22 July 2009

Pizza Margarita

The quintessential Pizza Margarita is perhaps the most important dish to ever come out of Naples. First created in 1889 during a visit there by Italy's Queen Margherita, it is considered by many to be the most venerable of pies. There are as many interpretations as there are Pizzaoli, and I have made a variety of them. Here is a version I like when it's time to grill the pizzas and the tomatoes are still green on the vine.

See Grilled Pizza post for complete recipe of pie...

1 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
Fresh whole milk Mozzarella di Bufala, pressed and sliced 1/4" thick
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil
Fresh Oregano, minced
Fresh Basil, torn
Sea salt


Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and add garlic. Sauté for one or two minutes and add tomatoes. Reduce heat to a medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add some sea salt and some oregano and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Once your dough is prepared and your grill is hot, lightly brush with olive oil. Spread tomato sauce evenly over pie and place slices of cheese on top. Do not over crowd with cheese. Grill pizza and add fresh basil as soon as it comes off the fire and serve immediately.

20 July 2009

Eat Your Garden

If you have a garden, like I do, you're probably eating a lot of salads right now. (And giving neighbours a lot of extra Kale, in my case). If you do not have your own garden, head to one of the numerous Farmers' Markets in your city, and take home a happy bounty of affordable fresh produce. Every Saturday, you can find The Erudite Eater casually perusing the Hollywood Farmers' Market in search of the few produce items I am lacking in, for the week. For example, I never did get around to making that new bed for Italian Squash.

The greatest thing about eating your garden is the immense satisfaction and nourishment that one has provided one's self. Planting, tending, and harvesting have deep ritualistic ties to my inner contentment. And let's face it, I love to eat.

I've seen a lot of recipes floating around lately that are based on fresh ingredients and salads in particular. Try picking up a food magazine that doesn't dedicate a fair amount of space to produce this time of year. The problem I find is this. I don't want to go spend $50.00 at the market to supplement my garden salad with a bunch of frou frou ingredients to make it special. What makes it special for me is inherent in what I already have. And I'll work from that.

Simplicity is at the core of what I consider a good salad.

Keep in mind that a salad should reflect what you have to work with at the time. I go out, and pick until I have whatever I feel I need. This is a somewhat organic process, in that it changes, based on what feels natural (or necessary), to pick. Then, I compose the salad.

Here is a simple variation on a rather popular type of salad to try.

Green Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese

Greens (I use a variety of baby lettuces, escarole, kale, etc...)
3 or 4 Beets
Goat Cheese (Trader Joe's has a log of Silver Goat at an easy to digest price)
Olive oil
Red Wine Vinegar
Sea Salt


Wash and peel beets. Cut into bite sized wedges, drizzle and toss with some olive oil and roast at 400 F until tender, (about 40 minutes). Cool. Wash greens, and tear into pieces in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and red wine vinegar. Think 3 parts oil to one part vinegar as a general rule. Toss with greens, toss in beets and sea salt and crumble cheese over the top.

It's all you really need.

09 July 2009

Grilled Pizza

Pizza is a perfect food. The delicate balance of molten cheese, fresh sauce or quality olive oil, and charred, springy crust harmoniously brings all the pleasure sensations together. And while everyone seems to offer it, from haute cuisine to low brow bars, its resurgence in the restaurant scene is often muddled by pretentious ingredients, arrogant staff, and condescending menus.

Due to its recession proof appeal, many chefs have added pizza to their menus. I've even seen it in Asian fusion restaurants.

I find this all (in a way), amusing, given the price of a pie in most restaurants. Even on the lower end, finding a pizza for under $15.00 is nearly impossible.

As my imaginary inner Italian Grandmother would tell you, "You want a pizza? Make a pizza!"

Pizza is an art. It requires passion to create it properly. Papa Murphy's doesn't come anywhere close to resembling pizza.

To make it, you'll also need patience.

And a grill.

Seriously, unless your oven reaches at least 900 degrees F, you will be wasting your efforts there. And no, you do not need a stone. A grill can reach up to 550 or 650 degrees F, and a stone requires more to actually be effective. I have used a stone in a brick, wood fired oven that reached 850 degrees, and that was the proper application, (in fact, it was the perfect crust). Any temperature less than that, and the stone will steam the crust, locking in the moisture, yet not charring the outside.

In this recipe a perforated pan works best. This allows your coals, or gas flames to char the crust. You can find them in the BBQ section of most stores.

I prefer making my own dough, but this is not always practical. For this recipe, I use a purchased dough. (Think Pastaworks, New Seasons, Trader Joe's)...

A favourite of anyone who's had it:

Pizza di Funghi

1 or 2 Packages of dough of choice, rested at room temperature for one hour

Olive oil

Quattro Formaggio (Fontina, Asiago, Provolone or Mozzarella, Parmesan)

2 oz of dried wild mushrooms, reconstituted, and all moisture gently pushed out

Truffle oil


This recipe is for two pizzas. If you prefer a Napoleon style crust as I do, divide dough into two equal parts. This will give you two 13" pizzas. If you prefer a bit more tooth to your crust, use entire amount per pie. (The picture I took was made with an entire package, which makes a more Sicilian style crust). On a lightly floured surface, gently press the dough from center out, using your fingers to create a rim around the outside. Spread the dough until it reaches the correct size. Be very careful not to knead the dough. If the dough is resilient, and shrinks back on you, wait a few minutes and begin again. Never use a rolling pin. The idea is to spread the dough without removing the air in it. This is essential for a proper crust. I've lost patience and used a pin, only to find myself unequivocally disappointed. Once dough is spread out, place on a perforated pan. Drizzle olive oil over the dough. Spread the cheeses evenly over the pie. If you are using fresh mozzarella in your blend, I recommend pressing the moisture out of the cheese before mixing it in. This isn't a soup recipe. Sprinkle the pie with the mushrooms and place over a hot grill and cover. Check the pizza in 4 or 5 minutes and turn if necessary. Cooking time will vary, depending on your grill. Char the pizza, without over doing it. Carefully remove from pan and drizzle with Truffle oil. Allow to set for a few minutes before slicing.

Serve with sea salt and Calabrian Peppers on the side.