Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Kids Who Love Pesto - Making Pizza at Home

My kids love (and I mean LOVE) pesto.  They love it freshly made, they love it jarred in the winter.  They love it made traditionally with pine nuts and basil, and they love it made with arugula and walnuts.  Really, if it's got pesto on it, they're in.

When they were smaller, I often would serve them pesto pasta for dinner, topped with mozzarella.  Lately, while they still love that, they craze pesto pizza, or as my 4.5 year old son calls it, "That delicious green sauce pesto pizza."  What can I say, he likes to be exact, just like his mama.

There are many reasons to make pizza at home, but being able to feed a kid's craving is certainly one of them.  The bonus comes in letting the kids construct their own pie, which both empowers them to play an active role in what they eat AND encourages them to stretch their palates and try interesting-looking things.

We do, occasionally, go out for pizza, and my kids always ask for the pesto pizza.  Due to this, the staff at their favorite spot have always remembered us, dubbing my kids "the kids who love pesto."  Apparently, this is a bit of an anomaly.  While we do love "our spot", all of us prefer the DIY version. .

This is how we do it.

Make the pizza dough.  I use Jamie Oliver's pizza dough recipe as a starting point, but I've modified it to my preferences and general pantry staples over the years.

10 oz very warm (not scalding) water.  Aim for 120 degrees, but I never actually measure the temperature.  It should feel hot but very tolerable to hold your hand under.

2 1/2 tsp. dry, active yeast

1 T. turbinado, or raw sugar

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

2 T. good olive oil

3 1/2 c. white or blended bread flour (don't use all wheat, unless you really want a denser, drier dough)

Mix everything except the flour in a large bowl.  Let sit about 10 minutes until the yeast is foamy.  Stir in half of the flour, mixing with a fork.  Flour your hands.  Now, mix in half of the remaining flour with the fork, switching to your hands when the dough gets tough to work with the fork.  Add remaining flour a tablespoon at a time until the dough ceases to be sticky.  Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth (maybe two minutes worth).  Place dough in a clean, oiled bowl and turn to coat.  Seal the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rise 30-60 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone inside.  You can do this without a stone, but the crust won't be as crisp.  While the oven heats, roll out the dough in desired portions.  I like to use a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal.  Pierce the dough all over with a fork everywhere but the crust.  Once the oven is done preheating, add the sauce and toppings and slide into the oven  Cook until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden.  This takes around 7 minutes in my oven.

We like lots of different toppings, but I highly recommend trying pesto, mushrooms, mozzarella, feta, and giardiniera (for the adults, at least).  That's what I used in the picture above.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Bruleed Grapefruit Martinis

As fruit goes, winter = citrus.  I particularly love grapefruit, and I've always got a bunch lying around.  Lately, I've been mixing grapefruit, in its many derivations, into cocktails.  After a bit of taste testing all around, this was the winner.  It's sweet enough, but not cloying.  It's killer smooth (which could get you in trouble...) It's totally worth trying.  Bonus:  you get to play with fire.

1/2 a ruby red grapefruit, cut on the bias
2 T. brown sugar
4 oz good, completely neutral American vodka
1/2 oz Grand Marnier

This is the fun part.  Sprinkle the brown sugar liberally all over the grapefruit, patting it in to adhere.  Using a kitchen-grade blow torch, brulee (which is French for burn - but don't really try to burn it to a crisp) the sugar until it caramelizes and starts to get gooey black spots.  Set it aside to cool a minute, and then squeeze the sugar and all into a cocktail shaker.  Add vodka and Grand Marnier, then some ice.  Shake very well.  Strain and serve.