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Archive for October, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from John and I and these guys I found hanging around in Orvieto. Hope your day is filled with more treats than tricks. And speaking of treats, I’ll be announcing the first Italian prize tomorrow on the blog, so stay tuned.

Now go get yourselves some candy!

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We would like to congratulate West End Station in Hoboken, New Jersey for snagging the Bathroom of the Month award this month. They really went all out with this bathroom. Our favorite part is the farmhouse sink. Just look at that contrasting dark-colored wood table it sits on! The subway tiles in slightly varying shades of light gray and white are also a nice touch. Fantastic attention to detail.

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Here is a non-comprehensive, un-exhaustive list of mostly-useful stuff for making pizza. I will take it from the top:

10. Vino!!!! It helps you think you’re making the BEST PIZZA EVER! Plus, with all our help from Astor Wines, you’ve got plenty of good matches to pick from.

9. The Scizza! Pizza scissors. I don’t own a pair, but I want to. I think they’re pretty cool.

8. FRESH Mozzarella cheese. We like to stress fresh ingredients. It truly helps.

7. A food processor/mixer. I love my Cuisinart one.

6. San Marzano crushed tomatoes: tastes so good, you don’t even have to add anything to them. Except love. That always helps.

5. FRESH basil. Is there an echo in here?

4. Truffle Oil (or salt): We all know I can’t get enough. Keste’s Del Re Pizza was my first experience and I’ve been in love ever since.

3. 00 Bread Flour: super fine and fancy stuff.

2. Semolina flour: to put on your pizza peel and make it easy to ease your uncooked dough onto the pizza stone.

1. Pizza Stone and Peel: these have to go together.

And, in case of emergency (put on these) and dial your local pizzeria (thanks to Kelvin Slush for suggesting the telephone as a top pizza tool).

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Yup,  That’s right.  We reviewed a Domino’s Pizza this past week.  We are officially losing our minds.  But, I have to admit…Domino’s had piqued my interest as of late with their aggressive media campaign, bragging of a revamped recipe.  I mean, I knew it was going to be awful going in, but I wanted to know just how awful it would be.  I walk over to Elana’s spot to flush my 3 mile jog down the toilet.

Service is prompt – the pizza arrives in literally 29 minutes after Elana places the call.  Opening the box yields a wildly uninspiring surprise; cookie cutter like, dry, flat-out ugly looking slices.  Luckily, I’m so hungry that I’ll eat just about anything.

You know how certain smells and music bring you back in time?  Well, it turns out that tastes do too.  Last time I had a Domino’s pizza was in college.  It wasn’t out of the ordinary for a pie or two to find its way to the fraternity house after guzzling a few thousand beers on a weekend evening.  In Lewisburg, desperate times would call for desperate measures.  As I bite into the “new and improved” Domino’s pie… not much has changed.  The tomato sauce still packs that harsh, stinging punch.  The cheese is dry, and cheap tasting.  The crust – well, to be fair, the crust is, actually, different.  It is injected with noticeable doses of garlic, butter and herbs.  I’m not sure if this is an improvement or not but, to Domino’s credit, it is indeed different.  Some of my bites actually tasted like buttered popcorn from a movie theater.

Admittedly, myself and Elana ate 7/8ths of the pie.  I mean, it is just cheese, tomatoes and bread…. so don’t think THAT much less of us.  But it pretty much sucked.  And there was an awkward feeling in the air after it was all said and done.   Maybe it was the grease that sat in our stomach.  Maybe it was the fact that our dinner had just been wasted by this harsh tasting frisbee in a box.  I think, however, it was disappointment.

See, i’m an optimistic fella.  I still held out for closure during the final moments of (the runaway trainwreck known as) Lost, despite the countless warning signs to the contrary throughout that dreadful last season.  I see the “light brown” in my occasional gray hairs.  And I’d watch the CEO of Domino’s on these commercials and think, perhaps, maybe this guy was right.  Maybe Domino’s could be edible after all.  Like Rocky’s message to the Russians, change was indeed possible!

But this was one instance where my optimism was powerless.  The pizza sucked.  I wished sis a good night, and sprinted home in tears.  ‘Til next time, I guess.

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Today we went to the Testaccio Market with a special tour guide, Daniela de Balzo. Apart from living in Rome and having the inside track to all the good (read: good-tasting) places to go, Daniela also runs her own cooking school, specializing in Roman and Neopolitan dishes. If you ever find yourself in Rome and need a cooking class (because why wouldn’t you?), Daniela is your go-to woman. Incidentally, we are trying to convince her to come to cook and teach for us State-side. Stay tuned for that, and let me know if you’d be interested in attending such fine-tasting shenanigans.

On our way to the market, we stepped into a pasta shop – Laboratorio Moderno Esperienza Antica. Those are a lot of long Italian words. This is what I take away from it, with my limited Italian:

1. I am going to start referring to my kitchen as the “Laboratorio (semi) Moderno.”

2. They make home made pasta. Right there in the store. And if you stand there and look hungry, they will give it to you. Right out of the ravioli press.

3. It’s probably not called a “ravioli press” but that’s essentially what it is. Check it out:

First they roll out the sheets of pasta. Then, they roll ’em up and put them on these giant spools on this machine:

They put the filling (in this case a wonderfully smooth and creamy ricotta dotted with spinach) in a funnel at the top of the machine. Then they crank it up, and magically it sandwiches the delicious filling in between fresh pasta like so:

Then, the ravioli press operator hands them to the nearest hungry-looking tourist girl, who just happened to be me in this case. I ate it uncooked and right out of the press. It was amazing.

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Today we bring you a comparison review. Since it is still pizza month and we like to stress using fresh ingredients on pizza, we bring you a review and comparison of three hunks of mozz (muzz) from three different places.

From left to right we have pictured mozzarella from:

1. Fiore’s Deli in Hoboken, NJ

2. Eataly in New York City’s Flatiron District

3. Lisa’s Deli in Hoboken, NJ

First, we would like to say that this is obviously not an exhaustive list of possible places to purchase fresh mozz. What about the Bronx? What about Little Italy? And so on….We will just say this: we know. We thought we’d start small. An intro, if you will, into the world of comparison tasting, with a few easily accessible candidates.

So, without further ado, here are our thoughts:

1. Fiore’s: This rendition was very tasty. It was lightly salted, which gave the cheese more flavor overall. It was not overpowering, but just right. Compared to the other two, it was a denser cheese. The color was also darker, an off-white instead of a bright white. I’m not really sure what that means, but I just thought it should be noted. This would be a great cheese to put on a Margherita pizza, as you wouldn’t have to add any salt. The flavor from the mozzarella would be all the seasoning you would need (excepting basil).

2. Eataly: This version was fairly bland in taste. It was unsalted. The texture was milkier, and it was definitely the softest of the bunch. This may have been because, while the other two were removed from their watery holding pens when I purchased them (many times fresh mozzarella is packed in water until it is ready to be used), this one came with its own little portable aquarium (tupperware container filled with water). We liked this softer texture, but weren’t blown away by flavor. This would be an excellent cheese to use on a pizza that had flavor from other toppings – pancetta or a similar meat for example.

3. Lisa’s Deli: This little one was also unsalted, and had a texutre somewhere in the middle of the other two in terms of softness….not too soft, not too firm, but juuuuuuust right. However, it didn’t pack a whole lot of punch in terms of flavor. This would be a nice mozzarella to use for a Caprese salad: sliced tomatoes placed on top of slices of cheese, crowned with a few basil leaves, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

So instead of declaring a winner from these three, we feel like they all have their strengths and are appropriate for different uses. We are going to keep looking for THE mozzarella, though, so if you have a suggestion for one you would like us to try, please leave it in the comments section. Also, if any of you would like some mozzarella, I have a TON of it in my fridge right now. I think I was a little overzealous in my cheese purchasing.

* Disclaimer: The funny faces drawn on the cheeses in no way represent any real or actual person. I just thought it would be funny to give cheese faces that kind of look like gangsters. But not real gangsters. Just imaginary cheesey ones.

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Every month, Elana and I are aiming to post a creative video of us and food.  Whether that be a recipe, a restaurant, a food fight… remains to be seen, but we hope to post a video with some sort of regularity.  This week, we present Pizza Making Set to Pop Music.  Special thanks to B.O.B.’s “Magic” for providing the background track.

Also, if the video moves too fast, I have attached the pizza recipe we used.  Enjoy.

Pizza dough recipe

1 envelope dried yeast
1 cup warm water
4 c all purposeflour or bread flour
¾ t salt
½ cup warm water
2T olive oil

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of warm water…stir in ½ cup of the flour.  Cover and let stand for about 30 minutes

Then add the other ½ cup of warm water salt and olive oil.  Slowly begin to add the remaining flour.  When all of the flour is incorporated knead the dough until it is smooth.  It may take about 10 minutes….

Then dust the dough lightly all over with flour and place in a bowl – covered with a cloth  to rise for about 1 hour.

When it has doubled in size, punch down the dough and divide into 4 parts.  Form each fourth into a smooth ball and let rise covered on a floured board for 30 minutes.  In the meantime heat the oven to 500 degrees for 30 minutes….

  

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