Saturday, October 25, 2008


It has been AGES since I've even attempted to make pizza, and frankly I was never any good at it.  I used to have a pizza stone and would have a terrible time with a peel getting the dang things on and off of it, and toppings would leak, and frankly the whole thing seemed like an indulgent waste of time.

Tonight, however, I tried again...Hub had mentioned that it would be fun to make something participatory.  I ended up doing the whole thing (not that I minded) but it's not like Kiddo would want anything but cheese on his anyway.  He was too busy building Bionicles to build a pizza anyway.

Oh, wow, was it good.  Wow!  I've been appalled lately at the price of ordering pizza from the chains, so this experience may have put an end to that practice.  We'll see...

This is the method/recipe I followed, modified slightly from a book called The Complete Book of Pizza which I believe arrived with the pizza stone as a wedding gift from my first marriage. old book, I kind of doubt it's still in print.

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
semolina flour for sprinkling
1 tsp salt
2 pkgs dry yeast
2 tsp honey
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 Tbsp olive oil, separated
  • Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm (not hot) water and add the honey.  Set aside for at least 5 minutes.
  • Sift the flours and salt into a large bowl
  • Make a depression in the flour and add 3 Tbsp of the olive oil and the other cup of warm water, and the yeast mixture.
  • Prepare a kneading surface by sprinkling it with semolina flour
  • Mix the dough in the bowl with your hands.  When it has combined well enough, transfer the dough to the kneading surface.
  • Knead for 8 to 10 minutes.  The dough should be elastic and cohesive.  Breathe deeply, enjoy the transfer of energy to the dough.  My counter is too high, so I stand on a stool which allows me to use pressure and not strain my shoulders.
  • Put the final Tbsp of oil in a large clean bowl.  Place the dough in the bowl and turn it so it is coated with the oil.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean towel and put in a warm, draft-free place (my laundry room when I'm doing laundry is the only place that works for me) for at least 1 1/2 hours.
Pizza assemblage
  • Preheat the oven to 500 F
  • Sprinkle the cookie sheets with semolina
  • I cut the dough in half and rolled it out as thinly as I could (sprinkling the board and the dough with semolina to avoid sticking) in an oval shape to fit the cookie sheets I was going to use, then transferred the dough by rolling it up on the roller.
  • Roll a short edge to keep the toppings in
  • Brush the dough with olive oil
  • Add a thin layer of marinara sauce
  • On one pizza, I put lots and lots of mozzarella (for Kiddo) - probably about 3/4 pound
  • On the other, I put slices of fresh tomato, mushrooms, some pepperoni and some zucchini we had sauteed in garlic last week, plus a bit of mozzarella (1/4 pound?) and some feta cheese.
  • Baked the cheese pizza for 10 minutes, and the other one with more toppings for about 14 minutes.
Wait a few minutes before cutting to let the cheese coagulate just a bit.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vegetable Soup

Sis and Bro-in-law are in town for a couple of days between the honeymoon and Sis having to go to Pakistan on a posting for 3 months.  Honestly!  Sudan then Baghdad then Pakistan?  Do her bosses hate her?  Anyway, we had a family meal with Mom and Dad and the newlyweds and Kiddo last night.

It was the day to pick up veggies from Farmer Fred and I wasn't feeling super-well, so decided to make Vegetable Soup.  I've been doing that very frequently with the farm veggies, and have more than one friend extolling the healing powers of the soup.  This is more about technique, and of course you can use whatever vegetables you have around.  It's never quite the same, except for the initial part with the olive oil, onions and tomatoes.  In fact, you could probably just up the number of tomatoes and have a lovely basic soup with just that and the broth.

OK, even though I've described what to do with each of the ingredients in the ingredient list, the idea is that you do your chopping during the cooking.  No need to prep all ahead.

1 onion, roughly chopped
2 T olive oil
4 medium tomatoes (1 lb) cored and sliced
64 oz. vegetable broth (I like Pacific brand organics)

Smooth ingredients:
1 small eggplant, peeled and thinly sliced
3/4 lb sweet peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
1-2 small hot peppers, seeded and roughly chopped

Chunky ingredients:
1/2 lb green beans, ends trimmed and cut to roughly 2 inches apiece
1 lb potatoes, scrubbed and diced into very small cubes
sink-full of greens (turnip greens and bok choi, last night), well washed and chopped coursely

Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese for serving

  1. Heat the olive oil in a very large stockpot on medium heat
  2. As the oil is heating, chop the onions, then add them to the oil
  3. As the onions are cooking to translucent, core and slice the tomatoes, then add them plus any juices
  4. Add the other "smooth" ingredients as you get them ready (but not the broth!), stirring occasionally
  5. When they've cooked down fairly well, add the broth and then use some method to blend all the "smooth" ingredients.  I have a blender wand, which is the easiest thing to do, OR you could hassle with a food processor or blender.
  6. Now start adding the chunky ingredients as you get them ready, potatoes first and greens (if you are using them) last.
  7. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the potatoes are done.
  8. Taste, add salt and pepper (or allow guests to add their own)
  9. Serve with crusty bread, some nice cheese and parmesan in a grater to pass around.  This amount easily served six adults with double portions and had leftovers as well.  And we were all satisfied...even though it's a one-dish meal.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

NC State Fair food

We took Kiddo and his friend I. to the State Fair last night. The food was 1) awful, 2) expensive and 3) oddly not very kid-friendly. Hub and I settled on country ham biscuits. We had to search far and wide for chicken nuggets for I. and Kiddo had a nasty piece of cheese pizza.

We spent a ridiculous amount of money last night, but I guess I feel good fueling the local economy. :) The kids loved the rides and I got to see at least one exhibit. Growing up in a very small town I never had the opportunity to go to the State Fair and always thought it must be wonderful...I did 4-H as a kid and loved the county fair. Really? It's sort of like going to a very hick outdoor mall. But again, the kids loved it, so that puts a shine on it.

Work has been completely insane -- I wanted to go to the fair on Sunday, but was working -- and also missed the hearing last week due to work, so the very fact that I could carve a few hours out of a gorgeous N.C. evening and hang out with my Hub and a couple of 5-year-olds was precious. Even if the food was awful. :)

Sunday, October 12, 2008


What a week!  Sis was married last week on Saturday down in SC, then we rushed home so I could be deposed.  Talk about an abrupt mood change.

I've been cooking, of course...not much entertaining, but that's only to be expected.  Tonight we're making Greek Chicken and I decided to attempt making bread again.  I'm following Jaime Oliver's technique but using a cup of white whole wheat in place of one of the cups of bread flour.

One thing he recommends is to make a pile of flour on a large open surface, put a well in and pour the liquid in.  What he completely fails to mention is that you need some sort of barrier on your surface or any break in the "dam" of flour will create an incredible mess and half of your yeast mixture will end up on the floor!  Thanks, Jaime!  I suppose I should have thought ahead, but what do I know?  A bit more now.

I've always had difficulty rising bread in this house, unless I'm doing laundry...our house is just too cool and drafty except in the laundry room if the dryer is running.  It's still difficult.

Anyway, dinner is in the oven so I'll have to post back with an update to how the loaves turn out.  I'll think I've described Greek Chicken before?  Time time I picked any likely herbs from the herb garden, chopped them up and pushed them under the skin, along with some lemon zest, salt and pepper.  That takes a bit more time than sprinkling, but is very, very nice.