Monday, May 31, 2010

Grilled Pizza

The pizza blogging continues. The girl can't help it.

Perhaps, like myself, you never would have thought to put a pizza on your grill. I admit to initial skepticism myself. Despite several delicious campfire flatbreads, somehow I never made the connection. You can cook dough over a fire? Surely the ancients used a pizza stone.

In any case, thanks to a quickly googled pretty awesome pizza blogand a boyfriend who watches Top Chef (go Tony!), I recently found myself eating probably the best pizza I've ever made. Here's the basic how-to:

1) Make your favorite pizza dough. For this particular attempt, I used sourdough starter and let it rise with the addition of some vaguely Italian dried herbs. I'm not usually a dried herb user, but letting them "marinate" in the dough for a while brought more flavor out that you might think.

2) Figure out what's going on your pizza, and prepare it. (This is a highly sensitive recipe which requires you follow it to the letter.) We used garlic, chopped as finely as I could, raw tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and zucchini.

3) When the coals were almost-but-not-quite-ready, we tossed the zucchini slices on, brushing them with some olive oil to keep them from sticking/drying out. Once these were done, both the grill and the top of the pizza were brushed with out as well.

4) Then your pizza dough goes on the grill! I had mine already stretched out on a floured board and kind of flipped it off. Good or bad, it had dried out a bit and didn't flop around and get stuck to itself. After only a few minutes, I had a lovely, bubbly crust ready to flip. I didn't take a picture at this point, but it turned pretty nicely. I didn't bother oiling the other side, but it wasn't a problem. Raw garlic went on, then cheese, tomatoes and zucchini, plus a scattering of fresh oregano leaves. By the time the cheese had melted, the garlic had cooked itself and both sides of my crust were deliciously finished.

WHAT? That's awesome. And it tasted awesome. There was a lovely play between the crunch of the outer layer and the someone doughier insides. The only failing was that I made my dough a bit too large for the heat area of the coals and it cooked slightly unevenly; I would have liked to blacken the edges a bit, but I probably would have had to really burn the center to do so. But who's complaining? Time spent outside with a grill and a glass of whiskey and ginger is time well spent, especially if it results in snacks.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Greetings Multitude of Blog Readers!

Wood Street Blog is trying to be more user (and author) friendly these days! I know we don't have much of a following yet, but let us know what's missing! Do you want more pictures of your lovely blog ladies? Less food and more crafty? Do you want to be able to search our fabulous blog? Well, good, because I beat you to the punch on that last one. We now have a lovely google-powered search widget and tag cloud, so it'll be easier to find what you're looking for! Also, we now have new and improved slightly less ugly colors. You know you love it.

Keep reading! And leave us a note once in a while so we know you're out there!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making pizza, the New York Times way.

I am, I have to say, a pretty accomplished maker of pizzas. I make my own sauce (using my home-grown herbs, of course). I make my own cipolline in agrodolce, thanks to the fabulous Cooking the Roman Way by David Downie. I roast bell peppers, slice potatoes paper-thin, and generally kick ass in the toppings department. I've even been known to make my own cheese. So it goes without saying that I make my own crust. But I'm woman enough to admit that I don't do it especially well. I've never been satisfied with the texture of the crust, always too much like bread. When I try stretching it out a bit more, thinking maybe a thinner crust will be less dense, it turns out almost like a flatbread pizza, uniformly crunchy. What, oh, what am I doing wrong?

According to Oliver Strand's article in the New York Times, I'm not letting my dough rise enough!
"...most recipes for the home cook specify a three-hour rise at room temperature. That might be enough to let activated yeast produce carbon dioxide that inflates the dough. But the prolonged fermentation of an overnight rise not only develops the dough’s structure, it also enables starches to transform into flavorful sugars. The dough becomes complex and nuanced. It’s a crust you want to eat.

It’s also a crust you want to admire. While a three-hour rise yields a crust that has the pasty pallor of raw flour, the caramelized sugars from an overnight rise give the cornicione, or edge, a color that goes from golden brown to the deep bronze of a ’70s tan."

Are you drooling yet? I am. Don't even get me started on the photos of the radicchio pizza. I can't wait to try this out for myself. It's the perfect project for someone who's recently come into possession of a sourdough starter!

One final plug: If you don't already own Cooking the Roman Way, do yourself a favor and GET IT RIGHT NOW! Seriously.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Kombucha Experiment

Aah, Kombucha, you are a many-splendored thing. Almost as splendored, in fact, as you are disgusting. But in a way that I've really come to love.

After hearing that a person could start their own home batch of Kombucha from a bottle of GT's, I decided to give it a shot and start saving the $3.39 a bottle that I've been paying at Whole (Paycheck) Foods. But wait! What's Kombucha, you ask? It's a tasty beverage! More specifically, kombucha is a tasty fermented beverage made of sweetened tea, coaxed to fizzy, pro-biotic completion not by a mushroom, as is sometimes claimed, but by a bacterial "mother". This mother is often referred to as a SCOBY, which is an acronym for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. I've decided to name mine Mr. Scobalina, Mr. Bob Scobalina.

But Mr. Scobalina is really one of the end products of making kombucha, not the beginning. Though it is possible to buy a starter SCOBY, I found the idea of "stealing" one somehow more appealing. So, going off a great many pieces of googled advice, I purchased a bottle of GT's "original" kombucha. One bottle went into a large glass brewing jar, which also held 6 cups of room-temperature water that had been boiled with organic tea and sugar. (There's a recipe for all this at the bottom, by the way. No need to keep track!) This jar was covered with a scrap of linen and sat, more or less undisturbed, for two or three weeks until the SCOBY was about 1/4" thick.

What does that mean, when the SCOBY is 1/4" thick? Your bacterial culture will grow to the size of whatever container you are using to brew in. After about a week of thinking nothing was happening and that maybe I had done something wrong, a few of the little bits of bacteria that had been floating about in my original bottle started to stick together, and after a few weeks more I had a nice round disk (only moderately disgusting) of bacteria and yeast. At this point, I washed my hands (you don't want anything to contaminate your little ecosystem, or you may have to start all over again) and removed the Mr. Scobalina, rinsed out the jar, and brewed another batch of the same tea. This one took even longer, probably almost a month, but I wound up with a nice frizzante batch of kombucha. Not too sweet, either.

The biggest question (and fear) for me during this first batch was when to drink it. When is it done? When is it over-brewed? Can I drink it yet? I think the real answer to all of these is simply, "What do you think?" Of course, you want to be sure that you've let things propogate for long enough to recieve some of the benefits of finished kombucha. (These benefits, incidentally, can range from curing sweets cravings, weight loss, energy gain, detoxification, even curing cancer depending on who you ask.) I got in the habit of taking little sips every week or so, and as soon as it stopped tasting like sugar and started having little air bubbles form underneath the SCOBY I decided it was done and poured it into some old Grolsch bottles, purchased and dutifully emptied for the sake of science. I also made a quick flavor addition of boiling about 2 inches of grated ginger in maybe 3 cups of water, along with a handful of sugar. This I dispersed into the 5 bottles of kombucha for a bit of extra flavor, and also because I'm hoping the addition of that last bit of sugar before bottling might up the fizziness a bit. But mostly I did it beacause ginger Kombucha is damn good.

Basic Tea Recipe:

6 cups water (I've used tap with success, but chemical-free is always best)
1 cup sugar
2-3 T. loose organic black tea
1 bottle GT's original Kombucha or 1 SCOBY + 1 or 2 cups Kombucha from your last batch.

Boil the water with the sugar to dissolve, let tea steep for at least 5 minutes until you're satisfied with it's strength. LET COOL TO ROOM TEMPERATURE! You don't want to kill your new bacteria friends. Add Kombucha starter or your existing SCOBY + a bit of the reserved tea from your last batch. Leave, covered with breathable fabric, in a warm and relatively dark place. Your tea is done when it tastes how you want it to, but also when your 'mother' starts to form 'babies'. Bottle your tea, and feel free to distribute any of the 'babies' to your friends, or just go hog wild and make as many batches as you want at once.