Peter's Blog, Feb. 7th, 2012
Peter Reinhart

A couple of weeks ago I presented a demo on gluten-free baking at the annual Professional Association of International Innkeepers Conference (PAII for short). This year the conference was held in Little Rock, Arkansas and I had a wonderful time hanging out with people who really get the spirit of hospitality. Let's face it, to own a bed & breakfast inn or small lodge, as the attendees do, you don't do it to get rich, which everyone knows is not going to happen, but for the intrinsic rewards of serving others and facilitating their guests' relaxation, regeneration, and vacation plans. It's really hard work, often thankless, but sometimes a gracious guest gives back to the inn keeper the one thing that makes it worthwhile: sincere gratitude. I've been appearing at these conferences over the years and often see the same people as well as newer members who come to the conference to share knowledge, learn how to control costs and improve marketing, and to find new products to give their inns that little extra something that allows it to separate itself from the pack and elicit return visits from the guests. Sounds a lot like the pizzeria operators we've been featuring here on Pizza Quest, and I thought about this similarity often during the two days I was at the conference.

The last time I appeared at the PAII conference it was being held in Atlanta during the same week that Veraasano's Pizzeria opened, but before Pizza Quest had officially been born. I called Jeff Varasano to tell him I was in town and he was generous enough to invite me to his Friends, Family, and Press Opening event. The pizza was wonderful and I sensed the buzz of excitement and anticipation that everyone on Jeff's staff held (for those who don't know about Jeff Varasano, he had one of the most famous, viral pizza blog postings ever, a number of years ago, claiming that he could make a better pizza at home than most pizzerias. He gave out his dough recipe and techniques, and was visited by hundreds of thousands of hits.  A few years later he actually opened Varasano's Pizzeria and the game was on! For all of the back story and some great pizza photos check out his website at www.varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm or do a Google search of the videos and all the press he has  generated). My point is that there is a parallel between the pizza passion that we've been tracking here, in people like Jeff, and the passion that drives innkeepers to work so hard to extend themselves beyond exhaustion just to bring joy to others. We talk about the "fire in the belly" and that's what we keep questing for, an understanding of what that is and what drives it, and now we can add another metaphor to the growing list of artisans, which an innkeeper is in a unique way, that signifies this elusive quality.

One of the fun activities at the conference was an evening at The Clinton Center, which is the Presidential Library and archival museum of Bill Clinton. I didn't know what to expect, having never been to a Presidential Library before, so I was deeply impressed by what I saw. Lots of great video material, journals, re-creations of the Oval Office and other rooms in the White House, great art and also a collection of the many diplomatic gifts he received from famous visitors. There is also an ongoing cycle of installations dedicated to celebrating local or contemporary artists. The latest exhibit is a collection of pieces made exclusively of Lego Bricks (don't laugh -- these pieces were breathtaking, as you can see from some of the photos I took. I especially liked the one of President Clinton's head, with little Lego men climbing out of the top!).

Again, one of the things that made a big impression on me was the passion of the man, President Clinton, that drove him to participate in and create a number of historic moments and to affect the world. Whether you agree with his politics (or morals and questionable behaviors), there is no question, as you follow the archival narrative on display throughout the building, that he too had, and still has, a fire in his belly and a passion to change the world, to leave it better than he found it, and to wade in where angels fear to tread. Of course, there are many such men and women with this benevolent, philanthropic, and transformational vision for themselves, but it was exhausting and humbling to see what one man (and one woman, because it was clear that Hillary was a full partner in their work) could accomplish, regardless of the personal price.

This isn't a political website, it's a pizza site (and I saw a few photos on the Clinton walls where pizza played a role, though not as big a role as barbecue), so I'm not promoting anything except this: the common ground we all share -- those who read these postings and watch our videos as well as those who are featured in them -- is that we have an intuition that life and existence has a purpose and can, in rare moments, express itself in meaningful, satisfying, and fulfilling ways. These moments are elusive, we can't manufacture them at will, we can only willingly pursue them and then hope for a taste of grace that scratches the deep itch we yearn to quench. But even when we do scratch it becomes elusive again and, once more, we're back on the quest. One of the things that keep us going in our quests is when we meet others who are on theirs and who show us (and not just tell us) that it really is worth it. This, my fellow questers, is what we celebrate.

 
Kelly's Arugula Pizza
Brad English

When we first began contemplating what Pizza Quest could be as a Travel/Food Series, one of our early goals was that the show would vicariously transport viewers around the world as we journeyed on our quest to find the secrets to that perfect pizza. I wanted people to feel what I had when I first read Peter's book, "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza".  As I read the opening chapters I felt as if I was connected to Peter as he described the places, the people, the smells, the tastes and some of the secrets of the master pizzaiolos he had found.  I knew right away that this had to be a show some day. I mean, who doesn't love pizza?  But, even more than the recipes and great pizza I hoped to make, I think it was about the experiences that Peter shared that made the biggest impression on me (don't get me wrong, the recipes are great and my pizzas are well on their way toward perfection, if that's even a possible end goal).

Over the years I had always loved my own "journeys" when I watched Anthony Bourdain exploring so many cultures and tasting such amazing food.  My favorite parts of those travels was when it seemed I forgot I was watching a show and would just get lost in the moment, as if I was with a good group of people all enjoying the shared passion of good food and good conversation.  Nobody can take you to this place like Anthony.  You really should "travel" with him if you can.  He's on TV every week - don't miss it!

 

I also remember the hours I've spent sitting there with Mario Batali as if I were the 4th guest on Molto Mario while he cooked another mouth watering meal he had learned while studying in Italy.  His passion for not only cooking, but for the story of cooking, or really the people and traditions behind the cooking, is what ultimately sparked my interest as a home cook.  I think that's why so many Food and Travel shows are so popular.  We all can't get everywhere we'd like, or travel with our favorite TV show hosts in the real world.  A well done food/travel show, book, blog, or even a recipe can transport us there instead, even if for only a little slice of that moment in time.  With food I think that experience can be heightened because we use so many of our senses in the process of cooking and, ultimately, tasting the food. 

I recently watched an episode of Bourdain's "No Reservations" with my son, Owen.  Anthony took us on a trip to Brittany, France where, by the time it was over, Owen was making plans to go to Brittany when we could somehow make the time.  The kid is a dreamer!  We'll probably have to settle for a shellfish tower here where we live, in Redondo Beach, which to someone else in the world may be as exciting as a trip to Brittany would be for us!  Or, on our quest for a better quality of life, maybe we'll bring a little Brittany here to our home and, by doing so, we'll not only taste a little of what Brittany is about, but also crack a few crabs, pull a few shrimp, and dip a few lobsters with a few of our friends. 

From the beginning, our website was intended to be a community, or gathering place where we could continue to share the experience, or quest with our viewers and hopefully, have them share back. 

I was thinking about all of this recently when I was planning to make a new round of pizzas. I thought about one of my favorite chefs. I've had the pleasure to eat his food and spend a bit of time with him over the past year thanks to Pizza Quest.  His name is Kelly Whitaker, of Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, CO.  I thought I might take a little quest-like trip and see if I couldn't bring a little of the Pizzeria Basta magic home for a night.  So, I took a look at Kelly's menu on the Basta website and decided to make a few pizzas of his, both to test my skills, and also to share of some of his great pizzas with my family. 

I'm going to make a few of them and write about them over the next few weeks.  The first one is the pizza Kelly simply calls "Arugula" on his menu. 

Kelly's Arugula Pizza


- Pizza Quest Signature Pizza Dough *See archives for recipe
- Peter's Herb Oil *See archives for recipe
- Smoked Gouda *Kelly calls for Smoked Mozzarella
- Grape Tomatoes
- Prosciutto
- Wild Arugula 

Instructions:

*Note:  My ingredients vary here a little from Kelly's original recipes because of what I could find in the store, or I had on hand to use.  Again, I want to stop and point out how truly fun this aspect of cooking is. Using a substitute ingredient will not only make the recipe a little more of your own, but will also open up the opportunities of discovering other taste connections and aha's.

Make sure to pre-heat your oven to 550 degrees, or higher if it can go.  Later, before baking, I put my oven onto Convection Bake, which automatically lowers it to 525 degrees. This seems to cook my pizzas faster by moving the hot air around the oven.

Spread the pizza dough out on your floured peel.

Drizzle a little of Peter's Herb Oil on the dough.  I added this, because I nearly always use this on any pizza that doesn't have a tomato sauce. 

Add the grated Smoked Gouda, or Smoked Mozzarella

Add the halved grape tomatoes, cut side down.

Tear some prosciutto into pieces and place them around the dough.

Into the oven it goes.  When it comes out nobody knows (your oven will decide that)!  But, through repetition, I know that mine comes out in 8 minutes. 

Add a little fresh Arugula to the top, to taste, to finish it.


Cut and Serve.

This was a sweet, smokey, herby, "prosciuttoey" pizza. The tomatoes steam and soften and kick in a sweetness that literally pops in your mouth with flavor.  This was juicy and moist and warm and just plain old awesome!

That's my version, so who has another variation?  Let us know and thanks to Kelly for the original!

 

 

 

 
Peter's Blog, 1/31/2012 -- Emeril's e2
Peter Reinhart

I had lots of things to blog about this week but something happened a few days ago in Charlotte that knocked all the other news into next week. Emeril Lagasse opened a new restaurant right here in Charlotte, called e2. This city, which is hosting the Democratic National Convention in September and has, for the past fifteen years been carrying out a dynamic strategic plan to turn Charlotte into America's next great city, has been yearning for a celebrity or major superstar chef to open a restaurant here. We thought it might happen a few years ago, and a few big names did scout us out and some even made brief, but really uninvolved forays into the local scene. We already have a number of terrific home town chefs doing some excellent work but the public rarely appreciates what they have till they're gone (or so says Jonie Mitchell). But now, at last, validation and opportunity converged as e2 opened last week and, due to the generosity of Emeril and his team, especially Jeff Hinson, I got invited to dinner and a chance to try many of the menu items (the name, by the way, refers to a number of personal associations for Emeril, including the twenty-plus years since he opened his first restaurant, with this new one representing a next generation and manifestation of that original "essence and energy").  I'll address some of the dishes a little later but, first, a few more comments on the significance of this opening and how it relates to Pizza Quest.

As our regular followers know, Pizza Quest isn't just about pizza -- pizza is our guiding metaphor in a journey that celebrates artisans and artisanship of all types. We are really searching in this quest for excellence and, bottom line, we are searching for people who have a fire in their bellies to create that excellence no matter how hard it may be to do so. Pizza is a living symbol and signifier in that regard because it means so many things to so many people and, at the symbolic level, means a lot more than just tomatoes, cheese, and crust. The ancient Greeks had a word for what their philosophers thought was the purpose of life: eudaimonia. It is untranslatable into English in its totality but the closest anyone has come to a translation is "to flourish, or to thrive."  I thought a lot about this word and concept and the deeper purpose of Pizza Quest as I enjoyed my dinner at e2.

 

 

 

 

Cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Charleston, Dallas, and many others already have so-called superstar chefs in abundance and folks from there may think this excitement is a bit naive, but I remember a time when many of those cited above didn't have great restaurant reputations. But, eventually they drew a number of local and national chefs who helped them establish a cultural food identity and now they all have flourishing, thriving food scenes (see how I worked those eudaimonic words into this?). Charlotte, to date, does not have such a reputation but it aspires to. I remember when Yountville had one restaurant that was pretty good called The French Laundry, but it wasn't owned by Thomas Keller and it was basically a one restaurant town. Then Chef Keller took over and changed everything and now, as anyone who has gone to Yountville knows, this two block town now has more great restaurants per square foot than any place in America. It's only been a few years, less than twenty, so things can happen that fast. But it has to start with someone. Chris Bianco did the same for pizza in Phoenix and we've seen other places where one breakthrough restaurant spawned a thriving, growing food savvy community. I grew up in Philadelphia and, despite our hoagies and cheese steaks, the food scene was pretty dull until Steven Starr and other bright restaurateurs, and some talented chefs like (Iron Chefs) Morimoto and Jose Garces, and even chefs who beat the Iron Chefs, like Marc Vetri, and a number of others, changed the game completely and turned Philly into a great food town. It can happen. And I think this is what Charlotte aspires to. Will it happen here? I think so. Will it take twenty years? Maybe, but maybe even faster. A lot depends on a spark and the best spark we've had is that Emeril has chosen to make a statement here and, if it strikes fire, I expect to see not only other well known chefs open here but also for great local chefs to emerge as they have in Charleston (which is probably the hottest restaurant city in America at the moment because of the emergence of three or four amazing, local chefs like Sean Brock and others). They don't need celebrity chefs in Charleston because their own chefs have redefined their cultural culinary identity. Larger cities, like New York (and Paris and London are even more perfect examples), are more like synthesis locales, giant salad bowls, that require both local and outside talent to converge until critical mass is attained. Charlotte will probably be more like those cities and it will take, in my estimation, about six to ten years for critical mass to occur (things happen faster in these digital times). Is e2 the greatest restaurant since Per Se? No, it doesn't aspire to be -- it's a fun restaurant that merges creative menu items (both familiar and inventive), reasonable prices, and the imprimatur of one of our most beloved culinary icons. This restaurant means more to Charlotte than it may even mean to Emeril, or it may be a harmonic convergence that leads to some sort of culinary big bang. Time will tell, but I'm betting on it and will continue to report on things here, not just because I live here, but because now Charlotte has joined the metaphorical lexicon, like pizza, of the quest that never seems to end.

In the photos you'll see some of my favorite moments from my night at e2: a wood oven roasted marrow bone with mushroom toast points served with tender slices of seared yellowfin (a little marrow spread on the toast, topped with the butter-tender fish created an explosively satisfying bite); a shrimp pizza with artichoke, fontina val d'aosta, white cheddar, and herb pesto (at first look I didn't think it would compete with some of the pizzas we've featured here from Mozza, Tony's, or Pizzeria Delfina but I was delighted by how much snap the dough had -- followed by a soft,creamy crumb, and a nicely charred underskirt ( took a photo of it but it didn't turn out -- sorry). And I have to say, the cheese combination coupled with the shrimp and artichoke slices was totally delightful; three slices of hamachi tuna crudo in tangerine oil with jalapeño slices and micro cilantro in a ponzu sauce -- these were just some of the starters and this high standard was maintained throughout the night. I'm not a restaurant critic and so will not pretend that this is a critical review, but just to give you an example of some of the other dishes we sampled: citrus tea lacquered "five-day" duck served with Anson Mills farro (Anson Mills is one of the places I hope to film for Pizza Quest one of these days -- a rock star brand in the artisan grain world); a tile fish special of the night (caught off the Outer Banks of North Carolina); Dry Aged Creekstone Farms Natural Angus Strip Steak, and Emeril's unique take on shrimp and grits. And, of course, there's Emeril himself (yes, that's me with him, just after the dinner rush ended), having directed and expedited his team through the entire service. The whole menu, which changes frequently, can be found at: http://e2emerils.com/ 

Like I said, this isn't a restaurant review website -- we just like to celebrate people and places that we like and, as a faculty member at Johnson & Wales I'm, of course, extremely proud of our most well known graduate, but I'm even more thankful that he's now in Charlotte for the initiation of what promises to be a new culinary era here. I'll keep you posted.

 
Margherita Pizza with Mozzarella di Bufala
Peter Reinhart

 

We've been wanting to share this webisode with you for quite a while, so here it is. Last year, when we were at the Fire Within Oven Owners Conference, we taped a number of demo's in the beautiful mobile ovens built by Joseph Pergolizzi and his team of masons and metal craftsmen. Among those in attendance was Andres Salazar, who was just on the verge of releasing his first batch of Buffalo Mozzarella in the USA. As you will learn, his herd of grass fed water buffalo live in Columbia, South America, and the Salazar family has perfected the art of making gorgeous, creamy cheese from the milk. I'll let Andreas do his own talking but I have to say, this was amazing cheese -- so sweet and velvety that, after the tape stopped rolling, I couldn't stop eating the cheese. It maybe hard to find, but it will be found under the label of Annabella Cheese and at www.annabellacheese.com/

You'll notice that after Joseph's Margherita pizza came out of the oven we garnished it with threads of fresh basil that have been sliced chiffonade-style. This is different than we saw Tony Gemignani and our other featured pizzaiolos do it, but I like this method for when you're having pizza parties and have to cut the pizzas into slices for everyone (as opposed to the more traditional method of one pie per person, folded and eaten). Consider it yet another option to add to your repertoire.

We love discovering artisans doing extraordinary work, and what a treat it was to meet Andreas and hear about the commitment he and his family have made to go "all in" with their water buffalo farm and cheese business. Enjoy it now, even if vicariously on the screen, as we make a pizza with this extraordinary cheese and let us know if you've been able to find it anywhere and, if you have, what you think.

 
A Morphed Pizza Dough
Teresa Greenway

Morphed Pizza Dough with Mushrooms, Blueberries and Spinach


Lately I have been thinking about morphing a sourdough crust dough with a commercially yeasted crust dough and combining the best qualities of both. Using a sourdough levain or starter in your pizza dough can make a significant flavor and texture difference. The sourdough starter adds acidity to the dough which affects strength and flavor. The commercial yeast helps the crust ferment more quickly so it is a lighter, less tough dough. Add the two together and you get a quick, airy, chewy crust with good flavor. Here is the recipe for the dough, it makes two large 15” pizzas:

 

Proof two teaspoons of commercial yeast in 2 oz of water for 15 minutes.
Add together in a large mixing bowl or dough mixing trough:
•    10 oz/283g sourdough starter @ 100% hydration
•    2 oz/56g evaporated milk
•    10 oz/283g warm water
•    The commercial yeast/water mixture
•    16 oz/453g bread flour

Mix these ingredients together and allow them to rest for 30 minutes. After resting add:
•    .6 oz/17g sea salt
•    1 oz/28g oil

Stir the salt/oil in well and then add an additional:
•    8 oz/226g bread flour

For the last 8 oz of flour, add most of it (6-7 oz) to the dough and then knead the dough for 10 – 15 minutes using the flour left over for kneading. After the dough feels smooth and soft and you can stretch a windowpane, pat or spray oil on the outside of your dough and then let the dough bulk ferment for two hours in a covered container. Divide the dough into two pieces once the bulk ferment is done. Then proceed as usual. I divided the dough and let the pieces set for 15 minutes and then stretched/rolled them out. I placed them on parchment paper and allowed them to proof for 45 minutes. Then spread your choice of sauce and toppings. I used white cheese, spinach, mushrooms and blueberries. Bake at 500F on a very hot baking stone for 7 – 12 minutes. Makes about 3 lbs of dough @ 65% hydration.

Teresa Greenway
http://www.northwestsourdough.com

 

*Note from Brad:  Thanks again Teresa for another great recipe!  I hope this inspires others to jump in and try these and even share more of their own with us all here!

 

 
Peter's Blog, Jan. 24th, 2012
Peter Reinhart

In the past week I received three gifts: the first was a new folding proof box for home bakers made by Brod & Taylor. I tried it out and love it for two reasons: during my baking classes for home cooks I get asked all the time how to proof bread without a professional proof box. I suggest things like using the dishwasher as a steam box, the microwave with a glass of boiling water, an upside down styrofoam box with a lightbulb hanging through the roof, and other improvisations. But this new device is a compact (yes it folds up for easy storage) mini-version of a real proof box (and you can even make yogurt and sour cream in it), with a hot plate, water pan, and, temperature controls. The second thing is that it's just a beautiful design, something you want to let people see. I just read the Steve Jobs biography and have a new appreciation of his genius for creating (with the help of his over-worked and over-chastised, under-recognized team of collaborators) beautiful tools. This is a similarly beautiful tool and, for serious home bread bakers, solves the proofing problem.  We all have a tendency to say, "Hey wouldn't it be nice if someone would make ...." and then we go on with life.  Well, these guys went out and made it and it sells for about $150. Check it out at:  http://brodandtaylor.com/

This must be "thank the people week." Here's the second of the three gifts I mentioned above,  a great e-mail from Raphael Vaccaro along with some photos he sent. I'm posting this not because we will post every restaurant person that writes to us (though I am willing to post some as Guest Columns if you send me a good story at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ), but because I love the fire and passion and sense of connectedness with which he tells his story (and I like the way his pizza looks too!). We say here that we want to celebrate artisans and artisanship wherever we find them so here's an example:

Good Afternoon Peter:

My name is Raphael Vaccaro.  I am second generation restaurateur in Akron Ohio.  I have been working in the industry all of my life.  About 2 years agoI had an epiphany that would change the way I cook and the whole concept of bread making.  You do not know it, but your books and explanation had a lot to do with it.  This together, with the passing of my father, the patriarch of the family business; I have felt great comfort in and peace knowing that a 58 year old family pizza business has been elevated to the next level.

Just a quick intro:

· My father started in 1957 -- a classic deck oven pizza business.  It's grown into 7 locations.

· He was the first in the area to install a Middleby Marshall conveyor convection oven.  All stores utilized them.  This was in the early 70’s.

· Transferring the pizza cooking process from deck oven to conveyor gave us the ability to do high consistent volume, but we also sacrificed a lot of texture.

· In the early 90’s my father went from several locations to one location, changing his venue from classic old school Italian. I felt the need to go upscale because we relocated into a very upscale high end neighborhood.

About 2 years ago my brother built a wood-fired pizza oven in his back yard.  He kept telling me how good the flavor of my parents old style pizza is in that oven.  It was my dream to go with the wood fired ovens.  The caveat to the oven is that most restaurateurs do not know how to use them.  They have no concept of intense temperature, how to work with dough, and the cold slow fermentation of yeast.   I see countless pictures on the web of wood fired pizza’s, artisan Napolitano style, true to Italian heritage, blah blah blah.  The pictures I'm sending, though, look OK in high resolution, but when you actually follow the procedure of retarding dough, the quality and flavorand overall result is beyond ordinary or what any picture can show.

My brother introduced me to the Bread Bakers Apprentice and Pain à l’Ancienne…I have since changed the whole pizza making procedures that my father started to the next generation of Vaccaro’s Pizza.
About a year ago I found an old Blodgett deck oven and refurbished it.  I opened up the gas valve to change the btu’s from 37k to about 65k btu.  I lined it with fire brick.  I added a 650 degree thermostat.

The story goes on and on and on.  Enclosed you will find the final product with Pain à l’Ancienne and 00 Caputo flour.  The crust is INCREDIBLE.   I also switched from using provolone or mozzarella like any other American style pizza and switched to 100% DOP Pecorino Romano.

I look forward to more correspondence as this pizza tradition develops into the next tradition of our family business.  My next version of dough will be whole wheat and also using spent grain from a local micro brewery.

Raphael

PS…I have also enclosed some pictures of a new prototype oven I am building to be mobile for my catering.  It is a combination of the Pompeii and Tuscan ovens.  This is lined with thermal blanket with fire brick.   I should reach 800 degrees with no problems and be able to roast meats for my dinner service.
Ciao

Raphael Vaccaro
Vaccaro's Trattoria



Finally, gift number three, here's a note from a home baker in the UK, Ilian, who also happens to be a professional food photographer, as you will see from these amazing shots. If you like them, check out his website for more. Enjoy!   www.ilian.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Peter,

Just want to say I have your Whole Grain Breads book and I made Four Seed Crackers. Thanks for the recipe, the crackers are amazing. Attach are some of my images.

Best Regards

ilian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay folks -- you did all the work this week and thanks to Ilian, Raphael, and Michael Taylor of Broad and Taylor.  And to everyone else,  do feel free to share your stories with us -- we'll publish the ones that carry the same spirit as these.




 
A Crab Dip Pizza
Brad English

How can I use crab on a pizza?  I had crab - if not just out of the ocean fresh it was caught by my friends steamed and brought home to me.  In my mind that's far better than just caught fresh any day!  As I hope you've already read, I had decided to make one pizza with some of the fresh cracked crab placed on top of the warm pizza after it baked. I thought that would be a great way to use the crab as close to it's original form.  But, what else do I love with crab?  What other ways could I use the rest of my supply?  That's simple.  Crab Dip!  I love crab dip.

Crab Dip is already practically a pizza topping waiting to happen.  It's a warm cheesy topping that you spread on a cracker, or a slice of bread.  What does Peter always call pizza?  He says it's basically "dough with something on it."  That pretty much brings your typical crab dip served up on a slice of a nice baguette into the realm of Pizza.  Wouldn't you agree?  The simplified instructions would be:  Place crab dip onto pizza crust.  Cook.  Eat.

So, off I went to the internets, as I like to say. Let's see what kind of Crab Dip recipes we can catch there.  I browsed a few references for Crab Dip and Spicy Crab Dip until one jumped off the page from the Food Network.  It was Emeril's "Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip".  It looked Hot as in spicy and it had the word Jalapeños!  I didn't need to wander any more.  I was hooked (or, netted to play the pun) as I read the ingredient list and surprised to see he didn't call for just jalapeños, but pickled jalapeños!  Well, who do we know who has his own pickled jalapeños sitting in the fridge that were made by none other than MOM herself!  It was me. I had Mom's Pickled Jalapeños, which is what I wanted to use anyway.  Crab, Emeril and Pizza - how could that be a bad combination?  This was going to be fun.

You can go to Food Network, or simply google "Emeril's Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip" to get his original recipe.  I didn't create this, I just used it as the basis for my pizza.  I will post the recipe here as I modified it for my use.  For the original, please go directly to the master himself! 

A Cracked Crab Dip Pizza


- Peter's Classic Pizza Dough *See archives for recipe
- Peter's Herb Oil *See archives for recipe
- Emeril's Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip *I did a modified version.  Or, use your favorite crab dip.
- Monterey Jack and Mozzarella Cheese
- A little Cream Cheese
- A little grated Parmesan Cheese
- Arugula
- Limes for drizzling


Instructions:

My version of Emeril's "Hot Jalapeño Crab Dip"

I halved his recipe as a guide because I was making one pizza and had about 1/2 the crab called for in his original recipe!  The left overs were delicious as well the next few days!

- 1/2 pound Cracked crab, or packaged Lump Crab
- Chopped Garlic - about 1/2 teaspoon
- Grated Monterey Jack, Mozzarella and Cream Cheese
- Chopped Mom's Pickled Jalapeños
- 1/2 teaspoon of Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 teaspoon of Hot Sauce - I used Frank's Red Hot
- 1/4 cup of Mayonnaise

Combine the Crabmeat, Garlic, Mom's Jalapeños, Cheeses, Worcesterchire, Hot Sauce and Mayo in a mixing bowl.  I added the 3 cheeses by eye - wanting this cheesy, but not too cheesy.  For my version I added a little cream cheese to make it a little creamier. I did not add any salt at this point because I felt that my Mom's SOY Pickled Jalapeños had enough and I like to finish the warm pizza with a little anyway.

There is no need to pre-bake this.  Just mix it and set it aside.  Bake the rest of it after you are done making your pizzas for later.  Again, check out Emeril's original for the official version.

The Crab Dip Pizza

Pre-heat your oven to the highest temperature (about 550 degrees) for at least an hour prior to baking your pizzas to make sure your pizza stone comes up to temperature.

Spread your dough out on the pizza peel and cover lightly with some of Peter's versatile Herb Oil.

Add the Crab Dip onto the pizza.  Spread it out a bit.  It will cook down and flatten out as it bakes.  I sprinkled a little more cheese on top as well before baking.

That's it:  Dough then Dip.  Now it goes into the oven.  My oven was now on Convection Bake at 525.  This pizza went in at 12 after the hour and came out at 19.  That's 7 minutes.  Pretty fast for a home oven.  And, look at the bits of char I got.  This was a nice bake for a home oven. 

Right when it comes out of the oven hit it with some fresh squeezed lime and don't be shy about it.

Top with some wild arugula and a little grated parmesan cheese to finish.

Cut and Serve!

This was rich and spicy!  This is not a pizza you'll sit down and eat by yourself.  But, as an appetizer, or if you are sharing, it was really nice.  Imagine taking your favorite crab dip and spreading it over a warm hot slice of an amazing bread that you just pulled out of the oven. Ok, that's this pizza!  Delicious.

Try it out.  Let me know if you've ever done this, or if you do, what you did to make it your own.  Interestingly, I pulled a slice of this out of the fridge the next day and took a bite of it cold.  It was really good - cold.  It wasn't as rich and I ate a couple slices as my breakfast of champions meal of the day. 

Thanks Emeril and thanks to my friends the Wildermuth's for bringing me some of their Dungeness catch to both enjoy with them and take more home to explore some new pizza ideas!

 

 
Peter's Blog, Jan. 17, 2012
Peter Reinhart

Just received a call from a friend of mine from Syracuse who said she received her latest copy of Better Homes & Gardens and saw the pizza article about me. I think it hit the news stands today. I don't know when it will go digital but I just taped a narration voice-over for a short video on how to shape a pizza dough, which should show up on their web site at some point soon. I'll let you know when it goes live and we'll post a link to it here when it does. It's short and sweet (about a minute and a half long), but it was fun to sit in front of an iMovie console and tape a narrative over the video stream. It was the first time I've ever done that and I can see how easily it could become a habit. If any of you discover that the video is live before I do please let me know by writing to me here in the Comments section.

Also, I wanted to remind those of you who have been writing to ask about where and when I'll be teaching around the country in the near future, that I'm just starting to schedule a new tour for late summer and fall, 2012. The new book I've been working on is almost finished and when it is I'll have more opportunities to get back on the road, so as soon as I have the new dates I'll post them here. For those who live in Little Rock, however, I will be doing a demo next week at the Professional Association of Innkeepers International Conference at The Peabody Hotel. Of course, the demo is limited only to attendees at the conference, but if you want to meet up for a drink or a cup of coffee, drop me a line at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . I'll be arriving late Tuesday night and my demo is Wed. afternoon but I'll be free afterwards so who knows what kind of questing we can get into. Is there any killer pizza in Little Rock? Time to find out!!

One final note: our friend Paisley McCaffery's mom, Sheila, has a really fun blog in which she shares the menus and anecdotes from her A-list dinner parties over the past thirty or so years (maybe even longer -- she seems to have known just about everyone worth knowing). In her most recent post she fired up a few pizzas, recounted some memories, and gave Pizza Quest a shout out. So, check out her blog at: http://entertainingaddict.blogspot.com/ and let her know we sent you. All I can say is that I want to get invited to one of Sheila's parties. She doesn't go on quests, the quests come to her -- you go girl!!

More coming this week, so keep checking back. And may your pizzas all be perfect!!

Peter

 
Crab Season Pizza
Brad English

Somewhere around mid-November every year the Dungeness Crabs of the West Coast begin to make their journey from the sea to our plates.  This fact did not go under-utilized by our friends, the Wildermuth's, who had invited us to join them on their trip to Oregon for the Thanksgiving Holiday.  Due to family obligations we were unable to attend.  We wanted to; we always do.  We've had a standing invitation for years now.  Who wouldn't want to go visit Coos Bay, Oregon in the late fall where their family lived.  Kim and her Mom have been chronicled in these pages on Pizza Quest when I asked her mother to make up some of her pickled jalapeños on a visit to LA sometime last year.  I affectionately called them "Mom's Pickled Jalapeños". You can find the recipe in our archives.  I got word that her whole family got a kick out of Googling "Mom's Jalapeños" and seeing her recipe pop up in the number one spot! 

Anyway, I was minding my own business, helping my own in-laws around the house during the holiday break, when I started to get text messages from Oregon about how much crab they had just pulled onto the boat.  Torture! I imagined the feasts they would have.  More torture!  Then I started getting more texts about the feasts that they did have.  Enough!  I blocked it out of my mind and went back to my crab-less vacation.

After the holidays, I got a pleasant surprise when they asked us over to help them eat some of the crab that they brought home.  Done deal!  We sat and cracked crab and I was introduced to a terrific new dipping sauce -- a simple, spiced up version of Vietnamese Fish Sauce.  I devoured my crab using only that.  The salt/spice combination was terrific with the steamed and then cooled crab.

There were plenty more crabs left from their haul and they sent me home with some.  Kim's family had sent extra, perhaps knowing the torture I was put through over the holidays!  I wanted to eat the crab while it was still relatively fresh.  A light bulb went off in my head and I pulled a few frozen dough balls out of the freezer.  It was time that I get to making some more pizzas for the website anyway. Why not come up with a couple to celebrate our friend, Mr. Dungeness? 

For this first version I decided to try to make a simple pizza and finish it off with the cooled crab on top after it cooked.  This is a great way to enjoy a "special" ingredient in a not so common way -- on a pizza.  I wanted to build a pizza that supported and showcased the crab as it was, as close to how I had just eaten it: cracked, dipped, and devoured.  So, here's what I came up with.

The Crab Season Pizza


- Peter's Classic Pizza Dough *Recipe (in PQ the archives)
- Peter's Herb Oil *Recipe (likewise, in the archives)
- Shredded Mozzarella cheese
- Shredded Provolone cheese
- Preserved Lemon, or Lemon Curd
- Sliced Red Onion
- Grape Tomatoes
- Fresh Cracked Crab -- Steamed and Cooled -- or a quality canned Lump Crab Meat
- Chopped Kalamata olives
- Fresh Arugula
- Spiced Fish Sauce

 

Spiced Fish Sauce Recipe for drizzling:
- Vietnamese Fish Sauce (I have access to a lot of ethnic markets around here and this is readily available everywhere now, but especially at local Asian markets. Also, Kim generally monitors my Fish Sauce, Oyster Sauce and Chili Garlic Sauce pantry, as we all often get together and cook at each others houses.)

- Thai Chili peppers or whatever heat level peppers you can tolerate

- A fresh lemon or lime



Instructions:

Spiced Fish Sauce Recipe

To make this great drizzle sauce, simply take a little fish sauce and chop up some Thai Chili peppers, to taste, add them to the sauce and squeeze a little fresh lemon or lime.  You can make it on the same day you plan to use it but, if you can do this the day before, the sauce will take on even more of the flavors from the chili peppers.  Store it in the refrigerator.

The Pizza

Preheat your oven to the highest temperature, about 550 degrees, for at least an hour prior to cooking to make sure to get your pizza stone up to temperature.

Spread out and shape your dough, and cover it lightly with some herb oil.

Add a little grated Mozzarella and a touch less of the provolone, or other favorite cheese. 

*NOTE:  I used a limited amount of each ingredient in order to give the crab center stage.  If you make this a few times, you can adjust the amounts each time until you get it just right.  For this pizza I think a less is more approach is best.

Add a few dabs of the Lemon Curd around the dough - for flavor accents in the finished pizza.  *You could skip this and drizzle the pizza with a little fresh squeezed lemon juice instead, or do both.

Add the sliced red onions and halved grape tomatoes.  Place them open side down, which helps them sit there when you slide the pizza in the oven and allows the tomato to hold more moisture -- almost acting like a steaming chamber for itself.

Into the oven with your pizza. 
*Note: When I place my first pizza in the oven, I change it over to Convection Bake which adjusts the temperature down to 525 degrees, but the airflow seems to help cook the pizza much faster.  I am getting close to 6 - 7 minute pizzas regularly in my home oven.  Cooking times are not a science and are more often than not a moving target from one pizza to the next.

When the pizza comes out, add a few chopped Kalamata Olives and the cool crab.  If you have been reading my recipes, this seems to be a running theme of adding cool toppings after the bake.  Crab is the perfect ingredient to do that with.  It will slowly warm up as it sits on the pizza, so make sure you enjoy a bite while the temperature contrast is there.  I love that!

Drizzle a little of the Fish Sauce with Chillis onto the crab (ahhh, the "secret ingredient" to this incredible pie!).

Top with some fresh arugula

Cut and Serve! 

I think you will enjoy this pizza if you like crab.  As you bite into it you experience a flavor sandwich with the warm crust and cheesy herb oil on the bottom as the roof of your mouth explores it's way through the cool greens and fresh cracked crab while it all meets with the occasional burst of the sweet warm grape tomatoes!  There are also hits of the tart sweet lemon, an occasional salty briny Kalamatas, and the fish sauce with an accent.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I clearly did. 

Send me some of your favorite crab, or seafood pizza recipes and I'll give them a go and maybe feature them here.  And, as always, if you try this, let us know how you liked it and maybe what variations you came up with that you loved as an option.  After all, making pizza is all about options!

 
Peter's Blog, January 10th, 2012
Peter Reinhart

I'm still having trouble believing it's already 2012. I still recall back in 1970 how long the run-up seemed to take to the Bi-Centennial in 1976 and I wondered what it was going to be like for me to be, amazingly 26 years old -- an adult!-- when it happened. Then, all of a sudden, it did happen, and then so many other things happened and the years just kept coming and adventures kept unfolding and then, hey, how did it suddenly get to be 2012?!! I'm in denial, what can I say, but I'll get over it by simply going on more quests and pretending that I'm still waiting to turn 26 and will maybe live until the Tri-Centennial.

I keep getting great e-mails from people all over the place, and not just from the USA, telling me about these fabulous pizzerias where they live and how we should film a Pizza Quest webisode there. I can tell you, I'd like nothing better but I still have to do my day job (which I love, teaching at Johnson & Wales Univ.), finish my book on gluten-free baking (yes, it will have some great pizza and focaccia recipes in it), and keep working on the material we already have in the can. But I know there are dozens, maybe more, of Pizza Quest worthy places to check out and capture on video. All I can say is, we're trying; Lord knows, we're trying (see what Tim Tebow has got me saying now...). Speaking of Tebow, what's happening in Denver reminds me of the Bible story about the people who asked Jesus to perform some miracles so that they might believe and he said, (and I paraphrase), "He already sent you Moses and the Prophets and that didn't seem to be enough so what makes you think you'll believe now?"  It's just that miracles don't seem like miracles when they're happening, but they do later, when we tell our kids and grand kids about what once upon a time happened. Now, I'm not saying he's going to win the Super Bowl or anything; to do that he'd have to beat some of the other players who have also been referred to as the "son of God" by their fans, like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Drew Brees.  But what  I can say is this: watch and enjoy -- these are the days of miracles and wonders....

...But I digress. Getting back to Pizza Quests, let me share this link with you, especially for those who want us to do a Pizza Quest to their favorite place .: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/italys-best-pizza-town

This article was written by Anya von Bremzen, a long time favorite food writer of mine, and it recounts her own pizza quests in Naples and Rome, where she met some of the "next generation" future pizza legends as well as visiting some of the classic golden oldies that still make a mean pie. This lady has some serious questing chops, so I want to go on one of hers the way some of you want to go on one with us. The good news, I guess, is that there are a lot of us who really want to get out there and do it -- and so we shall.

 

 
Peter's Blog: Year End Wrap Up
Peter Reinhart

It's the final day of 2011 and also the end of our first year of Pizza Quest. So, first, on behalf of the entire team (who I will name at the end), thank you for your loyal following of our journey, and for sharing your own.  As riders on our metaphorical "bus," you and we went to some great places together this year, including Pizzeria Mozza and La Brea Bakery in Los Angeles, The Cass House Inn in Cayucos, CA, The Taco Temple in Morro Bay, Pizzeria Delfina, Tartine Bakery, and Bi-Rite Market and Creamery in San Francisco's "Gastro District," Stanislaus Tomatoes near Modesto, Pizzeria Basta in Boulder, CO, and also The Fire Within Mobile Wood-Fired Oven Summit, also in Boulder. During the past few months we also shared a number of illuminating visits with Tony Gemignani, of Tony's Pizza Napoletana.  All of these videos are either still on this home page or waiting to be viewed in the archives of either our Webisode section or the Instructional section. For newcomers to the site, please feel free to go through all the sections and catch up to those who have been with us from the start. You'll also find a number of excellent Guest Columns and lots of photo recipe sessions by Brad English, Teresa Greenway, and others, as well as foundational recipes for doughs, sauces, herb oil, and focaccia.  It's amazing how much info has accumulated in just one short year, so thank you again to all of you, including our contributors, for creating this amazing community dedicated to the celebration of artisanship, both in pizza and in all aspects of life.

You will find, posted earlier today, a year end recipe pictorial from Brad in which he completes his four-part cycle of making his own versions of what we called the Signature Challenge Pizza, created as a collaboration between Kelly Whitaker (Pizzeria Basta) and us as a gauntlet throw-down to Patrick Rue of the world famous The Bruery. His team of brewers then came up with their own one of a kind signature beer that they dubbed Birra Basta, which debuted at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver back in September. Again, for newbies, go back to the Peter's Blog posts from that time period and read all about it. Of course, we have hours of video footage that we plan to share in the coming year, from the original issuance of the challenge in Boulder, then on and to the first unveiling of the pizza at The Bruery itself in Placentia, CA, and then, finally, to the "Big Reveal" in Denver at the beer festival. All of that is still to come, along with new footage from other fabulous pizzerias, but in the meantime, Brad made four home-style variations of the Challenge pizza and the final version just posted today. It helped, as you will read, that he was able to procure the last keg of the Birra Basta from The Bruery, which he's been nursing along for the past couple of months (I'm sure the keg is under lock and key). We were all so excited about the results of this pairing and, especially for Brad, and also for the rest of us vicariously, we've been able to enjoy the fruits of his personal quest to bring it all home. This is exactly what we hope for you, as well, that you not only enjoy the videos and content on the site but also make some killer pizzas at home and also get out there on your own quests for the perfect pizza and your own memorable moments.  We'll be back soon, throughout 2012, with more postings and we love having you "on the bus" with us.

Till then, here are some personal thanks to all those who make Pizza Quest possible: Brad English and Jeff Michael, the co-creators of Pizza Quest who asked me to join them on this most amazing of adventures -- and thank you also to both of their wives, Shanna and Julie, and their families, for letting the three of us play in the sandbox together; James Bairey and everyone at Forno Bravo, our partners in this website venture, who provided all the technical web expertise and introduced us to their own, growing, wood-fired oven community;thanks to Geoff Rantala, our trusty web designer;  Francis Wall and the folks at Bel Gioioso Cheese, our first charter sponsor who made it possible for us get these first webisodes filmed and edited; our amazing Director of Photography, David Wilson who totally gets what this quest is all about; all our other video and audio crew members including Annette Aryanpour, our talented film editor who does such a great job keeping the footage so lively and entertaining; Maria De Barros who shared her wonderful music with us;  the folks at Crash & Sue's Post Production facility, who edited our first webisode, Pizza and Obsession, which we use as the intro for all newcomers; Joseph Pergolizzi, owner of The Fire Within, and builder of amazing mobile pizza ovens, who is now also one of our sponsors and our link to a whole world of fabulous artisans, Keith and Nicky Giusto, of Central Milling, who not only created the special flour blend for the Signature Challenge dough but are now an official sponsor of Pizza Quest.

Also, thank you to the Guest Columnists who contributed their thoughtful essays and recipes: Teresa Greenway, our resident sourdough maven; John Arena (of Metro Pizza); Michael Hanson, "the Sacred Baker;" Tom Carrig, Tony Gemignani, who contributed one of our first guest columns ("Respect the Craft"); Caleb Schiff; Brad Otton; Jenn Burns; Alan Henkin of Pizzeria Basta; Wes Baily; and John Della Vecchia; and Brad's sister Kristin English.  You'll find them all in Guest Column archives.

Another round of thanks to all the folks we featured in the webisodes and for the generous amount of time they all gave us so that we could dig deep in order to find out about the fire that burns in each of their bellies.

And, of course, my own thank you to my wife, Susan, who continues to support me on my Quixotian quests.  All Questers need great partners and we here at Pizza Quest, well, we're all lucky to have ours.

Happy New Year everyone--more to come in 2012….

 
Brad's Signature Pizza with Sausage, Goat Cheese and Avocado
Brad English

Being last isn't always a bad thing.  As I often say, one of my favorite pizzas to make is the one that develops with left over ingredients or by chance.  Making pizzas is no small task.  You don't generally just make one pizza - at home anyway.  You prep and throw a few pies together because it's a bit of work and the operation does create a bit of a mess no matter how you manage it.  When you add in photography as part of your mise en place you get flour and ingredients all over the place -- but it's so much fun!  Besides all that, pizza is also meant to be eaten as a left over.  It's good cold the next day for breakfast straight out of the fridge and how many things can you say that about?

I set out to make my 4th version of the Signature Pizza using a Hot Italian Sausage as the anchovy replacement.  As I was shopping, I thought of the Buonchristiani Lamb Fennel Sausage Pizza I first made earlier this past year (see archives) and decided to pick up some fresh goat cheese to go toward that concept, and to also try changing another main ingredient to see what would happen.  So, here I was about to make version 4.  I think there was a leak in my glass.  I kept having to refill it as I made my pizzas.  I have to say, I think I enjoy having a sip of good wine or beer while I'm cooking as much as I do when eating the finished product.  In the same sense I think, for me, the act of cooking is half the fun of eating, so why wouldn't the tasting of wine or beer while you pull your ingredients together make for an enhanced experience just as when you pair the final dish?  I think this further explains why food is so important to us.  It really is a a gift that we gather around on a daily basis as we share our lives with one another.  I enjoy sharing a home cooked meal with friends, either here or at their house, but for all of these reasons, I think some of my favorite dinner parties are when you gather and cook together, essentially making the dinner prep part of the dinner party. 

But, this time I was alone in the kitchen.  The family was circling, but busy doing other things while they waited for the next pizza to emerge from the oven.  Alone, I had to march on, knowing that they would soon gather and, hopefully, enjoy what I was making.  I know Owen would.  He's like Mikey - he eats everything!

The ingredients on top of this version of the Signature Pizza are basically the same as the previous except for the substitution of the Sausage and Goat Cheese.  As I was assembling the pizza an avocado, sitting in a bowl on the counter, caught my eye.  It was ripe.  Okay, why not?  When life puts a chalkboard sign in your path, pay attention!  While the pizza cooked, I decided to cut it open and throw it on the pizza after.  It was green and would certainly look cool, and I thought it would be an interesting texture and mellow flavor accent on top of the spicier sausage and distinct goat cheese.  I have a nice bottle of balsamic vinegar that a friend gave me from the Central Coast.  It's surprising that I still have it, because it's so good you feel compelled to drink it, not drizzle it!  At the end, this sweet vinegary drizzle proved to be the final touch of a lucky accident. 

This is a terrific pizza!  There are layers and layers of flavors that come at you from between the cool topping of avocado to the warm crusty dough on the bottom.  The Birra Basta, with it's fruity earthiness, handled this quite well.  Each of my four variations of the Signature Challenge Pizza (see previous postings), in fact, delivered a slight variation of flavors to work with,  challenge, and blend with the Bruery's beer.  What a great way to experiment on playing with a pizza and pairing concept, coming up with a number of similar but interesting variations.  It was also a pizza feast!  I'm still a fan of Kelly Whitaker's original anchovy version, but I sure had fun creating some options to share with my family, who all agreed that these were some of the best pizzas yet!


Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza - with Hot Italian Sausage, Goat Cheese and a Sliced Avocado Topping:

Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough  *Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough.

Burrata cheese

Fresh Goat Cheese

Hot Italian Sausage - or, any other sausage you may feel like trying

Sliced Chilis (Hot or Mild)

Preserved Lemon   *Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts, as well as a sweet finish.

Greens  *I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.

Kalamata Olives - I had picked up some at the market and decided to use a few.

Fennel Salt
*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.

Sliced Avocados

Good quality Balsamic Vinegar to drizzle


INSTRUCTIONS:
Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add Peter's Herb Oil to dough (see archives)

Add the Goat Cheese and then put a little Burrata in the center (bear in mind that it will melt and cover).

Add the pre-cooked, but not browned sausage (it will brown and crisp in the oven on the pizza)

Add the sliced Chilis

Add a few pinched Kalamata olives for little salty briny flavor bursts

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not an all over flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza, but when used sparingly I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick Rue and his team infused with lemon peel during the brewing.  Maybe...


Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, cut the avocado in half.  In the skin, make 1/8" slices lengthwise.  Scoop them out with a spoon.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes, or when done (in a convection 525 oven I am getting closer to a 6-7 minute bake). 

Lay the avocado slices over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle or drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the pizza

Cut and serve…

This one is a keeper!  So good --  you have to try it!


Enjoy and Happy New Year!!!!


 
Final Webisode, Tony Gemignani, Respect the Craft
Peter Reinhart

It's fitting that we wrap up our first year of PizzaQuest.com with the final segment of our series with World Champion pizzaiolo, Tony Gemignani. We did it in grand fashion, climbing to the top of a hill above the Golden Gate Bridge, looking back on Tony's new "kingdom." It looks almost like the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz, and the view was truly majestic, as you will see (you can see Angel Island and a hint of Alcatraz off in the distance too). But it also gave us a chance to reflect back on some of the key life lessons that Tony shared with us during our time with him. His catchphrase at the restaurant is "Respect the Craft," and he elaborates a bit in this segment about what he thinks are the keys to success for anyone getting into the pizza game (for those who were with us way back when we launched, you may recall Tony's guest column -- still available in the archives of the Guest Columns section -- in which he writes about his strong feelings regarding respect for the craft).

Perhaps his most valuable parting advice in this segment, which sums up so perfectly what we've discovered in all our encounters with artisans everywhere that we traveled during our first year of Pizza Quest, and a great place to end the year, is this: "You have to be in love with it."

 
Signature Pizza with Jalapeno Cured Bacon
Brad English

I'm still working on my Pizza Quest Signature Pizza series.  I set out to make a few versions to try with a glass or two of my Birra Basta.  I can't just let the keg sit there, right?  It was all created to be used; The Bruery didn't brew this beer to pour it down the drain.  The makers of my "new" kegerator surely wanted beer to flow through it.  I know I'm onto something here. 

As so many artisans explain, quality food starts by using the freshest ingredients you can get.   As I got into home cooking, I watched a lot of Molto Mario.  One of the things I picked up early from watching was that you use what is fresh. If you set out to make a recipe that calls for Bluefish and all you can find at the market that's fresh is the Sea Bass - you substitute!  Go fresh.  Buy local quality food as close to it's original environment  as you can.  This isn't exactly the right example here, but I bring it up because when I shop for pizza ingredients, I have a general list and look for those ingredients, but keep an eye out for something that says, "Here I am!  I am fresh!  I am bold!  I am your future!"  I haven't found that thing yet, but I often find some other interesting ingredients to work with. 

I was browsing the meat department looking for another option to this Signature Pizza.  I had some things in mind, but was definitely browsing.  "Hello there" it said.  I introduced myself.  We got along immediately.  I don't know how we had never met before.  "I'm always in your neighborhood!?" I said. By now the butcher was about to call security on me.  He wasn't used to customers talking to his bacon display.  But, this wasn't just bacon.  It was a proudly sliced pile of Jalapeño Cured Bacon. 

Ok, now back to reality.  How do you not try that?!  I knew I was looking for some spiciness and salted pork.  I didn't know it would be brought together in this way, but there she was.  Beautiful in all her glory.  Sorry, I slipped away again. 

The pizza is pretty much the same as the previous few.  It turned out delicious which was to be expected.  If you can't find a Jalapeno Cured Bacon, I imagine using a quality bacon and adding some thinly sliced, or chopped jalapenos would work as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza - The Jalapeño Cured Bacon Variety:

Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough (see Instructional archives)
*Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough
Squash Blossoms
*I couldn't find any, so I substituted a baby Belgian white endive
Burrata Cheese
Lemon Preserves
*Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts as well as a sweet finish.
Old Glory herself - House Cured Jalapeño Bacon (We met at Whole Foods, if you're interested)    
Fresh Greens
*I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.
Fennel Salt
*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.


Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add the Burrata Cheese to the center of the dough, factoring in how it will melt and cover.

Lay out the endive leaves

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not an all over flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza, but as you'll see in some of these recipes I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick infused with Lemon Peel during the brewing.  Maybe...



Add the cooked Jalapeño Bacon (or bacon with sliced chilis)


Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, toss some greens with a little herb oil or a favorite dressing. Or, you could just put the greens on as is.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes.

Lay Salad mixture over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle the Fennel and a little Sea Salt across the pizza (sparingly).

Cut and Serve…

Oh, and pour your next glass of bier!


Enjoy!



 
The Signature Pizza with Sopressata and Chilis
Brad English

I love our Signature Pizza.  I didn't come up with the recipe but, I was a part of the creation of the question, and the following ideas, that ultimately came together to become it.  I think how lucky we were to have Peter come up with a brand new dough that brought beer into the pizza - a pizza being designed to be paired with a beer that was to be created to pair with the pizza!  What came first... (no, this is not an Abbott and Costello routine, though it could be)?  As Peter wrote about in his Signature Dough Recipe post, you could just add beer in place of the water and do the same, but he "didn't want to waste a perfectly good beer."  (Maybe I'll give that a shot in the coming weeks as an experiment for those of you who don't have access to the Malted Barley crystal. When we were with Kelly Whitaker at Pizzeria Basta at the beginning of this journey we did make a test dough with a Bruery beer in it.  It was great.  I'll definitely have to follow this up with a liquid beer dough for those of us who are just home cooks).

I also think about how lucky we were to have met Kelly and his restaurant partner Alan Henkin.  They took this idea and ran with it.  They gave a lot of time, and put in a lot of effort, to create a one of a kind, truly unique pizza.  I was like a kid in a candy store watching it all happen.  Peter, Kelly, and Alan were also like kids in a candy store when we visited The Bruery, first taking a tour and then getting to make pizzas right there outside the brewery door in a mobile wood-fired oven.  I can only assume that owner Patrick Rue, and Tyler and all the guys at The Bruery felt equally delighted as they got to test their brewing skills to match the "Signature Pizza."

 

When Kelly made the final batch of pizzas in Denver for what we called "The Big Reveal," he brought a variation for the anchovies.  I actually requested that he bring something along so we could try a a different variation with the newly created Birra Basta and see how that went with it as well.  Kelly, being Kelly brought a house cured pork belly.  If you have read any of my writing here you know I am a huge fan of salted/cured pork products.  Well, that pizza was definitely a winning combination with the Birra Basta as well.  So, here at home, I thought it only fitting to try a few versions of my own.  On top of that, my family, other than my son Owen, doesn't much like fish.  Anchovies, I learned from them, are at or near the top of the list when you don't like fish! 

For this first variation I used a mild Sopressata salami, as well as some thinly sliced Anaheim Chili Peppers.  The rest was basically the same as the original.  I wanted to push this pizza a little toward Kelly's house cured pork, but also adding another accent with the chilies.  It works!  There's a lot going on here, from the savory sopressata, buratta cheese, and herb oil, through the chili's announcement that it's joined the party, to the subtle ping of the lemon curd popping in and saying "Hello there!"

Oh, and it did go down quite well with our "friend," the glass of Birra Basta (yes, I managed to acquire a keg of that amazing brew now living in my special kegster fridge) playing off some of the same flavor notes that Kelly established, and adding a few more to challenge the pairing.

Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza - The Sopressata Edition:

Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough
(*Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough -- see the archives in our Instructional section)

Squash Blossoms
(*I couldn't find any, so I substituted a baby Belgian white endive)
Burrata Cheese

Preserved Lemon (*Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts as well as a sweet finish.)

Sopressata salami (mild, or slightly spicy)

Anaheim Chili Peppers, or any other chili such as a Hatch, or even thinly sliced Jalapenos if you want a little more heat.

Fresh Greens
(*I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.)

Fennel Salt
(*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.)

Peter's Herbed Oil or any flavored herbed oil (see archives)

 

Instructions:

Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add the Burrata Cheese (considering how it will melt, spread, and cover).

Lay out the endive leaves.

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon, in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not a dominating flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza but, as you'll see in some coming recipes, I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a mug of Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick infused with Lemon Peel during the brewing.  Maybe...

Add the Sopressata and Chili Slices

Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, toss some greens with a little of the herb oil or a favorite dressing. Or, you could just put the greens on as is.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes, or when done.

Lay the greens over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle the fennel and a little sea salt across the pizza (sparingly).

Cut and Serve…

Oh, and pour your second glass of bier!

This is a terrific pizza, if I do say so myself!  I hope you'll try it and let us know what you think.

Enjoy!




 
Peter's Blog, December 5th
Peter Reinhart

Normally I try to post a new Peter's Blog every Tuesday, and I plan to do another one this week, but not till Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, because I want to wait until I return from the ribbon cutting ceremony at Charlotte's new 7th Street Public Market. It's a project that has been two years in the making and, I hope, will signify a major shift in the cultural culinary scene in this city. I've been fortunate to serve on the Board of Directors for this project and the ribbon cutting marks the opening day of commerce in this new farm to table, year round, daily, artisanal marketplace. I'll be back in 24 hours or so with my report and more thoughts on the Public Market.

In the meantime, Brad is working on another original pizza pictorial and we'll be posting that on Wednesday. So keep checking back, as there's always something new here at Pizza Quest.

 

...I'm back from the ribbon cutting ceremony and, of course, I'm jazzed. The mayor of Charlotte, Anthony Foxx, was there along with the head of the host committee for the upcoming Democratic National Convention, Dr. Dan Murrey (who is also the Chairman of the Board for the 7th Street Public Market). Representatives from Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Health Care of the Carolinas, the Market's two major sponsors who financially made it possible, along with Michael Smith of Charlotte Center City Partners, the visionary group that ideated the whole concept, also offered welcoming comments and helped the mayor cut the ribbon (actually a construction rope) to officially open the market.  Christy Shi, the Executive Director of the Market, has been working around the clock for months leading up to this moment which, for Charlotte, is historic because it signifies a huge statement of support for sustainability and local agriculture, as well as for artisans of all types. It is, in fact, the beginning of something important for this city.

Okay, so why is this such a big deal? There are thousands of farmers markets all over the place, as well as urban markets like The Reading Terminal Market in Philly, Pike's Market in Seattle, The Ferry Terminal Market in San Francisco, and many others. Markets like these help define the identity of their region and the people who live in it. Charlotte, for example, is a growing city, on its way to becoming a major city, populated by a very diverse crowd from all over the world. Yet, unlike other cities near to us, such as Charleston, South Carolina, Atlanta, and even Chapel Hill, all of which have very strong cultural food identities, Charlotte is still in its discovery process when it comes to food and culinary identity. We have a number of dedicated farmers surrounding the city, some amazing pork, poultry, and beef producers, year round vegetables,  a young but vibrant wine industry just up the road, access to great Mid-Atlantic seafood, an emerging micro-brewery culture, the first few entries in what promises to be a large farmstead cheese community -- all the pieces are coming together but there really hasn't been a central place, until now, that celebrates -- and sells -- these on a daily, year round basis. We are, at last, moving from the hobby phase to the "this is who we are" phase; from the "wouldn't it be nice" phase to the "this is how it should be" phase. All the values of The Slow Food Movement, the sustainable agriculture community, the Chefs' Collaborative, and other worthy organizations are embodied in this new Public Market, which is really an incubator for small start-ups that will eventually grow into successful, impactful businesses.  This is the Market's vision, which includes supporting other organizations that serve areas we call "food deserts," neighborhoods that don't have access to good products and practical food or health education.

We've discussed on this site the idea of food being a signifier of one's cultural identity. Living as we do in a "tossed salad" society (the new version of "melting pot"), cultural identity is often a difficult thing to pin down. But we all recognize that food is one of the front line aspects of identity (hey, I'm from Philly, home of hoagies, cheese steaks, roast pork sandwiches; when I lived in Rhode Island it was all about the quahog stuffed clams, spaghetti and "gravy," and, more recently, grilled pizza -- nearly every region has such identifiers). I think that one of the next steps in the unfolding of Charlotte's identity will be some locally produced foods that become associated with this city. We're going to take a stab at it with the new sprouted wheat pizzas that will be served at Pure Pizza in the Public Market (opening is slated for mid January), but I have a hunch that one of the biggies will be a new benchmark version of pork tacos, perhaps made with a signature sauce and local cheese -- a Charlotte equivalent of a Philly Cheese Steak. I just saw in today's paper that we just got our first Korean Taco truck, so we'll see how that catches on. Things are starting to happen and I think this new market, championing local products, is a big piece of the puzzle.

My sense is that similar projects are happening around the country as well as around the world. We'd love to hear about how this celebration of local, artisanal, and benchmark products is manifesting in your region. Please send us your comments and your stories. If you want to flesh it out in the form of a commentary, we'll consider featuring it in our Guest Column section. Meanwhile, I'm heading back to the Market -- a new era has begun….

 
Bread as Ferment for Social Change
Michael Hanson

Recently I was asked to talk about bread and baking to a group of Transition Town activists here in the UK. It got me thinking about the importance of bread in creating and shaping  society and community.  I had much to say, the difficulty was in what to leave out.  I came up with the title, “Bread as a Ferment for Social Change.”  I believe Jesus would have known exactly what it meant. Just as Jesus threw the money lenders out of the temple he would probably through modern bread out too. With “Occupy” demonstrations springing up all over the world in response to the crisis in global capitalism/materialism I feel that the simple act of companionship needs consideration.

For over seven thousand years bread has been the staff of life in Europe and the Near East, the staple food of our ancestors. The domestication of grain in the fertile crescent heralded the transformation from nomadic to semi –urban pastoralist society. When disparate groups came together to form small villages,  then large towns (the first of which is widely agreed to be Chatal Hayuk in Turkey), the new communities needed organizing. Farming was easy and agricultural laboring was the natural way to be. On the societal and ceremonial level the new urban rulers needed to create larger and larger communal forms of worship in order to keep control.
This is when I believe our ancestors expanded and developed the ancient forms of fertility/Goddess worship practiced throughout the ancient world. Instead of honoring and sacrificing to a pagan God/Goddess they came up with ceremony and ritual based on grain and bread.

So it is only a small leap -- five thousand years or so -- to Jesus’s brand of bread worship. In the West we have largely accepted the modern Christian idea of ceremonially honoring bread through partaking of the “blessed” sacramental host. In the Near East both Islam and Judaism also have deep respect for grain and bread. In my view grain built community, and bread ordered it. Hence bread has become deeply embreaded (sic) in our psyche and symbology.  Bread, dough, and crust are  “seen” as pecuniary compensation;  so in our current economic, political, and societal crisis it seems very apposite that bread is once again being taken seriously.  The Roman Empire declined when its wheat basket around the Medditerrean was lost, creating bread inflation and social unrest in Rome.  Let them eat bread.  Give us this day our daily bread.  As more citizens near “bread line,” the queue for free food grows longer. How long before the Christian church starts to hand out panis benedictus to the poor?

The good news is that people are beginning to wake up, to sense the change. They no longer want to buy  plastic wrapped industrialized pap that ne’r a human hand has touched; through self empowerment and action they are “baking it for themselves.” They want to eat a holier bread made in an honest way; some want to earn an honest crust through baking at home. We should welcome the rise of the home baker.  Eating good bread is a symbol of how you respect yourself and the earth; baking bread is a metaphor for  one's desire to change the way one lives, and in my opinion the simplest, surest, and safest place to start to make that change. The more that people wake up and bake the better. Symbolically  they are throwing off the chains of the Walmartopoly. I just hope that the Occupy Wall Street protestors are not having to make do with gifts of out of date supermarket factory pap, but are  getting the chance to eat real food and bread.
Bread is as good for community today as it’s always been. Companionship is literally the breaking and sharing and eating  of bread with your community. Now, more than ever before, we should be baking and sharing. Jesus may or may not have fed the five thousand with his bread, but the  seeds of ideas certainly did feed their bodies and minds.

Any campaign or movement that encourages people to eat or bake good bread should  be congratulated and supported. Here in the UK we have a burgeoning Real Bread Campaign. In America I understand you too are having a renaissance in real, or artisanal, bread.  Perhaps in two thousand years time  our descendants may even measure time as BAB (Before Artisan Bread) and AAB (After Artisan Bread). Now that would be a legacy.

Pizza Quest Members: Your comments are welcome.

 
Harvesting Tomatoes with Tony
Peter Reinhart

This is one of my favorite webisodes of all time. Tony Gemignani took us on a field trip to Stanislaus County, to the town of Westley (near Modesto, CA), where we met Steve Rouse, the marketing director for the world famous Stanislaus Food Products company. We arrived just a week or so before the peak of the harvest, but found a few vines that were, nevertheless ripe and ready, as you will see. But more importantly, as you watch us in the field, the wind blowing, surrounded by acres and acres of low lying tomato vines, the smell of those tomatoes infusing the atmosphere with that distinctive tomato vine aroma (well, you had to be there for that part), there were a few indelible moments that I will never forget. First, for Tony, who we've been featuring for the past few months in this webisode series and whose talent is prodigious, this was not just a source for his tomato products but a place where, as he explains, he feels a deep connection to his own heritage, especially to his grandfather, a hardworking farmer and his personal hero, and this sense of connectedness clearly infuses and informs his own work. For Steve, as you will hear, there is a connection to his company's own quest for quality, embodied in the values of the owner, Dino Cortopassi, to keep reaching for perfection. One of Dino's sayings, and Steve shares it with us in this segment and I'm sure I'll be stealing it many times in the future, is: "In the race for quality, there is no finish line."

Even if you can't smell the tomatoes the way we did that day, take it all in through these images and words. There are a lot of life lessons in this segment, transmitted through many generations of hard earned wisdom.

 

 
Brad's Signature Pizza
Brad English

Pizza Quest was an idea that popped into my mind a couple of years ago.  I called my buddy Jeff about the book I just read  - Peter's "American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza".  Not long after I was corresponding with Peter and Jeff about how we could make this idea a show.  It still isn't a show on TV, but we have launched the website and if it's anything, it is an adventure in and of itself.  We have put some hard work into the site and hope it's been as enjoyable to our guests as it has been for us. 

Another idea came along about 6 months ago and many of you have been following our quest to challenge Patrick Rue and his brewers over at The Bruery.  It was quite an experience watching and living that idea as it blossomed from it's inception to us chasing this unique beer and pizza pairing across the western United States.  I find myself at home now, thinking back on the whole thing, and I'm smiling.  It was just amazing to be me standing with the likes of Peter Reinhart, Kelly Whitaker and Patrick Rue.  My father is an actor.  I remember when I was younger - oh, so much younger. He had come home from filming an episode on Cheers during it's hay day.  He said it was like stepping in and playing on a Super Bowl Team for the week.  As I wrote in a previous photo caption, I felt like I was standing with giants. 

We didn't move the world.  But, we moved our lives a good measure toward our common quest for a better quality of life.  Each of us can participate in this everyday, or as often as we wish.  True artisans like Kelly, Patrick or so many others we have met along the way do it for a living.  But, it's there for all of us to experience as we challenge ourselves to participate in life.  It's amazing to me, even as one of the nuts behind Pizza Quest, that pizza can be such an interesting way of exploring these aspects of life. 

One of the benefits of being a Pizza Quester is that you get a few perks.  We don't get many, but the few we've gotten have been nice indeed.  Patrick offered me a keg of Birra Basta since they didn't bottle it.  I didn't have a kegerator, but always wanted one.  So, now I have a kegerator and a keg of Birra Basta - a beer brewed by a great brewery that was at least partially inspired by my ideas.  How cool is that? 

Now, what better way to enjoy the beer than to make the pizza it was created for?

Here's my first version of the pizza that Kelly created to rest atop of Peter's Signature Bruery Pizza Dough.  I will follow this up with a few more variations on this pizza in the coming weeks, which all turned out amazing as well.

 

Brad's Home Made Pizza Quest Challenge Pizza:

-Pizza Quest Signature Beer Pizza Dough
*Any dough will work, but I have to say it's worth it to make this dough (you can get the flour by contacting Central Milling -- see the link to their site at the top of this page).
-Squash Blossoms
*I couldn't find any, so I substituted baby Belgian endives
-Burrata Cheese -- it's a blend of fresh mozzarella filled with creme fraiche or mascarpone cheese.
-Preserved Lemon
*Kelly Whitaker made his own in a pressure cooker.  Lacking the time and skills, I found a baking product called Lemon Curd to use instead.  It gave a nice tart lemon flavor in bursts as well as a sweet finish.
-White Anchovies
*I found a marinaded white anchovy at Whole Foods.  It was delicious - was dressed in a lemony/herby oil - which I used to toss into the greens.
-Greens
*I had some wild arugula around.  This worked great.
-Fennel Salt
*I didn't have that, so I diced up a little fennel greens and sprinkled some sea salt to finish the pizza.

 

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

Spread the dough to your desired size. 

Add the Burrata Cheese around the center of the dough (it will melt and spread).

Lay out the endive leaves.

Into the oven it goes…

While the pizza cooks, toss some greens with the white anchovies.  Again, these were dressed in a nice lemony herby oil.  I didn't add anything else to the salad.

Take the pizza out after 8-10 minutes.

Add the lemon curd, or preserved lemon in little dabs around the pizza.  This is meant to be a surprise, not an all over flavor.  It's not a flavor you would think of for pizza but, as you'll see in some coming recipes, I've become a big fan.  That may have to do with the fact that I have a Birra Basta sitting next to me that Patrick infused with Lemon Peel during the brewing.  Maybe...

Lay the salad mixture over the hot pizza.

Sprinkle the fennel and a little sea salt across the pizza (sparingly).

Cut and Serve…

Oh, and pour your second glass of bier!

This pairing works.  The crust sets it all up and you are literally experiencing a flavor affair in your mouth.  You then take a sip and it becomes something else, similar but altogether different.  Enjoyable is a word that comes to mind.

I ate this pizza all by myself.  I had some other ideas along these lines that I wanted to share with my family - but they wouldn't go near the white anchovies with a 10 foot fishing pole!  Of course, I'm not talking about my son Owen - he actually walked in and had one of the slices. 

More to come on this...






 
Two Secret Ingredients of Great Pizza
John Arena

If you are reading this it is safe to say that you are a pizza fanatic. You have traveled to hundreds of pizzerias and possibly even picked through some trash barrels in search of the keys to the mythological “perfect pie”. You have spent hours debating the merits of different types of ovens, flour, cheese and tomatoes. Over time what becomes painfully clear is that there are no universal rules, standards or agreed upon recipes for what defines a great pizza.  Of course it is human nature to try to find order in the chaos, so there must be something that is common to all of the truly extraordinary pies, right? Well, it turns out that there is. Truly amazing, life changing, mind blowing pizzas, have two things in common, two ingredients that are available anywhere, but are only truly used and understood by a handful of pizza makers and pizza aficionados.

So, for the first time anywhere, the two top secret ingredients common to every great pizza are: Wabi and Sabi. Wait! Don’t rush out to the local Whole Foods to pick up these items. As they say in the infomercials, “Wabi and Sabi are not available in any store.”  That’s because they are not tangible ingredients, but they are, in my opinion, the crucial elements that can be found in any truly great artistic expression including the pizza you will find at places like Una Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Paulie Gee’s in Brooklyn.

Wabi and Sabi are Japanese words that can be defined as “understated elegance and finding beauty in the impermanent”. This is the reason that we are drawn to the simple pizza bianca at Volpetti in Rome. It is also the reason why you can find 50 people waiting in line in front of Frank Pepe’s on Wooster St. in New Haven. The irregular blisters on the crust of a pizza at Spacca Napoli in Chicago, and the simple choice of organic toppings at Slice in New York -- that’s Wabi and Sabi. But of course there is more to it than that.

The real key to including Wabi and Sabi in your pizza recipe and in your life can be found in the completion of the definition: “Things that resonate with the spirit of the makers hand.”
Think about it, whether we are talking about the tomato pies of DeLorenzo’s in Trenton or the amazing creations of Al Santillo at Santillo’s in Elizabeth NJ, the one thing that every pizza we love has in common is that they are a pure expression of the person who made them. Sure the big chains have consistency and uniformity but none of them achieve greatness. Keep it simple. Let every ingredient shine. Most of all, allow your pizza to show your own hands. This generous sharing of self will allow people to connect to the gifts you offer them. When your pizza tells the world everything they need to know about you, you are on your way to being a legendary pizza maker.

 
Special Webisode: The Italian-American Experience
Peter Reinhart

While we were filming at Tony's Pizza Napoletana we met Marti Casey, the editor-in-chief of Salute' Magazine, a publication dedicated to celebrating the Italian-American experience. Of course, there we were, in the heart of San Francisco's Little Italy section, North Beach, eating amazing pizza at Tony's, surrounded by quintessential Italian-American focaccerias, pork shops, bakeries, and classic spaghetti and meat ball trattorias, so what better place to discuss the immigrant experience. As you will see, we got off the subject a few times (don't miss Marti's description in the first part of the video, of her first business, making beef jerky, and the slogan they came up with to sell it), but we soon realized that the Italian-American experience was, in a sense, a metaphor and microcosm of the entire American immigrant experience. What used to be called a melting pot is now often called a salad bowl, but the common thread and essential commonality is that people came to this country, and still do, because it represents the single greatest symbol of opportunity in the history of the world. The immigrant experience is all about the possibility of reinvention of one self and freedom from any preconceived boxes that held individuals back in the past. Not everybody manages to leverage that opportunity into a successful life but the odds sure are greater here, even now during these turbulent times. North Beach, and its adjacent China Town, are perfect examples of that, so it was enjoyable spending time with Marti, sharing our own stories and viewing them through the lens of the Italian-American version.

One thing we've learned over and over again while out on our pizza quest is that when you're on a quest you meet some really interesting people and it reinforces an intuition that I think many of us have: no matter where you are from, when it comes right down to it, we are not all that different from each other.

 
The Marinara
Brad English

I think the Marinara Pizza may be many pizzaiolos favorite to make.  It is a pizza pie with no cheese and I think reflects the skill and passion of a pizza maker's ability to evoke deep flavors from such simple ingredients.  I remember asking Pizzeria Basta's Kelly Whitaker what his favorite pizza was to make and he said, without hesitation that it was the Marinara.  He said, "My favorite pizza goes back to the basic principle of being as simple as possible…the marinara." 

Marinara sauce is said to come from the term Mariner's sauce.  One of the folk legends about the history of this sauce says that it was invented after the Spaniards introduced the tomato to Europe and it quickly became the sauce of choice for those at sea because it was simple, easy to make, was flavorful and wouldn't spoil as fast as other sauces on their long journeys.  No matter where it came from, it is a simple sauce that is full of the robust flavors of quality tomatoes.

The traditional Marinara Pizza has tomatoes crushed, or blended, sliced fresh garlic, fresh oregano, extra virgin olive oil and maybe some sea salt to taste.  Some pizzerias may use basil instead, or in addition to the oregano.  This pizza not only allows the skill of the pizza maker to come through, but really showcases the quality of the individual ingredients. 

This is the perfect tomato based pizza for me to explore my skills, and experiment with these new Bianco DiNapoli Tomatoes that I've been loving. 

The Marinara Pizza

Dough - Central Mills 00 flour (or your favorite Napoletana dough recipe)
Bianco DiNapoli Hand Crushed Organic Tomatoes (or your favorite brand)
Thinly sliced fresh garlic
Fresh oregano leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

 

This pizza is all about balance.  Since there is nothing on top of the tomatoes you have to layer enough sauce to ensure that the sauce doesn't dry up, or dry out in the oven.  I think the longer bake times in a home oven can make this more of a dance, than if it were done with a 90 second bake in a wood fired oven.  Top with the ingredients keeping balance in mind.  This pizza is all about the tomatoes.  The garlic, oregano and oil are there as accents.

Add your sauce - in this case simply hand crushed tomatoes.  I didn't add any sea salt to any of my pizzas using these tomatoes.  There was no need. There might be, however, if you use a different brand (especially since Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes are only available to a few pizzerias and not to the public--sorry!!)

Add the thin slices of garlic

I added a little olive oil prior to baking.


Into the oven!

When it comes out, add the oregano leaves and drizzle with a little more oil.


Cut, serve and Enjoy!

 

 

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Pizza Quest is a site dedicated to the exploration of artisanship in all forms, wherever we find it, but especially through the literal and metaphorical image of pizza. As we share our own quest for the perfect pizza we invite all of you to join us and share your journeys too. We have discovered that you never know what engaging roads and side paths will reveal themselves on this quest, but we do know that there are many kindred spirits out there, passionate artisans, doing all sorts of amazing things. These are the stories we want to discover, and we invite you to jump on the proverbial bus and join us on this, our never ending pizza quest.

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