Tag Archives: pizza

It was a dark and stormy night…

It’s a windy and gray morning in late August. The clouds are hanging low in the sky, obscuring the view of the Washington Monument and other DC landmarks, and a cool breeze is blowing through the heavy pink and purple blossoms on the crape myrtle trees. The dogs are stretched out on the floor by the open back door, their nostrils twitching at the scent of impending rain.

And somewhere in the world, it’s happy hour.

My family recently spent two weeks on the New England coast, where we reveled in the best pizza in the world (Pepe’s in New Haven), munched on the most amazing local corn (a variety known as Butter and Cream), and sucked down the best summertime beer ever made, Thomas Hooker‘s Watermelon Ale. It’s seasonal and we bought the last seven bottles in town to bring back home, trying to extend the vacation as long as possible.

But it was an entirely different drink that made for some all-too-happy hours at our little beach cottage: the Dark ‘n Stormy. This tasty libation, (the national drink of Bermuda, according to the Gosling’s Rum website) is exceedingly popular along the New England coast (where Block Island is known as the Bermuda of New England) and the local package stores all carry the necessary ingredients: Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Bermuda-style ginger beer. Most people are familiar with the more heavily-spiced Jamaican variety of ginger beer, which fills the nose with its peppery flavor; the Caribbean (or Bermuda) style is slightly sweeter and not quite as spicy.

While in New England, we picked up Gosling’s 151 Proof Black Seal Rum and Barritts Bermuda Ginger Beer, which was the preferred brand locally. This drink packs a serious punch and could not be simpler: fill a highball glass with ice, pour in about 4 or 5 ounces of ginger beer and top with a shot (or two, depending on your stamina) of the rum. Some people add a slice of lime, but this is entirely optional. My husband drank the cocktail as it was, sipping some rum off the top before it began to sink into the ginger beer, but my parents and I liked to stir it up with a finger, then slurp the rum off our fingers before proceeding with the rest of the drink. Personally, I am a bit of a lightweight when it comes to alcohol — especially with 151 proof rum — so I found that it was not a great idea for me to drink my Dark ‘n Stormy while preparing dinner, otherwise our meal would have featured charred bits of oversalted dish towels.

On the hunt for ingredients:

An assortment of rum and ginger beers. You may notice that the bottle of 151 is running on empty.

Upon our return to DC, with a scant half-bottle of Black Seal and three cans of Barritts, we rushed to Hayden’s, our local liquor store, to replenish our bar. Luckily, they had the rum, but no ginger beer. We checked around for ginger beer, but kept finding the Jamaican style, which I thought would have an overpowering flavor. When we got home with the rum, we realized that it was 80 proof — perfect for me, actually, but not quite what my husband had in mind. He checked the other local liquor store, Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, and heard that the 151 proof Gosling’s is not easy to get in our area. I suspect that Rick’s journalistic instincts have now been piqued and that he will be on the search.

However, Schneider’s did yield Gosling’s Ginger Beer — oh, happy day! We did a tasting comparison of Gosling’s and Barritts, with the result that Rick prefers the sweeter Barritts but I really like the slightly spicier Gosling’s, which is still not nearly as highly-spiced as the Jamaican kind. My parents also found the Gosling’s ginger beer when they got back to their home in Florida; my dad said he also heard that the Dark ‘n Stormy is popular at the bar at the Cocoa Beach Pier, although he’d never heard of the drink before. Many years ago, when I was a waitress back in Cocoa Beach (including up at the Pier), dark rum and ginger ale was a standard drink, but I never worked anywhere that carried ginger beer.

Gosling’s for dinner and dessert?

A quick gander at the Gosling’s website also revealed a recipe for Bermuda Onion Soup, which inspired me to create the following recipe. A somewhat cooler evening than is usual for late August made it possible for me to whip this up for dinner last night — and I saved my Dark ‘n Stormy for dessert!

Bermuda Black Rum Onion Soup

3 large onions, preferably Bermuda, sliced

4 cups stock (I used mushroom, but vegetable or chicken would work)

2 – 3 cloves of garlic, sliced

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup Gosling’s Bermuda Black Rum (or another variety of dark rum)

1 tsp. sugar

salt and pepper to taste

for garnish:

thick slices of toasted bread (sourdough or a French baguette)

sliced Swiss or Gruyere cheese

dried oregano

optional: additional drizzle of rum

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and add sliced onions, turning to coat in the oil. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the rum, sugar, and bay leaves and continue to cook over low heat, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the onions are soft and slightly golden and the liquid is reduced by half. Add the broth and stir in salt and pepper to taste. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

Turn on the oven broiler and ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls, leaving about an inch or so at the top. Place toasted bread in the center of each bowl, top with sliced cheese and a pinch of crushed oregano. Put under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.

If you wish, drizzle with a few drops of black rum just before serving. Serve immediately. This recipe will feed 6 happily.

September 1, 2010: Here’s some musing about ginger beer from today’s Washington Post.

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Pizza pizza.

Ahh, pizza perfection. If I do say so myself.

Pizza is back on the menu at our house (if you don’t know why it was temporarily forbidden, you’ll have to read my last post “Feeding a Broken Heart”). I have had more than a passing acquaintance with pizza for most of my life — I have delivered pizzas for a living, fell in love with my husband over pizza, and once made pizzas shaped like guitars for my daughter’s 10th birthday party.

Pizza was a major player at my 5th birthday party. My mother and I lived in New York City at the time and I went to a daycare run by her friend Judy, who lived on St. Mark’s Place. It was 1971 and St. Mark’s Place was a kaleidoscope of flowing beads, multicolored dashikis, and patchwork blue jeans. Every kind of music swirled out of every window, creating a cacophony of sound that was somehow still pleasing to the ear. Each day I was eager to see the young woman I called “Dandelion” — she was, to my 5-year-old eyes, tall and beautiful, with a halo of blonde afro that floated around her  head in the breeze, and electric blue eyes that seemed to look right inside your soul as she floated down the street as if carried along by her hair.

There were a handful of us who spent our weekdays at Judy’s daycare, and on my early November birthday, we trooped to the corner of St. Mark’s Place at lunchtime. Judy went inside to order our pizza, and the rest of us stood outside  with our noses pressed against the glass, watching the pizza man flip the dough up in the air in smooth circles, a flying carpet of delight. We carried it back to Judy’s brownstone apartment the way a young ringbearer carries that satin cushion, a precious charge to be protected and cherished until the final moment of reckoning — which, for me, was sitting in the darkened apartment while my friends chanted the Birthday Song, candles flickering across the surface of the pizza, dropping little bits of wax into that cheesy goodness.

Like many families, pizza is often a Friday night tradition in our house, and, many years ago — 17 to be exact — I invested in a pizza stone, which sits permanently on the lower shelf of my oven. At about the same time, I came across a practically foolproof pizza dough recipe in Gourmet magazine, and have never looked back.

There’s a popular television commercial which shows a woman who now makes pizza at home because of the poor economy. I’d like to say that I save money by making pizza at home, but I suspect that is not the case. If you are going to go to the trouble of making pizza at home, it simply does not make sense to use substandard ingredients. For me, the pizza begins its journey at Eastern Market, an historic market here in my Capitol Hill neighborhood which offers everything from empanadas to pig’s feet to chocolate ravioli.

Jack helps me plan the perfect Friday night pizza, with a plethora of cheeses from Bowers Dairy.

Once I enter the Market, I head straight for Bowers Dairy, crossing my fingers that either Jack or Tess will be behind the counter. They trained my child to be a true cheese aficionado from the age of two with samples of Stilton, Castello, and Chaumes, and they always know where to find that elusive hunk of Argentinian “parmesan” that no-one else can ever find when I place my order. Typically, I will purchase about $20 worth of cheese (I told you it wouldn’t be cheap) for my pizzas — generally, a combination of part-skim mozzarella, fontina, smoked Applewood cheddar, sharp Canadian cheddar, parmesan, and maybe a little Maytag, sage Derby, gouda, or whatever else catches my eye.

Is there such a thing as too many olives? Bite your tongue.

Once I’m done at Bowers, I turn around and purchase some good olives like Nicoise or a Greek country mix from Eastern Market Grocery, and before I leave the building I’m usually also armed with an assortment of peppers, mushrooms, onions, and other assorted goodies. When I get home, I can begin the process of building the perfect pizza — it isn’t as quick as delivery and there are no 2-for-1 coupons, but I can guarantee that no other pizza will ever compare and you will become a hero to your family.

I told you I don't skimp on cheese. What would be the point? If you're going to go to all this trouble, then you may as well go all the way.

Pizza Dough (adapted from Gourmet magazine, October 1993)

This dough is made using a food processor method, which I think works best if you have a plastic dough blade, although you can use it with a regular blade. The recipe is enough for two thin-crust pizzas.

2.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 packages fast-acting yeast

1 cup hot water

2 TB olive oil

2 tsp. honey

1 tsp. salt

1 cup cornmeal

2 tsp. assorted herbs and spices (I generally use black pepper, tarragon, oregano, paprika, crushed fennel seed, or whatever sounds good at the moment)

In the food processor, mix up 1 cup of the flour with the yeast and then add the hot water with the motor running. Turn the motor off and add the oil, honey, salt, cornmeal, herbs and spices, and a cup of flour, mixing together until the dough begins to form a ball; add more flour until it is no longer sticky but soft and pliable. This whole process should take no more than two minutes — be careful not to work the dough too hard in the food processor, otherwise the pizza will be hard and chewy.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead 10 or 12 times, then let it rest covered with a towel or a bowl for 20 minutes.

To make the pizza:

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Divide the dough in half and roll each half into a circle or some approximation of one (no, I do not flip my dough in the air, but you are more than welcome to try it out) and crimp the edges in a pizza-like fashion. I like to put each circle of dough on a sheet of parchment paper so as to keep my pizza stone from getting a lot of burnt cheese on it. If you don’t have a pizza stone, just use a cookie sheet.

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you what to put on a pizza. Red sauce, white sauce, olive oil — whatever you like — usually about 3 large spoonfuls of red or white sauce. I like my pizza pretty cheesy, so probably use about two cups of grated cheese on each pizza. I generally spread the mozzarella and fontina on top of the sauce, add toppings, and add the cheddar and other specialty cheeses on top of that, finishing off with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of oregano, and maybe a little cracked black pepper. I like to brush the edges of the crust with olive oil and sprinkle a little Kosher salt on the edges, or grated parmesan.

Bake each pizza for about 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly and let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing. It’s torture to wait, but totally worth it.

The pizza on the left is about to go into the oven; it featured carmelized red onions, Nicoise and Greek olives, and a meat-free "sausage". The one on the right is fresh out of the oven and cooling off -- it had chopped red bell pepper, diced pineapple, hot cherry peppers, and a drizzle of pesto. Yup, they were pretty tasty.

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