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!


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…


New York Stories 3: Eataly with Michele Scicolone

November 21, 2010

Still not quite sure what to make of Eataly. But was thrilled to check it out with one of my favorite Italian food writers and authorities, our good friend Michele Scicolone, who took time out from her writing to stroll through the different pavilions with me.

The “Piazza.” I’m not the first or only one to note that it’s a “Disneyland of Italian gastronomy.”

I was really impressed by the salumeria slicing and packaging.

The trouble with truffles… They’re EXPENSIVE no matter where or how you slice ‘em…

The “vegetable butcher” will trim your veggies for you.

Michele is so awesome. I can’t recommend her books highly enough.

More New York Stories to come…


Barolo confessions

August 27, 2010

It was delicious…

Above: I was cold, I was hungry, I was tired… and, yes, damn it, I sat in my lonely hotel room on a damp, cold evening in Asti and watched TV, ate takeout pizza, and drank a bottle of 2005 Barolo Ravera by Elvio Cogno.

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. I can already hear the E-Bobs and WineBerserkers wailing, “infanticide!” It was a very lonely evening for me in the heart of winter in Piedmont: the Barbera 7 had abandoned me in my hotel, just as Jeremiah’s lovers had “forgotten him.”

My only companion was a bottle of 2005 Barolo Ravera given to me by Valter Fissore of Elvio Cogno. I was cold, I was hungry, I was tired. So I ordered takeout pizza, popped the cork, and watched TV.

I don’t know where food maven Arthur Schwartz said this, but Italian cookery queen Michele Scicolone often repeats his chiasmatic adage regarding pizza: if you can’t be with the pizza you love, love the pizza you’re with. Well, honey, I loved me some pizza and Barolo that night and I lived to tell about it!

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest… Buon weekend, ya’ll!


The wine world mourns the loss of Alfredo Currado, one the “great elders” of Langa

May 2, 2010

Above: Alfredo Currado (left) and Bartolo Mascarello. Photo courtesy Weimax.

My friend Michele Scicolone sent me a Facebook message yesterday to let me know that one of the most beloved figures of Italian wine, Alfredo Currado, has sadly passed away. He will be remembered for his “pioneering” work in crafting cru Barolo and Barbaresco, for his revival of Arneis, his winery’s single-vineyard expressions of Barbera, and his legacy as a true humanist winemaker. Mr. Franco Ziliani and I have published an obituary this morning at VinoWire.


Our date with the City, part 1: pizza at Kesté

November 23, 2009

faicco

Above: It was such a beautiful fall day in Manhattan yesterday, perfect for some noshing, tasting, and strolling. Before we hit Kesté Pizza e Vino, I took Tracie B for some rice balls, prosciutto balls, and potato croquettes at Faicco’s Pork Store on Bleeker (old school, no website). There aren’t many things I miss about living in the City, but Faicco is one of them. (Photos by Tracie B, except for this one, obviously.)

Ever since reading Eric’s post in April, Tracie B and I have been dying to get to Kesté in Manhattan. We both needed to be at work on Monday morning so we only had a few precious hours yesterday to visit the City before we jumped on a plane to head back to Austin. (That would be The City, the apotheosis of cities!)

Above: The Regina Margherita at Kesté. Tracie B also ordered another Neapolitan classic, Broccoli Raab and Sausage (white) Pizza, and pizzaiolo Roberto also sent over his signature Battilocchio, yesterday with figs and gorgonzola.

Who better to eat authentic Neapolitan pizza with than our good friend Michele Scicolone? Charles was otherwise occupied on his way back from Montefalco and the “Experimental Classification of Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG tasting” and conference so it was up to me to accompany these two beautiful ladies to lunch.

Above: Michele is the author of countless tomes on Italian cookery. She and Charles are another thing I miss about living in New York.

I wish I could share with you the joy of dining alla napoletana with Tracie B, who lived for nearly five years in Ischia off the coast of Naples: at Kesté, she was like a kid in a Neapolitan candy store and with her eagle eyes, she swiftly selected a wine that wasn’t on the list and that I had never tasted before, Lettere.

Above: I had never had a wine from Lettere (Penisola Sorrentina) before. It was delicious.

But you’ll have to tune into her blog My Life Italian for a report on that part. As they say in Latin, ubi major minor cessat: I don’t know anyone else in the world who knows more about Campania wines than her and she’s promised us a blog post about this wonderful bottle.

I guess there are a few things (bagels, pastrami, pork stores, friends like Charles and Michele, not necessarily in that order) that I miss about living in Manhattan. But without Tracie B at my side, they just wouldn’t be any fun, would they?

We had a great time on the East Coast but we were both so happy to get back to Austin where we belong. There’s no place like my new home, Dorothy…

Tomorrow, part II: tasting natural Beaujolais with you-know-who (who else?). Stay tuned…


Who cuts Jim Clendenen’s unruly hair? (and Dr. J in the Statesman)

October 8, 2009

felice partida

Above: You wouldn’t believe it but rockstar winemaker Jim Clendenen and I have the same hair stylist, the rockin’ Felice Partida. The only difference? Jim has hair…

BrooklynGuy is not the only guy who gets to go to cool tastings this week, during our industry’s fall preview season (although I have to confess I wish I had had a chance to check out the Jenny and François portfolio in New York with him).

Those highfalutin New Yorkers might be surprised by the caliber of wine folk who come out to visit with us down here in central Texas. ;-)

Yesterday, I tasted a lot of great wines, including current releases from some of my favorite Italians from importer Dalla Terra — Selvapiana (07 Chianti Rufina was KILLER), Marchesi di Grésy (05 Barbaresco was stunning), Tenuta Sant’Antonio (05 was great, always one of my favorite expressions of Amarone).

I also enjoyed tasting with Jim Clendenen, whose wines — especially the high-end bottlings — are always fresh, elegant well-balanced expressions of California Pinot Noir. And I couldn’t resist the above photo op moment: Jim and I share the same hair stylist, Felice Partida! She and I met simply because I booked an appointment last year with the first stylist available at Tracie B’s salon, James Allan, in the Rosedale neighborhood of Austin where we both live. Felice is simply the coolest and as it turns out, her big sis’ Susana is also one of the coolest wine brokers in Texas, AND Felice’s boyfriend Ronnie James is one of the town’s hottest bass players (who plays and tours with the likes of Booker T, Gary Clark Jr., and Jimmy Vaughn — not bad eh?). I highly recommend Felice: being her client comes with “fringe” benefits! ;-)

bin 36

Above: Restaurateur and winemaker Brian Duncan is one of our country’s most dynamic food and wine experts. He’s also one of the coolest guys in the biz.

I also got to catch up with rockstar restaurateur and winemaker Brian Duncan from Chicago. I thought his Pinot Noir show beautifully and the packaging alone made it worth the price of admission. The back label reads: Sexy Pinot Noir seeks short term relationship with recipes that include mushrroms, pork, beef, or poultry (No strings attached).

In other news…

Check out Mike Sutter’s excellent article in yesterday’s Austin American-Statesman, “Messages in a bottle: The mystique of the restaurant wine list.” I was thrilled that Mike interviewed me for the piece and was glad to make the point that you shouldn’t “go into a restaurant with the presumption that people are going to try and take advantage of you… When you pay for a glass of wine in a restaurant, you’re not just paying for the wine. You’re paying for the restaurant’s cellaring of the wine. You’re paying for the service of the wine, and you’re also paying for the expertise.” The other wine professionals interviewed for the piece give some great advice about how to decipher a wine list. The bottom line: go out and enjoy restaurants and their wines. That’s what they’re there for! :-)

In other other news…

Above: Tracie B and I tasted 1988 Bertani Amarone with our friends Charles and Michele Scicolone and Frank Butler earlier this year when we were on tour with Nous Non Plus.

Today, Franco published this great interview with our mutual friend (and one of my mentors) Charles Scicolone. It’s in Italian so if you’re not Italophone, check out Charles’s blog. Charles started drinking and collecting fine Italian wine in the late 70s and early 80s, long before the current renaissance of Italian food and wine. His insights into how the Italian wine industry has evolved over the last 40 years are invaluable.

In an unrelated story…

Is Berlusconi’s number finally up? The Italian courts have revoked his immunity.

Buona lettura!


The origins of Zibibbo (closer reading part 2)

September 17, 2009

pant1

Photos of Pantelleria by Alfonso Cevola.

In response to my post on Sir Robert the other day, both Charles (friend, mentor, venerated palate, and husband to Italian cookery authority Michele Scicolone) and Tracie B (my soon-to-be better and definitely better looking half) asked about the origins of the grape name Zibibbo.

In 1605, Sir Robert writes of white Tuscan grape “Zibibbo,” which is “dried for Lent.” It is highly likely that he is referring to the Tuscan tradition of Vin Santo. One of the unique things about Vin Santo, beyond the winemaker’s intentional oxidation of the wine, is that it often undergoes a second fermentation in the spring when temperatures begin to rise and my hunch is that the reference to Lent has something to do with vinification practices (but that’s another story for another post).

Today, we know Zibibbo as the white Moscato used to make the famed wine of Sicily, Passito di Pantelleria. But in antiquity, the word meant simply “dried grape,” from the Arabic zabib, akin to the Egyptian zibib. As it turns out, it was only recently that the term began to denote specifically the grapes used for the famous wine of Pantelleria. It’s not clear which variety Sir Robert is referring to but he’s clearing referring to a dried grape wine (especially in the light of his reference to Lent).

pant2

When I was a grad student, my dissertation adviser used to call me the segugio, the blood hound or sleuth: this morning I did some snooping around and found and translated the following passage by one of Italy’s greatest philologists, Alberto Varvaro, professor at the University of Naples (o what a joy to be reunited, finally, with my library!). I love what professor Varvaro has to say in his conclusion, i.e., that part of the reason why we’ve come to know Moscato d’Alessandria as Zibibbo is because Palermitan shopkeepers adopted the term as a designation of higher quality in order to charge higher prices.* I also love Varvaro’s Sicilian style and humor in describing this linguistic phenomenon — all the while in a highly erudite and scientific context. Varvaro was born in Palermo in 1934 and is one of Italy’s leading experts in dialectology.

    Everyone knows Zibibbo, the excellent white table grape variety, grown for the most part in Pantelleria (hence the name)… Many are quick to say that this has always been its name and that the connection between the name, meaning, and referent-object has ancient and undisputed origins.** But this is not the case: the Arabic zabib, which with all likelihood gave the name to our grape, was a dried grape and was probably the meaning of the term when it began to be used in Sicily (according to [anthropologist] Alberto Cirese, its meaning remained unchanged in outlying areas and as far away as Central Italy). Even if this were not true, there is no disputing the fact that dictionaries in the 1700s and 1800s unhesitatingly define the term zibbibbu as a red grape and therefore, there is no doubt that the word’s meaning has changed only recently. Lastly, it is worth noting that the grape’s history in Pantelleria is proof of this recent change. Apart from its past history, it is useful to consider the present state of things: as if to play a trick on Linnaeus [the father of modern taxonomy] and surely motivated by profit and self-promotion, most of the shopkeepers in Palermo make a clear-cut distinction between zibbibbu and uva: if you use the word uva [i.e., grape] when you ask for zibibbo, the shopkeepers will correct you, perhaps because they suspect you wish to pay less. Thus, we have a case in which the solidarity of the name, meaning, and referent object has been broken in relation to a change in the referent-object as well as in relation to the linguistic articulation of the meaning.

pantelleria3

If I keep up this scholarly Sicilian sleuthing, ya’ll might have to start calling me Dr. Montalbano!

Thanks for reading…

* In Grape Varieties of Italy, Calò, Scienza, and Costacurta list these synonyms for Zibibbo: Zibibbo Bianco, Moscatellone, Moscato di Pantelleria, Salamonica, Salamanna, Seralamanna, Moscato di Alessandria [Muscat d'Alexandrie, Muscat from Alexandria, a reference to its Egyptian origins], Muscat [in French].

** Referent or referent-object is a term used in linguistics to denote “The entity referred to or signified by a word or expression; a thing or person alluded to” (OED). In this case, Varvaro is using a classic triangular model of linguistics, articulating the word itself (the name or signifier), its meaning (the signified), and the actual object to which it refers.


Call me crazy: white clam pizza and Nebbiolo

April 25, 2009

From the “life could be worse” department…

Above: Call me crazy but I paired cherry stone clam pizza and Nebbiolo the other day at Nonna in Dallas. It was delicious. The fruit in the 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco is showing beautifully right now and shows no signs of wanting to close up.

The San Diego Kid (that’s me, your resident wine cowboy) found himself in Dallas the other day, dusty and tired after a day of showing wine, with a six-pack of wine still slung around his back, his trusty companion Dinamite (the Silver Hyundai) beaten but not broken, and a bottle half-full of 2005 Produttori del Barbaresco still to be drunk. So he moseyed on over to the nearest saloon and parked his chaparreras at the bar at Nonna, where owner Julian Barsotti insisted he have the white pizza with cherry stone clams.

Above: Rock star owner and chef Julian Barsotti of Nonna makes some of the best pizza in Texas. He spent a season in Naples where he studied at the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana.

Julian opens the cherry stone clams first, reserves the juices, and then slowly wilts Vidalia onions with their juice and some cream until the onions literally melt and the cream and clam juice reduce to a thick sauce which he seasons with a mix of finely chopped herbs. Before firing the pizza in a wood-fired oven, he dresses the pizza with the clams, sauce, and a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano. I’m still a big fan of his Margherita but the white clam pizza was the best I’ve ever had this side of New Haven, Connecticut.

The pairing was as decadent as it was delicious. In Italy, I still pair my pizza with beer (as tradition dictates) but here in the Wild West, crazy things can happen.

In other news…

I couldn’t be there this year (but I was last year): the first couple of Italian-American food and wine Michele and Charles Scicolone hosted their second “bygone wines” dinner in New York. Check out Eric’s post here.

In other other news…

Today (April 25) is Liberation Day in Italy, commemorating the partisans’s triumph over fascist and Nazi rule in 1945 (Milan and Turin were liberated on this day).


Oops I did it again: pizza and Bertani 1988 Amarone!

February 24, 2009

Oh baby
It might seem like a crush
But it doesn’t mean that I’m serious
‘Cause to lose all my senses
That is just so typically me
Oh baby, baby

Above: Charles Scicolone can often be found at La Pizza Fresca in Gramercy (Manhattan), where they allow wine luminaries to bring their own bottles. The list there leans heavily toward modern and the prices are prohibitive. The pizza is good (although not as good as the pizza I recently tasted in San Antonio! I’ll be posting on that shortly so stay tuned).

Franco is going to kill me. I did it again: while Tracie B and I were in Manhattan for the last show in the NN+ tourette a few weeks ago, I paired pizza with an absolutely, undeniably, unquestionably, and egregiously inappropriate wine.

Two inappropriate wines, actually: Bertani 1988 (yes, 88!) Amarone and Cantalupo 1996 Ghemme Collis Breclemae (above).

One of the most important things I learned in college (and one of my favorite mottoes) was “This statement is false.” (It is a classic example of the Russel paradox. The other important thing I learned was that no movie is set in the future: “If the story has been told,” film professor Tinazzi used to say in Padua, “then it has already happened.”)

Above: Charles always orders the Margherita but I am always partial to the Puttanesca there. I never ate anchovies on my pizza until a pizzaiolo wrote the name of my band using anchovies on a pizza many years ago when I was on a summer tour in the Dolomites playing cover tunes (yes, I toured in a cover band in Italy). Evidently, Elvis Presley used to eat salt-cured anchovy fillets to soothe his throat while on tour.

What bearing does the above have on the present post, you ask? In the wake of the brouhaha that followed Dr. V’s post in which he quoted me as saying pizza could not be paired with wine, and my subsequent apologia pasoliniana, I feel compelled to confess that what I did was wrong: one should never pair two such elegant wines with the acidity and saltiness, not to mention the high temperatures, of pizza. At the same time, and here’s where the paradox kicks in, the experience was decadent, sumptuous, utterly delicious, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Above: Tracie B had a pizza bianca with broccoli raab. Also in attendance were friends Frank Butler (who generously brought the Bertani) and Michele Scicolone, who recently launched her excellent blog (definitely worth adding to your feed if only for the recipes that she shares). Charles has also become an avid blogger and I’ve been enjoying his blog and Facebook as well.

Charles’s 1996 Ghemme was earthy and had a crazy eucalyptus note, still very powerful and young, an amazing expression of Nebbiolo (and very definitely Piedmontese despite what Henri Vasnier said the other day on Brooklynguy’s blog). I’ve tasted this wine a number of times over the years and it is just beginning to come into its own.

The 1988 Bertani was sublime: a great vintage by one of the appellation’s greatest producers, very traditional in style, powerful and rich, yet already attaining the ineffable lightness that Amarone begins to achieve in its late adolescence.

Were these wines wasted by a paradoxical pairing? In other words, did we ruin the wines by pairing them with foods that detracted from their aromas and flavors? My feeling is that no, we did not: we experienced them in a new and different way than their traditional pairings. After all, the traditional pairing for an Amarone like that is pastissada de caval, horse meat stewed until stringy in red wine. Where would one find a horse to eat in Manhattan?

Oops, I did it again… Thanks Frank and Charles for bringing such incredible wines!

In other news…

If you’re into Loire and Chenin Blanc, check out Tracie B’s post on our visit to Chaume and her take on Chaume vs. Sauternes.


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