Nemo Me Impugn Lacessitt (No One Impugns — or Attacks — Me With Liberty)
~Royal Dynasty of Scotland & Order of the Thistle (To Name Just a Few)

As expected, things have just gone totally south, no pun intended. Very worrisome with both sloppy and aggressive behavior and tirades. Where unmitigated, inauspicious chaos and dysfunction reigns.

Already, the now self-anointed Emperor Donald has threatened to send troops to Mexico; vainly tried to veto the Patient Protection & Affordable Health Care Act (passed by both the House and the Senate after public comments) which provides healthcare access to over 18 million women, men, children and the poor; said on national television that Mexico & Iran had serious problems — perhaps he should look in the mirror as the U.S. has real issues. But, you already know he does gaze intently at his mirrors in his robe with his hormoned red hair and tanned, powdered face.

Then, he degraded Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, an enduring ally of the states, and in a hissy fit as is his wont, promptly chose fisticuffs to settle whatever differences they had (c’mon man) and terminated the telephone conversation; he overtly lied to the People and press about the size of his inauguration crowd; defying Court orders, he threatened to send federal troops to Chicago and also was planning to defund the entire state of California — by many accounts, the sixth largest economy of the world; this makes no mention of the cast of characters that he has proposed to fill his cabinet, many of whom detest the office/agency/departments (or even could not name) that they intend to inhabit.

During that very same time, the Donald signed some form of executive order, without any other opinions offered, that prohibits the entry of refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations (none who has knuckled under to a “Trump property or inane golf course”) each refugee was thoroughly and meticulously vetted by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the State Department, national intelligence agencies all of which independently check each and every refugees’ biometric data against security databases. Even green card holders, given permanent United States residency and pure voting rights in local and state elections, were first hit by the ban, on national security grounds.

Naturally, there have been an onslaught of briefs filed against Trump’s actions: “(n)ot only ill-conceived but poorly explained”…from a brief filed by many previous National Security Advisors; (his actions also) “violate(s) immigration laws and the U.S. Constitution”…and “hinders the ability of American companies to attract great talent; increases costs imposed on business; makes it more difficult for American firms to compete in the international marketplace; and gives global enterprises a new, significant incentive to hire new employees outside the United States…” from an amicus curiae brief filed by quite a few tech companies, such as Microsoft, Apple, et al.

The Tweeter-in-chief’s actions are morally repugnant and patently illegal. A blanket immigration prohibition, not only has founders of the Constitution rolling in their proverbial graves, it is flat discriminatory based upon Congress’ half-century refusal to bar refugees from inclusion based upon “national origin.” Remember such people, Emperor Donald, as the Italians, Irish, Jews, African Americans, Native Americans, Germans, Mexicans, Mesoamericans, Indians, Cubans, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Koreans and their kith and kin?

Trump attempts to wiggle out of the conundrum by invoking some obscure 1952 congressional action, still asserting that he has some form of “discriminatory power,” whatever that means, all despite his claims of the “one of the highest IQ’s” ever on earth. Do you not distrust whomever bombastically brags about just how smart they are? Embarrassing and quite often doubtful.

By the way, where are your tax returns, IQ tests and results, your P&L statements, and what do you really read (besides paragraphistical snippets)? An elementary to middle school whining president is what we get as our fearless leader? Now, we can all see how you became so shameful to your parents that they shipped you up the river to military school.

Not only does his reasoning run afoul of the due process and equal protection clauses (yes, Donald, 4th, 5th and 14th amendments, respectively) but also the 1st Amendment’s ban on the government’s establishment of religion. Remember, that Donald quoted his fervent protection of the 12th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution before Republican Senators — a clause that simply establishes an electoral college. Trump does not know nor care about his constitutional precepts. Has he even heard of etiquette or comity? Does he not know about impugning the qualifications of jurists and judicial independence? Does he have no knowledge of our system of checks and balances? A president who has little respect for the rule of law? Apparently not, on all counts.

By the way, Mr. Trump and his father, Fred Trump, and Trump Properties were accused of massive bias by the Justice Department and New York City Commission on Civil Rights for violating the Civil Rights Act. By both actions and words, he has displayed a lengthy history of bigotry, misogyny and prejudice.

An enfant sauvage, an orange, sloppy, bullying, feral child at the helm.  His only response has apparently, of course, been a crude, puerile, bunkered tweet that personally denigrates and insults a “so-called” federal judge who was appointed by GW. Speaking of GW (&Nixon), the Donald is an admix of incompetence and arrogance — but worse. It is not about being “a bad person” it concerns ineptitude. What really does Trump even knows, thinks or grasps, and please halt thy incessant during or after-hours unpresidential tweets.

So far his administration has been a soap opera, or more properly put in Trump’s words, a very sad reality TV show.

Oh well, on to more soothing grub…the word for “pot pie” made it into our lexicon somewhere around 1792.

RABBIT “POT” PIE

Preheat oven to 375 F

Pastry
2 1/2 C all-purpose flour
12 T unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
4 T shortening
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

6 T ice water

Place all the ingredients except the water, in a large bowl. Add the water, mash and work with your hands and fingers so that is assembled into a solid, smooth ball. If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Equally divide and form into two evenly sized thick disks, wrap each in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Remove from the fridge. If the dough is too firm to roll, allow to rest at room temperature for a few minutes. Lightly flour a work surface and the rolling pin. Lightly dust the top of a disk of flour and roll into a round about 1/8″ thick. Roll outward from the center, rotating the dough, and adding flour as necessary to avoid sticking. Fold the dough in half and transfer to a pie plate easing the dough into the corners and up the sides.

Roll out the second dough disk, again about 1/8″ thick. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready for further use.

Béchamel
3 T unsalted butter
3 T flour
3 C whole milk, slightly simmered

1/4 C chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 T fennel seeds,seared and finely ground
2 thyme sprigs
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt and white pepper

In a heavy medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and cook slowly over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes to make a blond roux. Remove the roux from the heat, pour in the warmed milk and whisk vigorously until smooth. Then add the stock, thyme, bay leaf, fennel seeds, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, sea salt and freshly ground pepper and simmer gently, whisking often for 30-40 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme.

Filling
1 C red potatoes, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 C parsnips, peeled and cut 1/2″ diagonally
1/2 C carrots, peeled and cut 1/2″ diagonally
1/2 C celery, cut 1/2″ diagonally
1 small leek, cleaned and finely diced
1/2 C crimini mushrooms, cut into thirds
2 bay leaves
4 thyme sprigs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 C frozen peas, thawed
2 1/2 – 3 C roasted rabbit meat, shredded
1/2 C all purpose flour

2 eggs, beaten (for wash)

Put the potatoes, parsnips, carrots, celery, leeks, mushrooms and onions in a large saucepan with water to cover with bay leaves, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat and simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes.

In a chinois, drain the vegetables, discard the bay and thyme, and spread on an edged baking sheet. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

Strew the simmered vegetables, peas, sauteed mushrooms and rabbit over the bottom of the pie shell. Then, sprinkle with flour. Season again with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour the béchamel over the rabbit and vegetables.

Moisten the pie shell rim with some of the beaten egg. Carefully cover the filling with the top crust and press the edges of the dough together to seal. Trim away any excess dough that overhangs the rim. Brush the top dough with egg and cut three small vents in the center of the top dough with the tip of a paring knife.

Bake until the crust is a rich golden brown, about 50 minutes or more. If the crust is browning too quickly, cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 20 minutes, then serve.

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We are like travelers using the cinders of a volcano to roast their eggs.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now, as is the French inkling, I started by doing claufoutis with cherries and blueberries, so they would become desserts.  This time, they tend to go more poignant.  Apparently, I adore eggs in most forms.

I began reading (unlike the Donald claims to actually does read, but really does not) The Barbarian Nurseries by Héctor Tobar just the other day in part because Trump has assaulted Mexicans so many times in the past, calling them without any knowledge whatsoever “rapists, drug dealers, murderers, criminals.” Sometimes, we are goaded by others to look at someone who feigns to read, and yet who continues to make outlandish, deplorable, and unfounded statements about other cultures.

The Barbarian Nurseries is a rare, inspiring and sprawling novel that brings the city of Los Angeles (and even Earth) to life through the eyes, flesh, dreams, reveries, solitude, ambitions of a Mexican immigrant maid, by the name of Araceli.  The first chapter is called The Succulent Garden about how a lawn mower would not start for the angry and frustrated landowner, Scott the techi, whose maid watched from the window, apart — but Pepe, an earlier magician of gardeners, now since fired, had no problem with the same mower starting ever so sweetly with a wily, deft touch, sweaty and brown, sinewy and glistening biceps.

SAVORY CLAFOUTI, FLAN, CUSTARD (YOU NAME IT…)

3/4 C whole milk
3/4 C crème fraîche
4 large or 5 medium farm fresh, local eggs, preferably laid by hens raised on pastureland
2 1/2 T all purpose flour
2 T fresh parsley leaves, chopped
2 T fresh dill leaves, chopped
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 C Gruyère cheese, grated

2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh leeks, white and light green parts (cut off ends and leaves)
2 C fresh corn kernels
1-2 plump, fresh garlic cloves, minced
1 fresh bunch Swiss chard leaves, stems removed, coarsely chopped
1/4 C Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

Honey, a dollop
Cayenne pepper, dried
Thyme, dried

Heat oven to 375 F

In a large bowl, whisk together milk, crème fraîche, eggs, flour, chopped parsley & dill, sea salt and pepper until smooth. Whisk in 3/4 cup Gruyère cheese.

Heat olive oil in a heavy oven safe skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in corn, garlic and a pinch of salt and cook until garlic is fragrant and corn is tender, about 2-3 minutes. Add chard leaves and cook until they are wilted and tender, about 4 minutes. Season the mixture with sea salt and black pepper.

Pour crème fraîche admix over the corn and chard mixture, and then sprinkle the remaining Gruyère and the Parmigiano-Reggiano on top. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until the “egg custard” is lightly set, about 40 minutes.

Serve sparsely topped with a dollop of honey and a pinch of cayenne pepper and thyme.

Lemons — Oval Bliss

April 17, 2016

When life gives you lemons, ask what life is suggesting.
~Unknown

Sunshine globes, lemons often peak in May through August.  Along with their cousins limes, lemons munificently have flavonoids, antioxidants, oxalates, folates, and limonoids boasting anti-cancer auras and also are a sublime source of vitamin C and free radicals.  So many tidbits for you.

Plus clamorous flavors — the tartness of lemon curd with a shortbread base, then finished with averse sea salt and sugar.  Something just like Mom used to create, well except for the sea salt (but, little doubt she would adore that touch and savor).

LEMON BARS

Preheat oven to 325 F

1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1/4  C granulated sugar
3 T confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 t lemon zest
A pinch of sea salt
10 T cold unsalted butter, cold and cubed

1/2 C fresh lemon juice
2 T lemon zest, freshly grated
1/2 C granulated sugar or 1/4 each raw + granulated sugars
2 local, large eggs
3 local, large egg yolks
1 t cornstarch
6 T unsalted butter, cold and cubed

Confectioners’ sugar
Sea salt, coarse

For crust, line 9″ x 9″ heavy baking pan with parchment paper hanging over edges. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the flour, both sugars, zest and sea salt together. Pulse or use fingers to cut butter into the flour mix until a crumbly dough forms. Press dough into papered pan with fingers and bake around 30-35 minutes, until slightly golden.

For curd, whisk together lemon juice, zest, sugar, eggs, egg yolks and cornstarch in a medium heavy saucepan. Stir in butter over medium heat, whisking frequently, until curd shows marks of whisk and bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

Refrigerate in a glass bowl covered with plastic wrap until chilled.

Remove the crust and pour the curd onto the base. Return the pan to the oven and bake until curd is just set, 10-15 minutes more. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate before cutting into bars.

Lightly sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and coarse sea salt right before serving.

Of all the small nations of this earth, perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their contribution to mankind.
~Sir Winston Churchill

Admittedly, my ancestry is prodigally open minded (or should the word “mindless” be used) — Scottish as well as other genetic variants.  A mutt, of sorts.  So, perhaps a native dish were posted here, at least one that swaddles an egg in meat and then is topped with this heavenly “mole.”  This proves to be a slight twist on a gastropub meal, one that appears disparate with both Scot and Mexican fare.  Not really.

The eggs seem self evident to someone Scottish, but the pipián verde sauce may be unknown or elusive to some home cooks.   Sometimes called pumpkin seed mole, the finished sauce is often spooned over fish, chicken, enchiladas, or rice and the like, but when used judiciously the sauce can be sublime with eggs (especially with sausage). Chiles de árbol are those smaller, potent red chiles occasionally known as a bird beak or rat’s tail chiles. They can be found in most groceries, so there is little need to pull any trades.

One has to adore giddy caresses which are not merely iconic, but ageless — heart theft food.

SCOTCH EGGS

6 large local, pastured or free range eggs

1 C hearty, good quality, artisanal sausage

1 C all purpose flour
1 C  fresh breadcrumbs
3 beaten local eggs

Extra virgin olive + canola oils in equal parts, several inches deep, for frying
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

Place eggs in a saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, cover for some 6-7 minutes, and remove from heat, so they are sort of medium boiled, somewhat soft and not hard at all. Carefully drain, then place in a bowl with ice water to cool. Gently crack shells and carefully peel under cold running water. Place eggs to dry on a tea towel or paper towels.

Place flour in a wide glass bowl, beat eggs in another and then place crushed breadcrumbs in another wide shallow glass bowl. Divide sausage into 6 equal portions. Pat a portion of sausage into a thin patty over the length of the palm. Lay a boiled egg on top of sausage and gently wrap the sausage around egg, sealing to envelop.  Gently shape and coddle the meat around the eggs with your fingers. Repeat with remaining sausage and eggs.  Season with salt and pepper.

Then, roll the sausage encased eggs first in flour, shaking off any excess, then carefully drop into the beaten eggs and finally the breadcrumbs to batter them lightly and set aside to rest for a moment before frying.

Carefully fry in olive and canola oils which are heated to about 300 F for just a few minutes (about 4), to get the sausage lightly golden and crispy. Cool the sausage & egg mix on paper towels.

Serve with pipián verde sauce which could be prepared a day or two ahead of time (see below).

Pipián Verde 
8 chiles de árbol (“tree chili” tr. from Spanish), fresh

3 fresh smaller heirloom or plum tomatoes
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 C raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/3 C unsalted peanuts
1/3 C sesame seeds
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
1/4 t ground allspice

1 small canned chipotle peppers
1-2 bay leaves
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 T sea salt
1 T light brown sugar
1 T apple cider vinegar

Cilantro leaves, fresh

Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles de árbol, and set a naked skillet over high heat for 5 minutes, then toast the chiles until they are fragrant, approximately 4-5 minutes.

Return the skillet to medium high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion and garlic, and cook, turning occasionally, until slightly charred. Set aside the mix to cool.

Again, return the skillet to medium low heat. Place the pumpkin seeds, peanuts and sesame seeds in a heavy skillet, and sear until they are toasted and fragrant, approximately 2-3 minutes. Put the seeds and nuts in a bowl, and stir in the cinnamon, cloves and allspice.

Put the chiles and some liquid in a blender with the tomatoes, onion, garlic, the nut seed mixture and the chipotle.  Purée until smooth.

Add the extra virgin olive oil to a large, heavy bottomed skillet, and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add the purée and lower the heat, and stir, cooking the mixture down to a thick paste. Add the broth and bay leaf to the paste, and stir, then season with the salt, sugar and vinegar, and reduce for another 15 minutes or so, until it becomes creamy. Lower heat to a bare simmer and discard bay leaf.

Slather the sauce in a very distinct moderation over halved eggs + sausages, top with fresh cilantro, and serve with tequila drinks.

Basic Pasta Dough

June 10, 2009

Pasta (the Italian word for dough)—from the Latin pasta “dough, pastry cake, paste”, and before the Greek πάστα (pasta) “barley porridge”—has such convoluted origins, that its history demands much more than this brief space allows. In any event, making pasta has been an ancient and time honored tradition.

One of life’s simple pleasures, airy and delicate fresh pasta opens with that slight al dente resistance, but still almost melts in your mouth on the back-end. Whether by machine or hand, the goal is simple: dough with a smooth texture, elastic and pliable, yet sturdy.

BASIC PASTA DOUGH

3 organic free range eggs, beaten
Pinch of sea salt
2 C all purpose flour
Water, as needed

By Machine:

Attach the flat beater to your stand up mixer, then add half of the flour mixture and the eggs, turning to a low speed and mix 30 seconds. Add the rest of the sifted flour mixture and mix an additional 30 seconds, adding sprinklings of water as needed. Variables such as humidity, temperature, egg size and gluten content of the flour will govern water needs.

Note: To test for correct consistency, pinch a small amount of dough together after mixing with the flat beater. If it stays together and not gluing to your fingers, the dough is in good shape. It may be necessary to adjust by adding flour or water to reach the proper harmony.

Exchange flat beater for the dough hook. Again turn to a low speed and knead for 2 to 3 minutes, until a dough ball is formed. Remove dough from bowl and on a lightly floured surface hand knead for a couple of minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic with a slight hint of stickiness. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap to prevent a dry skin from forming. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before dividing, rolling and cutting.

By Hand:

Mound flour in a bowl or on a large wooden bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and then add the eggs. Using your fingers, begin to blend flour and eggs from the center out, slowly gathering the flour from the perimeter. When the flour and egg are mixed, add a couple drops of water if necessary.

When the dough forms a mass, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and start kneading, using primarily the palms of your hands. Continue kneading for a minimum of 10 minutes, dusting the board with additional flour as necessary. The dough should be smooth and elastic with a slight hint of stickiness. Form into a ball and wrap dough in plastic wrap. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before dividing, rolling and cutting.

Rolling and Cutting:

Divide the dough, but cutting into 4 pieces, wrapping 3 of them in plastic or covering them with a towel. Flour the dough very lightly then flatten until it is about 1/4″ thick. Set the rollers of the the pasta machine to the widest setting. Feed the dough into and through the machine with your hands. As the flattened dough comes out of the machine, retrieve it gently with your open palm. Avoid pulling the sheets of dough out of the machine; instead allow the pasta to emerge and support it lightly with your hand. Fold the dough into thirds, flatten it slightly with your hands and roll it through again and repeat this process 4 or 5 more times.

If throughout the process the pasta sheets become become too long to work with, cut into two pieces and continue.

Set the rollers to the next thinnest setting and lightly flour the dough, but do not fold. Pass the dough through the machine on each progressive setting until the dough is at desired thinness (usually the next to last or last setting). Repeat the entire process with the remaining pieces of dough.

Let the dough rest on towels or a floured work surface. Use machine to cut into desired shapes or strands.

Pizza & Calzone Dough

April 14, 2009

You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.
~Yogi Berra

Pizza has a lengthy and storied career despite its lack of a precise birthplace or fixed home of origin…an eternal, jiving gypsy of foods.

Tracing the history of pizza can prove tortuous. Any number of cultures or peoples who mastered the art of heating a mixture of flour and water on a stone could rightly stake claim to inventing these sumptuous edible tables. I will offer an abbreviated, anecdotal (far from academic) version. Chronologically precise? Doubtfully.

Evidence of flat breads have been found at prehistoric archeological digs. Breads we now call focaccia may date back as far as the ancient Etruscans. Focaccia literally means “flat bread,” from the Latin root focacius, meaning hearth.

Ancient Egyptians celebrated the Pharaoh’s birthday with a flat bread seasoned with herbs; and early historians such as Herodotus, described centuries old Babylonian recipes that bear resemblances to contemporary pizza crust. The ancient Greeks baked round flat breads annointed with oil, herbs, spices and dates which they called plankous or plankuntos. During lengthy marches, soldiers of the Persian king Darius the Great were known to bake a form of flat bread covered with cheese and dates upon their shields. In the epic Aeneid, the classical Roman poet Virgil alluded to the practice of using bread as an edible platter for other foods: “…we devour the plates on which we fed.”

So, a loose thread has developed that pizza gradually evolved from the ancient flatbreads relished by varying cultures in the Mediterranean rim. However, little debate exists that Italy took pizza to today’s level.

Pizza adopted its more current form in pre-Renaissance Naples, where impoverished peasants used limited ingredients (wheat flour, olive oil, lard, cheese and natural herbs) to make a seasoned, garnished flat bread. Later, tomatoes were brought to Europe from Peru and Mexico of the New World. Tomatoes were originally believed to be toxic; fortunately, the poorer denizens of Naples mustered the courage to add this once strictly ornamental pomidori to the crusty dough, creating the first basic tomato pizza.

In the late 18th century, Naples bustled and street vendors bought pizzas from small stands and sold them in slices from lidded metal boxes or narrow boards. A pizza delivered to King Ferninando I and Queen Maria Carolina was said to be so well received that the king had a red tiled pizza oven built at the royal palace.

In 1889, King Umberto I of Italy, and his wife, Queen Margherita were touring Naples. They asked to sample the fare of the most celebrated of the current pizzaiolis, Raffaele Esposito, even though partaking of such peasant fare was thought unseemly for royalty. Not wishing to disappoint, he prepared several pizzas, one of which was patriotically dressed with mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes (the tricolors of the Italian flag)…dedicated to the Queen and coined “Pizza Margherita.”

Pizza migrated to America with Italians in the latter half of the 19th century, but did not achieve broad notoriety until after World War II, when servicemen stationed overseas returned to the states craving these newly discovered exotic pies.

The actual word “pizza” may be a derivative of the Latin word picea, a word which Romans used to describe the blackening of bread in an oven. Others assert that the word pizza is rooted in an Old Italian word meaning “a point,” which in turn became the Italian word pizzicare, which means “to pinch or pluck.”

Do not be deluded into thinking that pizza is some complicated dish unworthy of your efforts or too banal for your guests. You can make divine homemade pizzas with little outlay of time or capital.  All that is needed is to craft dough (flour, water, yeast, salt and honey) watch the ball rise, lightly scatter (even underload) with toppings, slide into a very hot oven with a paddle onto an already well-heated stone or steel and cook briefly.  You can riff on classics far and wide too.

Pizza is not only sublimely delicious — strewn with a small bevy of fresh ingredients, it is a visual feast.

PIZZA DOUGH

Extra virgin olive oil to coat bowl

1 C warm water (105°F to 115°F)
1 envelope active dry yeast packet
1 T organic honey

3+ C all purpose flour
1 t sea salt
3 T extra virgin olive oil

Pour warm water into small bowl; stir in yeast and honey until it dissolves. Let stand until yeast activates and forms foam or bubbles on the surface, about 5 minutes.

Rub large bowl lightly with olive oil. Mix flour and salt in stand up, heavy duty mixer equipped with flat paddle. Add yeast mixture, flour, salt and olive oil; mix on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Refit mixer with dough hook and process at medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic—or transfer to lightly floured surface and knead dough by hand until smooth. Kneading helps develop strength and elasticity in the dough. During this step, add more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is too sticky. Work dough with hands into a smooth ball.

Transfer to large oiled bowl, turning dough until fully coated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then a dishtowel and let dough rise in warm draft free area until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes for quick rising yeast and 1 1/2 hours for regular yeast. Punch down dough and work with hands into a smooth ball. Cut and divide into two rounded equal balls and let rest, sometimes overnight.

Place dough on well floured board or large work surface and roll out, starting in center and working outward toward edges but not rolling over them. Roll the dough to roughly 12 inches in diameter, but always feel free to create any shape to your liking or whim. Transfer to a pizza paddle which is either covered in cornmeal or heavily floured so it can slide off easily into the oven. Lightly brush with olive oil. Then add the toppings, which were chopped, cut, prepared and/or cooked in advance.

A word to the wise—do not overburden pizzas with toppings; rather, try to maintain balance and integrity, always allowing the crust to play a central role in the tasting theater. Too often pizzas are heavily laden with a plethora of ingredients that bury the crust and offer little to the savory character of these rustic delights. So, please use a light hand and err on the side of less vs. more.

With calzone, follow the dough procedure described above; but, once rolled out add toppings only to half of the dough circle, leaving a 1″ border around the half circle. Moisten the edge with water and fold the uncovered side over the filled half. Press the edges of the dough together to seal. Calzones usually take a couple minutes longer to cook. Lightly brush the top with olive oil right after the calzone is removed from the oven.

On cooking pizza: The ideal environment is directly on the tile floor of an intensely hot wood fired or stone oven. As most home kitchens are accoutered with a simple gas or electric oven, we have to accomodate. So, either use a thick, heavy pizza stone or place a layer of unglazed ceramic tiles in the bottom rack of the oven. Crank up the dial to 500 F for a sufficient time to assure that both the stone and oven are fiercely hot.

Gently shake the paddle attired with the already topped dough to make sure the pizza is loose enough to slide onto the hot stone. With a flip of the wrist, slowly slide the pizza from the paddle onto the stone and cook until slightly browned and crisp, about 10-12 minutes. Once removed, immediately grate fresh parmiggiano-reggiano on top. Slice and serve.

No need to worry, readers. Pizzas are a revered food at this table, so topping recipes will follow on the next post and later throughout the blog.

Pourboire: Some fine pizza crafters suggest that once the early kneading is complete, and the dough is divided, you should turn out each piece on a floured surface, folding and kneading each about four times until it forms a smooth ball. Then, set each ball in a lidded glass or plastic bin large enough to allow it to double in size. Settle a sheet of plastic wrap over the dough, then cover with the lid. Refrigerate for 24-48 hours before shaping and baking. This prolonged fermentation not only develops the dough’s structure, it also enables starches to transform into sapid sugars—resulting in a svelte, airier crust.