What feels like a million years ago, the Ninja and I lived in a tiny high rise apartment in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam. We were doing the teacher thing, or at least, he was discovering his talent for it while I mostly ran around with my camera trying to eat as much as possible. I’m a predictable traveller and not a good teacher, but I did find that it was possible in a year to get familiar with a lot of what Vietnamese cuisine is. Continue reading
Hello lovely Love Day readers, I come with breakfast for the hungry heart, and while I’ll admit these aren’t these aren’t the fastest pancakes you’ll ever try, they may very well be the most special. Make a stack of these for a loved one and they will know that they are precious to you and worth dirtying a few extra bowls for. They’re light as air, delicate, crisp on the edges and elevated by a hint of lemon zest, so you can eat a bunch and not feel so heavy you couldn’t later do some *ahem* athletics, should you so desire. Which is important. *chases after 11-month-old* Continue reading
Aaah baby purées, those swirly, smooth, colour-crazy nutrition paints. My tiny guy eats so well, and has been down so many avenues of flavour already, he’s all like, “not just crackers for me today, mom, what’s that new stuff?” Granted, not so much with his mono-syllabic commentary, but with his gooey cheek-spattered grins he says it. (I know this; we have a rapport). Continue reading
There are only a few foods that I miss from my homeland, and none of them very complex. I would lunge for a piece of grainy goats’ cheese, or a good corn tortilla, a piece of exciting chocolate, real whipped cream or prosciutto, but not if I had to knock anyone over, and the vista of kaleidoscopic tastes at my disposal wins out over nostalgia almost every time.
That said, pizza is a damned fine and alluring food memory, and the bf and I missed the stuff enough to look for it. Alarmingly, this city has been known to use ketchup in place of real sauce, and it only took a few surprisingly disappointing deliveries with cake-y crusts to make it clear that we had some kind of crusade to acknowledge and that we had to attack this problem at home.
Home, by the way, does not have an oven. But no matter! We’re pirates. We’re pizza pirates! We’ll figure it out, or die trying covered with olive oil and basil flecks (kinky, but possible). Thankfully it didn’t come to that (to the relief of whoever would have found our bodies I’m sure) and a gas range produces the best results I’ve ever gotten. I was as surprised as you probably are reading this! But I’m not joking, and I’m grateful to Kenji at Serious Eats for figuring it out.
First, make the best damned pizza crust recipe in the world, or even better double it and keep half in the freezer. Then, make a New York style pizza sauce that’s just slightly sweet, blessed with a pat of butter, and if there’s an onion and some basil floating around in there, all’s the better (both recipes below). Then, scatter a heavy skillet on medium heat with cornmeal, stretch the dough to fit, and tuck it in there, adding a lid so that it will steam and puff for a minute or two. After the dough is mostly cooked, flip it over and finish the other side.
Then, turn the heat off and brush olive oil on the puffed side of the outer crust, and carefully, hang the oiled crust over the edge of the skillet and turn the flame back on. Singe/blacken the rim to satisfaction, then put the pizza back in the pan, right side up, and turn the burner off. Add toppings… now.
When that’s all done, turn the heat back to medium low and put the lid on, slowly letting the cheese melt and ooze… it will take a few minutes. Be patient and don’t turn the heat up, and you’ll eventually be rewarded with a liquid lake of cheese and a perfectly crisp bottom. If it’s not brown enough, just leave it in there a bit longer and turn the heat up a bit more – easy.
If you can, letting it rest for 2 minutes will prevent topping-slide and make for clean slices and fewer burnt mouths, but I can’t say we were good like that all the time. Nom.
Crisp & Chewy Pizza Dough
recipe from Ina Garten
- 1 1/4 cups warm (100 to 110 degrees F) water
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
Combine the water, yeast, honey, and olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add 3 cups flour, then the salt, and mix. While mixing, add 1 more cup of flour, or enough to make a very soft dough. Knead the dough on low to medium speed for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with flour, if necessary, to keep it from sticking to the bowl. (You can also do this by hand, it will take longer, about 20 minutes)
When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic, like bubblegum. Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it several times to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes, or up to overnight in the refridgerator (a slow rise in the fridge will allow for better flavour and development)
Divide the dough into 6 equal parts and roll each one into a smooth ball. Place the balls on a baking sheet and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours, or wrap in oiled plastic and freeze for up to 3 months.
If you’ve chilled the dough, take it out of the refrigerator approximately 30 minutes ahead to let it come to room temperature. Shape it into the diameter of your pan, and use immediately for thin crust. For puffier crust, let it rise for 10 minutes before adding toppings.
New York Style Pizza Sauce
recipe from J Kenji Lopez-Alt at Serious Eats
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes OR 2 lbs fresh ripe tomatoes, seeded.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 medium cloves garlic, grated on microplane grater (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- pinch red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
- 2 six-inch sprigs fresh basil with leaves attached
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and split in half
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Process tomatoes and their juice through food mill, pulse in food processor until pureed, mash with a masher, or puree with hand blender. Texture should not be completely smooth, but should have no chunks larger than 1/16 of an inch. Set tomatoes aside.
Combine butter and oil in medium saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until butter is melted. Add garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and large pinch salt and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil sprigs, onion halves, and sugar. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to lowest setting (bubbles should barely be breaking the surface), and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by 1/2, about 1 hour. Season to taste with salt. Allow to cool and store in covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
There are some favours that are hard to refuse, and I always have trouble leaving the cries of “but I can’t make XXXX!!” go un-helped. Pastry dough – a naff beast if you’re not used to it – can be tamed with the help of a friend or two, and some experience, and a GIANT MARBLE PLANK (to keep things cold), ouahahaha. Attention to temperature, my friends, attention to temp…
So while my roommate had fond childhood memories of baking apple scents wafting from his oven (thanks to mom, of course), he had no wherewithall to do it himself! And that wasn’t right, so we dove into making his own idea – a pear pie with cardamom. It turned out like a dream, too… huge organic pears with loads of spice, cooked soft and redolent inside the most crackly and melting striated crust ever – possibly the best crust I’ve ever made. Even the bottom was crispy! And simultaneously suffused with the perfumed juices of autumn fruits cooked to within an inch of their structural integrity. Mmmmmm gooo.. mmmmmm pie gooo. (<— good with words, ya?) (can’t eloquate: too full of pie. :P)
I’m also obsessed with caramel. Put caramel on a brick and I’m likely to eat it before throwing it, which is no mean feat, cause like, bricks are hard to chew. But caramel is awesome, and so I make it any chance I get. This one had lime in it, because….. that’s a delicious thing, and exotic and I like that too. Reminded me faintly of dusky tents, the lime combined with the cardamom-spice, and yes, I ended up putting some of the rest of this on pecan ice cream laterz, yum.
If you want to make some kinda version of this, it’s terribly easy. Some of my measurements concerning the fruit are a little intuited, but this sort of thing is kinda of a stir-and-taste as you go procedure anyway (a blessed occurrence whenever it’s found in pastry-world).
Lime Caramel Sauce
- 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
- 1 cup (250 ml) water
- 2-3 tablespoons lime (or lemon) juice
Spread sugar evenly in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add half the water and a few drops of the lime juice and heat over medium heat until deep amber coloured and just beginning to smoke. Take off the heat, add the remaining water and lemon juice and whisk until smooth.
Keeps 1 month in the refrigerator.
Cardamom Pear Pie
- A favourite butter crust recipe, or Chocolate Butter Crust (enough for a bottom and a lid)
- PEARS! lots of them. soft, juicy, ripe ones. Anjou’s are best, but Bartlett’s, Concordes or Boscs work nicely too. About 10 for a modest pie, 15 for a more generous mound (stack it as high as you like – when at home I rather like a big inviting fruity filling). Peel those, core, and slice thinly.
- 1/2 cup sugar / 100 g
- 1 tsp fresh ground cardamom
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- tiny pinch of salt
- 2-3 tbsp unsalted butter, for dotting on top.
- 1 egg, beaten
- coarse sugar (optional)
- Toss the fruit with the sugar, spices, vanilla, cornstarch and salt, then tumble into a waiting pie dish lined with your favourite crust recipe (it’s especially nice if you can keep the bottom crust in the freezer until you’re ready for it).
- Dot with specks of unsalted butter, then roll out the top crust and layer gently on top, trimming the edges and forming a nice crust. Decorate with bits of leftover dough, if you have any! Brush the top lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
- Bake at 400°F until the fruit is very soft and the filling is bubbly (anywhere from 40-60 minutes). If the crust is browning too quickly, make a shield out of tinfoil to protect the outer edge, and continue baking.
Eat, hot or cold, for the next few days, and with gusto. !