peel enough to get the pizza to slide off, but not enough to throw your toppings all over the hot oven, slide the pizza from the peel to the stone using a small and careful jolting motion. Once you can get a little of the pizza on the stone, it will usually continue to transfer easily. The pizza should cook for about 15-20 minutes.


Coleslaw

Coleslaw

This easy and versatile coleslaw dressing recipe can be used with either whole head cabbage or an equivalent amount of that tasty broccoli slaw mixture which is available at the store.

 


Cheesecake

CheesecakeThis recipe is my ‘go to’ recipe for cheesecake. I like simple food that’s easy to throw together and this one definitely meets the objective! I have to give credit where credit is due and this one is adapted from Martha Stewart. I like it because it is just simple and straightforward which allows you to modify or add other flavors or try different things reliably. I have made this cheesecake about 10 times now with various additions (in this photo, you can see that it is topped with lemon curd which is one of my favorites) and it is always good. The good news is that it has a consistently pleasant texture/taste and the simple crust is also flavorful.

 


Lemon curd

Lemon curd

 

What can I say? It’s lemon curd. One of my favorite crepe fillings, layered cake fillings, cheesecake topping, toast dipping, and spoonful scarfing, etc, etc..

This is one of those recipes which is surprisingly easy considering what appears to be sophisticated results. A friend of mine, at Twin Springs Homestead, recently brought me some of her fantastic fresh and local eggs and lemons have been coming in nearby in the Sacramento Valley. It’s time for some lemon curd!

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Crêpe Suzette

Crêpe Suzette

Well, the story goes that in 1895 in the Cafe de Paris in Monte Carlo a classic was born.. by mistake, or so the legend has it. According to Henri Charpentier, he was serving nobility at the restaurant table side with crepes which were pre-prepared in the back. While preparing an orange sauce, he added the liquor over the open flame and voila! We had orange crepe flambe  and everyone raved.

The dish was appropriately named after one of the dining guests “Suzette”.

I made a quick and easy version here at the beach house at The Sea Ranch which came out quite nice.


Bánh mì

Banh mi

Otherwise known as the Vietnamese sandwich. According to Wikipedia, the term “Bánh mì” actually refers to the bread. It is important to use a good french bread here with a crust that is not too hard. A little crispness is a good thing.

The Bánh mì is, unfortunately, a bit scarce in my local area here in the Sierra Nevada foothills. A local restaurant, “La Bou” in El Dorado hills, used to have one on their menu which was tasty. That  might even be how I got hooked. I still make it a point to order it every time I go in there so they can explain to me how they removed it from the menu at only this one location and they can look at the disappointment on my face. Of course, in the bay area, these sandwiches are quite popular and very good.

There’s something about the pickled vegetables, spiciness, and caramelized meat which just comes together in a magical way. There’s really no trickery here, but there is a little time investment involved in prepping and marinating veggies, but it is well worth it and most things can be done ahead. Also, these sandwiches are often made with various types of pork lunchmeat which often contains bits of pork ear which adds to the texture. But I like the barbecued, caramelized pork versions the best. As luck would have it, our local supermarket carries some of the thinnest pork loin chops which are nearly useless, until now…


It’s Bacon!

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No, today’s blog entry isn’t about frying up some bacon. Who doesn’t like bacon? It’s delicious on it’s own, it adds tons of depth and flavor to a multitude of recipes, and best of all, it’s good for you (as long as you have a shortage of pork fat and salt in your diet as I do)! Isn’t that terrific?

Really, there’s only one thing better than that delicious ‘platter bacon’ you buy from under the glass in the your local butcher shop or supermarket and that’s bacon you made yourself. Homemade bacon doesn’t shrivel up and shed off a bunch of water when you fry it . Also you can cut it into bacon strips, chunks, lardons, or use your imagination. The fact is that it is more versatile and more delicious than that stuff you buy at the store. Additionally, you can season our bacon to your taste. If you thought you liked bacon, just wait until you try your own homemade bacon! It’s easy to make but there are a couple of special things you need. This recipe is based “Charcuterie” by Michael Ruhlman & Bryan Polcyn which is an excellent book for those who like to dabble in such things. The two tricky things about this recipe are the pork belly and the pink salt. Pork belly may be available at your local butcher, Asian market, or you might have to ask them to special order some for you. Pink salt can possibly be obtained from your local butcher, but more often than not, you need to order it online. I ordered it from: http://www.sausagemaker.com and this company calls theirs, “instacure #1”.