Thin Crust Pizza in Italy

Pursuing Perfect Pizza – one bite at a time.
We usually steer clear of any snobbery in regard to Food and Wine, hence our choice of “Chabernet” as our mast head. If there is an exception to our rule, it would be Italian Thin Crust Pizza. This single dish might qualify as a Perfect Bite; perfection in a mouthful! Neapolitan pizza (pizza napoletana) consists of crust made from high protein flour, San Marzano tomatoes grown in the volcanic soil of Mt Vesuvius, Fresh Mozzarella cheese (from cows or water buffalo), then baked at high heat in a wood-fired oven. What an awesome Food Memory – The crunch, then the chew, of the yeasty crust with its touch of char followed by the creamy, salty cheese and the sharp acid of the tomatoes. Join us in a photo tribute to one the world’s greatest dishes:

The Classic Pizza Margherita

San Marzano Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella

Baking them off in a Wood-fired oven

Perfect Pizzas

You don't eat all the Char

Pizza Arugula Lettuce

Italians use a Knife and Fork

Pizza Topped with Porcini Mushrooms

Partially baked then Bufala and Basil are added

Naples Pizza To Go

Seafood in Italy

Our favorite destination for seafood is Italy. Sure, anywhere in the Mediterranean is great. You have to love the fresh fish in Hawaii, right? And then there is Asia where seafood has been raised to the level of Art. So, why is it that Italy resonates with our tastes? Pairing with local wines is certainly one reason. Another is the simplicity of preparation: freshest product, the very best ingredients, and a few simple herbs and spices. Garlic and Olive Oil play central roles as they also do in Greece, Spain, and France. Take a look at some of our food memories below and decide if the dishes inspire you to travel to Italy.

Positano, Italy

Whole Grilled Fish

Cinque Terre

Whole Fish with vegetables (yes, those are potatoes)

Positano

Fresh Anchovies with Lemon

Positano

Squid Ink Pasta

Rome

Spaghetti alle Vongole

Positano

Pasta with Clams

Amalfi Coast

Fish – Rolled then Grilled over Lemon Leaves

Caesar Salad Joy of Cooking

Caeser SaladClassic Caesar Salad – Joy of Cooking

Times have changed, but the Joy of Cooking recipe for Caesar Salad remains the very best.
The problem is that “times have changed” and the iconic Joy of Cooking is not well known in the digital age. I just Googled the search terms Joy of Cooking Caesar Salad, but there were no links to the authentic cookbook or the author’s family who carry on the Joy name. Hopefully Irma Rombauer’s kin will publish her original recipe and give it the credit it so greatly deserves.

Meanwhile, here is our version of this heavenly salad:

P.S. We also like the restaurant version prepared table side at Assagios in Kailua, Hawaii.

Caesar Salad Joy of Cooking Recipe

  • Yield: 6 Servings
  • Prep: 15 mins

Romain lettuce with a garlicky dressing and croutons.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Wash the lettuce separating all leaves. Wrap in paper towels and place in the coldest part of your fridge or briefly place in your freezer.
  2. Boil 1 cup of water in your microwave or on the stove. Using a spoon, lower 1 room temperature egg into the water. Let it sit in the water off the heat for 5 minutes. Cut the egg in half and spoon into a mixing bowl or blender.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients except the Lettuce, croutons, and cheese. Whisk or blend the mixture until creamy.
  4. Tear the Romaine leaves into bite size pieces. Toss with the dressing and croutons. Sprinkle with Parmesan Cheese and add Freshly Ground Black Paper to taste.

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Sourdough Starter

Don’t let growing cultures give you culture shock. Mother Nature conveniently dusts bread grains with wild yeast. Read my article to learn how to encourage the acid-loving yeasts, while killing off the unwanted strains i.e. the strains that grow in your athletic shoes.

 

Focus on Sourdough

 

This particular loaf of Boudin Sourdough Bread was “foraged” from an Airport Shop at San Francisco International. If you enjoy San Francisco style Sourdough bread but don’t have convenient or affordable access to the authentic stuff, you could do as we do and develop your own Sourdough starter at home.

Actually, you MUST develop your own starter because the bread companies will not sell you their starter or give you their recipe. Since Sourdough starter is made from wild strains of yeast, your results will vary with your geography.

Step 1: Isolate a wild yeast source. Whole grains like rye or wheat contain wild yeast – which explains the discovery of leavened bread. Forage some grain or buy a small batch in a Natural Food store then grind the grain into course flour. A tiny bit is all you need to kick off the starter. Wild fruit like the Wild Plums I wrote about naturally support yeast. The sourer the fruit, the more sour the yeast. Grapes have long been associated with yeast used in wine making. Feel free to experiment with different sources for wild yeast.

Step 2: Mix 2 tablespoons of unbleached white flour with 2 tablespoons of canned pineapple juice. You can also substitute a teaspoon of vinegar and 1 tablespoon water plus a ½ teaspoon of honey for the juice. Stir in your yeast source and set in a warm place for 12 hours. If no growth is seen, give it up to 48 hours. Start over with a new yeast source if you don’t smell yeast or see bubbles after 48 hours.

Step 3: Save 1 tablespoon of the goop from above and stir it into a fresh flour, water, and acid mixture. Let it sit 12 hours at room temperature and then refrigerate for another 12 hours. Repeat this step for a total of three to seven days until your results smell yeasty, pleasant, and tart. On the last batch, increase your proportions to 1 cup of flour to approximately 1/3 cup juice.

Step 4: You can use the approximate one-cup of starter in a bread recipe of your choice. I’ll post my recipe for baking Sourdough Bread shortly and will link that post back here. You’ll need to feed the cup of starter depending on your recipe, so be sure to allow enough time. We always Amp things up by also adding traditional active-dry yeast to our bread mixture along with the sourdough starter, and increase the time between rises.

Step 5: Be sure to reserve 1 heaping tablespoon of the starter batch and add it to 1 cup of flour plus approximately 1/3 cup water (no more juice). Acid loving yeast also prefers a dry dough, not a wet paste. Place the starter mixture into a glass container and then immediately into the refrigerator where it will slowly develop again after a few days.

A couple of lessons we learned along the way: Don’t use bleached flour or tap water since the Chlorine will hinder the growth of wild yeast. Also, don’t use fresh pineapple juice because it contains enzymes which will do weird things to the proteins in the floor.

We feed our refrigerated starter every two weeks after experimenting with both longer and shorter intervals. Technically, we save only 1 heaping tablespoon from the prior refrigerated batch and feed it with flour and water. The leftover one cupful is used for Sourdough pancakes, biscuits, or bread. Otherwise, it is discarded. The cost of 1 cup of flour is a small price to pay for having truly tart Sourdough starter in your fridge at all times. If you notice your starter losing its oomph or developing off-notes, just repeat the steps of developing that initial shock of acid.

Here is our recipe for a French Style Sourdough Bread.

Sourdough Starter Photos:

Resources:

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/comparison-sourdough-starters

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/how-to-make-truly-sour-sourdough-bread

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/233/wild-yeast-sourdough-starter

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/ten-tips-for-working-with-a-traditional-sourdough-culture

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/How-to-Feed-Sourdough-Starter

 

Chef Trick for Browning and Grill Marks

We collect “Cheffy Tricks” for working magic in our own home kitchen. One secret known by many chefs is the clever addition of anchovy filets or anchovy paste to a braising liquid or pasta sauce. We’ve been doing that for years and no one has ever guessed what made the meal so “extra meaty” and delicious.

One especially effective “Cheffy Trick” is for quickly browning a difficult protein like skinless chicken. By difficult, I mean that the item might overcook before it has a chance to nicely brown. Since Golden Brown and Delicious is always a wonderful thing, you might want to make note of how to brown quickly and even put classy grill marks where you’ve never had them before.

The secret is based upon the science of the Maillard Reaction (The Maillard reaction is what makes the outer layer of cooked meat brown.) The reaction requires amino acids found in protein plus sugars found in carbohydrates. More about the science when you click the links.

Mash an anchovy filet with a drizzle of honey then lightly brush it on your chicken, fish, pork, veggies, etc. just before grilling, broiling, roasting, or sautéing. Use very, very little of this glaze otherwise you might overpower the dish or develop too much char. Anchovy paste is a good substitute for the filet. Be sure to oil your grill or pan so the browning doesn’t stick. I like to use this trick for veggies that I don’t want to overcook, yet which benefit greatly from the char and grill marks.

Grill Marks

Try this tip with a broiled or grilled Chicken Paillard.
Maillard a Paillard – I Love it!

Outflanked by Grilling Article

Mrs. Chabernet was nagging me to write out the marinade recipe for grilled Flank Steak, so I killed two birds with one stone (mixed metaphor of beef and fowl?) and posted it here on this blog. As often happens with us amateurs, someone goes and posts an even better article – trumping all my excellent points. Darn.

How To Grill A Flank Steak, The Steak For Socialists

This Dude can write! (but, his illustration sucks – nothing to equal my exacting photography)

My loving photo of grilled Flank Steak

My loving photo of grilled Flank Steak

“The best way to eat steak is to cook an enormous steak for several people, slice it into portions, and share it. Yes, this tends to mean less steak per person than if you were each having your own personal Fred Flintstone cut. Turns out, this actually is good news, for pretty much everybody but your cardiologist and whoever sells luxury cars to her. A more modest portion of steak, especially one that comes to your plate sliced into thin strips, encourages smaller bites and slower chewing, and maybe even combining those bites with some of the other good stuff for which your plate now has room because it doesn’t have an entire half-a-cow splayed across it, which means an opportunity to appreciate your steak as an actual foodstuff with actual flavor and texture and character, and not just as a signifier of your Total Macho Dudebrocity.”

 

In case you forgot to write down my killer marinade recipe, here it is again:

Marinated Flank Steak Recipe

  • Yield: 6 Servings
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Ready In: 3 hrs 25 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Place the flank steak and all the ingredients except the parsley in a one-gallon Zip Lock Freezer bag. The meat will look a little pale after marinating, but that is just the vinegar working its magic on the protein.
  2. Remove the whole garlic before grilling. Reserve the marinade to splash on the cooked and carved steak

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Wild But Bottled Up

Wild But Bottled Up

The hand-blown Patron bottle is a thing of beauty, and the Patron Silver Tequila is not bad either (see below for our perfect Margarita recipe). So, it came as no surprise when my wife asked me to retrieve an empty bottle from our recycle bin. What to do with an empty tequila bottle? Why, you re-fill it with home-made fruit-flavored Vodka. I’d expect nothing less from the woman who coined the word Chabernet. This time she substituted Vodka infused with foraged Pitanga (Surinam Cherry), but any edible fruit might work.

 

Patron Tequila Bottle

In Hawaii, Guava also grows wild, as does Lilikoi (passion fruit), and Mountain Apple. In Texas, Wild Plum trees abound, as do wild Persimmon and Mulberries. The first time I encountered a wild plum tree while walking along a Texas creek, I smelled the fragrance of the fruit before I spotted the tree. The smell is indescribable and I’ve sniffed it before in wild fruit like the Pitanga. How amazing that such a fleeting perfume can be captured and savored in a Vodka infusion. Conveniently, wild yeast grows on the skin of the plum making it perfect for handcrafted wine or your own sourdough bread starter yeast (but that is another story).
In the Pacific Northwest, wild berries are our choice – blackberry, raspberry, currants, goose berry, and huckleberry – just to name a few. I recall a sweet golden raspberry that we foraged in Oregon and its color and taste infusing Vodka might be a clever alternative to Chambord.
In any case, wild fruit is a renewable and healthy resource. Impress your guests by hauling out your own homemade hooch then offer a toast to their good health.

Recipe for Surinam Cherry Vodka is here. In our typical Chabernet style, we replace expensive spirits with inexpensive but good quality Costco Signature Vodka. By the way, we don’t add sugar or sweetener to our home-made flavored Vodka.

Quote from Patron regarding their beautiful bottle.
“Each bottle is individually crafted by a glass artisan from recycled glass and is hand-numbered”. – See more at: http://www.patrontequila.com/bottle#sthash.UqDwyMiV.dpuf
If you don’t drink Tequila, empty Patron bottles are sold on e-Bay.

Perfect Margarita Recipe

  • Yield: 1 Servings
  • Prep: 5 mins

Inspired by the House Margarita at Uncle Julio’s in Dallas, TX (our favorite Tex-Mex chain).

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Serve on the rocks in a glass with a salted rim (optional). My wife likes hers tart and not too sweet, so these are her proportions
  2. The Agave Syrup is a clever touch since Tequila is also made from the Agave plant. Simple Syrup may be substituted.

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