February 2014


P1170711

The first time I made this pizza, I told my mom I could cry how much it reminded me of the restaurant. “This is better than the restaurant!” She was right.

Alfredo's

The smell of my kitchen when I make pizza brings me straight back to Bridge Street, where my cousins and I spent our growing up years. I’d always say “my uncle’s restaurant,” but it was a family affair without a doubt. We all did our time there over the years–my mom and dad, my Auntie Sandra, my cousins Mike, Paul and Al, my Uncle Greg and yours truly! Oh, and the old man himself, Alfredo, that was my uncle.

I remember days of extra dough, which meant pizza fritte (phonetically “freet” in the dialect)–delicious fried dough balls, jumbled up in a brown bag of sugar. I remember buttering the tops of the loaves of bread, fresh out of the oven. I remember playing hide and seek in the cellar and the dirty ragbag incident. And, of course, the pizza.

When my #1 taster walked in the day I made this and said it smelled like home, I knew I must be onto something special. I certainly couldn’t ask for a greater compliment. So I present to you, pizza dal cuore–pizza from the heart! Straight from my heart, my hometown and my kitchen. Buon appetito!

FOR THE LOVE OF PIZZA: PIZZA DAL CUORE
Katty’s Kitchen’s spin on “Grandma Pizza”

The dough
First, the dough, courtesy of my invisible friend the Sicilian Prince. I merely halved his original recipe. His process makes more sense to me than the more popular Cook’s Country version, so I’ll stick with the Sicilian Prince, thanks.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup warm water (not hot)
1 1/2 cups (8 1/4 ounces) bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve the brown sugar in the warm water.
While the water is still warm, add the yeast. Wait about 15 minutes to see the yeast start to activate.
Using the dough hook, add the olive oil and remaining dry ingredients and slowly start to mix.  After the dry ingredients are wet, raise the speed and mix until a nice, smooth ball forms, about 15 -20 minutes with a Kitchen Aid mixer. Now you should have a dough ball–coat it with olive oil, place in a large enough bowl to allow the dough to rise and refrigerate at least three hours. Overnight is better, or you can even let it  age for a few days.
The tomatoes
2 pints grape tomatoes
olive oil to coat your roasting dish (I use a large rectangular one)
2 slices sweet onion
4 cloves garlic, whole, peeled
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. If you have a pizza stone, place it on the lowest rack of your oven for later, when it’s pizza-making time. Layer the onions, tomatoes and garlic cloves into a large roasting dish. Toss with olive oil and Kosher salt.

Roast for 15 minutes. Use tongs or a spatula to move everything around, then roast for 15 more minutes. Ladle tomatoes into a colander, pressing down to squeeze out the extra liquid. After 15 minutes have passed, your work should be done. That extra delicious tomato and olive oil liquid you just strained–it’s your treat. Enjoy it like a bowl of soup. Or if you’re feeling generous, share it with someone you love and a nice, crusty bread.

The rest of the pizza
fresh mozzarella
fresh basil
fresh garlic, 2 cloves, please (optional)
3 tablespoons shredded Pecorino Romano
slices of pepperoni
crushed rosemary
more olive oil

Now it’s time to put the pizza together. See how your oven is conveniently preheated to 450 degrees F? Just leave it there.

Generously coat a stainless steel baking sheet with olive oil. Start spreading out the dough in the pan. I’ll be honest, my goal was to make a circle. Somehow, a heart began to form, so I ran with it. Given my love for good food in general and pizza specifically, it felt like it was meant to be. You can make a rectangle if you wish.

Give the top of the pizza a good splash of olive oil across the top to coat. Evenly place the tomatoes and onions over the dough. Squeeze the roasted garlic. Slice fresh mozzarella and layer over the tomatoes. Tuck in slices of pepperoni as you see fit. Snip fresh basil all over the pie. Crush a bit of rosemary, too. Press two fresh cloves of garlic and distribute as evenly as you can across the top.

P1170705

If you have a pizza stone, place the baking sheet directly on top of the stone on the lowest rack of the oven. If not, just put the baking sheet in the oven on the lowest rack. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or till your pizza is nice and golden brown. Slice and enjoy!

P1170669

They call them magic cookie bars, Hello Dolly bars, seven-layer bars. Call them what you like, they’re old-fashioned deliciousness baked up in a pan. Being the small batch kat I am, I like to bake a half portion in an 8″ square. It’s just enough to bring a bit of sweetness to the day without going overboard.

Today, I added Valrhona Dulceys to to the mix. It’s 32% blond chocolate–“creamy and toasty,” so says the bag. Yes, and almost vaguely salty, like fine caramel. You can find them at Whole Foods. Or go nuts as I did and buy a 3 kg bag from Amazon. Hey, go big or go home, right? Life’s short, enjoy the ride. Or at least make it a little sweeter when you can.

KATTY’S MAGIC COOKIE BARS

¼ cup butter, melted
¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
sprinkle of cinnamon
¼ cup chopped dark chocolate (I used Valrhona Guanaja 70%)
¼ cup chopped Valrhona Dulceys (32% blond chocolate)
about ¾ cup flaked coconut—enough to make a generous coconut “snow” layer over the graham crumbs and butter
½ cup chopped pecans (I used ½ pecans, ½ sliced almonds today)
½ (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (SCM)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract to mix into the SCM

P1170664

Butter an 8 x 8″ baking dish. Melt butter, then sprinkle graham cracker crumbs evenly over the butter. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon. Cover this layer completely with coconut, then nuts and chocolate. Stir 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract into SCM, then pour evenly over the pan.

P1170665

Bake 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees F . Run a knife around the outside of the pan while still warm. Cool. Cut into bars or diamonds.

P1170671

What are you waiting for? Dig in–it’s time to make the magic happen. CHOP-CHOP!

 

P1170574

I woke up this morning and found a message wishing me a happy anniversary. It’s been four years–162 posts!–of food and tasty beverages! Time flies when you’re having fun.

The past month, I’ve been on a frozen cheese blintz kick. It’s nice ‘n’ easy to throw a blintz in a pan with some butter and oil, then top it with homemade blackberry syrup and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. In fact, it’s so easy to make, I made the syrup today as my blintz was sizzling. Of course, it would be delish on pancakes or waffles, too. Or  ice cream. But who eats ice cream for breakfast?

BLACKBERRY SYRUP FOR BLINTZES

6 oz. container of blackberries
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Ready for how easy this is? Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. As the berries get soft, you can use a potato masher just to break them up a bit.

Let cool and store in the fridge. Enjoy a sweet start to your day! And remember this sage advice from our friend Frank: Nice ‘n’ easy does it every time. Snap. Snap. Snap.

P1170576

P1170558

Last weekend, I thought it would be fun to make carrot cake in the morning. So I went to the store and didn’t buy carrots. Nice going, Kat.

After I returned to my senses and the store, I updated a cake from my mom’s recipe files. So what’s my new spin on a classic? Less sugar (half brown, half granulated, please), a mix of oil and butter, toasted walnuts, coconut, some nutmeg, bourbon-soaked golden raisins (HOO-AHHH!) and a drizzle of bourbon over the cake once it’s out of the oven. To top it off, I whipped up my very own bourbon salted caramel frosting. Sound good to you, amici? Let’s make cake!

CARROT PINEAPPLE CAKE

½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup Maker’s Mark
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup corn oil
1/3 cup melted butter
2 eggs
1 ¼ cups finely shredded raw carrot (about ½ a a pound bag or four carrots)
½ cup crushed pineapple with juice
¼ cup Baker’s coconut
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon vanilla

Soak raisins in Maker’s for at least a couple of hours. Once they’re plumped, reserve the bourbon. Of course, we’ll use it later!

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

In a stand mixer or with an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugars, oil and melted butter 2 minutes at medium speed. Reduce speed to low and mix in dry ingredients in three parts. Add, carrots, pineapple, coconut, raisins and toasted walnuts. Mix till all ingredients are moistened. Pour batter into greased 9″ square pan.

Bake at 350 degrees about 35 minutes.

Drizzle some—or all—the bourbon used to soak raisins over hot cake. Not sure you want to use it all? CLINQUE! Cheers to you and your carrot cake! CENT’ANN’!

P1170555