Pizza, Pizza, Pizza!!

Pepper and Mushroom Pizza

Pepper and Mushroom Pizza

I was a pizza cook for many years working in small pizza by the slice restaurants in Santa Cruz and in San Francisco picking up jobs as I was putting myself through school and being a graffiti artist. It wasn’t until I went on a cycling tour through  Italy that I really had a complete understanding of pizza. Riding my bicycle in Italy gave me an  understanding that pizza is different everywhere you go.  Even in Italia pizza was different along the way from town to town and region to region. I tasted pizza there with all sorts of wonderful ingredients but one thing that was consistent was that the pizza had ingredients that were mainly local but also the scale of the pizza was different from the gigantic slice pizzas we make here in the USA.

There’s nothing more rewarding than a thin crust pizza with cheese and ingredients you find in your refrigerator that need to be cooked off to really make for a satisfying experience. Not only did you cook something good but you moved out something from your fridge that needed to be cooked. To get started, I usually assess what is in my fridge and make my dough and get my stove ready for cooking.  Preparing to make pizza can sometimes take several days. I sometimes make the dough and let it proof in my fridge and pull it out when I’m ready or I make the dough the same day I cook my pizza. Pizza dough is an easy thing to make and you usually only needs a few hours to really proof to be workable enough to roll out or toss.

Cheese Pizza

Cheese Pizza

Here is Mark Bittman’s recipe for a wonderful pizza dough.

Yield: Enough for 1 large or 2 or more small piesTime: 1 hour or more
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed 2 teaspoons instant yeast 2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  1. Combine the flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the oil through the feed tube.
  2. Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is still dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour a tablespoon at a time.)
  3. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap; let rise until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. (You can cut this rising time short if you’re in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.) Proceed to Step 4 or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap or a zipper bag and freeze for up to a month. (Defrost in the bag or a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature; bring to room temperature before shaping.)
  4. When the dough is ready, form it into a ball and divide it into 2 or more pieces if you like; roll each piece into a round ball. Put each ball on a lightly floured surface, sprinkle with flour, and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rest until they puff slightly, about 20 minutes.

Turn on oven on hot!  550 degrees or higher! If you can, use a pizza stone to keep that temperature hot! After the dough is ready to be rolled out or tossed you can place the flattened dough onto parchment paper or use cornmeal on a large cookie sheet big enough for the pizza and start to put your ingredients on top. I usually start with some olive oil and some chopped garlic spread evenly over the stretched pizza dough.  Afterwards, I usually put my cheese on the pizza and then I put any other ingredients that I like. Throw the pizza in the oven in the middle shelf and give it a few minutes for it to heat up. Open the door and check to see how the pizza is cooking. Give it about 10-15 minutes occasionally moving the pizza around to cook evently. Make sure it doesn’t burn but make sure that the crust is crispy! Pull the pizza out slice it or cut as you eat it. There’s lots of different ways for making pizza so keep in mind that the way you like it is just as valid as any pizza out there.  Happy eating!!! P1170648

 

100 Civil War Watercolors Project

 

 

Sailor for the Union Navy

Union Civil War Soldier with Handgun in Watercolor by Daniel Gallegos African American Soldiers Stitch General Braxton Bragg Illustration Civil War Soldier High ContrastThe goal of this project is to kick out about 100 watercolors of soldiers from archive photographs of the Civil War. Mostly I am working with old portrait photographs. I’m not doing much to them other than translating them from photos to watercolor on paper. There’s some really interesting stuff coming up with this since I’m able to pick and choose any of the notable characters from this era that I find along the way. I’ll try to post all of them when I’m finished sometime later this year.

 

Finding Hartford, Connecticut for Someone Special

We’re getting ready to move back to California in August after 3 years away. Two of those years were in NYC  and the last 9 months have been here in Hartford, Connecticut.

During the past 9 months that I’ve been in Hartford a lot has happened. My wife and I had a baby.  I made art (as usual). My wife taught at one of the local colleges and I also took Russian class.

During our time here I made the effort to find out  a little about the city of Hartford. I tried when I could in between the time I had available to see the sights, taste the local food, and hear the sounds and feel the environment etc. I took lots of photographs and documented as best as I could for the time we were here but also because it would be great to share with my son the place that he was born.

So if there was any art project during our year that I made here it was for me to find the city of Hartford with my little camera preferably with a bicycle but sometimes with a car. Forever we are connected here because of our son being born here. This is a dedication to the city of his birth.

They call liquor stores package stores or "packys" here in Connecticut.

They call liquor stores package stores or “packys” here in Connecticut.

The 50th Puerto Rican Day Parade happened in Hartford this year. I caught some wonderful photographs this day.

The 50th Puerto Rican Day Parade happened in Hartford this year. I caught some wonderful photographs this day.

 

A beautiful lonely building in the North End of Hartford. A truly beautiful and vibrant neighborhood that is predominately African American. Lots of history in this neighborhood.

A beautiful lonely building in the North End of Hartford. A truly beautiful and vibrant neighborhood that is predominately African American. Lots of history in this neighborhood.

 

The beautiful architecture in this city is just inspiring

The beautiful architecture in this city is just inspiring

This is a logo exercise I made as a reflection and celebration of my time here.

This is a logo exercise I made as a reflection and celebration of my time here.

Hartford Historic Images and Making Art

Filtered Trolley

I’ve been making drawings of Hartford to get a feel of my new home. I’ve been riding my bicycle and driving around and taking photographs. I’ve also been looking at old photos of the city and region. It’s been very exciting and interesting to learn about this place. I frankly didn’t know much about Connecticut before I moved  here so it’s been great to try and see what this region is about. Of course it’s really fun trying to make art from all of it!

Hartford City Hall Vector in Orange Box

I like trains, so it’s great to look up some of the history of Hartford and find out that there used to be a public transportation system throughout the region that even took you out toward Springfied MA. These trains were torn out by the 1940′s. It’s a real American tragedy told time and time again throughout this country but when you go through these photographs you really get a sense it really connected people. There’s lots of commuter traffic in and out of the city because most of the people in Hartford live in the Suburbs. I’m pretty sure there will be a reverse trend soon here. I can feel it.

Main Street Hartford 1888

Main Street September 1940 State Street east of Main St. 1906

Bodega Blog


Bodega with White

For the last year I’ve been working on a blog called the Beautiful Bodegas. The blog is a collection of photos and images as a tribute to the neighborhood corner market. I’ve been basically compiling photos of these stores wherever I go and also scouring the internet for images.

Marwa Halal Market

Recently I added a submission page so anyone out there can send me photos of their local markets. I’m hoping people will send photos so we have an online collaborative space. Feel free to look at the images, send me a message and hopefully you can also send me some photos, drawings etc. in dedication to the our local store.

American Liquor Store

 

Beach Hill in Santa Cruz, California

Beach Hill Court

The Beach Hill neighborhood of Santa Cruz, California is a great historic mix of late 19th and early 20th century mansions, cottages, mid-century motels, hotels and a wonderful historic hostel called the Carmelita Cottages. I suggest staying here when you visit, but if you are here for the day, take a walk around the neighborhood before you make your way toward more of the popular attractions in the area.

Beach Hill

The view from Beach Hill toward the Monterey Bay. The hills on the horizon are the Monterey Peninsula.

P1180536

One of the many beautiful old Victorian Mansions on the hill.

Beach Hill is situated between the working class Latino community of the Beach Flats, the bustling eclectic Downtown,  the suburban West Side neighborhood, The Municipal Wharf and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk amusement park. All of these neighborhoods are within easy walking distance.

P1180533 Surfside Apartments

P1180531

Earlier in the century the neighborhood was an exclusive community of wealthy families in large multiple story mansions. Over the years this has given way to hotels and motels as well as a few restaurants and apartment buildings both middle class and for the wealthy. The neighborhood has a distinct character that also offers sweeping views of the Monterey Bay and views of other neighborhoods in Santa Cruz.

P1180521

The many beautiful bungalows and cottages in this neighborhood provide a wonderful backdrop to this famous surf town.

A small walk in this tightly knit neighborhood  should give you a quick sense of what life was back in an earlier period of this city. I suggest to bring a camera and walk around and spot many of the hidden architectural gems.  Better yet, stay for a few days and enjoy many of the wonderful attractions scattered just beyond the reach of Beach Hill.

P1180524

Las Palmas is a popular Mexican restaurant in Santa Cruz

Roasted Chicken with Roasted Vegetables

P1180106 P1180105

Over the years that I’ve been cooking food, one of my go-to favorites is roasting a good free-range or organic chicken to keep the kitchen warm, comfy, and well stocked for meals during the coming work week. I use a simple technique from Alice Water’s Simple Food Cookbook to almost always keep my roasted chicken cooked perfectly. First by roasting it at 400 F degrees breast side up for 20 minutes, then 20 minutes breast down, and finishing it a final 20 minutes by cooking it one more time breast up  to brown the skin and cook it through.  I put a little spin on this dish by adding chopped vegetables as a bed for the chicken to roast on a flat  hotel pan. This technique captures the essence of the chicken and any of the wonderful juices that drop into the pan can be absorbed into the vegetables. I think roasting the chicken with the vegetables add a  perfect balance of flavors to a dish that is perfect for the fall and winter vegetables and equally ideal with spring and summer vegetables.

  1.  One small to medium chicken (Preferably organic or free-range chicken for the best taste!)
  2. Vegetables for roasting. I used carrots, parsnips, onions, and red potatoes. I like to keep my vegetables seasonal. I usually roast  root vegetables in this dish. I sometimes add whole small tomatoes in the summer. Feel free to be creative!
  3. 2 large onions or 3 small onions
  4. Olive oil
  5. salt to taste
  6. pepper to taste
  7. Herbs (Rosemary, Sage, Thyme)
  8. Dry or stale bread. I usually keep my old bread in the freezer. It isn’t necessary to include the bread in this recipe.
  9. 1 fresh lemon if needed or desired for added acidity to the chicken and roasted vegetables.

First use salt and pepper to season the whole chicken and try to get the chicken to room temperature at least an hour before you roast it. During this time you can stuff the chicken with herbs in the cavity of the chicken or you can cut slits into the skin and put herbs under the skin.

Turn the oven on to 400 F degrees to preheat the oven for roasting.

P1180091

Clean and cut your vegetables into smaller pieces that will make the vegetables with the chicken cook equally. You can have a look at the pieces in the above photo that I cut to give you a sense of size.

P1180096

Cut the bread into small pieces close to equal size. Not too small because you can burn them but not too big because you want them to absorb the flavors of the chicken.

Combine the vegetables and bread in a large bowl. Season with salt, pepper, fresh herbs, and olive oil. You can decide how much olive oil you want but I prefer to go lighter with olive oil because the goal here is to get the juice and fat from the chicken to coat the vegetables.

Place the vegetables and bread on a flat hotel pan.

P1180100

Place the chicken on the vegetables breast side up.

When the oven is at 400 F degrees put the chicken and vegetables in the oven on the middle rung of the oven. If your oven tends to burn the tops of food place the pan with the vegetables and chicken on a lower rung. Close the oven.

Turn the timer on for 20 minutes.

After the first 20 minutes quickly pull the pan out and put it on a stable heat resistant surface. Quickly and carefully remove the chicken and place it on a plate. Take a spatula and move the vegetables around the pan. Pay attention to where the juices have dripped on the pan. Try to combine the drippings with the vegetables to coat them evenly. Don’t worry if there isn’t much sauce because you’ll get plenty as the chicken cooks for the next 20 minutes.

Quickly put the chicken back breast side down  on the pan with the vegetables and place it back in the oven to cook for another 20 minutes.

After the second 20 minutes pull the pan out again and repeat the step of carefully and quickly pulling the chicken off the hotel pan and stirring the vegetables to absorb the drippings from the pan. Be sure to try and scrape any of the vegetables that have gotten stuck to the bottom of the pan. Do not remove them. Simply stir them. Also, if you notice any of the vegetables starting to cook faster than other vegetables you can place them under the chicken. Place the chicken breast side up and put it back into the oven for another 20 minutes.

P1180103

After the final 20 minutes, pull the chicken and vegetables out of the oven and investigate what you’ve cooked. You can tell that the chicken is cooked if you look at where the thigh meets the body of the chicken and see if it comes apart easily when you pull it. If it doesn’t looked cooked, put it in the oven for another 5 minutes. If the vegetables look like they will not take another 5 minutes, quickly take the vegetables off the pan and place it into a large bowl and put the chicken back into the oven.

P1180108

When the chicken is cooked place it onto a chopping board. Let the chicken rest for about 5 minutes. During this time you can mix the vegetables and season them to taste. I like adding a little lemon juice for acidity.

P1180106
Carve the chicken when ready and plate the vegetables first and then plate the chicken on top. I usually make a little salad to go with this dish but in the photo I just added some arugula leaves for some fresh textures and flavors.

P1180112

Bon Appetit!

Chilly Philly

There are many reasons to love Philadelphia. We can write for hours and hours to share so much of the beauty that makes up this great city. I can’t say I am an expert of this city, but every time I visit I fall in love with this place. My wife and I went down for a visit this last weekend for the Thanksgiving holiday and we met with some friends to take a walk around with our cameras. We spotted lots of wonderful architecture and had a great meal at Monk’s Cafe. It was a memorable day with agreeable weather that just made everything perfect! P1170958 P1170977 P1170978

P1170993

P1170989

We spotted some beautiful tags known as Wickeds here in Philadelphia, I tried to take a few photos of them but this one made by the writer Smock just has the hand quality of a seasoned graffiti writer. Did you know that there’s a distinct graffiti culture here that pre-dates New York Subway graffiti? A very special city for those who love the American folk art form of graffiti.

P1170992I spotted this lovely sign. I couldn’t help but take a photo.

P1180001This is a perfect holiday photo with the skaters and the glory that is the Ben Franklin Bridge.