Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"It's Just Dough"

I asked a friend of mine, who was a chef, for advice on making pizza dough. I had the recipe, but I wanted to know the arcane secrets and rituals held close by the trade. He admonished "It's Just DOUGH", with little additional explanation. We mixed, kneaded, punched down, rolled out. I've been doing it for years. Can't say that it comes out the same each time, but it's always delicious.

Just Dough (for pizza, or hard dinner bread/rolls)

1 Package Quick-Rise dry yeast
1 Cup Hot Water (about 120 degrees F)
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Salt
2.5 Cups Bread Flour (or, I usually mix All-Purpose with Wheat at approx 1:1)
1 Tablespoon Coarse Corn Meal

  • Mix yeast with water in medium-size mixing bowl.
  • Stir in 3 Tb olive oil, salt.
  • Add in Flour.
  • Knead for 7 Minutes, then allow to rest at least 15 minutes.
  • Begin Preheating oven with pizza stone placed on a shelf in middle to 475 (at least 450 F).
  • Divide dough in half, roll out to 11" rounds.
  • Sprinkle pizza peel with corn meal.
  • Transfer dough to pizza peel.
  • Brush top of dough with olive oil.
  • Add desired toppings. Consider adding herbs after baking.
  • Bake at 475F on a pizza stone (essential for crisp crust; I haven't tried a perforated metal pan, which might work).
  • Usually done in about 15-20 minutes - watch closely, check by lifting with an ovenproof tool.
  • Remove the whole pizza stone from oven when done - you need very heavy oven mitts because the stone is VERY VERY HOT.
  • Cut with pizza wheel, leave pizza on hot stone to keep crisp.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Local Fest at "Not Your Average Joe's"

I've always considered "Not Your Average Joe's" a reliable restaurant. I'm glad that one is conveniently in Arlington center (MA). But I was pleasantly surprised by the creativity and flair they are now showing in their "Local Fest" menu, featured in August. I stopped in for lunch one day last week.

Often chefs will make a nod toward use of local ingredients, by offering them in one or two appetizers and entrees. The "Local Fest Menu" at NYAJ's is a full menu, offered in addition to their regular menu. Not only food, but excellent local craft beer (on draft) and wines are featured.

I was tempted to try the locally harvested Semolina Scallops entree. After much deliberation I opted for the Smoked Chicken with Succotash and Polenta when I saw that the chicken was from the Smokehouse in Roxbury. This camera-phone shot doesn't do the dish justice - the meat was juicy, tender and very flavorful, permeated by a smoky taste, but not to excess. The innovative take on succotash worked well, incorporating tiny tomatoes just as tasty as they should be in mid-August along with a flavorful green. The polenta was also quite good, and perfectly cooked. In addition to the Cisco "Sankaty Light" lager, other local beers were available, including the Wachusett "Blueberry Ale".

The chefs at NYAJ's have risen above and beyond in the challenge to showcase local bounty. One can only hope that this will become a regular feature of the menu. Bravo!