Archive for the ‘fascinating theory/sad reality’ Category

Mario Batali’s Molto Gusto Griddle Pizza

July 24, 2011

I saw a recipe for Mario Batali’s pizza in the April/May issue of Vegetarian Times and I was intrigued: the recipe calls for par-baking very thin crusts on a griddle. This seemed like a really good idea, especially in brutally hot weather, as an alternative to using a 500 degree oven with a pizza stone. Batali says that you can make the par-baked crusts ahead of time, which sounded like another good idea. I was hoping that Batali’s technique would yield pizza crusts that were chewy and crispy instead of soggy.

(Epicurious has the recipe also, along with a few reviews, which warn that the salt listed is excessive; here is the recipe with reader comments at Serious Eats; here is the recipe along with an interview at the Houston Chronicle; and here is some more at Delaware Online, including reassurance that the large amount of salt is correct and the tip that you can parbake the crust using a pizza stone in the oven, too.)

My results? First, I found it somewhat easier to stretch the dough to the 10″ size suggested from a 4 ounce ball of dough when the dough had been refrigerated overnight, but this is not critical.

Second, the pizza crust created is chewy, but not so crisp unless you crisp it well in the oven afterward OR (and this took me a while to figure out), you actually put the crust back on the griddle with topping added, and heat it to melt the topping on the griddle (cover the pan to speed the melting process). By the time that the topping have melted, the bottom of the crust will be crisp:

Even so, the pizza tastes and looks like you made it with chappati or aish tanoor. There are little black flecks that add flavor, but turned off my kids.

Here is what my first batch of pizza crusts looked like:

Here is the second batch, made with dough that had sat in the fridge for a day or so:

My kids liked the first, paler batch better, even though the second batch was crisper and more flavorful.

Bottom line: this is an interesting technique for pizza, and useful for when you have access to a cooktop, but not an oven. I used a non-stick pan, a black steel pan, and an enameled cast-iron pot, and all worked well (although the cast-iron worked especially well because it got really hot and stayed really hot). The downside is that crust is just not the same as an oven-baked crust, and it is hard to get away with using lots of topping. My kids wanted more tomato sauce than the thin floppy crust could hold.

As for the salt, I used 2 tbl. of KOSHER salt, which is probably equal to 3 tsp. of table salt. The dough was salty, but not overpoweringly so.

(Here are the measurements, converted to weight: 10 ounces water, .25 ounces yeast, 18.5 ounces all-purpose flour, 2 scant Tbl. kosher salt, 1 1/2 tsp. sugar)

Note to self: it seems that there is more excitement about Otto’s olive oil ice cream than its pizza, strange as that sounds. (see here, here, and here)

Faux-tato Kugel

June 24, 2011

Susie Fishbein’s Kosher by Design Lightens Up has a Faux Potato Kugel that is mostly cauliflower, with just a little potato. I changed the recipe, cutting all the ingredients in half, except the potato, and using whole eggs instead of mostly egg whites.

The end result was a kugel that looked very much like potato kugel, but tasted like . . . cauliflower kugel. It did not taste like potato kugel. Not at all.

But, it is very nice as a cauliflower kugel . . .

Mrs. S asked me to post the recipe, so here it is:


Making Pasta with Kids

November 13, 2008

The LA Times’ Amy Scattergood has written an article about making pasta with kids. “Pasta-making is a bit like a kid’s project anyway,” she writes. “Mix flour and eggs together into something that resembles Play-Doh. Then roll it out, cut it into funny shapes, boil it and eat it under a spoonful of sauce.”

She made it sound so easy.


I told my 3 12/ year old we would make noodles. It would be a project. Like when we made split pea soup or oatmeal cookies. “Great!” He said.

His eyes opened wide when I showed him the play-Doh like mass of pasta dough and the pasta machine. He excitedly cranked the handle and watched the dough extrude.

But something was amiss. The dough was coming out somewhat shredded looking, a little lacy, with lots of holes. So we kept folding the dough and putting it through. The little guy was wearing down and cranking more slowly as we put the dough through again and again to smooth it out.

Daddy came to help. “Are you having fun with the project?” He asked. “Daddy,” my son said wearily, “this isn’t a project, this is REAL.”

Finally, I divided up the dough and put through smaller pieces. Success! [note: the recipe, I realize now, says to divide it in four pieces before rolling it out. I missed that crucial instruction, unfortunately. Well, now we know what happens if you don’t divide it up!] We made the dough thinner and thinner (by now, Daddy was cranking). Then we put it through the fettuccine cutter. That was exciting.

The pasta was delicious, but, I’m sorry Amy, that was hard work! Though it would have been easier if I had followed the directions better. Oh well. Next time.

Fascinating Theory Sad Reality, Round Two

October 5, 2008

According to Jessica Seinfeld, you can make tofu cubes taste like chicken or cheese by dipping them in a pureed vegetables and egg mixture, breading them, and then frying them until crispy. Seinfeld posits, moreover, that children will happily scarf these nuggets down. This is a variation on a chicken nugget recipe that is also in the book.

Hmm . . . . Fascinating theory, but the reality?

To be fair, I didn’t really completely follow the recipe. I looked at the detailed instructions for steaming and pureeing vegetables and decided it was code for “just buy baby food.” I combined a small jar of peas with an egg and coated small tofu cubes with the green mush. Then I breaded the cubes in fresh crumbs made from my whole wheat challah. Instead of frying the nuggets, I heavily sprayed them with Pam and baked them in the toaster oven. I used the convection feature, set at 425 degrees, and baked them about a half hour, until they were brown and crispy.

My son just looked at them and said, “What are these, Mommy?”
“Ummmm, they are veggie-chicky nuggets,” I replied brightly (if somewhat evasively).
“But, what is in them, Mommy?”
“Uh, tofu,” I said, utterly trapped (and unwilling to flat-out lie).
“No thank you, Mommy.”

Defeat. Absolute and complete and utter defeat.

So I ate them. Not bad, but not great.

Conclusion: Fascinating theory, but not so great reality. Tofu does not become magically yummy to children just because it has been breaded and browned and looks like chicken nuggets.

Take a look at Jaden’s ideas on getting kids to eat their veggies.

fascinating theory, sad reality

September 14, 2008

Supposedly you can make a vegan approximation of processed cheese spread by mixing pureed beans, nutritional yeast, tahina or cashew nut butter, lemon juice, paprika, and mustard.

Ummmm, not really. For one, it tastes healthy instead of synthetic. That can’t be right.

To be fair, I didn’t really follow the recipe exactly. All the same, I had to wash the wholesome taste out of my mouth with some cheese crackers. The crackers didn’t taste like real cheese either, actually, but were yummy in a not-so-healthy trans-fat kind of way.

I suppose this is penance for dessert today of chocolate nemesis mousse cake, chocolate ganache tart in a chocolate crust, chocolate crumb cake, and cinnamon crumb cake. Now that was tasty. And they were made with top quality high cocoa content Belgian chocolate and cocoa powder, which is really, really good for you.

I was very surprised that the kids went mostly for the mousse cake instead of the regular chocolate cake. I wonder why? The lesson to be learned is that you pretty much can never serve too much chocolate, and that everyone loves chocolate nemesis.