Pizza Perfection

It’s not every day I pull off five (nearly) perfect pizzas.

But today, I (nearly) did it!

(There was just the one that didn’t slide smoothly off the pizza peel and turned out looking a bit more like a calzone, but it was still delicious!)

Using the NYT’s pizza dough recipe from Roberta’s pizzeria in Brooklyn, I have yet to make a bad pizza.

I’ve certainly made ugly pizzas, but narry a bad one!

My First Pizzas

Back in January, our Bug asked for pizza for his birthday dinner. He had meant Papa John’s takeout pizza, but since his grandfather was visiting and family friends were joining us, I nixed that idea tout de suite.

I went in whole hog. I ordered a pizza stone and pizza peel on Amazon, and started researching good pizza dough recipes.

I bought 00 flour from a fancy grocery store (turns out Giant has it, too), and made the dough a day in advance and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

On his birthday, we had guests for dinner and I was making a dish I had never made before. I was breaking my mom’s cardinal rule of entertaining: Always serve a dish you’ve made before and know you can make well!

What the hell. The kid wanted pizza.

By some miracle, the dough turned out perfectly. I put together three absolutely delicious pizzas.

Granted, the kitchen looked like it had been hit by a bomb and there was flour EVERYWHERE. But the pizzas were good.

Fast forward to today

I’ve had a few disasters between that first time and now. The fact the pizza turned out so well for the Bug’s birthday must have been beginner’s luck.

Each disaster has been a learning opportunity (don’t overload the pizza!), and almost every time I make it, it gets better.

So I was super proud of the pizza I made today.

Not only that, I was super proud of myself for being so organized that despite there being flour everywhere for the pizza making, cleanup was a breeze.

I’m really getting the hang of this…

Next time the challenge will be to sneak some vegetables onto the boys’ pizza.

Pumpkin Loaf

Thanksgiving Spiced Pumpkin Muffins

Thanksgiving Spiced Pumpkin Muffins
In miniature form.

American Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and in my mind it is not Thanksgiving unless there’s a basket of these delicious spiced pumpkin muffins on the table. (Note: I specify “American” Thanksgiving because I now reside in Canada where things are all whack and Thanksgiving is the first Monday in October. Don’t ask, I have no idea what they’re smoking up here.)

I’m posting this recipe tonight because I happen to have a loaf of this stuff in the oven right now and the smell is so tantalizingly delicious, I just had to share.

You can make these in muffin or loaf form.

Pumpkin Bread (or Muffins)

  • 3 cups of flour (I like to do half whole wheat, half white)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups pumpkin (1 can)
  • 1 1/4 cup corn oil (I often use sunflower or colza oil)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar in a bowl. Beat together eggs, pumpkin, oil and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients & mix until just blended. Add the chopped walnuts.

For bread: Divide the batter in half and spoon into two greased bread tins. Bake for 1 hour.

For muffins: Divide the batter into greased muffin tins (makes about 2 dozen regular-sized muffins) and bake for 30 minutes.

A Tactical Error

Tonight, I made the mistake of putting all the batter into one large bread tin and it’s taking longer to bake. That means I keep having to pull it out, test it, put it back in and guesstimate how much more time it needs. So be sure to separate it into two loaf tins. Your life will be easier.

Pumpkin Loaf
Tonight’s mega-loaf

I love having one (or five) of these and a clementine as a digestif after Thanksgiving dinner (if there’s a corner left).

What are your favorite Thanksgiving recipes?

UPDATE

My mom reminded me that this recipe comes from my beloved aunt! My mom still uses the original recipe card in my aunt’s distinctive handwriting. Check out my aunt’s blog, dedicated to all things food in Rhode Island over at Rhode Island Is My Oyster.

What I Have Just Cooked is Pure Deliciousness

Ladies and gentlemen, I have just made the most divinely delicious dish.

“Surely, you exaggerate!” you say?

I do not.  And don’t call me Shirley.

(I guess that joke only works when spoken.  Oh well.  Moving on.)

Tonight I made sofrito, a basic Spanish fry-up of onion and other veggies, including grated tomato.  This base is then incorporated into all kinds of dishes.  Tonight, I made it into an arroz con ternera, or rice with veal.

Chef José Andrés
“Made in Espain!”

My Chico and I have been thoroughly enjoying José Andrés’ “Made in Spain” (pronounced “made in espain” of course).  We don’t get PBS, but we have been watching his program online, here.  Inspired by his show about Castilla-la Mancha, I decided to delight Chico this evening by preparing the dish José Andrés makes on this show.  Here’s how I did it:

Ingredients:

  • 500g veal ragout (José Andrés used rabbit, but I was fresh out)
  • plenty of olive oil (preferably Spanish!)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic (whole and still in its skin)
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • paprika
  • saffron (if you don’t have it, as I didn’t, you can use turmeric, but use it sparingly)
  • 2 large tomatoes, grated (don’t include the skins)
  • mushrooms (about 225g – you can use whatever kind you like)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup medium-grain rice

Method

  1. Season the veal.  Heat a large pot (preferably not non-stick, I used my largest le Creuset pot) and add a generous amount of olive oil to the pan.  Make sure it’s nice and hot.  Carefully add the veal ragout pieces to the pan and brown on all sides.  Remove from the pan and leave all the lovely juices behind in the pot.
  2. If necessary, add a some oil to the pan until the bottom is well coated.  Let it heat up.  When hot, toss in the onion, green pepper, garlic clove (smashed, but not chopped) and bay leaf.  Let it cook slowly for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Meanwhile, grate the tomatoes into a bowl.
  4. When the onion & green pepper are nice and soft, add good heaping teaspoon of paprika and a pinch of saffron or turmeric and stir it around quickly (careful: the spices can burn very quickly, so be sure to mix them in well). Then toss in the tomatoes.  At this point I also added a splash of white wine for flavor, but that’s optional.
  5. Cook until the liquid has reduced and the mixture is a nice, deep red.
  6. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes until they’re soft.
  7. Add the meat back into the pot and stir it around.  Cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Add the 4 cups of water and bring the whole thing to a boil.  Add salt to taste, then cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  9. Throw in the cup of rice and stir it in well.  Keep stirring for about 5 minutes, until it simmers again.  Then cover, and cook on very low heat for another 15 minutes.

Voilà!  You have just made a delicious Spanish meal!  If you can get your hands on saffron, it’s worth it (though it is hella expensive).  If not, like I said the turmeric can work.

Chico gave it rave reviews and even made a face like the one José Andrés makes.  It was awesome.

¡Buen provecho!