Traveling Solo to Italy

Sad BiagioTraveling to Italy has always been my dream.  More like a misty dream, never quite clearly seeing through the fog to when it might come true.  A single mom, carefully budgeting my way through life and cleaning up after storms along the way.  But honestly, I can now say, my storms have all been a blessing.  In disguise, of course.

 “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.”

                                                                 – Helen Keller

I’m going for a daring adventure.  Personally, I’m gently reserved, geared more toward intimate one-on-one conversations than free for alls; I cherish solitude, my home, and always thoughtful in my decision making.  Though so driven by comfort and security, I’m easily seduced by change and adventure.  Sometimes successfully, as in my life move to Florida, and other times not so great, as my move to Atlanta.  But regardless, in both circumstances, I grew, and I have no regrets. Continue reading “Traveling Solo to Italy”

Sicilian Pizza

Sicilian PizzaSicilian pizza = family gatherings.  It would not be a family gathering without including the Sicilian pizza, especially through the holidays.  My mom would bake sheet after sheet pan of pizza to serve our hungry family, uncles, aunts and cousins.  Grabbing squares of pizza, it didn’t matter if they were hot or at room temp or even leftover cold straight from the fridge!  Way back then, I never knew there were round pizzas!  The round ones came from the pizza restaurants, and we never ordered a pizza!

I rarely bake the thick crust pizza.  My favorite is the thin crust, as in my Napoletana Pizza I make every Friday evening.  But when I drift back down memory lane as I was this morning, thinking of Christmas past, there was no other pizza in my life than the thick, square cut Sicilian pizza. Continue reading “Sicilian Pizza”

Napoletana Pizza Dough

I love, love, love traditions, customs, rituals and beliefs!  December 8 is the celebration of the Immaculate Conception.  I recently learned that in Sicily it is customary to bake a sfinciuni, a type of pizza made with simple ingredients, flour, yeast, onions, anchovies, olive oil and crumbs of leftover bread to honor the Madonna at Advent.

Amore, amore…I love pizza and how excited I was to have a new tradition to follow.  It was quite possible that my mom served us pizza after attending mass on this day as we had pizza so often I cannot confirm this was a true custom in our home or not.  I’ve made Friday pizza night a tradition for many years using the my favorite pizza dough recipe I posted last year.  This past year though I’ve become hooked on Peter Reinhart’s Napoletana Pizza Dough recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and I can honestly say, I’ve only gone back to my old pizza dough recipe just a few times. Continue reading “Napoletana Pizza Dough”

Roasted Cauliflower Pizza with Roasted Garlic and Pine Nuts

Friday night pizzas have been a long time tradition for my family.  And the funny thing is regardless if anyone is even going to be around to eat the pizza, I continue to come home from work and prepare one!  It’s so routine for me, as a relaxing finale to my work week.  With a glass of wine in hand and my dough has been prepared the day before; my pizza comes together within an hour.   It will be there for my son at any time and leftover slices for lunch over the weekend.  

My son is strictly a meat lover; pepperoni or sausage and frowns and picks off anything other than that!  I, of course, love to experiment and make different types.  While I grew up on the Sicilian thick pizza which my mother made in large rectangular baking sheets, I prefer a thinner crust pizza.  Grilled pizzas are a summer favorite I adore having that extra crispy grilled crust!  But mostly my oven does its magic, using a pizza stone at times, or simply this fantastic pizza screen which is basically a mesh surface that has little barrier for heat, like using nothing at all so the pizza cooks faster than in a pan.  

This veggie topping of roasted cauliflower is first slightly roasted in the oven to soften the cauliflower and then finish roasting on the pizza.  I’ve added in pancetta at times and varied the final topping of fresh herbs from parsley to sage to rosemary.  It’s not an overly cheese pizza, the pine nuts and bread crumbs add a tang and crunch to the pizza.  For a bit of spice, I like to add in crushed red pepper or a drizzle of hot sauce; but that’s just me and my spicy habit.

Roasted Cauliflower Pizza with Roasted Garlic and Pine Nuts

For the roasted cauliflower and garlic:

1 Cauliflower head, cut into florets – about 2 cups of roasted florets are needed per pizza

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 whole garlic, cut in half (should roast quicker cut directly in half)

For the bread crumb topping:

2 tablespoons pine nuts

¼ cup bread crumbs

1 teaspoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

For the pizza:

Pizza Dough – see recipe below

2 cups fontina or mozzarella cheese, grated

2-3 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley, or rosemary or sage

Optional topping of 1/3 cup chopped pitted green olives

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place the cauliflower florets on a large baking sheet, drizzle over the oil and salt and pepper.  Place the garlic halves cut side down on the sheet.  Roast for 25 minutes, until lightly browned and soft but still crisp as the cauliflower will continue to roast when baking the pizza.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, oregano, parmesan cheese and olive oil mixing together well.  To make the pizza, layer the pizza dough with the Fontina or Mozzarella cheese, then the cauliflower florets.  Squeeze the roasted garlic bulbs around the pizza and top with the bread crumb mixture.  Place in oven and roast until golden brown approximately 10-17 minutes depending on the heat of the oven.  Remove from oven and sprinkle on fresh herbs. 

Pizza Dough

1 envelope dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons / ¼ oz)

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 cup warm water (110 degrees)

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

3 cups flour (I have used all purpose white flour, whole wheat white flour, or bread flour or a mix!)

2 tablespoons olive oil (basil or rosemary flavored if available)

Cornmeal or semolina as needed

Using a stand up mixer with dough attachment, dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water.  Yeast should begin to foam which means it is “alive”.  Should the yeast not begin to foam, toss and begin again as the yeast is not “alive” to proof.  (Make sure the temperature of the water is also not too hot or too cold as this will affect the yeast as well.)  Mix in 2 cups of flour, salt and olive oil.  Knead with the dough attachment for about 5 minutes while slowly adding in the remaining one cup of flour.  Mix for another few minutes as the dough becomes smooth and elastic.    Remove the dough from the mixer and form into a ball with your hands on a floured surface.  Coat with oil and place in a large bowl.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.  If using quick rise yeast, the dough will rise in about 1 hour.  At this point, I normally place the dough in the refrigerator overnight and bring out the next day to rise for 2 hours.  I find that the texture is better when refrigerated overnight as well as finding it easier making pizzas when I prepare the dough ahead of time. 

Preheat oven to 425 – 450 degrees.  If using a pizza peel to slide the pizza into a baking stone, place the baking stone on the bottom rack now to heat at least 15 minutes.  When dough has risen, punch down and let dough rest 10 minutes.  Flatten dough and gently stretching and pulling into shape.  If dough is resistant, wait 5 minutes and begin again.  If using a pizza peel, lightly dust the peel with semolina or cornmeal and place the pizza on the peel.  If not using a peel, place pizza on a lightly oiled pizza pan or pizza screen.   Brush edges with oil and sprinkle with cornmeal (optional).  Add toppings.  Place in oven and bake for approximately 10-17 minutes – depending on the heat of your oven and thickness of your pizza.  Remove and allow to cool at least 5 minutes before cutting.

* When making 2 pizzas, I increase the flour to 4 cups, the water to 1 ½ cups, salt to 1 ½ teaspoons and olive oil to 2 ½ tablespoons.  I do not increase the sugar.  After the dough has risen, divide the dough into two and proceed as above.