Gorgonzola, Prosciutto and Pear Pizza

Gorgonzola, Prosciutto and Pear Pizza

Watch the Pizza Margherita episode to see how the dough is made.

I got slammed by a cousin in Sicily who complained that they never put fruit on pizza. I told him that this was a San Francisco thing. This is a white pizza, no tomato topping. In Rome, they make a long pizza bianca with just EVOO, sea salt and rosemary. In Campania they make a white pizza with EVOO, sea salt and oregano. These white pizzas are great on their own but also as an accompaniment to an antipasto or a salad. This one is a symphony, the sweet pear, the saltiness of the prosciutto, the tanginess of the gorgonzola and the harmonizing influence of the fresh mozzarella.

Video link.

Recipe

Place a pizza stone on the bottom oven shelf. If you don’t have a pizza stone, you can bake the pizza on a floured cookie sheet.

Pre-heat the oven to your highest temperature. Mine goes to 550 degrees. The oven should be at temperature for 30 minutes before baking the pizza.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 4 cups flour (I use unbleached All Purpose (”AP”) flour or “00” flour, more finely milled and used for pizza dough in Italy. Bread flour works too.)
  • 1 cup water, at about 100 degrees
  • 2½ teaspoons active yeast (one packet)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup water

Toppings

  • 2 oz. gorgonzola dolce, cut or broken into small cubes or “dots”
  • 4 thin slices of prosciutto, torn or cut into 16 pieces
  • 6-8 oz. fresh mozzarella cut into 1/2 inch slices and the slices ripped or cut in half
  • one ripe pear, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Cooking Directions

Watch the Pizza Margherita episode to see how the dough is made.

Wet Ingredients

In a large measuring cup or bowl, put 1 cup of water at about 100 degrees and no more than 110 degrees (too hot and you’ll kill the yeast). I use water a bit warmer than my body temperature. Stir in the yeast and mix well. Add ½ cup of the flour. Mix well. Cover tightly and put in a warm place for 30 minutes. The mixture should double in volume or about 2 cups. This is the first “proof” of the yeast. If the mixture (called a sponge) doesn’t increase in volume the yeast is probably dead and therefore not “active.” If the yeast mixture doesn’t rise properly throw it out and start again. Better to find out now than later.  That’s why it’s called the first “proof” that the yeast is active. Yeah, right.

Dry Ingredients

  1. Put the remaining 3½ cups of flour and the salt in a large bowl. Mix to distribute the salt. Add the risen yeast mixture and the remaining ¼ cup water. (I use this last ¼ cup to wash out the container used for the first proof so that all the remaining yeast is “sloshed” out and into the bowl.) Mix dry and wet ingredients well with a fork or wooden spoon. When little dry flour remains, use your hands to finish mixing the ingredients into an integrated ball of dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and incorporate the scrapings into the dough. The dough should be a bit sticky to the touch. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of water at a time until it’s just a bit sticky. If it’s too wet, give it a light dusting of flour until it’s just a bit sticky.
  2. Place the dough on a floured flat work surface. Knead the dough with the heel of your hands. It will feel rough, granular or gritty when you start. When it feels totally silky-smooth you’ve kneaded it enough. To get from gritty to silky-smooth could take as much as 10 minutes, but I usually hit that texture in about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a compact ball.
  3. Put the ball back in the bowl you used to mix the wet and dry ingredients. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and cover with a kitchen towel. Put in a warm place. (This is the second proof.) When the dough doubles in size take it out of the bowl, reforming a ball and place on a floured board.

Making the Pizza

  1. Cut the dough ball into 4 equal pieces. (Each of these 4 dough balls will make 1 pizza, 10 to 12 inches in diameter (or one calzone). For a larger or thicker pizza, use two dough balls.)
  2. Use one dough ball for the Pizza Margherita. Put the other 3 dough balls to the side and cover with plastic wrap to keep a crust from forming. If you do not use all of the dough now you can put unused dough balls into tightly closed plastic bags for future use. The dough will last at least 5 days in the refrigerator. You can freeze the dough balls. Be sure to bring the dough to room temperature before forming pizzas from previously frozen dough.
  3. To form the pizza, push down on the dough ball with the tips of your fingers to begin shaping a round disc. When you reach a diameter of about 6 inches, pick up the dough, and holding it at the rim, begin stretching the dough using its own weight to help increase the diameter of the dough. Keep moving your fingers around the rim of the dough. Then, place the dough on your fist and gently pull it from the edge to stretch it more. When you reach a 10 to 12 inch diameter and the dough is about a uniform ¼ inch thick, you’re done. (For a thinner crust going towards a “cracker” crust keep stretching the dough until it is very thin and almost translucent.)
  4. Put the dough on a well-floured pizza peel (also called a pizza paddle). If there are any holes in the dough patch them. Make sure the dough moves freely on the pizza peel.
  5. Sprinkle the EVOO evenly over the surface of the dough. Scatter the pears evenly over the dough, then the gorgonzola, then the mozzarella slices, and then the pieces of sliced prosciutto. Grind black pepper to taste.
  6. Place the pizza on the pizza stone by holding the pizza peel at a 20-degree angle and slipping the pizza onto the middle of the stone. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until the mozzarella takes on a tan hue, the prosciutto is slightly crisp, and the rim of the crust is slightly browned. Take it out of the oven using the peel. When tapped with your finger, the dough should sound hollow. The bottom of the pizza should have some dark brown/black spots for texture and taste.

Let the pizza cool a bit and then slice into six slices.

Serve immediately.

Watch the Pizza Margherita episode to see how the dough is made.

Italian Dried Pasta

AG Ferrari Fusilli Italian pasta

AG Ferrari Fusilli Italian pasta

Recently, my doctor said I should eat more whole wheat pasta. I told her, “Doc, only with certain sauces!”  

Some sauces call for a fresh pasta and some for a dried pasta. Most dried pasta is a durum wheat or semolina pasta. The best is from Italy. It is extruded through a bronze die and the surface of the pasta has a rough feel (la lingue di gatto, like a cat’s tongue) so that more sauce is absorbed. (One of my favorites is Strozzapreti.)

I just heard about one producer in Campania that threw out the bronze dies and bought gold dies that make an even rougher surface. They won’t say how much that cost.

Slow drying is the other important step in making quality dried pasta. Many large volume Italian producers and most American pasta producers use a telflon extrusion die and a fast drying method, so the pasta doesn’t absorb the sauce as well. You see in my demonstrations that I always finish cooking dried pasta in the sauce pan. This is where the pasta absorbs the sauce and where the sauce clings to the pasta’s rough exterior.

Organic bronze die durum wheat from Campania may cost $7. But it’s worth the money because the pasta is the star of the dish. In fact, in Italy they refer to pasta sauces as condimenti, mere condiments. You should always taste the nutty flavor of the durum wheat pasta through the flavor of the sauce and grated cheese. A 500 gram box will feed 4, at minimum. You do the math – it’s still a very economical dish and it’s delicious.

I recommend shopping for pasta at A.G. Ferrari stores if you’re in the Bay Area. You can also order from anywhere online.

Menu: Italian-American Thanksgiving Dinner

Italian Thanksgiving Dinners

 

Updated for 2011: Turkey, stuffing and gravy recipe.

I’m first generation Italian-American. Most of my friends were second generation and were more Americanized than my family. In my early years we celebrated this American holiday Thanksgiving but the meal was really Italian.

As my siblings and I got older we realized that we were different. We started complaining that our Thanksgiving wasn’t like the one all our friends enjoyed. Slowly, the traditional 4-course Italian meal morphed, the roasted capon and its contorni (side dishes) were replaced by a turkey and all the American trimmings. From my early teens our Thanksgiving dinner was more American but still delicious.

In our family, Thanksgiving dinner started about 2:00 with about 20 at the table. Actually, the adults ate at the dining room table and the kids at a table set up in the living room on the other side of an open arch between the two rooms. For the kids moving to the adult table was a rite of passage.

The formal dinner lasted about 3 or 4 hours. The conversation was in Italian and English with lots of laughter. You could get up from the table in between courses to rest or watch television. When we made it through the last course the table was cleared and a poker game ensued. About 7 o’clock, all of the leftovers were back on the table so you could enjoy your favorites again. By 10 it was all over.

Here’s a typical Thanksgiving dinner menu when I was growing up in Jersey…

We started with a big antipasti platter: prosciutto, salami, smoked scamorza cheese, provolone, marinated peppers, artichoke hearts, mixed olives, all atop a bed of lettuce dressed with a bit of olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and dried oregano.

Primo piatto. My mom made fresh pasta with a long-cooked tomato gravy: ravioli with a ricotta stuffing; cavatelli, a ricotta or potato gnocchi; fettuccine; or maybe long fusilli.

Secondo piatto. Roasted capon with oven roasted potatoes and vegetables, later a roasted turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli drizzled with lemon and olive oil.

Dolce. Italian pastries and a bowl of mixed roasted nuts and fresh fruit.

Plenty of fresh baked Italian bread and plenty of wine.

Here’s the Americanized Thanksgiving dinner I’m serving this year:

  • Buratta cheese/prosciutto/sundried cherry tomatoes crostini and Prosecco as my guests arrive
  • Chicken soup with escarole and orzo
  • Roasted turkey, chestnut and sausage stuffing, candied sweet potatoes with butter and maple syrup, creamed spinach, cranberry relish
  • Apple pie and vanilla gelato and espresso

The antipasti wine will be what’s left of the Prosecco; with the soup a Casa Alle Vacche Vernaccia di San Gimignano (2009 Tuscany); and with the turkey a choice of either Vitiano Rosato (Umbria 2008) or for something fuller bodied, Feudi di San Gregorio Rubrato Aglianico (2006 Campania). With dessert my homemade limoncello or strawberry liqueur or both as long as you aren’t driving!

Update: Thanksgiving morning. Wow, what a surprise this morning. I was out of dried porcini mushrooms. OMG. Had to go down to Real Foods on Polk to get some. It was OK I needed a cappuccino from Peets and fresh bread for the crostini. We scored rolls from my friend Earl’s place Lotta’s Bakery lower down on Polk to eat with the turkey. Never know about those menus. They always have a way of changing especially when one of your guests has a desire for something that you have to make or when you find some unexpected things at the market.

The Village was a buzz yesterday with Thanksgiving shoppers. One of the local chefs was at Union Produce. She’s making a cornbread stuffing. Got to get that recipe. Told her I was making sausage and chestnut stuffing with sage and she said just like Italia as she jabbed the air with her finger generally pointing east.

Everything is ready. Some changes to the menu because of what I found in the market. Union Produce had Italian muscat grapes but they were all gone. They did have fat and sweet chestnuts from Italia for the stuffing.

Antipasti

The buratta is out replaced by fresh cow’s milk stracciatelle those little rags inside the buratta made by a guy across the Bay. Cipolini onions in agrodolce and mixed Italian olives have been added.

Primo

The guys at Little City gave be the back of a turkey and a neck. That’s the brodo (also used it to moisten the stuffing) and the orzo is replaced at the suggestion of my friend at A.G. Ferrari with fregola sarda tostata little toasted spitball-size semolina pasta with a nutty flavor.

Dolce

At the urging of my sister Rose I’ve added a mixed fresh fruit bowl with Thompson grapes, local small organic pears, apples and mandarins. Oh, and a bowl of mixed roasted nuts. Rose made the fruit bowl for holidays growing up. Her handiwork was always the centerpiece of the table.

Let me know if you want any recipes.

Updated for 2011: Turkey, stuffing and gravy recipe.

Photo by Joe Marinaro

Linguine with Dungeness Crab in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

Dungeness Crab

Dungeness Crab

Photo by Miles Grant

I was in NYC when Dungeness crab season opened last week, and couldn’t get them out of my mind. The reports were that the harvest was bountiful and the crab were big and meaty. I couldn’t wait to get back home. I had to get one and add the crabmeat to a spicy tomato sauce over some linguine.

It was delicious.

Lots of briny and sweet crab in a simple San Marzano tomato, garlic and dried chili infused olive oil. Once you have the crabmeat ready you can make this sauce in the time that it takes to cook the linguine. In Italia, they don’t put cheese on seafood dishes. It masks the fresh taste from the sea. Don’t do it!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Steamed 1-1/2 pound crab
  • 28-oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 gloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 small dried chili or 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound or 500 grams linguine
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat Italian parsley
  • Drizzle of finishing EVOO

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water over high heat to a boil for the pasta.
  2. In another pan, bring about 2 cups of water to a boil. Put the crab in a steaming basket to keep it out of the water. Steam the crab until it turns a bright red-orange, about 7 minutes for each pound of crab. Or, buy a just steamed crab at your fish monger and have it cracked.
  3. When cool, clean the crab. Here’s a link to how to clean the crab.
  4. Pick out all the crabmeat from the legs and body. Shred the crabmeat. Set aside.
  5. In a large cold saute pan, put in the EVOO, red pepper and garlic and over a medium-high flame let the garlic sizzle in the oil until translucent to infuse the oil with its flavor.
  6. Add the tomatoes. Simmer to let the tomato water evaporate and to create a thick sauce, 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. Put the linguine in the pasta water to cook, about 8-10 minutes until al dente.
  8. Add the crab to the sauce and keep on a low flame until the linguine is cooked.
  9. Add the oregano to the sauce.
  10. Check for salt. The crab adds saltiness to the sauce but add more to taste if necessary.
  11. Pull the linguine out of the boiling water with a spider, slotted spoon or tongs and put the linguine into the crab sauce. Finish cooking the linguine in the sauce, about a minute or two, tossing to coat with the crab sauce.
  12. Sprinkle the chopped parsley and mix with the linguine to distribute evenly.
  13. Serve immediately. Make sure each dish has some of the crab. Top each plate/bowl with a drizzle of a finishing EVOO.

Experiencing Roma

Rome Forum

Rome Forum

I Love Rome.

Probably getting close to 20 times I’ve been. Bernini’s sculpture, Michelangelo everywhere, Baroque over the top, beautiful people, the Caravaggio triptych in San Liuigi dei Francesi church, the wonderful food and romantic outdoor meals, Santa Maria in Trestevere, potato pizza with rosemary a taglio (by the slice) from the ladies in cardboard hats, the farmer’s market at Campo Fiore, the Jewish ghetto and flattened fried artichokes and baccala to die for.

A friend of mine, Personal Chef Tom Herndon, saw one of my recent episodes and shared memories of a couple of days together when our paths crossed in Roma…

We were lucky to be able to meet John in Rome a couple of years ago. We had the insider’s tour. He took us to the oldest church in Rome and then to the Jewish Ghetto for some incredible food, including an impressive deep fried artichoke. He took the entire group of 14 to a lovely cafe in a small square where we ate al fresco, including these bread ‘puff balls’ as big as a football! Then he showed us the best place to get gelato and chocolate bundino.

He’s a true gourmand and a man of passion about Italy. Our time in Rome was truly memorable.

We did have fun together! I love to gather groups and travel to Italy. We rent apartments so that we can get into the local pace of life and do some of our own cooking wherever we are.

Have you ever gone on a food adventure to Italy? If so, please tell me about it in the comments!

Ciuti 2010 First Cold Pressed Sicilian EVOO Has Arrived

Ciuti EVOO

We’ve been waiting for weeks for this year’s press to arrive. Word came that the olive oil, from trees in the foothills near Agrigento, was finally put on a boat in Sicily. It arrived in LA a couple of weeks later. I was there when the pallets arrived at Little City Meats.

Ciuti EVOO

My first tasting notes: fresh, buttery, nice full olive flavor, golden-green hue and a bit of a peppery finish!

At $22/gallon it sounds pricey, but try to match that price per ounce at the supermarket. And this is the good stuff! Who knows what’s in those other bottles you see on store shelves.

You gotta be careful – often the label states “Imported from Italy” or “Packed in Italy” but the olives might be from anywhere (usually not olives grown in Italy). This extra virgin olive oil from Little City is the everyday extra virgin oil in my kitchen. (When you go, be sure to tell the guys that Gianni sent ya!) I also have finishing oils that are expensive – not used for cooking but only to add to a dish before serving.

For those of you who don’t have the pleasure of living in my village of North Beach in San Francisco, there is one place to buy this online that I could find. (It’s $25/gallon plus about $5 shipping, and currently showing out-of-stock.)

Porchetta, Cipollini en Agrodolce, Truffle Roasted Potatoes

Porchetta

A fresh herb and garlic stuffing, crispy crust from a hot oven… Heaven!

Porchetta

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Ingredients

  • 2-pound pork loin. Have your butcher butterfly it to about ½ inch uniform thickness.

For the paste filling

  • The leaves of 1 branch of fresh rosemary. Remove the leaves from the stem. Only use the leaves.
  • 6 leaves of fresh sage
  • 12 fresh flat Italian parsley leaves
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

For the roasting dish

  • 1 fresh rosemary branch, remove the leaves from the stem and only use the leaves
  • 6 fresh sage leaves
  • 2 sprigs of parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO}
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Finely mince the herbs and the garlic. Place in a small bowl. Add the EVOO and salt and pepper. Mix well.
  2. Roll out the butterflied pork loin. Evenly spread the herb/garlic paste to cover the entire surface of the loin. Don’t go too close to the long sides, leave about a 1/2 inch border. Tightly roll up the pork loin. Tie with string to keep the paste from leaking out and to maintain the shape of the pork loin roast. Rub the outside of the roast all over with some EVOO.  Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper all over the outside of the roast.
  3. In a roasting dish or pan, put the herbs and garlic to form a bed for the roast. Place the pork loin on top of the herb garlic bed. Pour in the wine and water and drizzle the liquids with EVOO.
  4. Put the pan on the middle shelf of the oven pre-heated to 425 degrees. Roast for about 15-20 minutes or until a golden crust starts to form on the roast. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and roast until the internal temperature of the roast is 145 degrees. Take the roast out of the oven and let it rest. The temperature of the roast will continue to rise to about 160 degrees.
  5. Pour the liquid in the roasting pan into a small pan. Use a wire mesh to catch the herbs and garlic. Skim out any fat on the surface. Simmer the sauce on a low flame.
  6. Slice the porchetta into ½ inch slices, top with some of the warm au jus or pan gravy and serve.

Cipollini en Agrodolce

I only cooked 3 onions in the demonstration. Here’s my usual recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds cipollini onions peeled. (These are the flat Italian onions. If unavailable use pearl onions or shallots.)
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons butter (use a couple of tablespoons of EVO instead if you wish)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon or so of sugar. (1/4 cup of red wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey can be substituted for the balsamic and sugar.)

Cooking Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil, add onions, reduce to a simmer, cook until onions are knife tender, about 15 minutes. Drain onions well.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Melt butter and then put in the onions and coat entirely with butter. Season with salt. Toss onions frequently until carmelized, about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the vinegar into the skillet and sprinkle the sugar over the onions. Bring vinegar to a boil tossing the onions until the sugar dissolves and the sauce thickens a bit.
  4. Serve hot or at room temperature. You can store these onions in the refrigerator for about a week. You can serve these treats as a vegetable with roasted sausage or other meats or to accompany salumi and cheeses in an antipasto. They’re very versatile and good to keep around.

Roasted Potatoes with Truffle Oil

Pre-heat the oven to 425.

Ingredients

  • 5 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • Drizzle of truffle oil (I use an extra virgin olive oil infused with black truffle (tartufo nero)

Cooking Directions

  1. Microwave the potatoes on high for 75 seconds. (This allows the potatoes to roast more quickly in the oven.) Quarter the potato and cut into 1 ½ inch slices. Put the potatoes into a baking dish. Add the EVOO, sea salt and pepper. Mix to coat the potatoes thoroughly.
  2. Put the baking dish on the oven middle rack and roast until the potatoes form a golden crust on the outside, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle the potatoes with about 10 drops of the truffle oil. Don’t use too much, the truffle oil has a powerful flavor.
  3. Serve immediately.