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

 

Mussels Steamed in Beer

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As a kid growing up on the Pacific Coast I remember seeing mussels attached to the rocks in the tidal pools and piers at low tide. I had an uncle that would sometimes gather them  in season making sure to avoid the months when the Red Tide, a part of the year that makes these tasty mussels so toxic that they could make you sick or possibly kill you. I don’t remember my uncle ever serving me any. I think he perhaps kept them for  himself because they were so delicious.

Today I usually find my mussels at the local fish market. Here in New York we almost always get our mussels from the pristine waters of Prince Edward Island (PEI).

This recipe is pretty easy and it’s something you could put together in an hour’s time if you’re looking to quickly impress someone. Trust your senses with this dish and you should achieve great tasting results.

Steamed Mussels in Beer

First take a colander and place it in your sink. Place the mussels in the colander and run some cold water over the mussels to rinse them. I pull the little beards (the little hairy part that you will see hanging off of some of the shells) off of the mussels and inspect them for broken shells, dirt and debris. Here is where I smell them. I make sure that I am aware of what I’m eating and I take note on what I’m seeing. It’s important to learn from your experience what is a good mussel dish and what is a great mussel dish and you will learn this by smelling, seeing and examining your ingredients for the best results.

Turn your pot onto medium high. I first add the olive oil and butter to a large hot heavy pot big enough for the mussels to move around. Make sure  to not burn the oil and butter! Add the carrots, celery, and onions and lower to medium. Add a light pinch  of salt (not too much because the mussels are are already salty) and pepper to the pot.  Cook until these vegetables get translucent but not too long! You want to lean on the side of under cooked for these vegetables to give flavor and texture to your dish. Add your garlic to the onions, celery, and carrots just before they start to get translucent (about 10 minutes) and cook for about 3 minutes more. Be careful not to burn the garlic because it will make a strong bitter flavor. Next add the tomatoes and then a pinch of paprika. Add the mussels to the pot and give it a stir to coat it with the rest of ingredients. Pour the beer into the pot and turn your pot onto medium high and cover it. Wait for about 3 minutes and give it a second stir. Cover the pot again and wait for another 4 minutes or until the shells have opened then pull the pot off the heat and serve the mussels in a bowl and add the broth.

You can add more lemon and hot pepper and cracked black pepper to taste.

Serve with a baguette or any rustic bread.

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Mussels steamed in beer for two people.

2 pounds of mussels (I usually purchase them by the bag)

1 small bottle of beer or a large bottle for drinking later. You can experiment with different kinds of beer but I prefer the lighter flavored ones.

2 small  tomatoes when in season (diced) or a small can of stewed tomatoes.

1 medium onion (diced)

2 small carrots (diced)

1 small celery stalk (diced)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 garlic cloves (diced)

1 tablespoon of butter (I sometimes don’t use butter because I like this dish lighter in flavor and I think that the mussels are flavorful enough)

cracked black pepper to taste

hot pepper flakes to taste

lemon or lime

a pinch of paprika

chopped cilantro or sprigs of cilantro to garnish

lemons or limes to garnish