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Homemade Mini Pizzas, Three Ways

Scratch dough for amazing pizza is not hard at all.  This recipe is perfect to portion out for three mini pizzas; use it for one big pizza, and it may reach about 20″ across!  But if the people you’re cooking for can’t decide on one pizza to share, explore our three recipes here for inspiration.  We had one that was vegetarian, a pepperoni with extra cheese and a few other extras, and “green eggs and ham,” a tasty tribute to Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel.

• For the dough:

3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups of lukewarm water

3 tbs. of extra virgin olive oil

2 1/4 tsp. of dry active yeast

2 tsp. of kosher salt

1 tsp. of brown sugar

blooming yeast

blooming yeast

Bloom the yeast in lukewarm water by combining the yeast, water, and brown sugar in a bowl.  Whisk to dissolve the yeast and sugar.  Let sit for 10 minutes to activate itself.

on the hook

on the hook

In a Kitchenaid mixing bowl, mix the flour and salt.  Attach to your Kitchenaid with a dough hook.  Add the yeast mixture and olive oil to the flour, and mix on speed 2 for 5 minutes.

divided

divided

Transfer the dough to a cutting board (the board doesn’t need to be floured, the dough shouldn’t be that sticky).  Divide the dough into 3 parts with a knife or bench scraper.

placed for proofing

placed for proofing

Gently roll the dough into balls and place on a cookie sheet that has been lightly greased with olive oil.

covered

covered

Cover the dough with plastic wrap very lightly, to allow the dough room to expand.  You can even brush the dough with a little olive oil so the plastic wrap doesn’t stick so much.  Let the dough proof on a countertop or oventop for an hour to 1 1/2 hours until the balls have quadrupled in size; it’s okay if they touch each other when they rise.

• For the pesto sauce (used in two of the pizzas):

2 cups of packed fresh basil leaves

2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup of BelGioioso Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts

3-4 garlic cloves (to taste)

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper

In a food processor, blend basil, garlic, and pine nuts together until coarsely chopped.  Add 1/2 cup of olive oil, and process until smooth.  Add salt and pepper and remaining oil, and pulse until well blended.  Put pesto in a bowl, and mix in cheese with a spoon.  Set aside.

Marsala wine can make a saute taste magical, and pesto has that wonderful earthiness thanks to the pine nuts.  This is a vegetarian dish with marvelous flavors, and August pictures it’s the pizza that woodland fairies and gnomes would eat.

• For the vegetarian pizza:

1 ball of dough

1 cup of shredded whole milk, low moisture mozzarella cheese

1 yellow zucchini, sliced in coins

1 chanterelle mushroom

2 brown mushrooms

2 morel mushrooms

3 tbs. of pesto sauce

2 tbs. of Marsala wine

1 tbs. of butter

1/2 tsp. of minced garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F, and preheat a pizza stone in the oven at the same time.

Slice all the mushrooms.  Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds to awaken the flavor.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add the wine, salt, and pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes more.  Taste at the end to make sure the alcohol is cooked out, and that it is properly salted.  Remove from heat.

shaping

shaping

Stretch out the pizza dough on a cutting board dusted with flour and finely ground corn meal, and form an outer ridge for the crust.  Spread the pesto across the dough within the crust, leaving a half-inch border between the sauce and the ridge.

arranged

arranged

Sprinkle on the cheese, then arrange the vegetables.  Bake on the pizza stone for 12-16 minutes – timing depends on your oven and preference of doneness, so keep an eye on it.

vegetarian mini pizza

vegetarian mini pizza

If we’re feeling really lazy, the pizza we order without thought or compromise is pepperoni, olive, and extra cheese (it pleases everyone in the house).  Zach’s homemade version will make us rethink placing future orders, because no chain pizza place can hold a candle to this recipe.

• For the cheesy pepperoni pizza:

1 ball of dough

1 cup of shredded whole milk, low moisture mozzarella cheese

5 medium-thick slices of fresh mozzarella cheese

1 4-oz. can of tomato sauce

1/4 cup of sliced black olives

12-16 slices of pepperoni

8 slices of salami

1 tsp. of minced garlic

1 tsp. of onion powder

1/2 tsp. of dried oregano

A few fresh basil leafs, finely minced

Keep the oven at 425 degrees F, and reheat the pizza stone in the oven.  Mix the tomato sauce with the garlic, onion powder, oregano, and basil.  Stretch out the pizza dough on a cutting board dusted with flour and finely ground corn meal, and form an outer ridge for the crust.  Spread the tomato sauce across the dough within the crust, leaving a half-inch border between the sauce and the ridge.

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Sprinkle on the shredded cheese, arrange the sliced cheese, lay down the meat slices, and finesse with black olives.  Bake on the heated pizza stone for 14-18 minutes – like the first pizza, timing depends on your oven and preference of doneness, but this one needs to bake a little longer than the first one because of the extra cheese.

super cheesy and meaty mini pizza

super cheesy and meaty mini pizza

Since the 1940s, the works by Dr. Seuss have had an impact on early childhood development and education.  Few know that he also served in World War II, but even then it was as a commander of the Animation Department of the First Motion Picture Unit in the U.S. Air Force, writing wartime propaganda films (no kidding).  Some people, no matter where they are or what’s happening in the world, are resourceful and resilient and keep doing what they do no matter what because it’s what’s important to do.  Said Sam I Am.

• For the green eggs and ham pizza:

1 ball of dough

1 cup of shredded whole milk, low moisture mozzarella cheese

1/4 cup of diced pancetta

6 mini purple potatoes

3 cage-free egg yolks

3 tbs. of pesto sauce

Keep the oven at 425 degrees F for the final pizza, and heat the pizza stone in the oven once more. In a small pot, boil the potatoes in water over medium heat for 15 minutes; you want them to be al dente, not fully cooked.  Let cool, and slice in half.

Stretch out the pizza dough on a cutting board dusted with flour and finely ground corn meal, and form an outer ridge for the crust.  Spread the pesto sauce across the dough within the crust, leaving a half-inch border between the sauce and the ridge.

general arrangement

general arrangement

Sprinkle on the cheese and diced pancetta, and lay out the halved potatoes.  DO NOT place the egg yolks yet – we have done this purely for picture’s sake so you can get a visual of placement.

Bake on the heated pizza stone for 12-16 minutes – again, timing depends on your oven and preference of doneness.  However, the time to add the egg yolks is at the last 2 minutes of baking.  Gently make little wells in the melted cheese with a spoon and carefully lay the yolks in the wells.  If they bake on the pizza too long, they will harden and not be creamy.

green eggs and ham pizza

green eggs and ham mini pizza

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César, Berkeley CA

Spanish dining is typically slow and relaxed.  Your server will bring your order very, very quickly, but there is no rush to finish the dish and clear the check so that the next party can take your table.  César is just like any restaurant in Spain in this regard: the tapas come out almost faster than you can blink, but after that the pace is set by the diner.  Keep the daily menu at the table and order the tapas one at a time, so that you can savor and appreciate each individually.

complimentary marinated olives

complimentary marinated olives

We started our dinner as soon as we sat down, nibbling on this sampling of marinated olives.  Zach had never seen such tiny olives amidst the regular sized ones he was used to seeing!  All were quite tasty, as each type of olive had its own unique brine or cure.

grilled asparagus with olive relish & egg

grilled asparagus with olive relish & egg

The chilled, grilled asparagus was a refreshing salad like none other.  Well, a form of a salad; it was our roughage of the night.  Salads don’t have much variety in Spain anyway.  The only salad August ever found while living there was iceberg with onion, tomato, tuna, egg, white asparagus, olive oil, vinegar, and salt, and sometimes not even all those ingredients.  But whole vegetables are popular, raw or boiled or roasted or grilled.  With the bright and salty olive tapenade, the crisp asparagus was hard to share.

patatas bravas

patatas bravas

Fried potato wedges with spicy brava sauce & alioli piled for a not-so-small plate, with multiple layers of flavor.  Spanish food is spiced, but it is not spicy hot.  The potatoes were seasoned with just the right mix of peppers to bring a tiny hint of heat to awaken the taste buds.  The brava sauce was sweet and smoky, almost like an American barbecue flavor but with a richer tomato base.  Spain is the birthplace of mayonnaise, but alioli is essentially a fancier version.  After noting the creaminess that it added to this plate, Zach said he will make some alioli/aioli soon.

montaditos with smoked duck breast and orange alioli

montaditos of smoked duck breast with orange alioli

Duck was a surprise to see on the menu, so of course we got it.  It was lightly smoked to allow the true duck flavor to shine, while the texture was supremely tender.  The bright, creamy, and refreshing orange alioli was naturally sweet and well paired for the meat.  The slices of bread were firm but not hard or tough.  It’s the bread slices that make these feel like “typical” tapas such as those found in the Basque region of Spain (in particular the city of San Sebastián aka Donostia, the tapa capital of the world and August’s favorite city in the world, as well).

ibérico presa a la plancha with mashed potatoes & spanish wine reduction

ibérico presa a la plancha with mashed potatoes & spanish wine reduction

Pata negra, the nickname for the meat of Iberian black pigs who feed on mostly acorns, has a mildly nutty and pleasantly earthy flavor.  For this final savory tapa we got a 5 oz. shoulder cut of pata negra that was extremely tender and sliced perfectly for sharing.  It was drizzled with a savory and delicious wine reduction, which went well equally with the meat and the potatoes.  Mashed potatoes with some firmness and height were unexpected here even though the menu said “mashed potatoes,” because from August’s experience in Spain, mashed potatoes didn’t exist there.  The closest she could find was puré de patata, or potato puree, that was closer to soup than mashed potatoes.

coffee flan

coffee flan

Just about everyone knows what flan is; since it’s popular not only in Spain but nearly all of Central and South America, it is almost invariably part of the gastronomic scene wherever there is a population of Spanish speakers, local or migrant.  Flan is so universal, spellcheck doesn’t red-squiggly underline it.  This flan, though, might start catching on.  Yes, the texture is smooth, velvety, and magnificent, which is something to be proud of, but the bigger deal is that it is made with coffee!  The coffee flavor provided a very distinct and robust richness, like that of a high quality bittersweet chocolate.

churros with chocolate sauce from spain

churros with chocolate sauce from spain

Speaking of chocolate, this sauce was apparently brought in from Spain.  It made such a big journey, and here we are dipping with it.  One of August’s common breakfasts while living in Alcalá de Henares was a big churro from the bar up the street plus a tall, wide mug of thick hot chocolate.  This comes very close to her memories, flavor-wise.  The churros tasted sweet and of cinnamon, with an added bonus of lemon zest.  The lemon zest was new and different from the standard churro, but totally right.  August and Zach have discussed before if chocolate and lemon could work together, and here we got the answer.

bread pudding with orange-caramel sauce

bread pudding with orange-caramel sauce

Whipped cream and caramel sauce acted as moats around the mini loaf of tender and light bread pudding.  The whipped cream was made by hand, and the caramel sauce was mildly flavored with orange so there was a citruc-y aftertaste to it.  The bread pudding itself, though, was very decadent.  This is something you have to share, maybe even with three or four others.

This was Zach’s first time at César, but August had been here once before around ten years ago with her mom.  Today was also somewhat of a significant anniversary of one of August’s goals from her past, so our dinner here was a rekindling of memories as well as a delicious celebratory meal.  It’s a great restaurant to bring a date, your friends, and your family, but reservations are not accepted so be prepared for waiting if it’s a busy night.  But don’t worry, the restaurant closes at midnight so everyone who wants to, will get to eat.

Vegetarian Pasta Salad

Far from the standard American pasta salad, August grew up with something more Mediterranean-inspired.  Her mom would usually add chicken or shrimp, but this mix can also be made like a side dish or a vegetarian option when meat is omitted.  Pine nuts are also a great touch, if the mood strikes you.

Makes a boatload

16 oz. of preferred pasta noodles (pictured here are mini farfalle)

1 green zucchini, diced

1 yellow squash, diced

25 grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

1/2 of an extra large red onion, slivered very thinly

1 small can of pitted and sliced black olives

1/4 cup of grated or shaved parmesan cheese

1/4 cup of olive oil

2 tbs. of balsamic vinegar

5 basil leaves, chiffonade (very tiny ribbons)

1 tbs. of capers, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp. of dried oregano

1/2 tsp. of dried thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta al dente.  Strain and rinse with cold water to take away any excess starch.  Let cool.

making the vinaigrette

making the vinaigrette

In a bowl, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, capers, salt, and pepper.  Also add the oregano and thyme, crushing with your fingers to activate the oils in the herbs.  Whisk together until completely emulsified.

fresh vegetables

fresh vegetables

Once you have prepared your vegetables, toss them with the pasta, vinaigrette, and parmesan cheese.  Keep and serve cold.

done and yum

done and yum