Stove Top Personal Pizza

Surprisingly I didn’t miss the snow this winter. Maybe a little bit, a tiny little itty bit, but mostly not. Winter in Seattle is mild, dark, cold, and rainy for sure, but no half melted slush, cold feet traipsing through half-shoveled sidewalks, sleeting ice in your face, and below freezing temperatures that require wearing leggings under your jeans and trying to decide if you should change out of them when you get too hot at work. Thank you, Seattle. Thank you for your mild winter that is slowly morphing into a beautiful spring!

Spring is gorgeous out in the Pacific Northwest! There are colorful flowers of every kind everywhere and though there aren’t many plants and parks in the city, there are plenty of places within reach to see nature’s beauty at it’s best: Golden Gardens, Magnuson Park, and Discovery Park to name a few. Even just running around Green Lake in my own backyard is a beautiful sight that I am grateful for every day. (It’s usually not that blue, but I’ll take it!)

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It still isn’t hot here yet, which I’m happy about, but the hot weather will be here before we know it, and with that the need to find meals that don’t require the oven (or at least not for very long). Last weekend, after returning from a run and feeling rather warm, I wanted to make a pizza without heating up the apartment. I had pizza dough and toppings ready to go and wanted to make something quick. Enter stove-top personal pizza! It goes in the broiler just a few short minutes at the end to brown the cheese (which I suppose you could totally skip) and then you quickly turn off the oven before the heat takes over. Perfect for a quick weeknight meal or a quick weekend lunch!

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Bon appetit!

Stove Top Personal Pizza

tennis ball size blob of easy homemade pizza dough* (see recipe below)

pizza sauce

cheese

toppings of your choice

Heat a large cast iron skillet or broiler proof pan over medium heat. Swirl a glug of olive oil in and let your pan heat up. Meanwhile roll out your dough on a floured surface until it is about a 1/4 inch thick. Make sure it is not too big for your pan! When the pan is hot, make sure the oil has coated the pan and carefully lay your rolled out dough circle in.

Now is the time to turn your preheat broiler to high. Allow your dough to cook in the pan for a minute or so, watching for bubbles to start forming on the surface. Using a wide spatula or tongs carefully flip your pizza and gently press down to brown the other side. You can also lift it up to check for doneness before flipping and give it a little longer if needed.

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Check out those bubbles!

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Top with sauce, cheese and other toppings and allow to cook on the heat another minute. Turn off your burner and carefully transfer the topped pizza to the oven to broil, keeping an eye out so the cheese doesn’t burn. Broil for 5-8 minutes, depending on your broiler and how well done you want your pizza. Remove, let cool, and serve it up! Be careful as it will be hot and fresh from the oven!

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If you totally want to skip the broiler you probably could, but don’t expect browning. You would want to just leave it on the heat long enough to melt the cheese and heat your toppings. You could also cover it with a lid to encourage melting, but you might end up with a steamed, soggy crust. Broiler is best and when I did it, it had hardly heated up so it didn’t make the apartment hot.

Happy spring! Happy eating 🙂

And if you want to make your own dough, here’s a recipe. Make ahead of time and store in the fridge for when you’re ready!

 

* Easy Homemade Pizza Dough – no kneading!

(makes enough for probably 6 personal pizzas) from Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day

1.5 cups lukewarm water

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)

2 1/4 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix the yeast and salt with water in a large bowl that has a lid. Add whole wheat flour and all-purpose and mix with a wooden spoon, using your hands to incorporate the last bit of flour if necessary (alternatively you can do the whole thing with a food processor or stand mixer). Cover the bowl with the lid, leaving it not completely sealed and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours or until doubled in size. Refrigerate until ready to use (dough is easiest to use when cold). Dough can be used for up to a week after making it if kept refrigerated.

 

 

Quick Whole Grain Pizza – Happ Happ Hurrah!

In my house we never order pizza. It’s not because we don’t like pizza or because we think it’s unhealthy. It’s because we are spoiled… Let me explain.

Upon finishing grad school a few years back, my husband declared he was going to start making bread from scratch. Slightly skeptical but totally supportive, I bought him the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, figuring with his culinary background (or lack thereof) and schedule this would be a perfect book. Soon after he impressed me by actually reading the introduction to the book and telling me there were a few other tools we needed. We invested in a pizza stone and pizza peel and have since put them to excellent use making homemade bread and homemade pizza. And as he had promised, there was actually a period of time where he made homemade bread!

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Though it has been a while since he’s done any bread baking, we now have a pizza stone that we use occasionally for bread and pizzas. So why are we spoiled? Have you ever baked homemade pizza on a pizza stone? I highly recommend it – you get a crisp, chewy crust with a nice rise from the preheated stone. When you have a pizza stone that makes delicious pizza at home, it’s hard to spend money ordering pizza or going out. You can easily save yourself money and customize your pizza when it is homemade, so why would you order in?IMG_1615 Nonetheless, pizza making takes time. For our recipe you have to make the dough, let it rise for 2 hours, refrigerate it, preheat the stone, roll your dough, top it and bake it. Most nights when you come home from work you want dinner ready as quickly as possible. This healthy pizza can be your fast solution and it’s just as quick as ordering delivery. The ingredients are basic and the toppings are customizable. You may even have everything in your fridge already.

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Forgive the weird prints on the parchment paper. I reused the paper after roasting my sweet potato slices!

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Spelling or translation error: recipies? Recipes for pies?

This recipe comes from a wonderful book my sister-in-law gave me called Happ Happ Hurrah. This colorful book of healthful, fresh recipes comes from the Happ restaurants located in Luxembourg and Iceland. Someday we will go to the restaurant when we visit them in Luxembourg (where they live now!) The dough comes together in 5 minutes – no rising, no waiting – and bakes in 10. After that you top your flatbread-like crust with whatever you like and throw it back in the oven to melt the cheese. IMG_1609IMG_1611Happ has recommendations for four different types of pizza, but you can top it however you like. I did a combination of two of them using roasted sweet potato slices, fresh mozzarella, basil, peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes. We also added grated Parmesan for a little extra saltiness. They baked up beautifully and we both enjoyed them (I didn’t know what to expect from Sam, but he gave them a sincere thumbs up). We made them small so that we could personalize our pizzas.

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Quick Whole Grain Pizza Crust

adapted from Happ Happ Hurrah!

makes 6 personal pizzas

2 cups + 2 T. whole wheat flour

1+1/4 cup mix of the following: rolled oats, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds (see note)

2 T. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. salt

2 T. cream of tartar (optional – see note #2)

1 cup warm water

1/2 cup olive oil

toppings of your choice

Mix all dry ingredients. Add water and oil and stir carefully. Add more whole wheat flour if the batter is too sticky. Gently knead the dough and divide into six equal parts. Gently stretch or roll each part of the dough into a small circle. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees F. It should be lightly browned on the bottom when you lift it off the sheet. Turn the oven temperature up to 450 degrees F. Top your pizza as desired and return to the oven. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until toppings warm and cheese melts to desired browness. Cool slightly and enjoy!

Note: The original recipe calls for 3 dl. of oats, sesame seeds, muesli, and sunflower seeds. I did about 2/3 of that in oats and filled the remainder of the cup with a tablespoon of sesame seeds and the rest in roasted, salted sunflower seeds. Feel free to try purchased muesli, use only oats, or try your own ratios of seeds and oats.

Note #2: When I have made bread or pizza it always contains a leavener such as yeast or baking powder or soda. I looked up the properties of cream of tartar, assuming that must give this pizza some rise. Though I learned that cream of tartar is a natural by-product of wine-making, it is still unclear to me its role in this recipe. It is an acidic ingredient often used to make baking powder though it is more commonly used by itself to stabilize egg whites in angel food cakes or other baked goods. This particular recipe didn’t seem to get any benefit from it in terms of rising, though I did not test the recipe without it. Proceed at your own risk!

IMG_1617Bon appetit!

Post 95 – Food Snapshots

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas will be here any minute! We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with Turkey, Wild Rice, Salad, and Mashed Potatoes. We have been enjoying other delicious foods since then including pizza and cupcakes to celebrate Sam’s birthday. Here are some photos of some of my latest good eats.

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America’s Test Kitchen Quicker Cinnamon Rolls

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Thanksgiving Apple Streusel Pie

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And homemade chocolate sauce…

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Gingerbread granola with crystallized ginger, cranberries, and raisins.

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Homemade pizza in the works

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Yum! Leftovers!

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Cran-Raspberry Birthday Muffins (for Sam)

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Holiday Lava Fudge Cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake – mmmmm!

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving and are almost ready for 2015!

Post 30 – When in Rome, do as the Olsen twins do

You know how before you go somewhere, you have these expectations of what it’s going to be like? You had seen the Olsen twins visit Rome in one of their movies that you watched when you were a teenager and in it they rode off into the sunset on mopeds with cute Italian boys and threw their wishes into the Trevi Fountain. So you arrive in Rome with Dean Martin’s “On an Evening in Roma” in your head and you assume that’s pretty much what Rome is like, right? Umm, not so much (well maybe all of that with the Italian guys and what not can’t come true when you’re there with your fiance anyway. If you’re reading this, I was happy to have you there, dear).

Let me just say that Rome, to me, felt like an Italian New York City – crazy busy with rude people who don’t want to deal with tourists who don’t speak Italian. There are probably a million interesting things to see and do, but you almost get turned off by all the crazy. In contrast to NYC, this place is wicked ancient (there’s that Boston coming out in me) – like at least a couple thousand years, so that it’s almost weird to see these ancient ruins smack in the middle of whizzing cars and modern life. Like, isn’t the ancient lifestyle and culture just supposed to be permanently preserved while the rest of Rome happens somewhere else?

Obviously, I didn’t get the Mary-Kate and Ashley experience.

After settling into our B&B and getting recommendations from the owner we headed out to see the top sites, since our stay in Rome would be brief. We took the metro to the Colosseum and were somewhat shocked to emerge from the underground world to find this towering holey structure standing before us like it wasn’t a big deal. It is a big deal. That’s when you realize, you are in Rome.

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So we toured the beautiful ancient grounds and saw the Roman Forum and the whole Palatino area. The sun was brutal and I don’t have a ton of interest in ruins so we didn’t spend too long looking at everything.

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We went inside the Colosseum, which to me seemed less impressive from the inside than the out. I imagined a massive pit with cascading bleachers, the setting immediately putting pictures of screaming spectators and gladiators in my head. The inside still inspires awe, just not quite what I had pictured.

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We continued to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain (again in the middle of random plazas, but swarmed by people)

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and then headed to the Piazza Navona, which Sam had somehow discovered through researching. The piazza was beautiful – a long corridor lined with beautiful buildings and patio seating for restaurants. Artists and street vendors tried selling their wares in the middle and we wandered around taking pictures of the elaborate fountains and gorgeous architecture.

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Then out of nowhere (well the sky had been getting dark) the skies let loose and it poured. We watched people sprinting for the perimeter of the square, looking for any kind of cover from the rain. We waited it out in a covered porch next to a restaurant. Somehow it had never occurred to me that it might rain in such an idyllic city as Rome.

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When the rain finally let up (after faking us out several times only to have it start again) we left the shelter to find a place for dinner.

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We stumbled upon Pizzeria Da Baffetto, one of the places recommended to us by our host. Luckily we were seated quickly at an outdoor table that was dried off from the recent rain and under cover in case of more.

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Our last night in Italy. I hated to think it.

 

I ordered the signature pizza (fried egg in the middle) and Sam opted for sausage and onion. We also shared a carafe of house wine and an arugula and Parmesan salad.

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We enjoyed the freshness of the salad and while the pizzas were good, they were too thin and lacking in flavor for my taste. Compared to our Ferrara pizzas, they were considerably less cheesy, which was great, but they needed a little something else.

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Our evening ended with another stroll by the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain and our final gelato (disappointing). The next day we would return home to our sweet kitties and less glamorous Boston life. (Remember the “grass is greener” lesson? Life is good!)

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I am grateful and fortunate and happy to have visited such a wonderful country, tasted all its food, and wandered in its winding streets. I am thankful for the kind people we met who welcomed us despite our clumsy attempts at Italian and happy there weren’t more rude Italians we ran into. Overall, Italy was delicious and I hope to one day return and see more of it. Who knows when (or if) that next time will be, but when that day comes perhaps I’ll try to learn a little more Italian before hand.

 IMG_3118Buona sera. Ciao!

Post 26 – Wined and Dined in Italy

Picture this: sloping rows of green vines perfectly spaced apart stretching far as your eye can see criss-crossed with yellow-brown stripes of earth in multiple golden hues. If you squint you can see dangling pale green globes clustered on their vines, somewhat hidden amidst the overall shades of green. Despite having arrived unromantical-ly on a narrow, winding road (maybe its a rustic kind of romantic) via a bumping bus (though no complaining – the bus had A/C and comfortable seats. I just get motion sickness easily) you suddenly feel transported to the set of the movie Under the Tuscan Sun (well, ignoring the fact that you’re not in Tuscany. Details, details).

This is wedding feast part two and well actually, despite my brief description you actually don’t have to picture it ‘cause here’s a picture for you right here.

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The wedding weekend concluded rather splendidly as it had begun with a generous feast of Italian food and wines, rather appropriately situated at a vineyard in a restaurant nestled among the rows of grapes. It’s a day for agriturismo, they had told us, so I figured we’d see some grape vines, get a tour of the vineyard, and have a light lunch. After the previous day’s meal, why did I ever think a light lunch was on the menu?

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When we arrived at Corte d’Aibo, we were told that we could wander the grounds and feel free to take breaks as we wished during the meal. There was another wedding party seated outside on the restaurant’s porch so we were led to a long table inside. Another epic meal began with a lightly dressed salad of greens, fruit, and nuts, a welcome change from the usual prosciutto (who am I to complain about too much prosciutto!)

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The vineyard’s own wines were of course featured with the meal. A selection of fresh pastas (of course) followed the salad, only each pasta was brought out individually so that we gorged ourselves on each one, expecting each to be the last one. We had no printed menu to prep ourselves for the feast ahead and so we ate, and let me say these pastas were definitely some of the best food we had the whole trip.

There was the cheesy zucchini and ham pasta cooked perfectly al dente.

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Then they brought us the tagliatelle with ragu (of course). Also delicious though not my favorite.

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The final pasta was a rich and flavorful truffle pasta.

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We decided after our decadent pasta course to take an exercise break to make more room. The boys played some Foosball and I wandered the beautiful grounds.

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After a brief pause, we were summoned back to the table for our main course – a steak with potatoes, arugula, and green beans and a red wine dressed beef dish with stuffed tomatoes. Both were flavorful and savory, though not as good as the tenderloin from the night before.

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The meal ended with a simple tray of sweets, as was to be expected, though it came nowhere close to the generous selection from Saturday night. We also sipped a strong walnut liqueur that tasted similar to Port wine.

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Both Saturday and Sundays meals proved not only to be delicious, but also a wonderful opportunity to meet all of the bride and groom’s friends. The group represented a wide range of cultures and languages spoken and everyone had a different life story to share, yet all of them able to do so in English. During our meals, I spoke with a young woman from Poland who knew fluent Italian as well as English and who was working on her French because her current work had taken her to Paris. Another man was raised speaking French and English thanks to his parents, though he could also speak Italian and Russian quite comfortably due to his experiences abroad.

I am often in awe thinking of how naturally and easily non-native speakers communicate in English when many Americans have little interest in studying foreign languages. In many countries in Europe, learning a second or even third language is a mandatory part of schooling and happens very early so that most children upon graduating can get by in English without trouble.

Though I think food speaks for itself and is an easy vehicle through which to connect with someone, speaking a foreign language can lead to amazing connections. I am grateful to the bride and groom for taking us to the rolling green hills and beautiful villas of Italy if not only for the delightful food, but also the rich conversation and the chance to connect through language.

Sadly, our stay in Ferrara ended on Sunday, though we made sure it was on a positive note. After a sleepy bus ride back from Corte d’Aibo and some down time at the Villa, Sam and I enjoyed dinner at a pizzeria on a beautiful side street in the city center (yeah I know, we ate again even after such a large feast).

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We biked home under the darkening sky, returning for one last night at the magical Villa where we said our goodbyes to friends and family, anxious and excited for the next celebration.

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