Monday, January 30, 2006

Three-Cheese Pizza with Onion, Sage and Rocket

Okay, I'm back. It's been awhile but I'm committed to a once-a-week posting from now on.

I'd never had much experience with homemade pizza, but I started seeing these really great-looking recipes. Making crust from scratch seemed a bit much, but then I stumbled upon frozen raw dough at the grocery. At Whole Foods, it's sold in pound lumps, whole wheat or white and is pretty cheap. It took me awhile to find the best way to work it, but now I've got it down. About four hours before cooking time, I take the dough out of the freezer, put a piece of wax paper on a rack, spread a bit of flour on it, take the dough out of its wrapper and sit it on the floured paper. Then I go back to work or do the laundry or read the paper.

When I'm ready to work the dough, I lay out my handy pastry mat, spread a little flour on it and punch the dough. I'll flatten it into a wheel about six inches across then drop it over my fist to let gravity pull the sides down. Then I'll handle it like a steering wheel, gripping the edges, turning it round and round, letting it stretch to twelve inches across. If it shrinks when I lay it down, I'll cover it with a dish towel for five or ten minutes so it can rest or catch its breath. Then I'll do the steering wheel bit again, and it usually stretches right out to 12 or even 14 inches. Once it's the size I want, I'll transfer the dough to a polenta-dusted piece of aluminum foil. More on this later.

I'll let it sit while I prep the ingredients, then I'll assemble the pizza. Once the pizza is assembled, transfer the pie, still on the foil, to a very hot pizza stone that's been pre-heating in the oven (didn't I mention that?). It's easy to move the pizza around on the foil and keep from burning yourself. Some use a wooden peel; I'm looking at one of those. Cook the pizza, then using the foil, move it from the pizza stone to a cutting board. Thanks to the polenta, the pizza slides right off the foil.

Tonight's pizza comes from Epicurious, but I've modified it a bit, as usual. We liked it, and I'll have leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Culinary Books for Christmas

Santa was very good to me this year and brought me lots of books about food and cooking. I don't want any more cookbooks (I did get two but both are classics); between what I've got, online sources and blogs I read, I'm done with cookbooks for now, thanks.

I can't say yet if I have a favorite, but I'm very excited about The Silver Spoon, a 50-year standby in Italian kitchens. It has just been translated into English for the first time.

Julia Child was a little before my time but I have an aunt who's devoted to her methods, and with all the hype about the Julie/Julia project, I thought I should take a look. I received both the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and DVDs of The French Chef, her show on public television.

I have started reading Michael Ruhlman's The Making of a Chef, a chronicle of his time at the Culinary Institute of America. It's a great read so far, and I think it provides a good perspective on that school, although he gets a bit emotional at times. Having worked in hotel food service with CIA graduates, I know feelings both for and against the school run high.

The Perfectionist, by Rudolph Chelminski, is a book about the life and death of a well-known French chef Bernard Loiseau, who committed suicide in 2003 ahead of declining ratings by GaultMillau and the rumoured loss of a Michelin star.

Other goodies:
The Chef's Companion, by Elizabeth Riely
Hidden Kitchens, from The Kitchen Sisters
Best Food Writing 2005, edited by Holly Hughes
Don't Try This at Home, edited by Kimberly Witherspoon