Foolproof pizza dough recipe

Foolproof pizza dough recipe

Honestly, there’s no such thing as “foolproof” pizza dough. As in any sort of baking, the temperature and humidity affect the texture and stickiness of the dough as well as the time to rise. But I’ve made this several hundred times over the past couple of years, so this tried-and-true method is as close as it comes to perfect homemade pizza dough every time.

Special sh#% holiday gift shopping

Special sh#% holiday gift shopping

I saw these bottles and thought it was TOTAL GENIUS marketing. A Texas company called Special Sh$% is making all sorts of seasonings and gift packs, just in case you – or a close frenemy – need a little bit of  savory sh&^ in your life. (Or your kitchen.) I can’t speak for the quality of the ingredients, at 12.95/bottle, I’ll wait for someone to give me a jar of my own some...
Balsamic zucchini “chips” with garlic and almonds

Balsamic zucchini “chips” with garlic and almonds

The zucchini harvest has begun! I’m not yet regretting the 5 plants I popped in the ground planning for a summer of squash blossom quesadillas and my dream of edible flower pizza, but the season is young. No doubt in a couple of months I’ll find a monstrous zucchini or two hidden under the scarlet runner beans as in years past and have to do something drastic again.

LL thought we should try something memorable and different with our first harvested zucchini of the season and suggested we try thinly slicing and pan frying them in a little hot oil. One thing led to another – I added minced garlic and sliced green onions to the sizzling zucchini, and then, inspired by my new Almonds book, added a small handful of those nuts, roughly chopped.

Watermelon salad for a summer BBQ

Watermelon salad for a summer BBQ

We are not a particularly Handy Family, so I was surprised when LL suggested we spend Memorial Day weekend sanding and revarnishing the kitchen cabinets. They definitely needed to be slathered with love after all these years of heavy use (18 years, really, since we built the kitchen? Wow!) And we had the time – when you live next to the beach, you tend to stay away from it on days the crowds appear. Like Memorial Day. So we enlisted the help of a Handy Friend, dug around in the shed to find the palm and detail sanders left over from a different round of remodeling, stocked up on sandpaper, and away we went.

Hot weather celery salad

Hot weather celery salad

Climate change is the new black. My peppers and tomatoes are happy; the dog is miserable; the boy has the swimming unit in P.E. this month so he is just fine. Hot days deserve cool meals, you know, so here’s a recipe for a celery and jicama salad that promises to take the edge off the heat.

The Amazing Texas-Toast-Bacon-and-Egg-Sandwich

The Amazing Texas-Toast-Bacon-and-Egg-Sandwich

Kid Two still loves Texas toast but along the way has acquired a taste for paninis with egg and baby greens with a bit of cheese. It was only a matter of time before he decided to try and combine the buttery crunchiness of Texas toast with savory eggy-ness of his panini. Like all good things, it’s a bit of work, but totally worth it. You have to start by making Texas toast. When that’s finished, layer thin slices of cheese and a handful of baby greens on one side. Top with crumbled, cooked bacon and a cooked scrambled egg. Top with the second piece of toast and there you go – a tasty handful of the ultimate bacon and egg meal: It’s pretty good on a paper plate with strawberries, too:...
Ahi Tartare Just Like Michael Mina

Ahi Tartare Just Like Michael Mina

One weekend LL and I spent the weekend in San Francisco to see Kiki and Herb at the A.C.T., but the show seemed sad and we were happy so we snuck out and walked down to the St. Francis where we went to sit at the bar at the Compass Rose but it was the new Michael Mina (which is the old Michael Mina now) and we were wowed by his tuna tartare.

It was one of those astonishing dishes, prepared table side – in our case, bar side – with gorgeous pink rich ahi and crisp sweet diced pears and salty pine nuts with the zing of garlic and the heat of jalapeño held together with quail eggs. It was a dish we had to recreate.

Mushroom caps stuffed with red pepper and quinoa

Mushroom caps stuffed with red pepper and quinoa

Our friend The Big Boss from work, a man who could, and did, eat two dozen prawns, half a dozen drumsticks, and an additional two pounds of roasted meat at one sitting, has gone practically vegan. I created these mushroom caps stuffed with red pepper and quinoa for him, a winner of an umami-laden dish that feels hearty and satisfying without any of those pesky high carbs, gluten, or dairy products. My only warning is they take a bit of time. You can make the stuffing in advance; it will keep for several days refrigerated. Ingredients: 36 medium-sized mushrooms, washed with stems removed 1/2 cup quinoa 1/2 teaspoon olive oil 1 cup water 1 red pepper generous splash full-bodied red wine (about 3/4 cup) 1 tbsp nutritional yeast plus extra to sprinkle on top 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper spray olive oil Instructions: First, get your quinoa cooking. (Follow these directions from The Kitchn if you’re worried about doing it wrong) Whatever you do, don’t overcook it; there’s nothing worse than soggy quinoa. Ok, there are lots of worse things – I’m thinking about the brussels sprouts creme brûlée from LL’s ill-fated 50th birthday party – but for the purposes of this recipe, you want your grain more al dente than mushy. Let cool. Then roast your red pepper. I cut it in half, take out the seeds and membrane, and put it right on top of the gas burner on my cooktop just like I roast poblano peppers. Let the pepper cool, then scrape off any black charred spots. Now simmer your wine burn off the alcohol, or at...
Turmeric and honey tea

Turmeric and honey tea

I was intrigued by this turmeric tea recipe Heidi Swanson posted on her blog 101 Cookbooks, based on an Ayurvedic recipe she found. Turmeric became my friend after accidentally creating multiple aches and pains in my knees and hip during last spring’s 22-mile Big Sur Marathon walk. Remembering that a (talented, accomplished, and beautiful) dancer friend once told me they would make turmeric paste to slather on sore muscles and joints while on tour, I found a cream made of turmeric extract, curcumin, that seemed to do the trick without turning my clothing bright orange. Turmeric doesn’t just give curries that wondrous yellow color. It’s is the wonderkind of Ayerveda, traditional Hindu medicine. Lisa Gallant of the California College of Ayervedic names a few of the many 5,000-year old uses for turmeric, including: use as a cold remedy, to give relief from bruises, sprains, and inflamed joints, to soothe skin from rashes ranging from eczema to chicken pox, even an insect repellant. The recipe is simple. This is all you need: turmeric, raw honey, lemon, hot water (not boiling), and black pepper. (I was psyched to find Wild Mountain brand honey at the grocery story. Wild Mountain Honey. Get it?) embedded by Embedded VideoYouTube Direkt   Anyway, mix 1/3 cup raw honey with 2 1/2 teaspoons turmeric. Blend well; it will become a medium paste: To make a cup of tea, add 1 teaspoonful of the past to a mug. Fill with hot water (not boiling water; as Heidi Swanson points out, you preserve the benefits of the raw honey if the water is not hot enough to cook it). Add freshly squeezed lemon juice...
Pear, arugula, and gorgonzola pizza

Pear, arugula, and gorgonzola pizza

My friend Bridget suggested this pizza combo to me after a meal she had at Santa Cruz’s Tramonti in Seabright. It was an all-white pizza featuring pears and blue cheese; she thought some arugula would add some zing and make it sing. She was right. The base of this is a thin layer of Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio blend (asiago, fontina, provolone, and parmesan), topped with thin slices of ripe Asian pear, a handful or arugula, and finally a drizzle of gorgonzola. The sweetness of the pear substitutes nicely for tomato; the asiago and fontina give it a zing, arugula adds texture and contrast, and the gorgonzola makes it elegant. A...
Barbecued chicken and gouda pizza

Barbecued chicken and gouda pizza

Tangy barbecue sauce, rich gouda, crunchy tart red onion, and savory chicken . . . one of my favorite combos for Friday pizza night. For any pizza night, really. Here is the lightly topped thin crust in the pizza oven: And the finished pie ready to slice: Delicious! Ingredients: Best Barbecue Sauce Pizza crust Cooked chicken (I toss the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with lemon pepper before grilling it) Thinly sliced red onion Shredded gouda cheese...
Late summer vegetable harvest, pickled

Late summer vegetable harvest, pickled

My vegetable crop was relatively small this year. One reason was out of my control; July and August were tremendously foggy this year. But I didn’t amend the soil or set up the drip irrigation like I did the past two years, and that certainly made a difference. But the crop made up in flavor what it lacked in bounty, the tiny radishes and carrots, green beans, and onion. For some reason I decided to pickle all of it using Monica Bhide’s recipe for pickled red onions. They turned into an excellent condiment for the week. And they’re pretty, too. Recipe: Combine 1-1/2 cups hot water with 1 cup white vinegar, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a glass bow. Stir until sugar and salt dissolve, then add 1 thinly sliced red onion 2 serrano chilis halved lengthwise, and 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Stir, cover, and chill overnight. Use slotted spoon to transfer to plate. Keep chilled; can be made 1 week ahead of time....
Au gratin potatoes with spinach and gruyere

Au gratin potatoes with spinach and gruyere

  Behold, my au gratin potatoes and spinach with gruyere. It tastes even better than it looks, I promise. It was an improvisation; I had intended to serve Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains blend with steamed tilapia and artichokes for dinner, but LL texted on my way into the store asking for steak fries or hash browns instead. I wasn’t feeling it. But he loves potatoes au gratin. So instead, I bought a bag of Yukon gold potatoes, a bag of frozen spinach, and an 8-oz hunk of gruyere cheese. Back home, I buttered the vintage Blue Cornflower Corningware baking dish my mom gave me ages ago, so old it’s practically new again, and heated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. My Kitchen Aid’s slicer/grater attachment made short work of the prep . . . I can’t believe I spent all these years slicing and grating by hand. It was simple to assemble. I layered frozen spinach, sliced potato, shredded gruyere, frozen spinach, sliced potato, shredded gruyere, poured about 1/2 cup of milk around the edges, and finished with grated parmesan cheese, baked it covered for 30 minutes, uncovered it, and let it brown for 10 minutes more. There was enough spinach to really get the flavor and make the dish feel morel like a meal. It was rich, so our portions were small and there were leftovers. I used mini springform pans for the second meal of this au gratin, placing a slice of ham steak on the bottom, the au gratin above, and finished by cracking two eggs on top. I baked this in a 350 degree oven for 15...
Friday night pizza night

Friday night pizza night

I’ve gotten into the habit of saving pizza nights for guests, because once I cure the pizza oven, make the dough, make the sauce, mince the vegetables, and precook whatever chicken or sausage I may feel like, it just seems like a lot of work when there aren’t many people to enjoy it. But that’s just wrong. Why wait for guests or holidays to make a meal an occasion? I had the time and a hankering for pizza so went to the trouble for just LL and Kid Two and I on Friday night. Turns out it was not any more trouble than anything else I do. Kid Two practiced making the same face as the dog: Then we cooked our pizzas and watched Touch of Evil (Kid Two enjoys classic film noir) and I sat there thinking, as I often do, it just doesn’t get any better than this. The pizzas don’t get any better than this, either. LL’s favorite is salami, black olive, and mushrooms with tangy tomato sauce: I like prosciutto, fontina, and thinly sliced tomatos with arugula, but I don’t see the arugula here on this one! Look at this great thin crust, though:   I been thinking about the bacon and jalapeño pizza I used to love from Imo’s; it was my go-to pizza in high school. I made this one for Kid Two in honor of his starting high school. It has a base of homemade provel cheese sprinkled with sriracha, thinly sliced garden tomatoes in lieu of sauce, a sprinkling of crispy bacon, cooked fast, then topped with garden greens. It may be my new favorite. Here’s...