happiness is a back yard pizza oven

the pizza oven

Admittedly it would be pretty great to have your own back yard pizza oven, but I’m thinking that it’s even better to have a friend with one. We helped break in a new oven last week, and it was amazing. I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves (and yes, that egg pizza was every bit as good as it looks):moving coals

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weekend eats

Hanky Panky

Last weekend involved two different trips down to Seattle to have dinner with friends. I only took a few pictures, but both dinners were notable.

The first night we started out with drinks at Canon (which was inexplicably empty despite the Cinco de Mayo madness going on in every other bar in town). I tried one of the aged cocktails, and was surprised to have it served in its own little flask. I felt rather foolish drinking from a bottle, but it was a great cocktail. Two of our party ordered the “shrouded roulette,” where you request your base spirit and the bartender makes up something for you. I hadn’t realized they wouldn’t tell you what was in it even after you were finished. Sneaky.

small plates at Quinn's

After drinks we walked down to Quinn’s for dinner, and the four of us shared a bunch of small plates. I’ve never gotten to try this many things at once at Quinn’s, and as usual it did not disappoint. We started with stewed oxtail with a bone marrow custard and a dish of excellent olives (not pictured), then had a green salad with scallion aioli, pig face nuggets, and a really delicious plate of sockeye salmon lox with steelhead roe and grilled bread. I would have been delighted to have a whole plate of the salmon to myself – the roe in particular was addictively good. The pig face nuggets sounded more exciting than they actually were, but they were unctuously porky and the sauce was delicious.

small plates at Quinn's

We had to get the wild boar sloppy joe, which was as wonderful as we remembered, and we also tried the cotechino sausage with cassoulet. It was very good, but maybe better suited for a cooler evening. I took a bite of the grilled fresno chile that came with the sloppy joe and nearly had the top of my head come off.

dessert at Quinn's

Some of our party had room for dessert. One of us got butterscotch custard, served in its own tiny jar, another ordered orange cake with Sichuan pepper ice cream, and the third got a chocolate peanut butter torte. I finished my beer and called it good.

sausage-rapini pizza

The next night we found ourselves at Via Tribunali pizza in Fremont with a large party. I’d never been here before and it was excellent.

The pizza is nicely charred and very, very thin. It comes uncut, so you can make the slices any size or shape you want. I got the salsiccia rapini – tomato sauce, Italian sausage and rapini (broccoli rabe) – one of my favorite Italian flavor combos.

pizza

Jon got the Via Tribunali house special, which is sort of an Everything pizza with the edges folded in on itself. Just a hint of smoked cheese gave it a distinctive character.

Great place! We’ll definitely be back to try more pizza, some salads and perhaps some tiramisu. Soon.

via tribunali

lamb pizza variation

Pizza

This was a really successful variation on our favorite lamb pizza. I topped it with the usual mix of ground lamb and sweet onions, flavored with cinnamon and tamarind, but then added butter-soft, long-cooked broccoli rabe. A recent issue of Saveur had a feature on vegetables cooked until very soft and sweet, and it occurred to me that bitter greens done this way would be a fantastic pizza topping, especially paired with the richness of lamb. I added mozzarella as well, but it would have been equally good with feta or no cheese at all.

arugula pizza

prosciutto & arugula pizza

My mother has, in the last year, gotten sort of obsessed with arugula pizza, and it’s gradually infected us as well. Tutta Bella makes a particularly good one, which we had recently on a day when my parents and I converged on Seattle. A very simple pizza, it was topped only with prosciutto, a bit of tomato and cheese, with fresh arugula leaves added after cooking so they stayed fresh.  When Jon and I stopped by the Dunbar Gardens farmstand last week, that pizza being fresh in my mind, a huge bunch of fresh arugula called out to me and demanded to be made into dinner.

I had been thinking in terms of putting the prosciutto on the pizza before baking it, then adding the greens partway through. But I noticed over on Epicurious that another option is to bake the pizza with nothing but cheese, then add the prosciutto and greens after it comes out of the oven. We tried it, and it was very successful – instead of crisping up, the prosciutto melts softly into the hot cheese, and the arugula perches on top, wilting only slightly where it touches. A little awkward to eat, perhaps, but you can always use a fork to snatch extra leaves off the plate. We ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning with…yup…a fried egg. Fantastic.

prosciutto & arugula pizza

knowing where your pizza comes from

leek and lamb pizza

This was a good pizza.

It evolved naturally, inspired more or less equally by our usual Middle Eastern Lamb Pizza, the cover of the latest Food & Wine, and a recipe in Tessa Kiros’ book Falling Cloudberries. I knew I wanted to try a pizza with a leek-based sauce (I’m on a leek kick right now), but I wanted spiced lamb on it as well. In the end, it wasn’t quite like any of the source recipes, becoming something quite perfect all on its own: a melange of braised leeks tossed with hot pepper and tamarind-spiced lamb, layered with mozzarella and adorned with small ripe tomatoes, all resting on a chewy part-whole-wheat crust.

Savory and wonderful as the pizza was, there was something that made me stop mid-chew and stare at my plate for a minute. I realized that I knew where everything on that pizza had come from! Leeks and gorgeous fiery red peppers from Hedlin Farms in La Conner, lamb from Linda Martiny, local mozzarella, Shepherd’s Grain Stone-Buhr flour, salad (with flowers sprinkled in it) from Frog’s Song, and tiny tomatoes from our deck.

The only products I couldn’t put a face to were the salt, yeast and olive oil (well, okay, and the tamarind and cinnamon). I think that’s pretty cool.

dinner

Plus it was an incredible pizza.

bacon and egg pizza

bacon & egg pizza

It was serendipitous, really. We were already planning pizza for dinner, but hadn’t given much thought to the toppings; usually we just go with tomato sauce, pepperoni and sliced olives if nothing else is really calling to us, and we always have those on hand.

In the nick of time, though, I saw a tweet from Michael Ruhlman about a homemade pizza topped with bacon, egg and asparagus. It looked amazing, and I thought, “Why have I never thought of putting bacon on a pizza? What have I been doing with my brain all this time?” Plus I adore eggs on pizza (especially with bitter greens, like one I tasted at Serious Pie), but I haven’t ever gotten the hang of it. It was time to try again.

I did my usual crust, because I still think it’s one of the best ever – just a little whole wheat, and plenty of crunch without being crackery. I like to transfer the rolled-out crust to a hot pizza stone and top it right there on the hot oven rack, which takes a bit of quick work and gets you all hot and bothered, but is much easier than trying to move a fully loaded pizza. We didn’t have any asparagus, but we did have some diced tomato left over from last week’s kebabs, so I tossed that on with the lightly sauteed bacon lardons. After five minutes I added a raw egg and let it bake another ten minutes.

It ended up being a little overdone, due to my apparent inability to tell the difference between a nicely baked-but-still-runny egg and a completely raw one – next time, I’ll take it out sooner. But it was still a swell pizza, chewy and cheesy and bacon-y. It looked so good we had to cut into it while it was still molten from the oven, and burned ourselves extremely thoroughly – ouch. It was totally worth it though. We’ll be doing this again.

wine and pizza

Lake Chelan

As part of the Campbell Road 2009 Saint Patrick’s Week Tour (such as it was), we drove up to Lake Chelan last weekend. Chelan, which tends towards the hot and crowded in summer, is pretty calm this time of year – the hills are gray, the streets are empty, and the water level is so low that the jetties end up some distance from the actual lake. But there are still a few things to do in the area, and we did them: visit a winery, eat pizza, and hang out at the Vogue Liquid Lounge.

frozen lake

Chelan has one of the newest winemaking communities around – our B&B hostess remarked that there was only one winery when she moved there just a few years ago, now there are over a dozen. Continue reading

lamb pizza

lamb pizza with pine nuts and mint

My favorite pizza dough recipe of all time (so far) is from the book Home Baking by Alford and Duguid. It’s just the perfect blend of white and whole wheat, with just the right amount of chew and crispiness and not at all doughy. The recipe I got it from, however, isn’t a traditional pizza – it’s a middle-eastern lamb flatbread often made as a street food.

In the original recipe, the pizzas are cooked one at a time as small, personal-size breads in a skillet, then finished under the broiler, rolled up like burritos and eaten immediately with mint and yogurt. This time, though, I wanted to have it all done at once so we could sit and enjoy our pizza together. So I followed my usual pizza-making format and baked two pizzas at very high heat, adding the toppings at appropriate points. It worked! The other way is good, but this was very, very tasty. And I was so excited to find a little bit of fresh mint in my garden to sprinkle on top!

While we were eating, I was reminded of a pizza that my friends and I often got in college – the “gyros pizza” from the two local Greek-owned pizzerias (run by competing brothers). I don’t remember the exact toppings, but it was a spiced beef or lamb pizza that always came with a container of tsatsiki sauce. It was delicious. You could definitely do the same sort of thing here, just by crushing some garlic into a bowl of yogurt, maybe adding a bit more mint. Yum. Continue reading

Pizza

pepperoni olive pizza

I adore pizza. My parents made it at home when I was a kid, and it was classic homemade pizza – thick, soft, bready crust, lots of toppings, needed to be eaten with a fork. We sometimes went out to Godfather’s, which was a pretty standard American chain pizza. Then when I was in college I invented my own pizza using available materials: a whole wheat crust, sundried tomatoes, mozzarella and falafel. It was amazingly good (but I was starved for meat and fat that year – not the most discerning palate). I went to Italy and ate some very good and some very bad pizza (spinach with an egg on top, yum. Potatoes and salt – what was I thinking?) Then after I was married, we discovered takeout chicken alfredo pizza and stuck to that for a while. Continue reading