Pear and Prosciutto Pizza

 

This project is scheduled to last exactly one year, 366 days. During that time, every annual event will occur. This forum gives me the opportunity to mark some of these events and historic occasions.

Today is especially significant to me. 4 years ago today, on a blustery afternoon in New York City, with an $8 bouquet of purple tulips from the local deli in hand, my best friend and I got in a taxi and went to city hall. The ceremony took nearly 45 seconds and we were married. My friend Daryl said it best: “See what can happen in a New York minute?”

I have often avoided clichés. But, I married the love of my life, my soulmate and my partner. We were meant to be together. The decision to wed was easy but our journey has been anything but easy. We are both stedfast in our decision that being together as a loving family far outweighs any challenge that might come our way.

Long before she said: “I love you” she said: “I love this pizza”. This is the one. I hope it brings you as much joy and happiness as it has me.

 

Ingredients

  • 1 Pizza Skin
  • 1/2 Hunk of Camembert {or other stinky cheese)
  • 1 Ripe Pear, thinly sliced
  • 4-5 Thin Slices of Really good Prosciutto
  • Fresh Arugula
  • Olive Oil
  • Corn Meal
  • Pepper

Tools

  • Pizza Peel or Pan
  • Pizza Cutter or Chef’s Knife
  • Pizza Stone (optional and not needed if using a pan)
  1. If you have a pizza stone, which I highly recommend, place it on the middle rack of the oven and preheat to 450.
  2. Lightly dust the pizza peel (one of those big wooden spatulas) with corn meal. These act like ball bearings under the pizza to be able to slide it successfully onto the stone.
  3. Lay the skin (crust) out on the peel. I will include a basic pizza crust next month and have also promised a gluten free one (wish me luck) too. In the mean time, look one up. There are two in “Table For One“.
  4. Evenly disperse the cheese. It will melt and spread out.
  5. Add a single layer of pears.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the crust is a golden brown.
  7. Remove from oven with the peel.
  8. Add the prosciutto in a single layer.
  9. Top with arugula and a light drizzle of olive oil and pepper.
  10. Wait a few minutes then slice.

Fennel and Blood Orange Salad

There are several food safety issues in the news today. In the Los Angeles Times, there is an article on washed, bagged lettuces. There seem to be two camps, one that washes again and one that serves straight from the bag. The main ingredient used in the attempts to curtail the pathogens that can make you sick is chlorine. Given the nutritional benefits of green, leafy vegetables, I think that its worth the risk of suffering the potential long term effects of small doses of chlorine. We probably all swallow more in our swimming experiences. If you are really paranoid then grow your own. Lettuces are actually really easy to grow and, even in a limited space, you can grow and feed your family for months of the year. In California, you can grow lettuces all year.

Marion Nestle’s blog today was about GMO labeling.(http://www.foodpolitics.com/) If you are not familiar with Marion you need to be. Go there and bookmark the site. She is one of the brightest and most insightful people in the food movement. She has written more and studied more about food and food politics than any other human and is fair and reasonable.

Another article in The Los Angeles Times today was about the Food Stamp program and how states are starting to try to regulate the types of food that can be purchased. Already one cannot buy alcohol, tobacco or “hot food”. Both of these topics bring to light the same quandary. Do you want  government involved in food? I welcome protection from mad cow disease, e.coli, botulism and a whole other host of risks associated with malfeasance on the part of greedy, or at least sloppy, suppliers of our food. I want my tax dollars used to keep tabs on and make laws about the safety of the food I feed my children.

Unfortunately, we have another disease that has been creeping into our food supply that is going largely unnoticed by most of us. Some call it “Big Food”. I think that the food stamp program is a great opportunity to teach the 46 million people who receive that assistance the difference between food that is good for you and your children (like fresh fruit and veg) and foods that are not (Soft Drinks, anything by Frito Lay). It seems like a very simple approach to reversing our obesity epidemic. No brainer, really. Except that the makers of soda, chips and other junk food see it as a “freedom of choice” issue and have successfully lobbied against this sort legislation in every case.

And the GMO labeling has suffered the same plight. The companies that are genetically modifying your food without you knowing it are also modifying your congress without you knowing it. GMO is not even legal in the rest of the industrialized world.

So what do you do? It really bugs me when people complain about something without offering an alternative. Obviously, you can make all the normal “food movement” choices: organic, local, seasonal, plant your own. But that doesn’t address all of the issues. If you do care about all of this stuff then write your congressman or woman. Here is a great website to get you started: http://whoismyrepresentative.com/

 

Non Genetically Modified Fennel and In Season Blood Orange Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 Fennel Bulbs, thinly sliced
  • 4 Blood Oranges
  • Really Good Olive Oil
  • Parmesan or Manchego Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Peeler
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Salad Bowl
  1. Cut the stem and root ends off of the fennel and remove the outer most layer. Thinly slice (use a mandolin if you have one) lengthwise. The fennel is not stringy cut this way; the pieces should resemble a tulip.
  2. Peel and either tear or slice the oranges.
  3. Toss together with some really good olive oil.
  4. Salt and pepper. Not too much salt as the cheese will be slightly salty.
  5. Shave (with the same peeler, wash it first) the cheese over individual servings.

Roasted Beets

Mark Bittman in today’s New York Times writes about root vegetables. As a kid, I had no idea what those were. We had a root cellar but never did it have any roots. I didn’t understand why roots would grow in the cellar and why it was so important to have a room in the basement dedicated to such a thing. Later, I realized how important roots were, and they were, in fact, planted in that basement.

Regardless of my poor attempt at double entendre, much of our food knowledge takes root (there I go again) when we are children. We develop our comfort food addictions then, we learn about where, when and how plants grow and we begin to develop tastes and dislikes for certain foods that stay with us throughout our lives.

I will rant from time to time about schools and what we teach our kids. I suggest that you impart as much knowledge about food onto your children as you can. Teach them to cook and, instead of making them eat their vegetables, make them vegetables that they want to eat. My mother ruined brussels sprouts for me. It took me 30 years to get over that. On the other hand, I hated milk and she never made me drink it. It turned out that I was lactose intolerant.

One vegetable that my mother liked and I liked too was beets. Bittman writes: “…beets a pain to clean.” This recipe addresses that little issue in a (thank my Kansas wife) clever way.

Ingredients

  • 5-6 Red or Golden  Whole Beets
  • Goat Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sugar

Tools

  • Ovenproof Roasting Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Paper Towels
  • Aluminum Foil
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Cut the top and bottom off of the beets.
  3. Place them in pan with about 1/2 – 3/4 cup of water.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil.
  5. Roast for 45 minutes.
  6. Remove the skins by rubbing with a paper towel. The skins should just slide off.
  7. Slice and drizzle with olive oil, a sprinkle of sugar (optional), a spritz of balsamic and a crumble of goat cheese.
  8. Salt and Pepper to taste.

The portions of all of the toppings are completely dependent on the sweetness of the beets, the sweetness of the balsamic and your taste for goat cheese. I would always leave the sugar out and my wife never would. You all fight it out amongst yourselves.

Stolen Soup

The French Laundry was my favorite restaurant in the world. It was opened by Sally and Don Schmidt in the 1980’s when Napa Valley was just becoming a tourist destination, but more importantly, was attracting a more sophisticated wine grower and all that goes with it. There were very few really good restaurants in the area and the concept of California Cuisine was just taking hold.

The restaurant was situated in an old brick building in Yountville, the sight of a french laundry. Sally and Don, along with their children renovated and opened this wonderful, casual restaurant. They immediately became popular among the new foodies in the area. They were only open 4 nights a week, served one main course, a choice of 3 or 4 appetizers and 3 or 4 desserts. There were a few surprises along the way. They were very attentive to their guests, starting with describing the ingredients in the dinner when they confirmed your reservation, just in case you might be allergic.

Imagine going to the most fun dinner party that you could imagine. That is what dinner at The French Laundry was like. The evening would start with Don seating you and taking your wine order from a very well considered but totally unpretentious cellar. Once you were comfortable – wine in hand – you were free to wander the outside patio and balcony or meander into the kitchen to see how Sally was coming. Since the restaurant only had one seating and only one main course Sally was busy, but not ever to the point that she didn’t have time to discuss what just came out of the ground or the plans for the organic apple orchard in the Anderson Valley. They eventually moved to that farm and built Sally a wonderful kitchen where she held weekend cooking classes. I am sad to say that Don and Sally have now retired. Many great home and professional chef’s owe her a great deal of gratitude. She was not famous, but she was a pioneer.

I had the privilege of dining at the French Laundry the week it closed. Some of you may be saying “Hey wait, The French Laundry is the most famous restaurant in the world. What are you talking about?” Sally and Don hand picked a famous chef to buy the restaurant but it will never be the same.

This is a recipe that I stole from that last meal. I didn’t actually get the recipe (I have several from Sally that are wonderful) I just imagined it later and came up with this:

 

Ingredients

  • 32oz Chicken Broth (low sodium)
  • 6 Tomatillos, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Large Sorrel Leaves, chiffonade
  • 2 Roma Tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 Oranges, peeled and chopped
  • 2 Springs of Thyme, stemmed and finely chopped
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Large Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  1. Heat the broth with the sliced tomatillos.
  2. Add half of the thyme and half of the sorrel.
  3. Lightly salt and pepper and simmer for about 1 hour.
  4. Add the tomatoes and oranges with the rest of the herbs.
  5. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
  6. Adjust salt and pepper.

This is simple, really light and flavorful and you won’t believe how impressed your guests will be even though it seemed like you did nothing. It’s the Sally Schmidt way.

Push Up

I have been working on a project involving the “Local” food movement. Its in a very early stage and what still needs to be determined is what exactly is “local”? We need to draw some parameters  and some perimeters before we can go any farther. Maybe you have some thoughts on what is local. Please share them.

I think the first question is why? Why do we want our food to be local. I think that we are all concerned about nutrition. The fresher the fruit and vegetable the more nutrition. That one is easy. But what about other products? What about bread? And do you be concerned about the basic ingredients that go into it like flour, salt, yeast? If you were going to eat totally local would you completely eliminate any product or part of a product that came from far away?

After nutrition, the most important reason to buy locally would probably be the cost and carbon footprint of getting the product from the grower/producer/manufacturer to your local market. This starts to get complicated. What about markets that have central warehouses? What about the ingredients that are shipped to the producer first?

I would never suggest that anyone could actually completely eat locally, but here are some of the ideas that I came up with if one wanted to try this for a given period of time, say a month:

  1. PRODUCE, has to be local. If it is not grown within a certain radius (this will differ depending on where you live but should be the closest possible farmland). You can’t live without produce so you just need to keep it as local as possible and also SEASONAL. The reason that some produce in the grocery is from other parts of the world is because it is in season there right now. Any produce that is not indigenous should also be red lined. Skip the Mangos.
  2. MEAT, I think the same should apply with meat. It’s much easier to leave out, so if you don’t have cows within a short drive, do without.
  3. FISH, Same with fish. If you are in the mid-west then it’s trout and other stream and lake fish. I live near the ocean but SEASONAL still plays a role.
  4. BAKED GOODS, This one is tricky. If the grain comes locally and is ground locally (within the same established radius) then you are good. There is no local flour company in Los Angeles any longer. There are a few bakers that grind there own. There are also affordable mills available. When in doubt, leave it out. You really don’t need the extra calories.
  5. PROCESSED FOODS, Forget it. They are from other planets and you do not need them. Totally red line anything in a bag, box, can or jar.
  6. WINE, I thought long and hard about this one. I think that this all depends on the amount you drink. There should be a formula something like 2 cases to a tank of gas per month. For instance, I can drive to the local wine country and back on a tank of gas and buy two cases of wine. That should last me a month. If I wanted to buy a bottle of french wine, the formula would probably work out to be more like 1 bottle a month. The good news is that wine is made in 49 of the 50 states. I think that this could apply to all other drinks as well.
  7. STAPLES, If you bake bread yourself (from the grain that you mill),  you are still going to need yeast and salt. You will need some sort of fat (Olive oil, butter). I think one could apply a general rule to be aware of the source and buy accordingly. After all, this whole experiment is about raising awareness.

Now for the recipe. I wanted this to really pay off. My hair brained ideas sometimes take patience. Given that it’s Friday, and you just read the ramblings of a mad man, I think it’s time for a drink.

This is a concoction that follows the rules above, is in season and really amazing. It reminded me of a “Push Up” or known to some of you as a 50/50 bar; the vanilla ice cream, orange sherbet concoction from our youth.

Makes 2 Drinks

Ingredients

  • 2 Shots Tito’s Handmade Vodka (From Austin, Texas)
  • 2 Shots Triple Sec (Buy it once a year)
  • 2 Tangerines
  • 1 Meyer Lemon

Tools

  • 2 Martini Glasses
  • 1 Shot Glass
  • 1 Drink Shaker
  • Hand Juicer/Strainer
  1. Wet the martini glasses and put them in the freezer. They only need to be in there as long as it takes to make the drinks. 20 minutes is perfect but not necessary if you are thirsty.
  2. Over a handful of ice in the shaker add vodka and triple sec.
  3. Squeeze the juice from the tangerines and lemon.
  4. Shake.
  5. Pour into martini glasses. Optionally garnish with a slice of tangerine.

Sack Lunch

Mrs. Obama announced new nutrition standards for school lunches yesterday. This is a major step forward in feeding our kids. But, it is really just the beginning of a new era in feeding and teaching our kids about health and nutrition. Regardless of your attitude about big government, they are feeding our kids. After all, the free and reduced lunch programs at schools across this nation are huge. In fact, It is the key indicator of the economic makeup of the families attending those schools. Impoverished schools have a free or reduced lunch program of at least 35% of their students. This is the threshold for a school to be considered “Title One” and be eligible for federal funding under that program. So, as you can see, there is a direct correlation between federal dollars spent and the feeding of our children.

The schools are starting to wake up to their responsibilities. But we also have a duty as parents to teach our children about food and make sure that they get the proper amounts of nutrients necessary for a growing body, while discouraging massive intake of “empty calories” that can lead to a myriad of health problems. While there are major strides occurring at the national level and in some school systems like the NYC school system, more often than not the school lunch still sucks. Even if the nutritional values change, the system of delivery has been centralized in most larger school systems making it impossible to have fresh, delicious and appetizing food prepared by the local kitchen staff. That is the change that we need to insist occurs.

If you have a school age child go see for yourself: go see if you would eat the lunch that is being served to your kid, and then volunteer. The easiest way to make a change is to do it yourself. Insist that the “lunch ladies” actually cook the food, not microwave and plop. Organize other parents to also insist. Make noise. This is really important. If a kid is not properly nourished, he or she cannot learn. It’s as simple as that.

In the meantime, pack them a lunch. Here is one that works for anyone in the family. All of the kids will eat this, hubby going off to work and wife going off to jury duty can all be completely satisfied with what’s in their lunch.

 

Ingredients

  • Natural Peanut Butter (no sugar added)
  • Whole Grain Bread
  • Carrots
  • Apple
  • Celery
  • Lemon
  • Reusable, bottle with filter for water

Tools

  • Chef’s Knife
  • Butter Knife
  • Brown Paper Bag (or Ralph’s plastic bag, while they last)
  • Plastic Sandwich Bags

 

  1. Make a peanut butter sandwich. The combination of peanut butter and whole grain bread combine to make a whole protein with at least 8 of the amino acids needed.
  2. Slice an apple and squeeze some lemon on it. This prevents it from browning. I use meyers when I have them and the kids always say: “How did you make that apple taste so good?”
  3. Bag some of the baby carrots. They are slightly more than large carrots, but if you are doing this every day it is a worthwhile time saver.
  4. Cut a couple of stalks of celery into the same size pieces.
  5. Fill one of the filtered bottles with water. Kids tend to not drink water unless they are reminded. If they finish this at school, they can refill it safely at the fountain. Humans need to drink about 2 quarts of water a day. Every system in the body depends on water.

It may seem trivial to write a recipe for a sack lunch but with 5 kids I have learned what works and what doesn’t. One thing that you will notice is that all of the foods are easily eatable by hand. As much as I would like my kid to sit at a table, use proper cutlery and have a break in his or her busy day over a warm meal with friends, that is not the reality. What is real is that they need the nutrition throughout the day and we currently cannot count of someone else making sure this occurs.

Winter Grilled Vegetable Salad

One of my wife’s favorite meals (i.e. wants it on her birthday, etc) is the grilled vegetable salad. In the winter, this is a challenge. Not all of the vegetables that we like are in season and the rain (or snow) can keep even a well equipped grill maven indoors. The grill pan is the best invention ever. Yes, better than wheels, sliced bread, the internet…well maybe not the internet. I have a double and it is well worth whatever you have to pay to get one.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • Arugula
  • 2 Yellow Squash, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 Large Red Onion, Sliced
  • 2 Red/Orange/Yellow Peppers, sliced
  • 3 Large Portobello Mushrooms, large slices
  • 1 Fennel Bulb, sliced
  • Lemon
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Tools

  • Grill Pan
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Salad Bowl
  • Lemon Juicer (optional)
  1. Prep the vegetables. Salt, pepper and lightly drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Grill, starting with the hardest first (fennel, peppers, onions, squash then mushrooms).
  3. Grill until they are slightly soft, but not mush.
  4. Let cool.
  5. In large salad bowl add two large handfuls of Arugula.
  6. Cut all vegetables into bite sized chunks. I usually do this in large handfuls.
  7. Salt and Pepper.
  8. Drizzle with juice of 1/2 large lemon and olive oil to taste.
  9. Toss with your hands.

If you are not trying to lose weight in front of the entire internet,  you can also toss in a bit of blu cheese.