New goal - Becoming a Pizzaiola

Living in NYC has its advantages.  Access to omg-level pizza being one of them.
Which begs the question -- when such attainable deliciousness is a seamless delivery away, why would I venture to make my own pizza?  Because I can.  And I know exactly what's in it.

Enter The Pizza Bible.  It's beautiful red and white debossed cover reminiscent of the pizza box I would carry home in my youth from the neighborhood spot.  Chef Tony Gemignani's new cookbook is no shy foray into the decadent journey of pizza making. As a World Pizza Champ -- 11 times a champ no less, a jury of his peers would agree this cookbook title is totally legit.

Chef G believes pizza is simple but you must "respect the craft".  He even has this motto tattooed onto his hands.  How do I know this?  Exhibit A photo on first page of the first chapter.  Theory, my pizza loving friends, is key before you can master the savory recipes that follow.

"The Master Class" section is exactly what is needed, whether novice or (almost) ninja.  The section covers a wealth of pizza 411, divided into Theory & Practice: equipment recommended, everything you ever wanted to know about why this flour brand vs that one (protein % vary greatly), and dough making by hand...until that wish-listed Kitchenaid mixer arrives.  You'll also learn why starters will deliver more flavor, along with the science behind the magical sugarplum-esque dance of flour, water and yeast.

As a culinary nerd (and all-around nerd), I knew I was in love with the Pizza Bible when I saw the "Theory of Pizza Relativity".  Einstein would definitely approve of this one.  The generous sprinkling of step-by-step photos, demonstrating the techniques are 100% culinary nerd approved.  Following these guides while practicing on a couple of batches of dough paves a tasty path towards becoming a pizzaiolo/a.  That's italian for pizza ninja.

The "Ten Commandments of Pizza" are both entertaining and educational.  Smartly done is the breakdown by chapter for regions/styles.  The whole pizza gamut is on display - regional American, Chicago (Jon Stewart, please disregard) Sicilian, California, Napoletana, regional Italian, Global (Barcelona/Muchen/Dubliner/Parisian/Greco), grilled, wrapped & rolled, focaccia & breads.

For the true DIY chefs, the regional American section even features how to make your own sauce/gravy and sausage.  Just don't forget to post those gorgeous homemade slices with a dash of #imadethis, sprinkle of #yammy and splash of #BuonAppetito.

This book was received from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for review.

Slow Cooked Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

I saw an inspiring recipe for Butternut Squash soup in a cookbook called The Italian Slow Cooker.  I wanted to enhance the squash by roasting before slow cooking, similar to my Roasted Pumpkin Soup. This one serves 6 and can be easily doubled for 12.

1 medium onioncoarsely chopped
2 Tbsp. 
extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic clovesunpeeled
1 large butternut squashpeeled, seeded & cut into 2-inch chunks
2 medium potatoespeeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tsp dried sageor 3 fresh leaves
4 cups chicken broth

salt & pepper, or Goya Adobo to taste

Peel butternut squash and remove seeds.  With a sharp knife, carefully cut into sections to make 2-inch cube of uniform size. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coarsely chop onions. Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes.

On a foil-lined baking tray(s), place the butternut squash, potatoes, onions and unpeeled garlic cloves.  If using two trays, place onions and garlic cloves on one tray, separated from squash & potatoes.  Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on all vegetables and mix with hands, coating well.  Place trays in oven.

Roast onions and garlic for 20 minutes then let cool.  Let butternut squash and potatoes roast for an extra 20 more minutes.  Unpeel garlic cloves and chop into a few coarse pieces.  Add onions and garlic to slow cooker insert.

Add roasted butternut squash and potatoes on top of onions and garlic.  Add sage to mix, crushing between fingers if using dried.  Pour in chicken broth and season with salt & pepper (or use Goya adobo).

Cook on low for 4 hours.  Let cool slightly, then puree mix in blender.  Serve hot with a little sour cream or a drizzle of olive oil.

Pastel de Papas [español]

Adaptado de Recetas de Argentina con sugerencias de mi probador de recetas, un argentino que sabe una o dos cosas sobre Pastel de Papas. Para 4-6 personas.

1/2 kg. de carne molida
aprox. 1 cucharada de aceite de oliva
1 cebolla amarilla o roja, finamente picada
1 ají marrón rojo, picado
12-15 aceitunas verdes manzanillas, cortadas a la mitad
1 o 2 tomates, cortados en cubitos
1-1.5 kg. de papas
3 huevos duros, picados
aprox. 1 
cucharada de mantequilla/manteca
Goya Adobo sazón, al gusto 
ají molido, al gusto
orégano, al gusto
sal y pimienta, al gusto

Pelar las papas y poner a la olla grande con agua suficiente para cubrir bien. Hervir las papas a fuego lento, cocinar hasta que un tenedor fácilmente penetre en la papa. Colar las papas y ponerlas en un tazón grande. Hacer el puré con un pisador de papas o un tenedor. Mezclar con la mantequilla (manteca), el adobo, sal y pimienta y estacionar.

En una sartén, agregar el aceite de oliva y calentar a fuego medio. Agregar la cebolla finamente picada y el ají marrón rojo picado a la sartén y freír hasta que la cebolla esté dorada.

Agregar la carne picada a la sartén y mezclarla con la cebolla y el ají marrón rojo. Revuelva de vez en cuando, cocinar hasta que la carne esté cocida. Sacar el aceite excedente.

Agregar el adobo, ají molido, sal, pimienta y mezclar bien. Añadir las aceitunas, picado de huevo duro, tomate y mezclar juntos.

Precalentar el horno a 350 grados. Pasar la mezcla a un molde para hornear. Añadir la mitad el puré de papas como base en el molde. Entonces añadir la mezcla de carne sobre la base de papas.  Finalmente agregar la otra mitad de las papas sobre la mezcla.  Agregue una pequeña cantidad de mantequilla (manteca) a la parte superior de puré de papas.

Poner en el horno y hornear durante 20-30 minutos, o hasta que la superficie es ligeramente dorada.

Servir caliente y disfrutarlo.

Pastel de Papas [Argentinean Meat Pie]

Pastel de Papas can be described as Argentina's version of shepherd's pie.

Adapted from Recetas de Argentina with suggestions from my taste tester, an Argentinean who knows a thing or two about Pastel de Papas.  Serves 4-6.

1-1.5 lb. ground beef
approx. 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium red or yellow onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
12-15 green olives with pimento, such as Manzanillas, halved
1-2 tomatoes, diced
approx. 2 lbs. potatoes
3 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled & diced
approx. 1 Tbsp. butter
Goya Adobo seasoning, to taste
crushed red pepper, to taste
oregano, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste

Peel potatoes and add to large pot with enough water to cover well.  Boil potatoes and lower flame, cooking until a fork easily pierces potato.  Drain and transfer potatoes to a large bowl.  Mash using a potato masher or fork.  Blend in butter, adobo, salt and pepper and set aside.

To a medium sauté pan, add olive oil and heat on medium flame.  Add finely diced onion and chopped red pepper to pan and cook until onion is translucent.  

Add ground beef to pan, breaking into smaller sections and mixing with the onions and red pepper.  Stir occasionally, cook until beef is no longer pink.  Drain excess oil.

Add adobo, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and mix well.  Add olives, diced hard-boiled egg and tomato, blending together.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place half of the mashed potatoes into baking dish, forming a base.  Evenly place mixture on top of potatoes.  Add remaining half of mashed potatoes on top, covering the mixture completely.  Add a couple of small pieces of butter on top of potatoes.

Place in oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until top is slightly golden.

Serve warm as a main dish or accompanied with a salad.

Slow Cooked Chicken with White Beans

chicken, Great Northern beans, bell peppers, onion, thyme

Over 2 years ago, armed with a new slow cooker, a supply of black-eyed peas, chicken thighs and a dream, I stumbled upon a recipe online.  Not just any recipe, this is the one which will make you want to buy a slow cooker (or bring yours down from that high shelf and dust it off).

Slow Cooked Salmon with Lemon & Basil

Thanks to The Italian Slow Cooker for motivating me to try salmon in the slow cooker.  

Slow is a relative term here -- after just 90 minutes you will have tender lemony salmon.  I used that time to make roasted sweet potatoes which was a delicious combo.