Pizza dough recipe by Tracie P

December 1, 2012

To borrow a phrase from my good friend Charles Sicolone (whose wife, Michele Scicolone, happens to be one of the best cooks in New York City and one of our nation’s leading cookbook authors), I am truly blessed: my wife, Tracie P, is an amazing home chef. Last night, at Mrs. & Rev. B’s house in Orange, Texas, she made us all pizza for dinner. Here’s her recipe.

best pizza recipe

Tracie P notes that “the great thing about this recipe is the short rising time and [the fact that] you can also freeze the dough” to use later with great results.

Be sure to have your toppings ready beforehand so that you can quickly top the dough after heating the pizza stones.

Makes 2 large pizzas or 4 small. These quantities can also be used to make 4-6 calzoni.

1½ cup water, about 100°
1 package baker’s yeast
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring
1½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Heat your oven with the pizza stone to 500° for an hour. If you don’t have a pizza stone, use a pan and simply preheat the oven without the pan.

In a mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water, stirring with a spoon. Let it sit until it becomes foamy.

Combine the flour and salt in a food processor and, then, with the blade running, slowly add the water in a thin, even stream and then add the olive oil. Pulse until the dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured pastry board and knead for approx. 2-3 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and less tacky.

At this point, you can freeze the dough balls that you don’t want to use. Just put the unrisen dough into a plastic freezer bag. When you want to use it, take it out in the morning and place it in an oiled bowl and place it on the counter. It’ll be ready and risen by the afternoon.

Grease 2 medium-sized mixing bowls with olive oil. For 2 large pizzas, divide the dough into 2 balls and transfer to the mixing bowls. (Divide into 4 for 4 smaller and slightly thinner pizzas.) Cover each with a dish towel and then set aside until the dough has risen, doubling in size (about 45 minutes).

Remove the stones from the oven, distribute the dough on the stones and top quickly (using whatever toppings you like).

Bake the at 500° F. for 7-10 minutes or until the crust becomes golden brown.

We paired last night with a salty Santorini Thalassitis by Gaia. Utterly delicious…

beautiful baby texas

Georgia P’s had a great time visiting with her nanna and pawpaw while her daddy was in Italy and on the road here in Texas. But now it’s time to head back to the River City (that’s Austin, for all you folks who ain’t never been to Texas)…

Buon weekend, yall!


Pizza & Bollinger? Ummm… I think I told you so…

April 17, 2012

From the department of “ubi major minor cessat”…

Eric the Red writes today on the virtues of pairing pizza and, ahem, Champagne

Bolly is one of his top picks.

Umm, where have I heard that before?

Our good friend Charles Scicolone (above) – with whom we have shared many a pizza and great wine — also gets a nice shout out in Eric’s piece


Tracie P’s amazing pot stickers

February 21, 2011

Anyone who has had the good fortune to dine in the home of Michele and Charles Scicolone has heard the ritornello before.

“I am truly blessed,” says Charles when asked what it is like to live with one of the first ladies of Italian cuisine in the U.S. today, author and Italian food authority, the lovely Michele, one of the best cooks I’ve ever met.

I couldn’t help but borrow Charles’s mantra last night at dinner, when I tasted Tracie P’s pot stickers, stuffed with minced pork, scallions, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and Napa cabbage.

They were unbelievably delicious… The dough was light in body but rich in flavor (imparted from the filling) and the filling maintained its integrity and cohesive texture when you bit into the dumplings after dunking in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar dipping sauce.

It’s been so great to relax at home with my beloved Tracie P… sitting around in our PJs until noon, cooking, and eating… and just hanging out… I love her so much and she’s SO good to me…

Lot’s more to say about the last Italy trip, with many more posts to follow… but for the time being, I just want to relive those pot stickers and a bottle of Taittinger NV La Francaise one more time… aaaaaaa…


Roberto Stucchi: Chianti “shouldn’t be fattened by Merlot or Cab”

December 6, 2010

Above: Roberto Stucchi, one of Italy’s leading winemakers, among the first, historically, to bring “Californian” technology to Tuscany after studying at UC Davis (photo via B-21).

Our recent VinoWire coverage of the Chianti producers association decision to allow IGTs (read “Super Tuscans”) at the body’s annual vintage debut event and its subsequent sea change (retracting the option for participating winemakers), really touched a nerve.

Over in a thread on my Facebook, wine writers Robert Whitley and Kyle Phillips (who argued for the inclusion of IGTs) squared off with Italian wine taste-makers Charles Scicolone and Colum Sheehan in a gentlemans’s however testy exchange on this sensitive issue. (Click here to read the entire thread, which includes comments from a number of interesting wine folks.)

In the spirit of Italian par condicio, I wanted to share the comment below by leading Chianti Classico producer Roberto Stucchi, who reported his notes from the meeting where it was decided not to allow the IGTs:

    I was at the assemblea [assembly]. There was little discussion about the IGT wines at the Anteprima [the annual debut of the new Chianti Classico vintage, held in Florence each year in February] at all. A few criticized it, but that’s it. The main topic was the reorganization of the C[hianti] C[lassico] appellation, and the one thing that came out very strongly was the rejection of the proposal of a “light young C. Classico” to help in this difficult economic time. The majority (but there where no votes) spoke in favor of reviving the riservas, and re-qualifying [re-classifying] the whole appellation. Also a mostly favorable opinion on the idea of sub-appellations by comune [township], but with very differentiated ideas about how to do it.My opinion about IGT at the Anteprima: why not? Many are pure Sangiovese. And unfortunately some Chianti Classicos are Bordeaux-like.

Here at Do Bianchi, he noted:

    As a C[hianti] Classico producer that has always worked only with Sangiovese, I’m not scandalized by the proposal to present IGT’s at the Anteprima. After all many are entirely from Sangiovese grapes.

    I find a lot more questionable that the rules have gradually increased the amount of non-traditional grapes allowed in the blend (now that’s a slippery slope to me).

    The Chianti “Bordelais” lobby keeps pushing to increase this percentage, the last proposal was to allow up to 40%. (It failed for now.)

    I need to make clear that I’m not at all against growing other varietals in Chianti; quite the opposite, I think that the Classico appellation should allow wines from other varietals to be called Chianti Classico, with a varietal appellation added.

    It’s just that CC alone shouldn’t be fattened by Merlot or Cab. It would be nice if things were more transparent, with things clearly stated on the label.

    I love CC from Sangiovese for its elegance, finesse, food friendliness, and for how the light penetrates it and gives it brilliance.

    What really bugs me is when an overly concentrated and heavily oaked muscular wine pretends to be a Sangiovese.

Above: I found this photograph of Roberto (from the 1980s, I believe) on a Russian site.


Basta barriques: a conversion of Constantine?

August 25, 2010

Earlier this month, Maremma producer of Morellino di Scansano and Syrah Gianpaolo Paglia (above, winemaker and owner of Poggio Argentiera, with his family) authored a short post on his blog entitled simply Basta barrqiues, enough with barriques.

In the post he informs his readers that he no longer intends to age his Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo in barriques, small new oak French barrels.

He explains: “In the last 10-15 years, the world of wine has changed. And, above all, my (and our) tastes have changed. This is no disavowal of the past, no repudiation. It’s very simple: one evolves, as a person and as a company.” (translation mine)

Yesterday, Italian wine blogger extraordinaire Mr. Franco Ziliani, who has long exhorted a more moderate use of barrique aging among Italian winemakers, posted an interview with Giampaolo.

Here are a few passages I found interesting and have translated from Gianpaolo’s answers:

    In certain wines produced with barriques, there is an excessive sweetness. However much this can be viewed in positive light, I find that it tires the palates. Complexity and nuance tend to be lost, trumped by a certain creaminess in the taste of the wine. Generally, I believe that it is more difficult draw out the character of grapes like Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo, where a certain angularity and backbone form the basis of their identity. And then there’s also the drinkability factor: I’m tired of drinking overly invasive wines.

    I can tell you that making wines that will be enjoyed by people who make wine makes much more commercial sense than trying to interpret the tastes of the market. My impression is that we tend not to fully appreciate people who buy wines and drink them. This is probably due partly to a lack of awareness and partly — and perhaps mostly — due to our lack of courage.

    There are wines that seem excellent to us but we consider them “difficult” for the market. But, then again, we discover that the market is very open to good wines, real wines, expressive wines. I see this every day, especially since I began to sell wines beyond the wines I produce.

I’m excited to taste the new vintages of Poggio Argentiera and I really admire Gianpaolo for the honesty and forthrightness of his blog and his words (he is, btw, probably the top Italian winemaker/blogger and his use of social media as a tool to promote his wines is world-class).

One of the most vocal opponents of barrique aging of Sangiovese I know is my friend Charles Scicolone, who began drinking Nebbiolo and Sangiovese in the 1970s. “They’ll crucify me on a cross made of barrique,” he likes to say humorously.

It’s too early to tell but could Gianpaolo’s declaration be an early sign of a conversion of Constantine? Let’s hope so… Chapeau bas, Gianpaolo!

In other good news…

It seems that Mr. Ziliani has returned from his blogging hiatus.


A “must read” for the true lover of Barolo

June 30, 2010

Above: Silvia and Nino Rocca preside over the kitchen and dining room of one of Piedmont’s most important wine destinations, Da Felicin in Monforte d’Alba. I took this photo in March when I dined there with the Barbera 7.

It was Charles Scicolone who, many years ago, first told me about Da Felicin, one of the great restaurants of Piedmont’s Langa hills and one of the world’s most important wine destinations — especially for those of us who worship in the temple of Nebbiolo.

Today, over at VinoWire, I’ve posted a translation of a post by my colleague and co-editor of the blog, Mr. Franco Ziliani (Italy’s A-number-1 wine blogger), about a very special bottle of wine that Felicin’s owner Nino Rocca shared with him. I hope that you’ll find Mr. Ziliani’s notes on this wine as moving as I did.

But, more importantly, this post — in part because of Mr. Ziliani’s interview of Armando Cordero, who made the wine in question — should be required reading for anyone trying to wrap their mind around what great Nebbiolo truly is and the modernist-vs.-traditionalist dialectic that is taking place on the ground in Langa. The information contained therein is subtle but fundamental. So please have a look

Buona lettura, as they say in Italian…


06 Barbaresco: a final (?) clarification from Aldo Vacca, Produttori del Barbaresco

June 25, 2010

Above: As my good friend and top sommelier David Rosoff will tell you, “I learned more about Barbaresco talking to Aldo Vacca for 10 minutes” than I have in my whole career.

I wanted to draw your attention to a comment made by winemaker Aldo Vacca, Produttori del Barbaresco, posted the other day here at Do Bianchi. He was commenting in response to Charles Scicolone, who had asked plaintively whether or not Produttori del Barbaresco typically executed different bottlings destined for its domestic and international markets (the thread appeared in a post on the winery’s decision not to bottle its single-vineyard wines for the 2006 vintage).

Here’s what Aldo had to say:

    Just a quick note: we at Produttori Barbaresco never bottle wines specifically for one market or another. We do not look for specific taste for specific market and all that, we just make the wine at the best of our knowledge in one very define style. If we do more than one bottling, we try to have a similar blend in all bottling.

    We do release our new vintage in the Fall in Italy and usually, because of the logistics of the market and because we like to give some more bottle aging when we can, the next January is most export market. So, it is usually the case that the first bottling is mainly sold in Italy while the second bottling (which is also larger in size) goes to export and Italy as well: it is just a matter of timing, not of deciding which market gets what.

    Normally this will not make any difference anyway because the two bottling would be very similar.

    The one thing that happened with the 2006 vintage was the late decision of not bottling the SV. If we had made the decision earlier, as we usually do, all bottlings would have been the same.

In a somewhat unrelated note, yesterday I poured the 2008 Langhe Nebbiolo by Produttori del Barbaresco in a tasting in Austin. Man, it’s light and bright and showing great right now, better than when it first came into the market. A tough vintage in Piedmont but great for entry-level wines like this, where some of the better fruit ended up in the front-line wines.

And in a totally unrelated note, in the light of Aldo’s love of Neil Young, we’re trying to get him out to San Diego on July 8 to sit in with The Grapes.

In other news…

I highly recommend my good friend Thor’s excellent post over at the 32 Days of Natural Wine on the natural wine scene in Paris. I really love his writing and I especially appreciated his hypercorrective neolgism oenopiphany. After all, there are men who know what the word epistemology means without having to look it up in a dictionary and there are others who have to go to Brooks Brothers to find out.

In other other news…

For the wine geeks out there and anyone else who wants to wrap her or his mind around what sulfur, sulfites, and SO2 have to do with wine, I highly recommend this post on the use of sulfur in wine by bonvivant Bruce Neyers, a man who needs no introduction to the oeno-initiated.

Buona lettura e buon weekend, ya’ll!


Happy birthday Giorgio Grai!

June 11, 2010

Above: Legendary and most beloved Italian winemaker Giorgio Grai turns 80 today. Photo by Franco Ziliani.

From Friuli to Trentino, from Piedmont to Tuscany, and even as far south as Apulia, there is perhaps no one more respected and beloved by Italian winemakers than Giorgio Grai, who turns 80 years old today.

Check out what Mr. Franco Ziliani had to say about Giorgio in this post over at VinoWire today.

I only met Giorgio once, introduced to him by my good friend Charles Scicolone, many years ago in the library at the old Le Cirque in the Palace Hotel in Manhattan. Before introducing me, Charles, who seemingly knows everyone in the business, turned to Giorgio and said famously, “It’s always a pleasure.”


If traditional Italian food can do it, why can’t traditional Italian wine?

March 19, 2010

Above, from left: Professor Vincenzo Gerbi (enologist, U. of Turin), me, winemaker Michele Chiarlo, and unidentified woman, March 9, 2010, Tuesday morning in Canelli. Alfonso provided a caption and thought bubbles for the photograph, which he lifted from the Barbera Meeting Flickr feed. Alfonso’s captions are humorous, of course, but the tension was as thick as Australian Shiraz with added tannin extract. It’s never an easy to task to interpret in those situations. I was using a technique called chuchotage or whispered translation, where I would whisper translations of the questions into Professor Gerbi’s ear. Then I used consecutive translation to translate his answers. Ne nuntium necare!

The events of Tuesday, March 9, 2010, at the Barbera conference in Canelli and the heated debate that ensued have been the subject of much discussion. Perhaps the best account of the ideological arm wresting was rendered by fellow member of the Barbera 7 Cory here. (Leading Italian wine writer Franco Ziliani had high praise for Cory’s observations. And fellow Barbera 7 member Fredric chronicled the excellent luncheon here.)

Here’s what Cory had to say:

    The first event was a presentation on new research being done on pruning by a group funded by some of the bigger names that produce barbera. For those of you don’t know much about the farming of wine (i’m no expert myself) the way vines are pruned are central to the way grapes ripen, how much they produce, and how the wine comes out. Traditionally barbera has been pruned using the guyot system, (which i won’t get into in detail here). The research being done is on the spur cordon system. It’s one of those things that sounds innocuous to the outsider, but the effects on the wine were profound.

    We were told about the effects of the pruning on the acids, the tannins, the color of the wine.

    It was around this point that things began to become heated.
    Questions were asked as to why this was necessary. Do you really need to keep messing with the grape? Why would you need to control the acid in barbera?

    Isn’t acid essential to barbera?

    The answer we got was that they were making barbera… important.

Read the entire post here.

Above: During the morning and afternoon sessions, my good friend and blogger colleague Charles Scicolone challenged the winemakers directly, asking “Why don’t you make the same great, food-friendly wines you made 20 years ago?”

As the interpreter, I couldn’t jump into the debate. But as I listened and interpreted, interpreted and listened, the same thought kept rolling around my head: traditional Italian cuisine has conquered the world over; so why is it that Italians want to send modern-, international- (i.e., homogeneous-) style wine abroad? In other words, if traditional Italian cuisine can do it, why can’t traditional Italian wine?

After all, the thing that Tracie P and I love the most about real Italian wine is its food-friendliness. Whether old, regal Nebbiolo or young, bright Barbera, we look for three basic elements in the wines we like, the same three elements that make wine friendly to food: high acidity, low alcohol, and honest fruit aromas and flavors. At our house, we never serve food without wine and never serve wine without food (well, to be honest, we only rarely serve Champagne at breakfast!). Joking and clichés aside, our approach to wine can be distilled in the following chiastic aphorism (do you like that one, Thor?): never wine without food, never food without wine.

And what could go better with traditional Italian cuisine than traditional Italian wine?

In other food-friendly news…

Tracie P and I FINALLY got to spend a quiet night at home alone last night. She treated me to Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes…

Did I mention that besides being jaw-droppingly gorgeous, the girl CAN COOK? ;-)

In other news…

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of doing an online interview with Grappolo Rosso. I particularly enjoyed his request that I pair wines with songs. I really liked, if I do say so myself, my pairing for Australian Shiraz: a little Judas Priest, anyone? Thanks again, Jury! And complimenti per il tuo nuovo blog!


The Barbera Boys and Girl make headlines in Italy

March 10, 2010

That’s my fellow “Barbera Boy” Fredric Koeppel reading one of the articles that has appeared about the “bloggers” who have come to Asti to taste Barbera. Photo by Thor Iverson.

It seems that the novelty of our visit here in Piedmont has raised a few eyebrows. Yesterday in the local edition of the Italian daily La Stampa and today in the national edition, headlines have appeared, talking about the “Barbera Boys.”

This morning, the third day of Barbera Meeting, we’re tasting Barbera del Monferrato and I’ve been frenetically reposting the others’s posts on our aggregate blog, Barbera2010.com.

Above: Last night, we read the article that appeared in the national paper when it came online using my Blackberry. Photo by Cory Cartwright.

I didn’t have time this morning to translate the entire article but here’s what I was able to do… More later… and More on the heated exchange that occurred last night between Belgian wine writer Bernard Arnould, my good friend Charles Scicolone, and legendary winemaker Michele Chiarlo. Suffice it to say, sparks flew, and I’m not talking about volatile acidity. Please check out Barbera2010.com for updates.

Here’s the link to the entire article in Italian, “Barbera Meeting: this wine is good and I’m going to write about it on my blog.”

    Most arrived with their notebooks in hand and their laptop computers to take notes. These tasters were invited to the province of Asti to take part in “Barbera Meeting,” a conference open to food and wine writers, a tasting and debut of Piedmont’s Barbera…

    The tasters have 120 labels available to them. “Four days organized (and financed) by the Province of Asti to attempt,” says alderman Fulvio Brusa, “to reach beyond the borders of the province and seriously share our wines with the world.” It’s going to take some courage: this year, the invitation has also been extended to the bloggers, the “irreverent” plumes of the web.

    Since Monday, six Americans and an Englishman have been filling up the pages of their blog, http://www.barbera2010.com, with lively notes. They’re doing so in real time, as they taste the wines, together with their impressions of their trip, praise, and criticism. They also include their photos: the last one today, a photo of Nizza Monferrato covered with snow. It’s also possible to converse with them in real time: “Today alone, we’ve had nearly 1,000 page views from America,” says Jeremy Parzen at the Enoteca in [the town of] Canelli, where the delegation was invited to attend a conference led by viticulture experts, including [professor and enologist] Vincenzo Gerbi and Michele Chiarlo.

    It’s the first time in Asti, Monferrato, and the Belbo Valley for the “Barbera Boys,” as they call themselves. “I’ve been to Alba many times,” confessed Jeremy, “but this area has proved a surprise.” He offers some advice: “Don’t let Barbera become a Californian wine. Let the wine speak for itself, with the voice of its terroir. Have faith in the wine and have faith in yourself.” …

    Have a good time surfing the web!


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