Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pizza Bones

The most important part to making pizza is giving it good "bones". Nothing is more important than the crust.
Mama D as painted by the great Tony Bennett!
My standard go-to recipe is from my husband's Aunt Jenny, who was better known in Minneapolis St. Paul area as Mama D. Thanks to my new friend Benny the Chef!, I've also learned to make pizza bones in the Roman way - a leisurely slow rising crispy crust with wonderfully chewy bones. Do purchase his new cookery book The Art of Cooking According to Me so you can try it sometime, as his dough is simply awesome.

This time, I'll show you how Mama D taught me.

not quite done kneading, but just about!
Mama D's Pizza Dough 

The nutrition facts for those that like such things, can be found at Calorie Count


2 envelopes dry yeast
2 C warm water
5 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t sugar
4 T olive oil


Dissolve the yeast in the water. Put the flour into a mixing bowl and stir in the salt and sugar. Make a well in the flour and add the yeast mixture and oil. Mix well until the dough is soft but not sticky - if it is sticky, add a little more flour in the next step.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board (more flour here if dough is sticky). Knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic - it will pop back if you stick a finger into it.

A Bowl Too Small
Place the dough inside a lightly oiled bowl and brush a bit of oil on top of the dough. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place such as in an oven. Allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until the dough is doubled in size and a hole remains if you poke your finger into the dough. LOL! Make sure your bowl is big enough, as you can see, when I doubled my recipe, I failed to double my bowl!

Shhhhh! The pizza dough is resting.
Remove the dough from the bowl and punch it down on a board..I just LOVE doing that! Divide into 2 equal balls for two large pizzas or 4 balls for four smaller dinner plate sized pizzas, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Taking 1 ball at a time, roll it out or pat and stretch it into a circle about 14 inches in diameter with the dough a little thicker and pinched up a bit at the edges. Place on a pizza stone or a lightly oiled baking sheet and prick all over lightly with a fork. Before adding the sauce and other ingredients I like to brush the dough with olive oil, spread with garlic and sprinkle with Romano cheese.

pizza bones with sauce and fresh basil leaves!
My new favorite topping is a bunch of whole basil leaves plucked fresh from the garden and slices of fresh mozzarella - in fact, there is now a new Mindful Rule - you are not allowed to buy pre-shredded mozzarella cheese for your homemade pizza. Nope, not allowed. You must purchase logs of fresh mozzarella and cut slices and lay them on the top with great reverence.

After the bones are topped with the rest of the ingredients, bake in a 400 degree oven until the crust is done - about 20 - 30 minutes depending on how hot your oven runs. I have also, after neglecting to check my recipe first, baked it at 375 or even 350 with good luck so if your oven runs hot, go ahead and do that.

Delicious homemade pizza!
It is so easy and fun to make homemade pizza. The dough is very simple and you can make sauce and prepare your ingredients while the dough rises. You are in charge of the quality of the ingredients and should always choose the best available. Share pizza building with family and good friends - as well as a nice Chianti.

Enjoy your pizza Mindfully, it's good for you. Mama said so.

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Playing With Weeds

Chocolate Mint
Lemon balm, chocolate mint, cilantro, parsley, lemon grass, Greek oregano, marjoram, rosemary, and basil of all kinds. These are a few of the many home garden cookery herbs that my good friend Rabbit calls "weeds".

Deliciously aromatic weeds can be combined by the handful in just about any combination to make the most wonderful "weedy" marinade. Yesterday, weeds were used in mass quantities to make a fantastic marinade for lamb chops.

Pick the weeds fresh from your garden or fresh from the weed section of your local grocery. What weeds are entirely up to you, but make sure that some sort of mint is in the mix!

Marinade of Weeds for Lamb Chops
nutrition facts

What you need to make four servings:

8 lamb chops
2-4 cups of  your choice of five fresh herbs (weeds) from the list below:
     Chocolate mint or mix of mint(s)
     parsley, flat curled or both
     lemon grass
     Greek oregano
1 head of garlic, chopped or pressed
1/2 cup each of the following:
     fresh squeezed lemon juice
     red wine
     olive oil
     either red wine or balsamic vinegar*

*You may use garlic infused vinegar, but still add the head of garlic. It is impossible to over garlic this dish.

What to do:

In the morning head out to the garden with your shears and a large bowl. Harvest large handfuls of weed leaves. Whatever type you have growing in your herb garden is fine... even if it is not on the list. If you think it would go well with lamb, use it.

The critical weed for cooking lamb is chocolate mint, although all sorts of mint work well here - preferably in addition to the chocolate mint. Harvest twice as much oregano and marjoram as you do mint. Mint can overpower and you just want it to just add depth. Toss great mountains of your favorite basil into the harvest bowl. Try lemon basil if you love lemon with lamb. I am not a fan of too much rosemary, but you may love it - harvest accordingly. I usually just collect one small stem, you may need three. Your choice of weeds will become very personal over time as you play with the flavors and make adjustments based upon what you have growing.

Carry the large bunches of greenery into the house, rinse and pat dry with either paper or tea towels..

Remove the leaves and tender parts from the woody stems and discard the woody bits. Wad up manageable clumps of the remaining leaves on a cutting board. Using a large very sharp knife begin chopping the heck out of the weeds until they are so finely chopped as to nearly be a paste...or just very small bits... it all depends on how carried away you get with a cleaver. Scrape the mass of herbs into a large bowl of sufficient size so that it will not overflow when you add liquids.

Chop or press an entire head of garlic cloves and add to the weeds.

Add all the liquids and stir - fresh squeezed lemon juice, red wine, olive oil, and your choice of red wine or balsamic vinegar - or garlic infused olive oil. At this point you could add some fresh cracked black pepper but it is not really necessary as that can be added at the table. Do NOT add salt. The marinade should be thick. If it is not, add some more weeds. Take a good whiff of the mix and adjust the seasonings and liquids until you think it just rocks.

Arrange the lamb chops in a large lidded container or thick zip lock baggie and drown with the marinade. Cover with a lid (or zip the baggie shut) and place in the refrigerator for about 5 hours or until time to grill.

Remove the lamb from the refrigerator about 45 minutes before grilling. Right before grilling, take the chops out of the marinade (discard as it has done its duty well). Grill the lamb over hot coals, turning as needed, for about five minutes on each side which is medium rare (my preference). Lamb chops should never be overcooked as they turn dry and tough, so watch them attentively. Check to make sure they are finished as you like them. My son is not a medium rare person, so we always cook his chops a few minutes longer on each side.

If you have not tried chocolate mint, go get some immediately and plant so it's there waiting for you the next time you crave lamb.

Most mindfully served with Shirazi Salad and Lemon Spinach Couscous - recipes posted at The CC Palate!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Food for Thought

Artists are the most mindful people on the planet (ok, maybe Buddhists are a tad more mindful). Staring endlessly at a plate of fruit, the artist waits for it to offer itself up in the form of line, shadow and light, color, texture, negative spaces and form; painting tirelessly until that final perfect mark springs from the brush to create a complete sensory experience, imbuing the painting with delicate aroma and making mouths water in anticipation. Engage all your senses for a few moments with this fabulous painting by the great master Paul Gauguin. It's as satisfying as actually eating the fruit itself.

Paul Gauguin, Still Life with Profile of Charles Laval, 1886