Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Feasta Pizza

Pizza is one of my favorite foods to make and to eat. What could be better than to share with friends? We decided to invite friends both old and new. In the end there were 9 guests and we two hosts.

While it's theoretically possible to serve pizza and nothing more than beverages, that would not be the Don Cuevas way of doing things.
So it was, after considerable planning, shopping and changes of menu, I finally came up with this:

Pizza Party Menu January 30, 2010
  • Mezze Platter: Garbanzo Salad, Kalamata Olives, Sweet Red Peppers Stuffed with Herbed Feta Cheese (purchased); on a bed of cress.
  • Batones de jícama sprinkled with lime juice.
  • Cucumber, Tomato, Onion and Black Olive Salad. (Made by Shirley A.)
  • Improvised, last minute Minestra di Cavolo Negro, potato, small white beans, turnip and greens, carrot, onion, garlic, tomato; served with a dab of pesto. Greens and turnips were from Mercado Buen Provecho and they were first rate!
  • Italian style Coleslaw.
  • Pizzas: 2 Margheritas. (All pizzas had a cheese blend of approx. 70% mozzarella and 30% smoked provolone.)
  • 1 Mushroom and Onion.
  • 1 Italian style fennel sausage and sweet peppers.
  • 1 Pizza Poblana: thick, smoky bacon, rajas de chile Poblana, onions and cheeses, cilantro garnish.
  • 1 of sweet peppers tricolores.
  • Various wines, beers, agua de Jamaica.
  • Sticks of fresh cut pineapple.
  • Chiapas coffee.

We'd hoped to cook the pizzas outside on the charcoal grill, but the weather turned cold and rainy. Thus we reverted to using the less than entirely satisfactory oven. The problem with the oven is that it has a capacity of only two 16" perforated pizza pans. The maximum heat obtainable is about 425º F, if I'm lucky. The bottom shelf does not achive as high a heat as the upper, therefore an exchange from shelf to shelf is necessary.

There were 5 balls of pizza dough, but only 3 perforated pans, and I had to use the 2 non-perforated black coated pans. Those did a much better job than the perfs.

The Action Plan was this, more or less. The sausage (recipe follows) was already made and in the freezer. The greens and beans for the unplanned, last minute soup were cooked ahead. The salads were prepared in the morning. The food processor saw a great deal of action to prepare vegetables and cheese. The Herbed Feta Cheese Stuffed Peppers were purchased from Costco and only needed to be opened, drained of oil, and sprinkled with some red wine vinegar. You can use fresh lemon juice. A few anchovy strips were draped over a selected few.
(Garbanzo Salad recipe follows.)

The pizza dough was made in two batches, The first had a 6-hour preferment with some rye flour; the second was made as a straight dough without any preferment. The second rose faster and was somewhat easier to extend into rounds.

The sauce was more or less an old favorite, from The Vegetarian Epicure, by Anna Thomas. (recipe in another post to come, "On Canned Tomato Products in Mexico", or some similar name.)

The story on the Unplanned, Last Minute Improvised Minestra was that I'd been joking with Doña Cuevas that what we needed was a soup. I could whip it up in 30 minutes in the new pressure cooker. The joke became reality as the weather turned cold with rain. So, using 1 or 2 carrots, a peeled potato cut into chunks, a large peeled turnip cut into chunks, 1 roughly cut onion, 2 cloves of garlic, some chopped celery, some dried basil, fresh parsley, then sauteeing these in a little olive oil in the bottom part of the 8-quart pressure cooker. I then added 8 cups of water and 6 cubes of Knorr-Suiza Cubos de Costilla Jugosa, closed the lid, set the pressure to #2, and when it came up to steam, set a timer for 15 minutes.

When the 15 minutes had passed, I opened the quick release valve, and a moment or two later was able to open the lid. Then I added two cans of S&W cubed tomatoes, several cups of the precooked mixed greens (from Mercado Buen Provecho), the precooked alubias blancas chicas (small white beans similar to Navy Beans), a couple more cups of water, and brought it to a simmer fr a few minutes uncovered and without pressure.

There was the obligatory "taste for seasoning". Very little adjustment was needed, but a spoonful of sugar and some black pepper.

I spooned a little basil pesto into each bowl (made during the herb growing season and frozen in small containers.) This soup was fragrant and hearty, in fact, one of the best I've ever made. The only meat in it was some bacon in the mixed greens.

Recipes below.

Garbanzo Salad
4-6 cups of cooked garbanzos. Preferably cooked from dry, not canned.
1 1/2 red onions, sliced thinly

Make a dressing of 1 cup olive oil (or less to taste)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
3 Tbsp cooking liquid from the garbanzos
fresh-ground black pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
Minced fresh parsley, optional

Toss garbanzos with dressing. Serve cool or at room temp.
Source: The Vegetarian Epicure, Book 2, by Anna Thomas.
(The Salads and Cold Vegetables chapter is a highlight of this excellent book. My version of the pizza crust and sauce also come from there.)

Garbanzo Salad

Fennel Sausage
(from The Mediterranean Cookbook, by Joyce Goldstein.)

2 pounds medium gound pork, 1/3 third weight in fat. I have it ground to order at a reliable carnicería. I use Carnicería La Sin Rival for this, on Ibarra, near the corner of Espejo, in Pátzcuaro

1/4 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons brandy (or Tequila -mw)
1 tabelspoon ground fennel seeds ("hinojo" in Spanish)
1 to 2 tablespoons dried red pepper flakes (You can grind up some dried red chiles in a spice grinder or in a molcajete if you lack this ingredient.)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried or 1 tabelspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried orégano. (I use Mexican orégano, but be sure the little twigs are removed-mw)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
2 teaspoons or to taste, freshly ground black pepper
2 feet hog casing (optional. I never use it.)

Mix ingredients well with hands. Slowly fry a small test patty. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Do not taste raw sausage.-mw

Pack about 8 ounces of sausage per small sandwich bag. Close tightly to exclude air. Freeze.

To cook: thaw first, broil or fry chunks in a skillet with a light film of olive oil. Good with a light pasta sauce. I suggest rigatoni pastas; very good with fried sweet peppers in a sandwich or on a pizza.

Pizza Dough
Based on a recipe in The Vegetarian Epicure, Book 2, by Anna Thomas.
This is not necessarily an authentic, nor artisanal method, but it's quite practical and easy.

1 pkg (2 tsps. or less) dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp. sugar (I often use only 1 tsp.)
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water, add the sugar, leave for up to 10 minutes.

Next, in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the rest of the water and the dissolved yeast.

Add the flour 1 cup at a time, then the salt, then as it starts to form a dough, add the olive oil.

Here follows my interpretation.
I mixed this on low speed in a 5-qt Kitchen Aid Stand mixer, using the paddle attachment. It's not necessary nor desirable to mix the dough to a firm, dry state. It's enough that it cohere and leave the sides of the bowl. It should be a little moist and slack.

Drizzle a little more olive oil down the inside of the bowl and coat the dough bowl. Cover and leave to rise approx. 1 hour to 2 hours, or until double in size.

Note: with the undermixing method I used, it's beneficial to gently lift and fold the slack dough 2-3 times over the period of an hour and a half.
Pease note also that our kitchen is unusually cool and that we are at an elevation of approximately 7000 feet a.s.l undobtedly affects the rising time. Overall, it's better to let dough rise slowly and under cooler conditions. The best flavor is attained that way. However, a difference of 30 minutes won't make much difference in taste.

This fully matured dough is divided into 2 equal pieces, then each is gently rounded and left to rest on a floured work surface for ~20 minutes.

Your oven should be preheated to at least 425º F, preferably 500º if possible.

Gently pat out and extend a dough ball with your hands and then begin rolling it out. Be patient. It sometimes resists, but that's not as likely with the slack mixed dough I described above.

I give the pans a light shpritz of PAM and a sprinkling of yellow cornmeal.
Dust a little flour on the dough circle, fold in two, and place on the pan. Unfold, and it's ready for the sauce and topping.

More pizza pics over the last few years, both in pizzerías and at home, in this Pizza Web and Other Italiana Slideshow. Click a pizza pic to see the larger version.

I note that this post was planned to precede the one on Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but there was a time-space discontinuity that unexpectedly occurred, and así es.

Update: Through the use of Post Options, I was able to alter the Continuum. Magic!


Anonymous said...

oh my gosh-with a menu like that, i'd almost be willing to pay the airfare to come to your next pizza party.

i lived in sicily for 2 years and your food looks as good as anything we had there.

let's see, where do you live again? yes, i know, i'll read your profile to find out. heck if you're anywhere near patzcuaro or sma maybe i'll hire you to cook our 30th anniversary dinner when we come down to celebrate in 1 1/2 years. you don't hire out, well, you can just invite us as new friends ;-)

i enjoy your blog the only problem is that it always makes me hungry.

have a great weekend!


Anonymous said...

so you live in patzcuaro. that's what i thought. plan on company in mid august 2011. you can replicate your menu for our 30th anniversary.


Don Cuevas said...

Teresa, you never can tell what may come to pass. In August, 2011, si Dios me presta el tiempo, I may be able to do that.
We should be able to grill pizza, weather permitting.

Keep in touch.

Don Cuevas

Anonymous said...

grilled pizza-sounds wonderful! Dios quiera que podremos conocernos y disfrutar una fiesta de pizza.

i will keep in touch.


by the way, i'm cuban so spanish is my first language.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Wow that looks good. I am going to try the sausage recipe too. I'm pretty sure that I can get all the ingredients here.
My cooking blog gets neglected because I also hate typing recipes. It just seems to take forever.
I had those stuffed peppers at a party, the hostess fessed up to buying them at Costco too.
I love my pressure cooker, it is amazing how fast you can cook beans in it. My microwave expired sometime last year and I only miss it on occasion but I use the pressure cooker a couple of times a week.

Tancho said...

I said it before , you need a nice wood burning brick oven outside, use it for pizza and it also would look real cool!