Diced Salad

Growing up my parents would prepare this simple salad made from 6 vegetables, dicing everything to the exact same size (a little smaller than half-inch cubes!). That is the original way to do it.

My version changes the dicing-size and amount of each vegetable. This salad requires no dressing if the tomatoes are spectacular, otherwise salt and lemon juice work nicely; I use both every time I make it.

ingredients for 2-3 servings:
one large tomato
one large carrot
one green, red, or yellow bell pepper
five stalks of green onion
five radish bulbs
one cucumber
(optional lemon juice + salt)

method:
peel and dice carrot into small pieces, toss into bowl
chop up the green onion finely, toss into bowl
dice tomatoes into medium size pieces, toss into bowl
dice bell pepper, toss into bowl
dice radish, toss into bowl
peel and dice cucumber into larger size pieces, toss into bowl
stir the salad vigorously for 2 minutes, bruising it well
chill in fridge covered then serve (may improve overnight!)

Margherita Pizza

dough ingredients:
500 grams bread flour (or all purpose flour)
325 grams water (65% hydration)
13 grams salt
3 grams yeast

toppings:
olive oil
fine chopped garlic
whole mozzarella cheese
tomato slices
fresh basil leaves
grated Parmigiano Reggiano
salt and pepper

other tools and ingredients:
digital kitchen scale that can weigh in grams
baking stone
pizza peel
cornmeal (or for more challenge just use a tiny bit of flour)
stainless steel mixing bowl
plastic wrap for covering

method:
Add the yeast to the bottom of a large stainless steel mixing bowl, then the water, then the flour, then the salt.  Use a fork to mix the ingredients well, so all flour particles come into some contact with water. Knead into a ball for a few minutes. Excess kneading is unnecessary and dries out the dough. Instead of kneading, this recipe uses time to achieve a great dough. Sprinkle a few drops of water onto the dough, then let it sit for many hours covered (at least 3 hrs if you are in a rush), or ideally overnight! Colder kitchens will work but are not best for this, so warm your kitchen to 70ish degrees. This dough can make two 14”, three 11”, or four mini pizzas depending on your needs. Refrigerate if needed, well covered, and it will become even better for up to a week. If using a refrigerated dough, take it out of the refrigerator hours ahead of time so it becomes room temperature. Minimally re-knead it to get the puffy risen dough back into a ball shape. Once a ball, flip it and let it sit again as it comes to room temperature and rises a little more. Proof! Is the dough ball risen, room temperature, and ready to go? Time to preheat the home oven, prepare the toppings, and form some dough into a pizza!

Place the baking stone into a cold oven on the center rack. Turn the oven on to 550° which is usually the highest setting. If you are lucky and have a real pizza oven that goes above 550° cook time will be shortened. Prepare all toppings at this time so when it comes time to build the pizza the topping process goes quick! The pizza does not like to sit around bored while being topped because it might stick to the pizza peel. When the oven is ready use a pinch of extra flour for your hands and shape some of the dough into a pizza. Lightly punch down in the center to get it started, then work the edges to make it even. Toss the dough, use a roller, or just do it by hand. The goal is a thin crust that light can pass through without any tearing, a.k.a. window paning. It’s time to prepare the pizza peel!

Sprinkle corn meal (and/or a tiny pinch of flour) onto the pizza peel and lay the flattened dough onto it. Apply toppings possibly in this order: olive oil, fine chopped garlic, mozzarella, tomatoes, grated Parmigiano Reggiano, a few more drops of olive oil, and optional salt ‘n pepper. Slip the pizza onto the baking stone and bake it for 9 or 10 minutes or until it has a  few good dark spots on the bottom. Remove the pizza onto a slicing surface then garnish it with the fresh basil using the chiffonade method. Add some more fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Cool the pie down for 5 minutes before slicing to make the slices’ edges look neat. Serve with water, IPA or red wine. Enjoy!

San Marzano Red Sauce

San Marzano Red Sauce
adapted from my mother

This astonishing red sauce has become my favorite and the cooking time is only 45 minutes! The end result is very fresh tasting and bursting with sweetness, offering maximum therapeutic tomato value. It’s comforting, enjoyable, simple, and may cause euphoria and elevated states of mood. I believe this phenomenon is due to the garlic and tomato not being overcooked, leaving their energy more in-tact in the final dish. This energy then enters your bloodstream through your digestive system.

The flavor and aroma of this sauce reminds me of expensive Italian restaurants in San Francisco. This recipe is convenient, healthy, and rustic, with skins and seeds left in. Yum! Unlike many traditional Italian sauce recipes, no onions or peppers are used--just garlic, bay leaf, dried oregano, fresh basil, and a few fennel seeds. This completely from-scratch sauce is made from 3 pounds of fresh tomatoes. The 45 minute cook time is broken into three 15 minute chunks. Thanks Mom--this is pure magic!

I’ve made this recipe with all types of tomatoes, often Romas. However, the ideal variety is San Marzano which has bright color, thin skins, high pectin, low acidity, superior flavor, and possible cancer-fighting properties. Dice 3 pounds of tomatoes, finely mince 3 large cloves of garlic, and off we go!

THE FIRST FIFTEEN MINUTES
Saute 3 large cloves of fresh minced garlic in a large stainless steel pan (NO CAST IRON) with olive oil on very low heat for 15 minutes while stirring. Be very careful to not brown the garlic, and use more olive oil if needed. The garlic should still be white in the finished sauce, so watch to make sure the heat stays very low. The amazing aroma of the tenderly heated garlic bits in olive oil will reveal itself. By not browning the minced garlic this aroma and flavor is carried into the final sauce.

THE NEXT FIFTEEN MINUTES
Add the diced tomatoes, a bay leaf, some dried oregano, some fresh chopped basil, ⅛ teaspoon of fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and cook for 15 more minutes on medium heat.

THE LAST FIFTEEN MINUTES
Crush the tomatoes with a potato masher and cook for the final 15 minutes. Amazingly, the simmering tomatoes break right down into a sauce!

Add more salt and pepper if needed for final seasoning, and remove the bay leaf. Serve on pasta with grated Parmisiano Regiano and possibly some Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, OR. This also makes a great sauce for pizza building.