Archive for March, 2010

Pizza Party

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Pizza is one of the most debated items in the food world. In New York there is always a fiery discussion about the best restaurant for pizza. Chicago chimes in that pizza should be more of a deep dish variety. Personally, I prefer a thin crust. So the other night I made three of my favorites: goat cheese & caramelized onion; sausage, onion & fontina; and meatball & mozzarella. Which is the best? I love them all, so I will leave it up to you to decide.

The trick to serving several pies in one night is to prepare all the toppings ahead of time. Pizza dough is pretty easy to make, but if I am cooking three pizzas I want to save as much time as possible…in other words, I bought my dough at Lazy Acres. When I make my own dough, I typically use a recipe by Wolfgang Puck. His recipe adds a little honey to the dough which is a nice touch. Below are the three pies..

Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Pizza is probably the pie I make most often. I slice one large onion into half rounds then saute in olive oil and butter till caramelized, about 30 minutes. You need to cook the onions slowly which will bring out the sweetness; the onions will be brown but not burnt. Next, I roll my dough till it is ultra thin, you can almost see through it. Add cornmeal to the top of your pizza peel and then the pizza on top. Oil the entire surface of the pie then spread your onions around evenly. Add small chunks of a good goat cheese on top of the onions next drizzle a bit more olive oil over the pie so it isn’t too dry. Now, season with Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Cook in a 500 – 550 degree oven till the crust turns brown.

Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Pizza

Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Pizza

Sausage, onion, and fontina pizza is a twist on the classic sausage pizza.  First, remove the Italian sausage from its casing and saute till brown. I make the onions the same way as the pie above but I cook them for 10 minutes less. They are not brown, but translucent with a slight slight crunch. For the tomatoes, you can use fresh, but I would bake them first to remove some moisture. I use Rao’s Marinara Sauce, but first I cook over low heat for about 15 minutes to remove some moisture (if too wet, the pizza will be soggy). Lastly, I grate an imported fontina cheese.

Sausage, Onion & Fontina Pizza

Sausage, Onion & Fontina Pizza

After the prep work is complete, roll the dough out like above and cover with a bit of olive oil. Then add a light coat of tomato sauce, then onion, sausage, and fontina. Add red chili flakes or salt if desired. Bake till brown and bubbly.

Pizza with meatball and mozzarella is the last pie I made. I was lucky to have leftover meatballs. I treated the tomato sauce the same as above. I prefer to use fresh mozzarella because it will have better flavor than the supermarket varieties, but it will also contain more moisture. Either will be delicious. After slicing the mozzarella, be sure to use paper towels to remove excess moisture from the fresh cheese. You can also grate the mozzarella if you prefer.

By now you should be a pizza expert. Roll out your dough, add olive oil, tomato sauce, meatballs, and cheese. Again, bake until bubbly and brown.

I have made pizza with friends a dozen times; it’s a great way to entertain. Everyone gets involved and has a lot of fun. An added benefit is that meal is spectacular! Do you have a favorite pizza recipe? I’d love to hear about it.

Mushroom Hunt

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

This past Sunday I went on a mushroom hunt in Nojoqui Falls Park. Slow Food Santa Barbara organized the event, and it was a great success. Over 50 people and 8 dogs participated. We hunted for mushrooms for a couple hours then went to Via Maestro 42 for a killer meal.

Nojoqui Falls Park is a beautiful place just a few miles north of Gaviota. Most people visit the park to view the spectacular 80 foot waterfall; but our group was all about the mushrooms. We were armed with baskets, gloves, and knives ready to hunt for that illusive fungi. Mushrooms are not that easy to find. Although they are typically found in moist areas under trees, they blend into the landscape and are well hidden under leaves. To make our job even more difficult, poison oak was everywhere. But we had a tenacious group that prowled the woods and ended up collecting hundreds of mushrooms. After the hunt we reconvened to display our treasures on a picnic table. Mycologist Bob Cummings discussed each species and told us which mushrooms were edible…most weren’t. 

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Our two best finds were a big batch of chanterelles and two rare, but very flavorful, black trumpet mushrooms.

Chanterelles

Chanterelles

After the hunt, it was time for lunch at Via Maestra 42, an Italian restaurant in town. Renato Moiso, the owner, prepared a special meal for the Slow Food group with a focus on mushrooms. The first course was a stuffed portabello mushroom served with asparagus.

Stuffed Portabello

Stuffed Portabello

Next was a mushroom risotto made with farro (rather than the typical arborio or carnaroli rice). The dish was rich and laden with chunks of mushrooms; it was earthy and delicious . The main course was a braised pheasant with porchini mushrooms served with roasted potatoes. Why can’t I eat like this everyday?

Pheasant with Porchini Mushrooms

Pheasant with Porchini Mushrooms

Antonio Gardella, an early member of Slow Food SB, produced Companeros Wines with a group of friends. These wines were not sold, but were saved for special occasions. Antonio donated his wines for the event on Sunday. What made them so special is that the Campaneros Winery was destroyed last May in the Jesusita fire, and unfortunately will not be rebuilt. I hope we can find a way to capitalize on Antonio’s talents, and make more great wine.

Our final course was a hazelnut torte. The flavor reminded me of the hazelnut gelato I ate in Florence, scrumptious. Renato outdid himself once again. A fantastic meal was enjoyed by all.

Slow Food will have events monthly, gathering like minded people to celebrate food. If you would like to join us, click here.