Recipes for Snacks and Beginnings

Michael’s PIzza, Updated

November 7, 2017

If you ask Michael what he wants for dinner, nine times out of ten he says “pizza.”

Which is one way of saying, we eat a lot of pizza at our house.

A couple of years ago I published the recipe for the pizza I was making then. Since then, however, I’ve perfected my pizza technique.  The major changes are a bit of gluten in the dough, which improves the texture, more olive oil, and two kinds of mozzarella.

Here’s how I’m doing it today. Next year? Who knows?

To begin with you’ll need a  a baking steel  and a peel.  If you eat as much pizza as we do, they’re worth the investment.  Then you’ll need some time; this dough wants to rise a couple of times, at least, and I think it’s much better on day two or three.

Finally, you’ll need good anchovies and good mozzarella.

Anchovy and Caper Pizza for Michael

Dough

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup 00 Italian flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon gluten

3/4- 1  cup lukewarm water, 

3/4 teaspoon active yeast

pinch of sugar

olive oil

Mix the two flours with the salt and the gluten.  (The gluten really does give the dough a more flexible texture.)

Stir the yeast and sugar into the water. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, then mix the liquid into the flour with your hands, kneading for a few minutes until it’s combined.  It will be soft and sticky. Allow the dough to rest, unmolested, for 1o minutes, then turn it out onto a well floured surface and knead it for about 5 minutes, adding as much flour as you need to make a soft dough. Form it into a ball. 

Slick a large bowl with olive oil, turn the ball of dough so it’s completely covered with oil, cover the bowl and leave it to rise for 2 to 3 hours.  It should double.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead it again for a few minutes.  Form it into a ball. Put a bit more olive oil into the bowl, turn the dough so it’s shiny with oil and cover it again, allowing it to rise again until doubled. You can do this again – or not.

Knead it again for a few minutes, divide into two balls, refrigerate one and allow the other dough to rise again. (You can  refrigerate it for a few days, freeze it for a couple of months, or use it immediately.)

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Put a baking steel on the second highest shelf in the oven and allow it to heat for an hour.  (Be very careful when it gets hot; it will be searingly hot, and not remotely touchable, even with oven mitts on.)

Stretch one piece of dough into an 8 inch round; this is the hardest part of the entire process.  Unless you know how to toss the dough into the air, it’s not easy to stretch it. Be patient.

Pizza Topping

3/4 cup canned tomatoes

olive oil

6-8 good quality anchovy filets

capers

1 ball supermarket mozzarella (the rubbery kind)

1 ball good quality buffalo mozzarella (or mozzarella from a good cheese store)

fresh basil

cornmeal

Assembling the Pizza

Coarsely mash up about 3/4 cup of canned tomatoes with a fork, then stir in a tablespoon of olive oil. 

Remove 6 – 8 anchovies from the bottle.

Drain a few tablespoons of capers.

Dice or grate about a third of a pound of supermarket mozzarella into tiny pieces. 

Shred a few leaves of basil.

Dust a pizza peel liberally with cornmeal.

Put the round of pizza dough onto the peel. Spread the tomatoes over the pizza dough. Sprinkle the diced supermarket pizza over the top, and decorate with the anchovies and capers.  Scatter the basil about. Top with pieces of the buffalo mozzarella, roughly torn apart with your fingers.  Open the oven door and very carefully shake the pizza onto the steel without touching it. (If you’ve never done this before it’s tricky, but you quickly get the hang of it.)

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, depending on how you like your pizza. Remove with the peel; if it scoots away from you, use tongs to get it onto the peel.  Serve it hot, right on the peel.

This is dinner for 2 or snacks for 6.

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Hot, Soft Briny Clouds

June 20, 2017

I keep thinking about the fantastic fried clams I inhaled at Sayles Seafood in Nantucket last weekend.  Nothing like fresh Ipswich clams, plunked into a fryer.

I can’t get softshell clams here in the Berkshires.  I can, however, find shucked oysters.  So today I’m going to indulge in fried oysters.

I have to say…. right out of the pan, when they’re so hot they burn your fingers, fried oysters are pure pleasure.  Warm seafood clouds, sprinkled with lemon.

Fried Oysters

Shopping list: 1 pint oysters, 1 pint buttermilk, 2 cups cornmeal

Staples: flour, salt, oil.

You could shuck your own oysters, but unless you’re really an expert that makes the entire process a whole lot harder.  I open my own oysters to eat on the half-shell, but when I’m frying oysters I buy them pre-shucked.

Carefully drain the oysters, and put them in 2 cups of buttermilk for about 10 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper or a silpat pad. Mix 2 cups of cornmeal with 2 cups of flour and a teaspoon of salt.  Pick up each oyster, shake it a bit, allowing the buttermilk to drip off before plunking it into the cornmeal mixture; toss it about so it’s coated on all sides and place it on the lined baking sheet. Do it with the next oyster, and the next….

In a deep pot heat at least 2 inches of oil until it registers 375 on a thermometer. Pick up an oyster, shake it to remove excess breading and plunk it into the oil. Fry for about a minute and a half until just golden, then remove with a slotted spoon and set on paper towels to drain. You should be able to fry 6 to 8 oysters at a time.  Bring oil back to 375 before adding a new batch.

Sprinkle with salt and serve with plenty of fresh lemons.  Some people like tartar sauce or remoulade with their oysters, but I think that masks the delicate flavor.

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How To Peel Farm Fresh Eggs

February 26, 2017

Bought eggs at the farmers market this morning, then decided to make deviled eggs to eat as we watch the Oscars.  Problem: fresh eggs are impossible to peel, and these were gathered yesterday.

Solution: steam the eggs for twenty minutes.  Put them into an ice water bath. Wait till they’re cool enough to handle. Roll on the counter.  Peel.

Worked like a charm: every single egg slipped happily from its shell.  No green ring. Bright orange yolks.  Lovely deviled eggs.

 

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Gift Guide: Light, Airy Brazilian Cheese Puffs

December 4, 2016

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We had snow on Thanksgiving, which especially thrilled our Brazilian guests, Fabio and Clarissa (on the extreme left). They went running out to play snow baseball and help build the snow bear family. “We don’t have snow at home,” Clarissa explained.
What they do have, however, is the great Brazilian pao de quejo,wonderful little puffs of cheesy, chewy air. Clarissa arrived bearing a bowl of dough, and we rolled them out and put them into the oven before heading outside. (Don’t you love the dog with the prune eyes?) We came back to a steamy kitchen and piles of warm puffs. (Think of these like crunchy gougeres.)
They were so delicious I asked Clarissa for the recipe.  I’m thinking of whipping up some batter and bringing it along to holiday parties; to me it seemed like an especially thoughtful hostess gift.
Here’s Clarissa’s recipe.
Pao de Quejo

– 1 package of Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour

– 1 cup of milk
– 1/2 cup of canola oil (or any other vegetable oil)
– 1 teaspoon of salt
– Approximately half a pound of ground Monterey Jack cheese
– 3 eggs
INSTRUCTIONS
– Put the tapioca flour in a mixing bowl;
– Heat up the milk with the oil and salt. Once it starts boiling, add it to the tapioca flour;
– Knead the mixture until it resembles crumbs;
– After it has cooled off, add one egg and 1/3 of the cheese and mix it by hand. Once the mix looks homogenous (it will look like sugar icing), repeat with the second and third eggs, and the remaining cheese (one third per egg). The final dough should be sticky.
– If you want to bake them right away, use a spoon to take scoops of the dough and place them straight on a baking sheet. It will be hard to roll them by hand when the dough is fresh, but it shouldn’t be necessary. If you leave the dough in the fridge overnight, you’ll be able to roll them before baking.
– Bake at 350F for about 25-30 minutes, or until the little balls look puffy and lightly golden with a couple dark spots. We like them chewy, not too crunchy.
I found a link to the original cheese.  We normally used either the cured or the half-cured version of this cheese to make them back home.
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Should you want to make this into a serious Christmas present, think of throwing in a pretty platter to put the pao de quejo on. I particularly like this one, from my

neighbor, Mary Anne Davis at Davistudio.

And here’s a rather wonderful rustic Mexican serving plate from National Geographic.
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Comfort in a Bowl

November 14, 2016

068_reic_9781400069989_art_r1In the mood to cook? I think this tart soup might be the perfect dish for this particular moment in time. If anything can comfort you, this is it.

Avgolemono 

Shopping list: 6 cups chicken stock, 1/3 cup rice, 1 lemon.

Staples: 4 eggs, salt.

Serves 6.

Bring about six cups of good rich chicken stock to a boil. Add a third of a cup of raw rice, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes..

Meanwhile, grate the rind from one lemon into a bowl. Squeeze the naked lemon, and add the juice to the rind.

Separate four eggs, dropping the yolks into the lemon juice. (Save the whites for another use.) Add a pinch of salt and beat the yolks into the lemon juice and rind.

When the rice is tender, whisk about half a cup of the hot stock into the yolks, then slowly pour the yolks into the soup, stirring constantly. Cook gently for about five minutes, or until the soup is slightly thickened. Pour into bowls and eat slowly. 

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