Covered Pizza

We sold a lot of pizza at Cremaldi’s. It was a thick pan pizza that you would have to eat with a knife and fork, unless you were prepared to use a lot of napkins.  I have really gotten into making pizza lately.  Personally, I am a thin crust pizza person and that is what I have been making at home.  Thanks to Chris Bianco and his amazing topping ideas I can’t get enough of my own homemade pizza. I mean if I lived in Arizona than I think I would be at Bianco’s every night! Not just for the pizza but to look at Chris Bianco. It’s ok! Big Daddy knows about my infatuation with certain star chefs. I tell him all the time that if I had to choose between Bobby Flay..well you get the idea! 
Getting back to pizza…I love making my own dough. Nobody, including my mother, believes how easy it is to make. Paired with really fresh toppings it is better than any pizza you buy and bring home.
We also used to make a lot of covered pizza at the store.  We filled them with everything from spinach and feta, to sausage and peppers, broccoli, and even one with ham and Swiss.
Ok, I wasn’t going to tell this story, but I have to! I can’t possibly talk about covered pizza and not tell this story. I have to preface the story with the fact that at Cremaldi’s we always cut our pizza with scissors. When a new employee would start and witness the cutting of a pizza for the first time they would look at us like we had three heads.  It is the easiest way to cut pizza…trust me again! One of our favorite employees of all times, very close friend, best counter person ever, Lisa G. was working. She is Italian American and so nothing we did would ever faze her. Not even a loud disagreement in the kitchen, which on numerous occasions would lead to the throwing of objects, would ruffle Lisa’s feathers. She get’s it! She’s Italian!
One morning it was crazy busy and I think we had a television crew coming in to film for a local show. My mother decided to pitch in and help out in the kitchen. She started to fill a covered spinach pizza that was featured on the menu. Side note…if we were in a rush we would put on rubber gloves so that if something was oily or wet we could just whip the gloves off and have clean hands. My mother, who was wearing gloves while she piled the fresh spinach onto the bottom crust, got called away. She whipped her gloves off and left the kitchen. She eventually returned and finished the pizza. Later that morning Lisa came into the kitchen, grabbed our pizza scissors and started to cut. When she got half way across the pizza the scissors got stuck on something. She tried to keep cutting a couple of times but they wouldn’t budge, so she pulled the scissors out. We were all standing there watching, when out came a rubber glove! It was hanging off the end of the scissors! We never had my mother make a covered pizza, ever again!
Probably not such a great story to tell but I can’t help it. It was funny! Don’t worry Lis, I won’t tell the story of your sweat shirt and the pasta cutter!
ANYWAY…I decided to make a covered pizza tonight with some left over meatballs I made yesterday (no rubber gloves!). It was so good. The crust was crunchy and the center cheesy. It had so much flavor and the dough was delicious. You can take my word that the dough is very easy to make and use my recipe or just go out and buy a pound of dough at the supermarket or specialty food store. Just make sure when you buy it that it doesn’t look wet or gray.  Two signs of old dough.  

Pizza Dough
2 cups warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
5 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
olive oil for bowl

Mix water and yeast in small bowl or measuring cup and let sit for 5 minutes. Yeast should start to bubble.
In a large mixing bowl add 3 cups of the flour and salt. Mix with a wisk to incorporate. Add the water and mix with a wooden spoon. It will be very sticky but will start to pull away from sides of bowl.
Add 1 more cup of the flour and mix until until it forms more of a dough it will still be very sticky. Dump onto table and gradually add more flour as you knead until dough is easier to work with and doesn’t stick so much to your hands. DO NOT ADD TOO MUCH FLOUR. Your dough will turn out tough. You can add up to the 5 cups but no more. Keep kneading for 2-3 minutes and then form a ball.
Place ball of dough into a well oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave in warm place for three hours. After three hours deflate and put in zip lock bag in fridge until you are ready to use. It will keep for up to one week and freezes beautifully!
Now for the pizza…you can make it as big as you would like. I used a sheet pan that is 8×12. I used 1/4 of the dough for the bottom crust and 1/4 dough for the top crust.  Roll out the dough on a well floured surface. It takes time because dough will spring back a little but you can do it!  You can stuff your pizza with ANYTHING! Just like the frittata get creative! I used sliced meatballs, 1 cup of grated fontina cheese and one cup of shredded mozzarella. My meatballs have a lot of flavor so I didn’t add any seasonings.
After you put the top crust on pinch the edges closed and rubbed the top of the pizza with a drizzle of olive oil. I put fresh sliced tomatoes on top and then shredded Pecorino Romano, cracked pepper and fresh parsley. It was really good!
Bake 400 for 20-30 minutes until it is golden brown.
                                               Don’t forget to use your scissors to cut it!

Frittata



You have people coming for lunch.  It’s Sunday at 10:30 and you are still dilly-dallying around the house in your bathrobe.  
A friend has given you a bag full of fresh herbs and vegetables out of their garden and you would like to use them before they spoil.
You’ve invited 30 people for brunch and you would like to keep it delicious and simple…fruit salad, fresh squeezed orange juice, a loaf of really great store bought brioche and hot coffee.  
You get home from work or picking up your kids and you don’t feel like cooking dinner. You are having pangs of guilt about ordering another pizza.  
These are all perfect scenarios to pull out your eggs and get cracking!
Frittata is so easy.  It doesn’t matter how low your provisions are a frittata can be pulled together.
Here is the recipe for the frittata I made this morning. Feel free to embellish in anyway you would like. You can change the cheese, vegetables or herbs. You can even add pepperoni, salami, oil cured olives, tomatoes confit, artichoke hearts or chorizo ANYTHING! Go into your fridge and create! It is a beautiful thing!
 Leek, Potato, Roasted Pepper and Provolone Frittata
10 eggs
½  cup heavy cream (yes I add cream to my frittata)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek cleaned and sliced
1 roasted red pepper peeled and seeded, cut in strips
(you could add whole grape tomatoes in place of the pepper-yum!)
2 red potatoes boiled until tender and cut in small chunks
½ cup fresh chopped flat Italian parsley
½ cup goat cheese
1 cup of shredded provolone cheese
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Beat the eggs and cream in a small bowl season with salt and pepper, set aside
3. Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch iron skillet over medium heat. When hot add leeks 
    and sauté until caramelized
4. Add eggs and cream lower heat
5. Add cubed potatoes, goat cheese, parsley and provolone (or whatever else you
    would like to add-artichoke hearts and oil cured olives are fantastic in this
    frittata)
6.Mix carefully just to coat ingredients with egg not too much
7.Place roasted red pepper strips on top (or grape tomatoes) slightly push into
   egg
8. Place skillet in oven for 3-4 minutes until eggs are just set-do not over cook
     otherwise frittata will be dry-If the top is still loose after 3-4 minutes than 
     place under the broiler for 30 seconds. DONE!

You Little Devil

 

The other night my mother called me.  She had a question. She needed a frosting recipe and asked if I had a good one. She was baking a cake! She took me off guard. I was a little confused. I needed more information! It wasn’t the question about the frosting that stumped me, it was the fact that MY mother was baking a cake. My mother hasn’t baked a cake since 1978!!!
What was going on? Who’s birthday did I forget? What kind of a cake was she baking? Where did she get the recipe for the cake?
 
I should preface the story by explaining that my mother and I are two peas out of the same pod. We get a bee in our bonnet about a particular recipe, soup, vegetable, sauce, drink or in this case, a cake, and we become obsessed! What is the history? What will make the recipe the best possible recipe ever! We talk about it. We share it. If necessary we will serve it three days in a row, until it is out of our system, and then as quickly as we have become obsessed we loose interest. We drop it like a hot potato!
It all began when my mother’s friend (for the sake of anonymity we will call my mother’s friend Sylvia), showed up with a big slice of Red Velvet Cake. Sylvia loves Red Velvet Cake. It must be her southern roots that attract her to the cake and she orders it every time she goes to this Italian restaurant in South Boston. Yes, that is right, I said Italian restaurant in South Boston. Why Red Velvet Cake would be on the menu is beyond me but that is a question for another post.
Sylvia has been experimenting with Red Velvet. She too, along with her husband, What’s His Name, also gets a little obsessed over food. Anyway getting back to my mother, I guess her hillbilly roots came out the night Sylvia showed up with the cake and she started calling it Devil’s food.   My mother has never heard of Red Velvet. Where she is from they have always called that kind of a cake Red Devil’s food. She also calls a roof, “a ruff” and you don’t wash your hands you “wush” them.
Well Sylvia and What’s his name invited my parents over for dinner a couple of days later and my mother decided that she was going to surprise Sylvia with a Devil’s food cake.  That is where the phone call to me came in. It made me start thinking.. what is the difference between Red Velvet and a Devil’s food? I needed to find out. I had to try it myself! My goal was to create a very moist, tender cake that is every so slightly flavored with cocoa powder and blood red from massive amounts of food coloring! There are many takes on who invented the Red Velvet Cake. Some say it was created at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City during the 1920’s. From what I can tell there really isn’t much of a difference between the two cakes except maybe the addition of the red food coloring. Both cakes are made with cocoa powder and not melted chocolate.
So Sylvia and What’s his name, if you are reading this post get ready to taste MY take on Red Velvet Devil’s Food Cupcakes! I think I did a pretty good job!
 
Red Velvet Devil’s Food Cupcakes
 1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups canola oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 tablespoons red food coloring
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with paper cups and set aside (makes 18 cupcakes)
In a mixing bowl combined flour, baking soda, baking powder and cocoa powder. Set aside.
In another mixing bowl with a hand beater or in the bowl of a stand mixer beat eggs, sugar canola oil, vinegar, and vanilla until light and fluffy about 2 minutes. Gradually add flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Add buttermilk and food coloring.
Divide batter evenly into cupcake cups about 2/3 of the way up. Bake 15-18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely
Now you are ready to frost!

Frosting for Red Velvet Devils Food Cupcakes
1 stick butter
1 8oz package of Cream Cheese
1 pound of Confectioners’ Sugar


Beat until combined. Chill slightly if too soft.

For the devil’s horns I used a little rolling fondant colored black. 

I cut out little triangles and then shaped them into horn using my fingers. I let them get hard over night.

You have a choice with the frosting. You could color the frosting red and pipe in on or you can do what I did and that is to give the frosting a very thin coat of red chocolate. I used the colored chocolate wafers. I melted it over a double boiler and then dipped the frosted cupcakes into the chocolate.

Then you just stick the horns into the cupcake and use a little royal icing to complete the eyes and pitch fork tail!

Heavenly Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms


Thanksgiving…check.  Christmas…check.
I have officially gobbled, wolfed, munched, chomped and devoured my way through the holiday season. Do I have any room left for New Year’s Eve? Of course! After that, I don’t plan on looking at another piece of roasted meat for quite a while!
I have to say, I am not a huge fan of New Year’s Eve. I don’t like rowdy crowds of drunken people and the song “ Auld Lang Syne” makes me cry. I don’t want to forget old acquaintance. I don’t like change. 
 I am not saying my aversion for the night got in the way of woopin’ it up in past years. I have certainly done my share of serious celebrating.  But now that our angels are here, the only count down that has taken place in our house is how long it takes from the time my head hits the pillow until the time I enter into la la land! I would have to classify the past four New Year’s Eves as seriously lame. Big Daddy and I haven’t even been able to make it to midnight!  I know! We are pathetic!
This year it is going to be different. The girls, age 2 and 4 are not draining quite as much energy from our exhausted bodies and they will hopefully be in bed before the ball drops (finger’s crossed). I have it all planned. I am hoping to sit back on the couch with my honey, a bottle of champagne, some munchies and On Demand!
I am thinking maybe some nachos, a few Buffalo wings and these really yummy sausage stuffed mushrooms. I might even splurge on my favorite, a bottle ( or two) of Veuve! Oh yeah!
If you are looking for a great recipe to help you ring in the New Year give this one a try!
I found these big beautiful babies at the market last week. They were huge. Start by removing just the stems. Don’t scoop any of the meat out of the mushroom.

Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
  • 16 extra-large white mushrooms
  • 5 tablespoons good olive oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Marsala or sherry
  • 3/4 pound hot Italian sausage, removed from the casings
  • 6 scallions, white and green parts, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2/3 cup panko crumbs
  • 5 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Asiago Cheese
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chopped the stems and pour the Marsala and 2 tablespoons of olive oil over and stir lightly to coat. Set aside.
In a skillet heat the remaining olive oil and fry the sausage meat, chopping it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Cook until sausage meat is brown 10 minutes.

When the meat is brown add the mushroom stems and garlic. Cook until tender 4 minutes. Add the scallions, bread crumbs and mascarpone cheese. Stir gently until mascarpone melts. Take off the heat and add the Asiago cheese.
The mixture will look a little oily from the sausage fat but don’t worry. You will need the moisture when baking the mushrooms.
Spoon the mixture into each of the mushrooms and place on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper.
By the way…small detour…I LOVE parchment paper. Even if a recipe doesn’t call for a greased sheet or lined pan I use parchment. It makes clean up so much easier. If I am baking something on a sheet pan that may drip (meatloaf) I line the sheet with parchment and then I don’t have to scrub the pan.
Another side note. The silver spoon you frequently see in the posts belonged to my Grandmother. It is an over sized tablespoon and I use it all the time. It is my most valued kitchen utensil. It is also the spoon my daughter Rose is holding in the banner for Kitchen Contessa!
Pour any of the left over fat onto the mushrooms! Don’t be shy!
Bake the mushrooms 350 degrees 40 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender when poked with the tip of a knife.
Happy New Year!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi in a Brown Butter Gorgonzola Sauce with Crispy Sage and Chestnuts

I grew up on my grandparent’s homemade potato gnocchi. They were made with russet potatoes and flour, that’s it. They always served them with the tomato sauce they made famous, “Trio’s Sauce” A big handful of Pecorino Romano was put on top of each serving.

If I had put a plate of these sweet potato gnocchi in front of my grandfather he would have snubbed his nose, made a “yuuuuukkk” sound and given me a look of disgust. My grandmother would have tasted them, and probably loved them, but would have called them “nouveau” which she mocked.
I was making a batch of gorgonzola sauce out of the Cremaldi Cookbook and I noticed three sweet potatoes sitting on my counter.
I cut off a piece and dipped it into the sauce. Mmmmmm was it good! I started thinking…gorgonzola sauce over sweet potato fettucini…gorgonzola sauce and potato…GNOCCHI!
Gnocchi have a bad rap for being difficult to master. The addition of egg in this recipe helps hold them together during cooking and makes them very light.

It is a great first course or main course during the holidays.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi
1 lb sweet potatoes or yams
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 egg
½ teaspoon nutmeg

1. Pierce the sweet potatoes with a knife and place in a 350° oven for 30-40 mins until tender. Cool and peel.

2. Squeeze sweet potatoes through a ricer.

3. In a small bowl combined egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Wisk.

4. Make a well in the mound of sweet potatoes and add the egg mixture (I used a fork for the whole process) incorporate well.

5. Add the flour and knead until a dough forms. It will be very soft and slightly sticky.

6. Flour your work surface and cut dough into 4-5 pieces. Roll into ropes ¾ inch thick.

7. Cut the ropes into ½ inch pieces. Lay out on well floured sheet pan in a single layer. Freeze. Once the gnocchi are hard put in ZipLoc© bag and store in freezer for up to two months.

To Cook Gnocchi:

1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add half the gnocchi and stir carefully. When water comes back to a boil and gnocchi begin to float (3 mins) strain and add directly to sauce.

Now at this point you have a choice. You can go ahead and make the Brown Butter Gorgonzola Sauce or you can just make a Brown Butter Sauce without the gorgonzola. I am going to give you both recipes.

Brown Butter Gorgonzola Sauce with Chopped Chestnuts
2 tablespoons of butter
½ cup imported Gorgonzola Dolce
1 heaping tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
Jarred Cooked Chestnuts

1. In a small sauce pan melt the butter until it is bubbling and starts to turn brown.

2. Add the sage and fry until crispy (30 seconds)

3. Add the gorgonzola and melt. Remove from heat and wisk to incorporate.

4. Add gnocchi and coat well. Plate and garnish with chopped chestnuts (I used cooked chestnuts out of a jar. You can buy at any specialty shop. Some are packed in water and that is fine)

Brown Butter Sauce with Crispy Sage Leaves and Sliced Chestnuts
2 tablespoon Butter
Fresh ground pepper
Whole sage leaves, enough to garnish all of your plates (2 per plate)
Jarred Cooked Chestnuts
Pecorino Romano, shaved

1. Melt butter in small sauce pan over medium flame until bubbling. Add sage leaves and fry for 30 seconds. Remove and set aside.

2. Let the butter slowly brown. Add gnocchi to pan and coat. Plate and garnish with shaved Pecorino Romano, Crispy Sage Leaves and thinly sliced Chestnuts.

Enjoy!

The Cremaldi Cookbook

THE WINNER IS…Lleia!
Thank you Lleia and Congratulations! Please email me at gcremaldi@hotmail.com so that I can get your signed cookbook out to you! Genevieve

I am feeling very bad about not having any new posts for the month of November. I have been working on a Sweet Potato Gnocchi in a Brown Butter Gorgonzola Sauce with Crispy Sage and Chestnuts post. I promise it will be up soon!
I am going to give away a signed copy of The Cremaldi Cookbook!
All you have to do is answer this question in the comment section by 7 pm EST Sunday December 6, 2009. A randomly drawn winner will be picked and announced right here on the blog by Monday December 7, 2009 3 pm EST!
Ok here is the question…

Time’s Up! A winner will be posted by tomorrow at 3 pm EST. Thank you for everyone who entered! I really enjoyed reading about your favorite holiday dishes. Genevieve

What is your favorite dish to serve during the holidays?

Good luck!
Thanks for being so patient! Genevieve

Cracked Pepper and Romano Biscotti


The holiday season is right around the corner! It is always around this time of year when I start thinking to myself, wouldn’t it be nice to have a holiday party. I have it all planned perfectly in my head.  A fire burning in the fireplace, the smell of pine from the Christmas tree, a silver punch bowl filled with eggnog, carols playing in the back ground and a room full of friends munching on Hors d’œuvres. It never works out. In the blink of an eye the season is over and we are celebrating Valentine’s Day.
I started thinking about party foods that would be easy to have on hand for an impromptu holiday gathering or a gift for someone you would like to recognize during the holidays, like the mailman or a teacher. There is nothing like giving something homemade.

Cracked Pepper and Romano Biscotti are perfect to have on hand to pull out with some delicious cheese and a bottle of wine and wonderful to give as a gift. They are also incredibly fast and easy to make.

1 1/2 Tablespoons Mixed Peppercorns, smashed
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups grated Pecorino Romano
1 1/2 sticks cold butter cut in cubes
4 eggs
1 cup milk

In a large mixing bowl combined flour, baking powder, salt, romano, peppercorns and butter. Using your fingers cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
Add eggs and milk and mix with your hands until just combined.

Using a little extra flour roll half the dough into a 12 inch log and transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet. Flatten the roll with the palm until it is 1/2 inch thick.

Paint with a beaten egg, sprinkle with extra cheese and cracked pepper. Bake 350 degrees for 30 mins. Cool completely and slice in 1/4 inch slices. Place the slices back onto a sheet pan and place in a 200 degree oven for another 30 minutes until hard.
Pretty good on a fall night! The cheese is a White Stilton with Apricots. The sweetness of the apricots is so good with the peppercorns. Next time I am going to try the recipe with a few juniper berries. YUM!

  I am adding this picture because I think they look so pretty!
 The flavor is a million times better today! I can’t stop crunching on them!!!!!
MAKE THEM!

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