Archive for March 2012

If Pizza Be The Food Of Love

March 27, 2012

You know that line from Twelfth Night, “If music be the food of love, play on?” Well, if pizza be the food of love, and I’d say that it’s a pretty good candidate, given that making homemade pizza for one’s beloved when one doesn’t even eat a bite oneself ought to be a potent love charm, then we need to play it again, only with a different recipe.

I used this recipe for Super Crispy Thin Crust Pizza, because Shel likes thin crusts and I’ve always preferred a thicker crust, so I didn’t have a tried and true thin crust recipe. This one is simplissimo, no rising, even though it’s a yeast dough, barely any kneading. The dough rolled out super-thin like a dream – those speckles are Italian herbs, which are included in the dough. Then the recipe has you bake it for a few minutes before adding the toppings.

Ack! Evidently the dough needed to be docked before baking, although the recipe doesn’t mention this. Come to think of it, this might be my new pita dough recipe, minus the speckles. In all of my attempts to get pita to puff properly I’ve never had such spectacular puffing as this pizza presented. I had to poke a few little holes in it to deflate it.

Then the recipe has you assemble the pizza upside-down, with the pepperoni first, the cheese next, then the sauce. This is supposed to keep the sauce from sogging into the crust, and it seemed sensible to me. However, Shel complained that the texture was off, having the sauce on top. And he also complained that a) it wasn’t crispy enough, and b) the two separate layers of now-deflated crust made for very weird eating. As to crispiness, I baked it directly on my pizza stone at 500°, and the stone had been heating at temperature for 45 minutes. I don’t think there was any way I could have gotten the dough hotter, and indeed, it cooked in just under 10 minutes total. I wish I could say that it wasn’t perfect but it was still very good, but alas, the uneaten half went into the garbage instead of the fridge, so that pretty much says it all.

So please, if you know the secret to making a truly crispy-crusted pizza in a home oven, do tell. You’ll be doing love a great service.

Upgrade Your Vision

March 23, 2012

This morning I shot this lovely little ode to a contorted filbert catkin. Last year we were in France at this time of year, and so I’d almost forgotten how appealing the catkins are, and how fleetingly they put in their appearance. A few quick clicks and there I had it, a reasonable reminder of some of the subtler beauties of spring.

Then this afternoon I got an automatic upgrade to my Picasa, which, for those who don’t use it, is a free Google product that does some photoshopping functions and files your photos. I’m normally wary of Picasa upgrades, as they’ve sometimes been buggy, but this one has a couple of neat new features. Here’s that same image, improved/modified with one mouse click per photo.

If that isn’t pretty cool I don’t know what is.  Oh yeah, being a better photographer in the first place, mastering the many tricks of the serious camera that I so under-utilize, that would be cool too.  But really, if you don’t use Picasa, it’s quite a fun little tool, and it’s a free download. It makes up for a certain number of photographic sins quite well and lets me see my photos in a whole new light.

A Little Green, A Little Blue

March 17, 2012

In the midst of brining the corned beef and popping a Grasshopper pie in the freezer we learned that a dear friend is deathly ill. So although we’ll be celebrating our few drops of Irish blood and the beauty of green tonight, it will be with a heavy heart. These lovely green and white tulips, which mark so perfectly the fragility of life, will have to carry the day.

Life And Death (Trumpets)

March 6, 2012

My life improved drastically recently when Brendan McGill opened a deli adjacent to his excellent Hitchcock restaurant. Actually, it’s way more than a deli, it’s a sort of Everything Store. You can read all about the Hitchcock restaurant here, but for now let’s stick with the delights of its little sister, a little shop of wonders, here on Bainbridge Island. I went in the other day to buy some butcher-quality meat, and came home with fresh black trumpet mushrooms, the freshest of organic pastured eggs from the island’s Heyday Farm, and a huge chunk of impeccably house-cured pancetta.

The pancetta alone is worth the trip from wherever you are, but heaped on my counter with those saffron-yolked eggs, those trompettes de la mort reminding me of my favorite French market, and a huge supply of my over-wintered and emerald green parsley, well, something delicious was inevitable. If I ate pasta, or if you do, they’d combine admirably into a killer pasta sauce (not that you’ll die from those death trumpets, but you know what I mean). But since I’m a low to no carb sort of person, some kind of omelet or frittata called out to be concocted.

Now the thing about a dish like this is that it’s sort of unpresentable. Only someone who really loves food, or who really loves you, will rejoice to see a plate of this. That’s okay, more for you! The pancetta and black trumpets combine with a dusting of Parmesan and the funky allure of duck fat into an earthy, woodsy umami sort of thing that’s irresistible. The bright flavors of the parsley and a liberal amount of garlic keep you coming back, bite after bite. The eggs and cream make it plushly satisfying. You can even keep it in the fridge for a couple of days, giving a quick zap to a portion or two whenever you need an umami fix. Personally, I like it for breakfast, but I know that’s pretty hardcore.

What I love about the little, everything’s possible, Hitchcock deli is that I never know what I’ll find there, which is exactly how I like to cook. I love to be surprised by ingredients, and I have an unreasonable amount of fun creating new dishes with unexpected treats. Try this one and I hope you’ll see what I mean.

Pancetta and Death Trumpet Frittata 

1 8oz slice of pancetta, cubed into bite-sized pieces
2 T duck fat, or use olive oil or butter
4 oz black trumpet (trompettes de la mort) mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 oz Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
5 very fresh eggs
1 cup heavy cream
freshly ground black pepper, and salt if needed

Heat the duck fat in a skillet until melted, then add pancetta cubes. Stirring constantly, toss the pancetta in the fat until lightly golden. Remove pancetta from the pan. Add the black trumpets to the combined duck and pancetta fat in the skillet and toss to coat. Stir in the parsley and the garlic and sauté until the mushrooms are partially cooked. Add the pancetta back into the skillet and toss together for a minute or two. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 350°

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs briskly until well combined. Add a good amount of black pepper, then whisk in the cream. (Please don’t try to make this with milk, you won’t be happy with the results)

Taste the pancetta mixture for salt. Brendan’s pancetta is salty enough that I didn’t need any additional salt, but your pancetta may differ, so salt the mixture if necessary. Butter a medium casserole dish and spread the pancetta mixture evenly over the bottom. With a microplane, grate a lacy film of Parmesan over the pancetta mixture. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the pancetta. Bake until puffed and golden, 25 minutes in my convection oven at 350°.

Serve only to those who know what’s good.