The past six days in Rome, Italy have been a whirlwind of complete bliss. We have indulged in some of the best food we have ever had and have fueled our waking hours with many a cappuccino. We have walked on marble that once was the foundation for a thriving civilization and have witnessed astounding works of art and architecture. We have walked around for hours upon hours, enjoying the best the city has to offer being consistently amazed by one giant building after another that dates back to a time unimaginable to me. The large scale of the city has been even more astonishing than I thought it would be, although after getting to know the ancient Romans a little more this week, I imagine that is exactly how they wanted it. Everything they built was larger than life and was a reflection of their place in the world as the largest empire of their time.
The Italians we have had the pleasure of spending any time with were some of the warmest people we have encountered. On the second full day we were there we took a cooking class and gourmet tour from a local chef named Fabio. He was funny and knowledgeable and a darn good cook. We spent the first hour or so touring the Jewish ghetto where he showed us the best places in the city for bread, cured meat, pizza bianca and this incredibly tasty and super secretive ricotta chocolate cake. Apparently the little old ladies that make the cakes are famous for them. Legend has it that the most famous chef in all of Israel came to them asking to trade recipes and they told him it would better for him to keep his and they’ll keep theirs. I have to say, I now understand the reason he would be willing to give up all of his recipes for just that one, that cake is absolutely unforgettable.
After our tour, we ended up at Fabio’s apartment where we suited up and started cooking right away. We made beef stock that would be the seasoning for our sauces and risotto later on, we mixed up two types of pasta dough, one with eggs and one without, and we prepped side dishes to accompany the main entree. It was a lot of work, but felt nothing like it as we constantly had our eyes peeled for what Fabio would do next.
When it came time to form the pasta we were split into couples and were each assigned a different pasta. It was so much fun to see how easy it is to make incredibly delicious pasta with just a couple of ingredients. We rolled and cut and shaped until we had enough pasta to feed the whole building.
We made five courses in all and finished with the ricotta chocolate cake as our sixth. By the end of our meal no one could move. I really wish I had worn stretchy pants, that’s for sure.
Romanesco with sausage and hand rolled short pasta
Red wine and sausage risotto
Artichoke and sausage stuffed ravioli
Chicken stuffed with smoked mozzarella and sausage, wrapped in speck (served with cheesy baked potatoes)
The famous ricotta chocolate cake. What I wouldn’t do for a slice right now!
I hope your Christmas holiday is delightful. As much as I am enjoying my time here with the hubs, I must say I miss being with all of the family for Christmas. I’ll have to try to pull it together as we now walk the streets of the city of light. I’m sure we’ll manage, just know we will be thinking of you!
Until next time, au revoir!
I’m so happy that fall is here. This weekend, in San Francisco, we had a major downpour. It was amazing. The air was damp and cool, and the asphalt had that lovely first rain smell. It all felt so majestic. If I was an artist, I would have painted a canvas to express these thoughts and feelings but instead I put the colors and aromas of fall on a pizza. click here for the full post!
Have you discovered the value of your freezer? That box in my kitchen has become my best friend. Over the past month it seems, the husband and I have been consistently busy with no real end in sight. The problem then emerges, when do I cook? [Now enters: previously prepared food that I have frozen into appropriately sized portions which completely saves the day.] click here for the full post!
For my 27th birthday, I wanted to be surrounded by my friends and family, in our tiny apartment, nestled in the fog of San Francisco, and to cook them a great meal.
If you were asked what you would like to do for your birthday, how would you respond? Maybe you would ask for a nice dinner out with friends, or a quiet and relaxing trip for two to a favorite destination. Perhaps, you would ask for a nice spring picnic in the park or a big cocktail party where you could be the shining center of attention. When my loving husband asked what I would like to do for my birthday, I had about a thousand ideas, but they all boiled down to one central desire: to cook.
Many people were surprised to hear that I made my own birthday cake, but if you know me at all, you would not have expected anything else. I have a serious affection for anything sweet, especially for sweet things I have never made before, like lemon curd (Oh.My.Goodness. Have you had that stuff? It’s amazing! I spread it between the layers of my yellow birthday cake, but licking it off the spoon was just as effective.), or light and fluffy vanilla butter cream frosting tinted pink. If you are like me and have a borderline obsessive sweet tooth, you should spend some time checking out the adorable bakerella. [Warning: bakerella may cause larger thighs and tighter clothes.] Everything she makes is incredibly cute and delicious (over the weekend, I made her red velvet cake for my dear friend Emielle and it was divine. Coming soon!). One of her cakes was the inspiration for my birthday cake. She tinted her fluffy vanilla frosting a lovely light pink, and I immediately had to follow suit. click here to read the full birthday post->
One of the wonderful things about food is that it brings people together. For me specifically, I cook so that I can share with people. On Sunday, we were able to do that with some friends from our church at our snug apartment, and it was so much fun. It brings me such joy to feed people. Especially when what I’m feeding them is really good. For this occasion, a pizza party was in order. It’s a communal dish, all of us taking a slice of a larger pie, sort of an illistration for what we were trying to accomplish, which was a sense of community within a larger group of people.
I decided to make four pizzas, all with different toppings. Each was built on a foundation of homemade dough, which was the best part of all. I made a whole wheat variety to throw in some whole grains, as well as the usual white flour type. I am amazed at how easy it is to make, and how it differs so much from the store-bought variety. It will be a must from now on.
The toppings were fairly standard, but there was one that stood out for all of us. The Blind Spot. There is a local pizza parlor on the Peninsula called Spot Pizza, and they make a delightful pie called The Blind Spot. It boasts of bacon and chicken swimming in cheddar and after it’s pulled from the oven, it’s sprinkled with fresh green onion. Somehow, when all of these flavors meet in one place, it feels like you’re eating a loaded baked potato, which can never be wrong.
Blind Spot Pizza with Homemade Dough dough recipe adapted from smitten kitchen serves 2-4
For the dough:
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour*
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup luke warm water
For the toppings:
- 5 pieces of bacon cooked until just browned and chopped
- 2 green onions sliced crosswise into 1/4″ rings (green parts only)
- 1 boneless, skinless chicken thigh chopped and satueed in olive oil until cooked through
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup pizza sauce (I used Trader Joes version)
For the dough:
1. Mix all dry ingredients, including the yeast. Add olive oil and water and mix until a ball starts to form. Dump all of the dough, flour bits included, onto a lightly floured work surface.
2. Lightly oil a large bowl.
3.Knead the dough to bring it together into a smooth, homogenous ball. Place the dough into the oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for an 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in size. (To check if the dough has doubled, flour your pointer finger and middle finger and stick those fingers into the middle of the dough. If the indentation does not spring back, it has doubled.)
4. After the dough has doubled, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for two minutes or so. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest on the work surface for 20 minutes.
5. Place a pizza stone** on the lowest rack in the oven and pre-heat to the hottest your oven will go.
6. Roll out the dough as thin as you can on a lightly floured work surface (I use a pizza peel. Make sure there is enough flour on it and that you don’t let the pizza sit on it too long or it will stick and fall on the floor. Trust me on this one. You can see an alternative to the pizza peel and stone in the notes at the bottom of the recipe.).
Top and Bake:
1. Top with the sauce first, then cheese, then bacon and chicken.
2. Carefully sprinkle cornmeal on the pizza stone to prevent sticking and transfer to pizza stone.
3. Bake for 7-10 minutes depending on oven temperature. Check on it at 7 minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn.
4. Remove pizza from oven and top with green onions.
5. Slice and enjoy!
*You can use up to 3/4 cup whole wheat flour if you want. If you use all whole wheat flour it turns out like pita bread, which is still good. I found that out by accidentally using all whole wheat. I think I’ll do that again on purpose. It was good for dipping in hummus as an appetizer.
**If you don’t have a pizza stone, just pre-heat your oven with the rack on the lowest possible place. When rolling out the dough, invert a baking sheet and place a piece of parchment paper on top. Roll out the dough on the parchment and top with toppings. When the oven is ready put it all in, the pizza sitting on the parchment on top of an inverted baking sheet. It may take a little longer to bake, but still check it at 7 minutes. Just a note: I prefer the pizza stone to other methods. The crust comes out superbly crisp, which is hard to achieve with other options.