Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pizza with Pesto alla Trapanese and Grilled Artichoke Hearts, French Fries

Pizza! I've not made pizza from scratch in a number of years; I typically buy a prepared shell and use it as a starting point. It wasn't really from scratch as I purchased frozen pizza dough (I'm not good at kneading and used to, years ago, use my bread maker to prepare the dough to truly make pizza from base ingredients only), but I made pizza today. I was going to enlist my wife's help as she is good at handling dough, but I managed to prepare a (not very round!) pizza pie tonight.

At the gourmet store in Chapel Hill that I occasionally visit, A Southern Season, I found this nice set of sauces, handmade in small batches it seems, and sold in small bottles, from a Sicilian company, Antichi Sapori di Sicilia. One of their sauces, Pesto alla Trapanese, is a Sicilian pesto made with tomatoes, oil, almond, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper, and it is what I used tonight. I also had recently purchased grilled "herbal" artichoke hearts ("artihearts") from a company named Monterey Farms herbal artihearts.

The instructions for the pizza dough specified to defrost the dough for about 2 hours (luckily I didn't notice and allowed ample time; when I checked about 6 hours after I had taken it out of the freezer, hoping to start cooking in an hour, it was still not defrosted, but was fine an hour later - I wonder why?), preheat the oven to 425°F, spread the dough into a pizza round (I didn't follow it exactly, but I found a nice video online), lightly oil or coat with a little sauce, then parbake (partially bake) it for 5 minutes, let it rest for 5 minutes, top it with additional sauce and toppings, then bake it for 10-14m. What I did was to, keeping flour on my hands, shape the dough ball and slowly press it down into a circular shape. I put maybe a teaspoon of olive oil around the nascent crust and used my fingers to uniformly coat the crust, and pressed down perhaps a half teaspoon of raw sesame seeds onto the crust. I sprayed a little bit of oil elsewhere on the dough's top and pressed into the dough about a tablespoon of roughly chopped rosemary needles.

I put a little of the sauce on top and tried to carefully put the dough, with the assistance of my too-small pizza peel, directly on my pizza stone (always in the oven), which had been heated at 425°F for at least a half hour and onto which I had sprinkled some corn meal (to act as rollers for removing the dough) just before adding the dough. I mostly succeeded, but part of the pizza got pushed together, resulting in a very imperfect circle and an area of relatively thick dough. (Next time I'll do the initial bake on a pan like the one shown here, which I used just to hold the pizza out of the oven, then put the firmer dough directly on the stone.)

I took the pizza out after 5 minutes - the crust, thankfully, was hardening so the pizza came out fairl easily. I let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then finished saucing the top, then added the toppings (the artichoke hearts, yellow sundried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, onion slivers, and marinated mushrooms; on my part, I put a few teaspoons of Scottish Isle of Bute vegan "cream cheese" with chives). I then baked the pizza, again directly on the stone, for about 11 minutes.

I think it came out well, though I wish I could make a uniformly thin crust. My wife found that her pieces were too thick and didn't enjoy the pizza as much as I did. I also served it with some French Fries.

Yesterday, we had my favorite vegetarian society potluck of the year, the (tenth!) annual joint meeting with a very nice group, NC Society for Ethical Culture. After we eat, I moderate a panel of three persons from this group and three from Triangle Vegetarian Society. Panelists address (in six minutes only!) the question "What are the two or three most important issues of our times and what, as individuals, can or should we do about these issues?" It's always an interesting time and coincidentally a few hours before the event somebody who tapes and edits audio material asked if we would like to podcast this or any of our events! I think that the audio from our discussion will be available at .

Anyway, I came up with an idea for a new dish and made it for yesterday's potluck; I'll try it again sometime as a main course at home. I cut two packets of seitan into thin strips maybe 1/4" x 1" and baked it, covered in lime marinade, for about a half hour at 350°F. I also baked half of a yellow onion, cut into thin half-moons and with a little olive oil drizzled over the pieces. I put into my rice cooker a vegan bouillon cube along with maybe a cup of a mixed wild and brown Lundberg brand rice and twice as much water, and let it cook for about 50 minutes. I mixed the cooked ingredients together, along with a little salt. It was good!

On Friday, I was photographing a concert and, before that, scoping out Duke Gardens for a bridal shoot that is coming up. Unfortunately, I ran out of time so went with my wife to eat falafel. On Thursday, we made a new vegetarian friend who contacted me to possibly get some photography tutoring; she just moved here a week ago. She joined my wife and me after my photography class and we ate Tex-Mex food (I had a spinach and a tempeh enchilada) at Margaret's Cantina.

Phew! Sorry for such a diary-like long posting today!


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