Rosemary-Olive Oil Bread Made with Sourdough Starter


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If you’ve come this far with the sourdough starter, then this is a bread walk. If you’d like to bake this AMAZING bread, click here for the sourdough starter that you’ll need to make first. It only takes fifteen days to make it, but who’s counting.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds plus 2 ounces unbleached white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 cup raw wheat germ
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Day 1
Place water, sourdough starter, flour, and wheat germ in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a doth hook. Mix on low speed for 4 minutes. The dough should be sticky and pliable. Cover the dough and allow it to rest 20 minutes.

Add salt and continue mixing on medium speed for 4 minutes, scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula.

Add rosemary and olive oil and mix on medium speed until ingredients are incorporated and the dough reaches an internal temperature of 78 degrees F, about 5 more minutes.

Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and lightly coat it with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the oiled bowl, cover in plastic wrap, and let it ferment at room temperature until it doubles in volume, about 3 to 4 hours.

Uncover the dough and turn it out onto a  lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough into two equal pieces. Slap each piece against the work surface to deflate. Tuck under the edges of each piece, cover the dough with a cloth, and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Uncover the dough and round each piece into a boule. Place the boules, smooth side down, into a bowl (unless you have proofing baskets). Cover the dough in the bowl with a cloth and let proof at room temperature until it begins to show signs of movement, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Remove the cloth and sprinkle the surface of the dough with flour. Wrap each bowl tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.

Day 2

Remove the boules from the refrigerator, take off plastic wrap, and cover each with a cloth. Let the dough continue proofing at room temperature until it reaches an internal temperature of 58 degrees F, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F at least one hour before baking.

Remove the cloth and lightly dust boules with flour. Carefully loosen boules from bowls and gently invert onto lightly floured baker’s peel.

With a single-edged razor held perpendicular to the boule, slash a tic-tac-toe pattern on top of each.

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Open the oven door, spritz the oven heavily with water from a spray bottle, and quickly close the door. Open the oven door again, slide the boule onto the pizza stone, and quickly close the door. Cut, spritz, and load the second boule in the same manner.

Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Spritz the oven two more times during the next 5 minutes. Refrain from opening the oven door for the next 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, check the boules and rotate them if necessary to ensure even baking. Continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes more, for a total of 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove boules to a cooling rack. The finished boules will have a rich brown color and look swollen.

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Pizza Pilgrimage: Sally’s Apizza, New Haven, Connecticut


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Waiting in line
Anxiously awaiting
Anxiously awaiting

As the end of summer approaches (code speak for returning to work/school), Raj and I thought we’d make one last trip to visit family in Connecticut while setting off to accomplish something that we attempted five short years ago. You see, the last time we took this same trip, we stood in line at Sally’s for one and a half hours with no end in sight, grumpily standing in the hot, humid, unforgiving Connecticut afternoon. We got to the point where Raj broke and my dad and uncles weren’t much help either, regaling us in stories of gruff and unattractive servers, dirty bathrooms, and so-so pizza. We questioned whether the wait was worth it. I was ready to wait it out, but Raj raised the flag and we headed to Ernie’s, my dad’s favorite, which was fine, but left us with some unfinished business.

For those of you not in the know, Sally’s is one of the best pizza places in the country. It’s repeatedly in the top 10 lists year after year: http://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/destinations/2013/11/30/best-pizza-in-america/3785309/.  Sally’s (number 7 on the list) and Pepe’s (number 1) are both on Wooster Street in New Haven’s Little Italy. Pepe’s pizza is known for its ‘white clam pie’  while Sally’s for their ‘tomato pie.’ Sally’s was actually an offshoot of Pepe’s– nephews Salvatore (Sally) and Tony Consiglio, who worked for Pepe as teenagers, left in 1938 to open Sally’s.

We got to Sally’s strategically on a Sunday night at around 6pm. The line was about 20 deep, not too bad, not too good. We waited about 45 minutes until we were directed into a booth by the host who served as our waiter too. Sally’s is small and dark and not particularly nice (bring hand sanitizer). It probably looks the same today as it did 76 years ago, minus the upgrade sometime in the 1950’s when they added some spectacular lighting fixtures (I tried taking a picture of the fixtures, but my iPhone didn’t do the vintage glass justice). We sat below the aging picture of Frank Sinatra, appropriately crooked and covered in grime.

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Tomato pie
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Pepperoni pie

The service is legendary and lived up to its name. Sally’s is no frills and devoid of customer service, but that’s the appeal–it’s all about the pie. Nothing more. We ordered two pies:  tomato (tomato sauce, no cheese) and pepperoni. Both were excellent: the crust was perfect–thin and not too burnt, and the sauce was slightly sweet.

We walked away full and elated, down the block to the Italian bakery to finish off the night with a cannoli. Perfection!

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With Sally’s off the list, next time we will pay homage to Pepe’s, hopefully sooner than five years from now.

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Way Too Much Work Veal Meatball Pie


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In my recent quest to make Friday Night Pizza more interesting than the usual “Raj’s Pizza,” comprised of red sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella (for the past six years!), I’m continually seeking out pies that will sway Raj towards variety. The latest, a Veal Meatball Pie, was amazing, but WAY too much work for anyone who works, has a life, hobbies, a dog that needs walking… The recipe is comprised of FIVE separate recipes (which I had to break down between two days) if you count making the pizza dough, sauce, meatballs, caramelizing the onions, and compiling the pizza…but for those of you with lots of time and motivation, knock yourselves out. Raj says this is a keeper–but then it would have to be relegated to Saturday Night Pizza–he won’t be seeing the likes of this pie anytime soon.

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Veal Meatball Pie

  • 1 ball of dough–I used is the same one I always use–my whole wheat standard (see Raj’s Friday Night Pizza)
  • 1/4 cup Basic Tomato Sauce (see below)
  • About 2 ounces fresh Mozzarella, pulled into 5 clumps
  • Scant 1 tbl Caramelized onions (Oh my God–all that work–1 HOUR of pure devotion for 1 tablespoon of them?! See below)
  • About 5 pitted Alfonso olives–good luck finding these at any other place than Whole Foods (Did I mention shopping for the ingredients took lots of time too?)
  • About 3 tbl Parmagiano-Reggiano, grated
  • 4 or 5 Veal Meatballs, broken in half
  1. Put pizza stone in oven about 8″ from broiler. Preheat oven on bake at 5oo degrees for 30 minutes. Switch to broil for 10 minutes.
  2. Place dough on pizza stone (you can also assemble the pie on a peel and then slide it onto the stone, but I’ve never had luck doing this), spoon tomato sauce over surface and spread evenly, leaving about an inch of the rim untouched. Distribute mozzarella over the sauce. Space meatballs evenly over the pie. Distribute the onions evenly on top, then the olives. Sprinkle the Parmagiano.
  3. Broil for 4 1/2 minutes under gas until the top is bubbling and the crust is nicely charred but not burnt.
  4. Using the peel (yes, I use it here with the help of a spatula), transfer the pizza to a cutting board. Sprinkle additional Parmagiano over the pie. Slice and serve immediately.

Basic Tomato Sauce (SO SIMPLE that it really shouldn’t be called sauce)

  • 28 ounce can peeled Italian plum tomatoes
  • 2 tbl extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  1. Using your hands, squish the tomatoes in a bowl. 
  2. Stir in olive oil and salt. (I only used about half of the sauce and froze the rest for next week’s pizza)

Veal Meatballs

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  • 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 pound veal
  • 1/2 medium Idaho potato, peeled
  • 10 grinds black pepper
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves
  • Leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 tbl whole milk
  • 1 tbl canola oil
  1. Bring salted water to gentle boil in medium saucepan and cook the potato until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and then pass through food mill (which I don’t have so I grated it).
  2. Add the veal, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme leaves, and milk and blend thoroughly, but gently, with your hands. With moistened hands, roll into meatballs about 1 inch in diameter. You should have about 35 to 40.
  3. Coat a saute pan with the oil and brown the meatballs for about 7 or 8 minutes over medium heat, until they medium (just a bit pink in the center). Set aside until you are ready to use them, or let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

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Caramelized Onions

  • 3 medium onions
  • 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbl extra-virgin olive oil
  • leaves from 2 thyme sprigs
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  1. Cut the onions in half and then into 1 1/2-inch-thick slices. With your fingers, separate the slices into strips and put them in a medium bowl. Toss with the vinegar, oil, and thyme leaves.
  2. Transfer the onions to a 10-inch saute pan. Cover and cook, stirring every few minutes, over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Do not burn. Uncover the pan and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and soft, about 30 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with the salt, transfer to a platter, and set aside to cool to room temperature.

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Penzeys Spices True Love


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Love to cook. Cook to love. That’s Penzeys Spices motto and my adopted motto as well. I’ve been a devotee of Penzeys ever since my sister turned me on to their catalog years ago (yes, Nicole, I give you full credit!). The closest store to us back in California was Torrance (way too far from San Clemente) so we would both study the catalog, read the articles, and then coordinate our orders to save on shipping. Lucky for me, I have access to the fabulous Falls Church, Virginia store, which I have yet to visit, but plan on supplementing my diminishing stores of spices soon.

Some of you may know that I was featured in the catalog a few years back and paid homage to Raj by including our traditional Friday night pizza recipe. One night while I was combing through the catalog in Amman (feeling sad for not being able to ship spices overseas), I was inspired (once again) to respond to their “Calling All Cooks” campaign. I was contacted by one of their pleasant writers and shared with her my experiences of living overseas and a few of my favorite Middle Eastern recipes. The story sort of morphed into a love story about how Raj and I met.

Here’s the link to the Fall, “True Love” catalog http://www.penzeys.com/images/F12.pdf. Our story is featured on page 48-49. Check out my recipes for Shish Tawouk (my favorite, simple and easy grilled chicken kebabs) and fattoush (a mixed salad with toasted pita bread pieces). Enjoy…

Chicago-Style Pan Pizza


Chicago-Style Pan Pizza

[Makes two, 9 inch pizzas or 5-6 small personal pan pizzas]

Dough

  • 2 T olive oil, plus extra for greasing the pans
  • 3/4 c plus 2 T skim milk heated to 110 degrees
  • 2 t sugar
  • 2 1/3 c all-purpose flour, plus extra for the work surface
  • 1 envelope rapid-rise or instant yeast
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/3 spaghetti or pizza sauce, your favorite
  • 3 c shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. To make the dough: Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. When the oven reaches 200 degrees, turn it off. Lightly grease a large bowl with vegetable oil spray. Coat each of two 9-inch cake pans generously with oil. (I used 5 small cake pans that I have that are the perfect size for a personal pan pizza).

2. Mix the milk, sugar, and 2 T oil in a measuring oil in a measuring cup.

3. If using a standing mixer: Mix the flour, yeast, and salt in a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the milk mixture. After the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium-low and mix until the dough is shiny and smooth, about 5 minutes.

4. If mixing by hand: Mix the flour, yeast, and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the flour, then pour the milk mixture into the well. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the dough becomes shaggy and difficult to stir. Turn out onto a heavily floured work surface and knead, incorporating any shaggy scraps. Knead until the dough is smooth, about 10 minutes.

5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, gently shape into a ball, and place in the warm oven until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

6. To shape and top the dough: Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, divide in half ( or fifths if you are making smaller pizzas, and lightly roll each half into a ball. Press the dough into a 91/2 round inside the oiled cake pan if making 2 pizzas. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot (not in the oven) until puffy and slightly risen, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 400 degrees.

7. Remove the plastic wrap from the dough. Ladle about 2/3 c of the sauce on each round, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the edges. Sprinkle each with about 1 1/2 c of cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven; let the pizzas rest in the pans for 1 minute. Using a spatula, transfer the pizzas to a cutting board and cut each into 8 wedges. Serve.

Fatwa for Falafel


Raj wanted falafel, but not just any falafel–he wanted the best, most highly rated falafel in ALL of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. After a short visit to Jerash (second time around), we headed downtown toward Hashem Restaurant, an institution in Amman since 1956. (Note: downtown is the area near the Citadel (it took us three weekends to find the Citadel), near the flea markets ON the street–a particularly frustrating and confusing place to drive; not a smart move given the fact that Raj was already hungry (Remember, Raj gets ‘hangry’ (hungry plus angry) when his blood sugar levels dip and I didn’t have any ‘snack packs’ to tide him over–a particularly vulnerable position to be in).

Invariably, we had difficulty locating the elusive Hashem’s. I was getting worried because at this point I was hungry, imagining how Raj had to be starving. We drove around searching for about thirty minutes–at this point I was ready to give up and go ANYWHERE…but Raj was undeterred. Lucky for us, Raj’s friend who accompanied us is an Arabic speaker and he helped us out tremendously along the route asking passers-by for directions. Eventually we found it, no small feat since the signs for Hashem are in Arabic (except for the one above which faces away from the street).

Quick day trip to the Roman ruins at Jerash
Nubian goats at Jerash (they have "Roman' noses, seriously)

The restaurant is outside in a little alley way along a busy street. It’s certainly not fancy, perhaps a little dingy (euphemism for dirty), but very busy and FULL of Westerners. If you’re persnickety, RUN (or bring along lots of hand sanitizer and wipes to quell the neatniks you may be traveling with–I forgot mine and admit I was bothered). There are no plates here (probably a good thing), just thin paper used in place of plates. You may be surprised that I ate here with my history of ‘street-food’ syndrome, but what was I supposed to do? We were ALL starving!

View from Hashem's

I’m not sure what we ordered (our friend ordered for us), but it seems that everyone around us got the same thing: a basket of small meatball sized falafel, another basket of larger falafel covered in sesame seeds, a handful of steaming hot pita bread, tomatoes and onions, tea with mint, hummus, and fuul (fava-bean paste).

The verdict? It was all very good AND for three of us it cost only $6 JD’s. (Imagine how happy that made Raj, see below?) Best of all, no one got sick and I’ve agreed that we need to go back (although this time I’ll come equipped with hand sanitizer and maybe some wipes for the table top and chairs).

A View Fit for a King–Dead Sea Panoramic Center


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Dead Sea below
View of the Museum

Last week we had a blizzard (ALL weekend long); this week a heat wave. Last week we hibernated, ate too much and complained about our luck–the weather in DC was WAY warmer than here in the DESERT; this week we promised ourselves that we would get OUT of the house and enjoy Jordan. We hashed a plan last Saturday, in the midst of the blizzard (after checking out the upcoming forecast–it said it was going to be sunny and hot) and decided to hike the Soapmaker’s Trail in Ajloun. What I love about this trail is that at the end of it–and it’s only a two-hour hike–there’s a soap factory AND gift store (part of RSCN’s (Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature) efforts to help support the local economy). So you’re basically hiking to a store. Love it!

We packed our daypack with water and trail mix and were all set to leave until we searched for directions. Upon searching, we noticed that the trails in Ajloun DO NOT open until April 1st. We called to make sure this was right and were told ‘inshallah, we will open April 1.”

In front of the entrance to museum and stores
View of Jerusalem across the Dead Sea

Plan B. We decided to go to another RSCN location–the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex. As the RSCN website describes it:

“Perched at the edge of the Zara mountain range, between Ma’in hot springs and the Dead Sea basin, the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex offers some of the most spectacular views in the Kingdom. From the observation terrace you can absorb breathtaking vistas over the Jordan Rift Valley and Dead Sea basin and you can dine in style watching sunrise or sunset over the mountains of the Holy Land. There is also a large and fascinating museum devoted to the natural and cultural history of the Dead Sea, a Nature Shop and a range of other attractions and activities suitable for both adults and children.”

The place is stunning–both architecturally and view-wise. It would be a perfect venue for a wedding with the views and the restaurant…but I don’t know anyone getting married, so nevermind. Best of all–there was hardly ANYONE else there, so we had the restaurant almost exclusively to ourselves.

The restaurant, “Arabic style with a hint of Lebanese” is operated by Evason Ma’in Hot Springs (a neighboring hotel/resort that we haven’t stayed at…yet). The food was amazing! Generally I stick to my favorites, shish tawouk or mixed grill, but feeling a bit crazy (perhaps from all of the glorious sunshine), I ordered something new–musakhkhan (chicken seasoned with sumac, an abundant amount of onions and served on top of pita that soaks up all of the chicken juices and oniony flavors). It was served on a hot griddle placed on a wood serving piece (similar to Mexican fajitas). [I wasn’t sure what sumac was, so I looked it up–it’s a spice made from the ground dried berries of a bush that grows wild throughout the Middle East. Sumac has a sour and vaguely lemony taste.] We also ordered a cold mezza–hummos Beiruty–chickpeas, tahini, hot paprika, parsley, and fava beans.

Musakhkhar and Hummos Beiruty

The Panoramic center has a lovely museum and TWO stores: one is a Rivage, Dead Sea product store–you can buy these product anywhere, AND the RSCN store. I love RSCN products–the teas, soaps, jewelry…too many choices so I got overwhelmed and bought nothing. I’m saving my money for the day when we hike the Soap Maker’s Trail and end at the soap factory that sells the soaps that are sold at stores like the Panoramic Center.

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