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Recipe: Olive Oil and Cornmeal Pizza Crust

I’ve been baking a lot of pizzas recently. They’re inexpensive, easy to prepare, and I can load them up with enough vegetables to offset any guilt induced by meat and mozzarella cheese.

cornmeal crust pizza with grond beef

Ground beef, baby broccoli, red onion and corn.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (optional)
  • 2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
Sausage, anchovy, onion, grape tomatoes, basil.

Sausage, anchovy, onion, grape tomatoes, basil, Parmesan.

No time for salad? Arugula is an excellent pizza topping.

No time for salad? Arugula is an excellent pizza topping.

Instructions:

  1. Combine the sugar and yeast in a coffee mug. Add 1 oz. of warm water, stir and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, add the flour, salt and cornmeal. Drizzle in the olive oil and combine with a fork or a single chopstick.
  3. When the yeast looks like it’s having a party, top off the mug with 1/2 cup warm water and pour it into the flour mixture while stirring just until all ingredients are incorporated; you may need to add another ounce or two of water. What you want is a firm, sticky ball that has some elasticity.
  4. Transfer the dough to another bowl coated with olive oil and cover with a dishcloth for 90 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking stone or cookie sheet.
  6. When the dough has more or less doubled in size, place it on a floured surface and roll it out to about 1/8-inch. (I use a cutting board that’s more or less the same shape as my baking sheet for an easy transfer.)
  7. Place the dough on your baking surface, then add sauce, cheese and toppings.
  8. Place in a 500-degree oven for 7-10 minutes until crust is golden-brown and toppings are cooked/caramelized.
Refrigerate leftover pizza dough in a sealed container.

Refrigerate leftover pizza dough in a sealed container.

Cornmeal and olive oil make a pizza even more savory and give the crust a very satisfying crunch,  even after a night in the refrigerator. Add chopped thyme, basil or even a pinch of Herbes de Provence to the dough for a flavor boost.

Feel free to make a double batch; this keeps for several days in a sealed refrigerated container.

And never buy pizza sauce; once you realize how easy it is to make, you’ll kick yourself.

Uncured pepperoni, Brussels sprouts, red onion, and a few bits of sausage.

Uncured pepperoni, Brussels sprouts, red onion, and a few bits of sausage.

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Broccoli-Pancetta Quiche for a Sunday Afternoon

I made this for a friend who came over on a Sunday afternoon. She’s an amazing cook, so I was pretty pleased with myself when she asked for seconds. This would probably make a great dinner, but the prep required might be more than many of us feel like doing after a long day at work.
No matter; it goes extremely well with Mimosas and conversation.

For the quiche:

  • 1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 1/2 lb pancetta, diced
  • 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 small purple potatoes
  • 1 sprig baby broccoli
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes (sliced in half)

For the crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick frozen unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons ice water
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • black peppercorns
  • salt

Equipment:

  • large mixing bowl
  • pastry cutter
  • flat spatula
  • a good, sharp knife
  • 9-inch pie plate
  • rolling pin
  • mortar and pestle
quiche before baking quiche after baking

Preparation:

I used to worry about making a perfect crust. Eventually, I grew up and realized that perfect is the enemy of the good. This is a modified version of a 3-2-1 dough — the relative proportions of flour, fat and water. For optimal results, I keep the flour and butter in the freezer before starting my prep.

First, wash your thyme, strip the leaves and toss the stems. Using a sharp knife, finely chop the thyme, then set it aside. Your hands are going to smell great.

Use a mortar and pestle to grind some peppercorns, then add a little salt. (What do you mean you don’t have a mortar and pestle) Fine, use table salt and pepper.

Dice the frozen butter with a sharp knife and return it to the freezer. Next, combine the flour, sugar and salt and thyme in a mixing bowl. Add the diced butter to the flour mixture and use a pastry cutter to chop until the butter is evenly distributed. (I usually stop when the butter chunks are slightly smaller than peas.)

While stirring with a flat spatula, add the ice water until it’s absorbed. Next, drizzle olive oil over the dough and use the pastry cutter again to combine. Don’t stir too much; you’ll get a tougher crust. Use your hands to gently gather it into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and put it the fridge for 60 minutes.

Fry the diced pancetta until brown; mix in the diced onion, then drain and set aside in a large bowl.

Boil the diced purple potatoes until tender; drain them and shock them with cold water. Drain again, and add to the bowl of pancetta and onion.

Dice the baby broccoli and sliced tomatoes, and put them in the bowl so they can make some new friends.

Crack 6 eggs into a different mixing bowl, add the half-and-half, and whip it good. Toss in the broccoli, potatoes, pancetta, onion and tomatoes, then stir gently until it’s all combined.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Sprinkle a good amount of flour on a clean work surface and roll out the crust until it’s at least a foot in diameter and approximately 1/8 inch thick. Lay it over the pie dish and let it flop over the sides by an inch, then trim it with a sharp nice or kitchen shears and roll it back to create a nice rim. The rim’s important; it looks nice, but it’ll also help contain the quiche so you can fill it up to the top of the dish.

(Semi-pro tip: I roll crust out on a lightweight cutting board; when I have the thickness I want, I invert the pie plate on the cutting board and invert it before forming it into a neat shape.)

Pre-bake the crust; you can use pie weights, or you can put a cup or two of dried beans to hold it down. Put it in the 350F oven about 20 minutes; it should be a *very* light brown.

Let the crust cool for a few minutes, then sprinkle half of the Gruyère across the bottom. Pour the liquid ingredients on top, then spread the remaining cheese across the top of the batter.

Put the pie plate on a cookie sheet and place it in the center of your oven until the center is firmly. This took about 45 minutes; in my experience, when the cheese has browned to this color, it’s a good indicator that it’s nice and firm at the center.

Enjoy, and share.

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Another cocktail recipe: Pisco Punch

I am the office mixologist.

Not a title I was trying to land, but I’ve been experimenting with new and unfamiliar cocktails, and people have encouraged me to share.

It’s been a lot of fun being a workplace bartender. A few months ago, I used Meyer lemons and bing cherries to make whiskey sours in a conference room. After that, I blended a pitcher of melon-basil agua fresca with two bottles of Prosecco, creating a new drink I’ve decided to call the Yerba Fresca.

A friend recently introduced me to Walter Moore, a Sommelier who’s also a principal at Fool’s Gold Terroir, a San Francisco firm that produces Campo de Encanto brandy de Perú.

Encanto Pisco is manufactured by artisan distillers who’ve created something I have a hard time describing; it’s smooth, clean on the palate and to me, earthy and grape-y in a way that European brandies are not. I’ve always felt pretentious when offering tasting notes, so just head to a well-stocked bar and order a Pisco drink.  If the place is sufficiently swank, you’ll encounter the Pisco Sour, which uses egg whites (sorry, vegans!) and fresh lemon juice.

I recommend Encanto for one reason: Perúvians take Pisco as seriously as the French view wine. In its first year, Campo de Encanto was awarded the Gran Medalla de Oro by the Comisión Nacional del Pisco. One could argue that it’s the best Pisco in the world.

Pisco Punch was created in San Francisco and was praised by famous boozers like Mark Twain and Rudyard Kipling, so you know it’s quality. If it’s tradition you’re looking for, Google the original recipe — like many San Franciscans, I insist on doing things my own way, so this has been tweaked a bit.

Pisco punch for happy hour!

If you’re making a batch for a few friends, reduce the proportions by about 75%. Optimally, you’d find a gathering of 25 people who are up for something new and would bring a gallon or two of this with you:

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds fresh cut pineapple chunks
  • 1 pint blackberries
  • 1 pint raspberries
  • 18 oz. bottle of Small Hand Pineapple Gum Syrup
  • 10 limes
  • granulated sugar, to taste
  • 5 pounds of ice (get 10 to be safe)
  • 2 bottles Campo de Encanto Pisco
  • Angostura bitters

Equipment:

  • citrus squeezer
  • muddler
  • sharp knife
  • cutting board
  • zester (or a super-fine grater)
  • ice tongs
  • two 1-gallon containers

Directions:

Zest the limes. Better yet, get someone else to zest them for you. Use a citrus squeezer to juice the fruit; combine the juice and zest, then set aside.

In separate bowls, muddle the berries and pineapple. Add half of the juice/zest and half of the bottle of gym syrup to each container, then add the berries to one container, and the pineapple to the other.

Dissolve about two cups of sugar in four cups of very hot water; once warm, divide the syrup between the containers. Stir each container thoroughly, then taste your mix — it should taste like punch that’s a shade too sweet; if not, add more sugar.

Add several dashes of bitters, stir and taste with a spoon.

Pour one bottle of Encanto simultaneously into each container. Because it’s fun.

Agitate to mix, then queue up “El Condor Pasa” on iTunes.

To Serve:

Fill a lowball glass with ice, then turn to your new best friend and ask them if they prefer pineapple or berry.

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