Monday, July 24, 2017

Cherry Berry Salsa

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Milano-Style Pizza and Chocolate Salami from Ambrogio15

Are you a frustrated pizza maker? I think all of us who love to cook have gone through a pizza-making phase, finally giving it up in frustration. We've lined ovens with tiles, spritzed with water, tried different flours, different methods of dough making. And then threw up our hands and went out to eat.

I think you should give it one more shot--based on an afternoon I spent with Andrea Burrone of Ambrogio15 in Pacific Beach. This sweet, charming, and very talented young man from Milan, who started out professionally working in banking, has clearly found his calling. And his calling is making pizza in San Diego using traditional Italian ingredients and techniques... Lucky us.

Now Burrone is working with something we don't have: a ginormous Marana Forni oven imported from Italy that reaches temperatures of 700 degrees--something your home oven can't even dream of. But are there any home cooks better than Italian home cooks? If they can do it in their ovens, so can we--if we know what we're doing. And with Burrone as a coach, we now know what we're doing.

In fact, Burrone revamped the proprietary restaurant recipe to work for a home cook. For one thing, while he uses a biga--or starter--at the restaurant, the recipe we have here is for a direct dough, using active yeast, 0 flour, water, sugar, and salt. (And while I don't have the recipe here, the restaurant also makes a superb, very crunchy whole wheat crust Margherita pizza below.)

The other thing we should do is to bake the crust first, then add the topping. This way the pizza crust gets nice and crunchy, not soggy (yeah, I've been there, too). And the dough should be baked first at the bottom of the oven sans toppings and then in the middle once it's filled.

Instead of making dough in his large mixer, Burrone demonstrated dough making in a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, using the dough hook. First, he began by activating the yeast, mixing it with room temperature water and sugar, then letting it sit for about 15 minutes.

Once the yeast was bubbling, he placed 0 flour in the bowl of the mixer. He then added the yeast mixture, slowly blending it until incorporated. With that, Burrone added more water and brought up the speed, then olive oil, speeding it up again, then salt. Max out the speed and keep it going until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a ball. Depending on the weather--both temperature and humidity--you may have to add more flour or more oil to get it to that point.

Stop the mixer, pull the bowl out, cover and let the dough rest until it doubles in size. Then comes the fun. Divide the dough into sections 100 grams each (yeah, you'll need a kitchen scale to do all this). Each ball will make a 12-inch round paper thin Milano-style pizza.

Turn each piece into a ball by pulling the sides out and under until the ball is smooth. Then turn it over and pinch the underside to seal. Do this to each piece, cover, and let rest at least two hours until they've doubled in volume.

When you're ready to make the pizzas, turn on the oven to 500˚F to preheat. Now you have a choice--you can either use a rolling pin to roll out the dough or use the tips of your fingers to gently press it out. Use flour or semolina to keep the surface from getting sticky when you shape the dough. And when you put the shaped dough on a pan, be sure to put oil topped by a sprinkling of semolina or cooking spray on the pan before placing the dough on it.

Now you'll place the pan in the lowest part of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove it and add your topping--whether it's the delightful Arugula Pistachio Pesto below or tomato sauce (be sure to use peeled San Marzano tomatoes with basil--in the yellow can--for what Burrone says is the most authentic margherita-style pizza), topped with cheese. Then put the pizza back in the oven, but on a rack in the middle of the oven. Bake it for another 4 to 5 minutes until the cheese is melted. That's it!

Here's another Burrone tip. If you're using fresh mozzarella on your pizza, make sure that the night before you place it in a colander over a bowl so that it will release its water--and you again avoid a soggy pizza crust. And don't, don't, don't use pre-shredded cheese. Just don't.

Pleased with yourself and ready for dessert? Burrone's co-owner Giacomo Pizzigoni shared a "grandma" recipe with me. A chocolate salami. This, he says, is very common in Italy but not something you'll ever find in restaurants (including Ambrogio15).

Make it now, taking advantage of the fact that it requires no cooking, or making it when it's most traditional--at Christmas time. The "salami" is, in fact, cocoa powder mixed with sugar, biscuit pieces, melted butter, and very fresh eggs, all mixed together, shaped into a sausage, wrapped in foil, and frozen for an hour. Pizzigoni said to serve it with whipped cream, mascarpone, or berries. I can tell you it's fabulous!

Arugula Pistachio Pesto Pizza
from Andrea Burrone of Ambrogio15
(printable recipe)

Note: Most American home cooks are used to measuring by volume, not weight. Here, most of the amounts are indicated by weight using grams. If you have a kitchen scale, this should be no problem--and the measurements will be more accurate, creating a more successful outcome.


Pizza dough
Yield, 5 to 6, 12-inch pizzas

25 grams fresh dry yeast
30 grams water, room temperature
5 grams sugar
575 grams 0 flour (If you can't find it locally at places like Whole Foods or Mona Lisa it's available on
300 grams water
30 grams extra virgin olive oil
12 grams salt

Arugula Pistachio Pesto
Yield: 4 cups

3 cloves garlic
100 grams pistachio nuts, raw and unsalated
150 grams parmesan cheese
15 grams salt
300 grams fresh arugula
450 grams extra virgin olive oil

1 ball of fresh mozzarella, drained overnight
5 or 6 slices mortadella (optional)
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (optional)

1. Combine yeast, water, and sugar. Let sit 15 minutes. It should be bubbling.
2. Insert dough hook in stand mixer. Place flour in the mixer's bowl. Add yeast mixer and start blending at the 3 speed until incorporated. Slowly add water and bring up speed to blend. Slow it down and add the olive oil and speed it up again. Slow it down to add salt (and, if it's too thin, more flour). Bring the mixer to maximum speed (6 to 8) and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a ball.
3. Remove bowl from mixer, cover, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes until doubled in size.
4. Divide the dough into 5 to 6 pieces, each weighing 100 grams for a 12-inch pizza. Form balls with each by pulling the sides out and under while turning until the surface is smooth. Pinch the underside to seal. Sprinkle some semolina or flour on the counter or a tray and place the balls on them. Cover and let rest for at least 2 hours until the balls double in volume.
5. To make the pest, place all the ingredients except the oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Blend them together, then slowly add the oil. If it's too thick, add a little water. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.
6. To cook the pizza, preheat the oven to 500˚F. Roll out the dough by hand, pressing and shaping it in a 12-inch circle with your fingertips, or use a rolling pin. Spread a little oil on the pan and then sprinkle it lightly with semolina or use a baking spray like Pam. Place the pizza dough on the pan and place on the lowest rack in the oven. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
7. Remove pizza crust from oven. Spread about 2 tablespoons of pesto on the crust and top with pieces of mozzarella.
8. Place pizza back in the oven, but on the middle rack. Bake another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and top with folded slices of mortadella and fresh cherry tomatoes.

Chocolate Salami
from Giacomo Pizzigoni of Ambrogio15
(printable recipe)
Yield: 1 "salami"

300 grams sweet biscuits, like McVitties, broken up into bite-sized pieces
130 grams white sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
2 eggs (make sure they're very fresh)
200 grams butter, melted and cooled

1. Combine the biscuits, sugar, cocoa, and eggs. Mix well. Add butter and mix well.
2. Pour the mixture on a large piece of aluminum foil--about 2 feet long. Shape into a salami.

3. Wrap the foil around the salami and freeze for 1 hour. Place in refrigerator.
4. To serve, slice pieces and plate. Serve with berries and mascarpone or whipped cream.

Ambrogio15 is open Monday through Thursday from 4:30 to 10 p.m. and until 11 p.m. on Fridays. On Saturday, it's open from noon to 11 p.m. and on Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. It's located at 926 Turquoise St. in North Pacific Beach.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cucumber Peach Summer Salad

It started with a peach. A perfectly ripe, fragrant peach that I was about to bite into, anticipating the juices running down my chin.

Actually, no. Let me start over. It started with a hot and humid afternoon--so humid that there was a freak five-minute downpour in my neighborhood, with thick raindrops striking the pavement and surprising neighbors outside my window walking their dogs and babies.

There was no way I could cook anything for dinner. So as I lifted that rosy peach to my mouth I thought the better of it, set it down on the counter, and contemplated what I could do to turn it into the star of a cold meal.

Slicing it into a salad of greens would be easy, but--eh. I wanted it to be the salad--a composed salad.

I pulled out an English cucumber. Not a natural peach partner, but why not? Nothing says chill like a cucumber. It got thinly sliced and laid out onto a rectangular plate. I sliced a red onion and placed those on top.

Then came slices of peaches. Now, on a different day with different weather, I would have grilled the peach--but that was not the point of this particular meal.

Next up were pecans. Pecans are lovely paired with peaches and Trader Joe's sells these marvelous roasted and salted bags I keep in the freezer. I pulled that out and shook out about a quarter cup, which I then roughly chopped.

I have basil growing on my kitchen windowsill so I cut off a half dozen large leaves and did a chiffonade on them.

That was it. If I had had a ball of fresh mozzarella or burrata I would have added slices of cheese.

Next was how to dress the salad. I combed through my pantry and pulled out a bottle of thick, sweet violet balsamic vinegar from Baker & Olive and my favorite McEvoy olive oil. I mixed up a couple of tablespoons and drizzled the mixture over the salad before digging in. Simple, easy, no sweat--and delicious.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Konyn Kids Selling Their Farm-Bred Meat

You may think of the San Diego County Fair as the place to get your deep-fried pickles, but for hundreds of kids involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of America, this is show time. Quite literally. You have to tour the big halls filled with cows and pigs, turkeys and rabbits, and, of course, chickens.

4-H Kids at the San Diego County Fair
Among those who regularly exhibit their animals are the Konyn children--Kylie, Kiara, and Teo. The two sisters and their brother have grown up on the family dairy in North County. Kylie, the eldest, is now a teenager, but she's been raising dairy heifers, horses, and poultry since she was five or six. And she's been winning awards since she first joined 4-H--both at the San Diego County Fair and the Ramona Fair. As she told me a couple of years ago, "It definitely got me hooked."

Kylie at the Ramona Fair
With the fair over, the animals she and her siblings have raised and exhibited are now being harvested and readied for sale. Kylie, again, received Supreme Champion Exhibitor as well as Supreme Champion Cow and Bull during the breeding show and both girls won Showmanship. Teo won Grand Champion with his meat rabbits.

Award-winner Teo at the San Diego County Fair
Mom Stacy Konyn let me know they will be harvesting all the meat birds and turkeys they raised this coming Friday (July 7). If you're interested in farm fresh chickens or turkeys, these should be delicious. Stacy says that they sell the meat birds harvested and ready for the oven or freezer for $5 a pound, with the average price of chickens about $30 to $35. Farm-raised, free-range turkeys at weights from 22 to 30 pounds will cost from $125 to $165. Teo has four rabbits available now and will have 15 rabbits for sale at the beginning of August. They'll cost between $25 to $30.

Also available, says Stacy, are three market goats that are being harvested.

Contact Stacy Konyn at if you're interested in making a purchase.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer Pasta with Goat Cheese

Wunderground tells me that today in my neighborhood, Tierrasanta, the temperature will reach 92°.  As I write this I've got a large glass of iced coffee on my desk, my desk fan is circulating, blowing my hair--and hopefully sweat--from my face. And I'm writing about a way to create a summery pasta dish with a cream sauce you don't have to cook.

The sauce, that is. You do have to cook the pasta. But that's it. And that hot pasta will make your sauce for you and you toss together the ingredients.

For my summer pasta, I first minced a couple of cloves of garlic, added it to a small bowl, and then added a pinch of sea salt and several tablespoons of one of my favorite olive oils. I wanted to let that sit for an hour or so to let the garlic infuse its flavors into the oil.

Once I was ready for dinner I put a big pot of water on the stove to come to the boil. While I waited, I halved a bunch of cherry tomatoes and kalamata olives. I still have those green onions, so I diced one up and set it aside. I have a pot of gorgeous big-leaved basil growing on the counter behind my kitchen sink, so I cut off several leaves, then rolled them up to chiffonade them into aromatic thin slivers. I seeded and removed the membrane from a serrano chile before dicing that. Then I added a little sherry vinegar to the garlicky oil.

I was ready--except for one last item. Goat cheese.

The goat cheese would pull the dish together. Yes, it would be wonderful without it. But when the goat cheese hits the steam from the freshly cooked pasta it dissolves into tangy creaminess. You could do the same with a fresh mozzarella--but you wouldn't get that distinctive flavor the goat cheese imparts. So I go for the goat.

From this...

To this... Just by stirring.
Do you really need a recipe for this? Nah. Just start with your favorite dry pasta. Me? I really enjoy DeLallo biodynamic whole wheat pastas, like these shells. You'll also want tomatoes, kalamata olives, onions or chives, fresh basil, garlicky olive oil with just a little acid from a good wine vinegar (or try lemon juice), and if you like heat, a chile or red chile flakes.

I also like to add artichoke hearts or roasted shrimp, toasted pine nuts or walnut pieces, marinated eggplant or sweet peppers or fresh peas. There's just a world of options out there. The point is you can create a healthy, delicious meal for yourself in short order with little heat or effort even when the temps are soaring and the only thing that sounds good is a popsicle.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chilled Spinach and Green Onion Soup

Where are you on the gardening spectrum? I find myself drawn to spending time outdoors in my garden. I love watering and pruning, nibbling on cherry tomatoes or society garlic flowers. I have my successes--Meyer lemons, herbs, limes, cherry tomatoes, roses--but frustratingly frequent fails. And then there are those that fall somewhere in the middle--like the onions I harvested yesterday.

Now here's my problem. Clay soil. Clay soil that I work religiously with compost and gypsum until I'm ready to collapse. And as soon as I turn my back and put my shovel back in the garage, that damned soil smirks and tightens right back up. The dwarf fruit trees and rose bushes seem to defy it and thrive. But annual vegetables are suffocated by it--hence the fails.

The onion seedlings were gifted to me by my mom. I didn't look at the tag but assumed they were conventional onions. I duly went home and planted them in amended soil and waited. And waited. And waited. I planted them last summer and they grew, flowered, and when the tops finally started to turn brown I decided it was time to pull them. That was yesterday. They came out like green onions--no developed bulb. Was it the fault of the clay soil or were they destined never to fill out? I don't know. But, foolishly, I pulled them all.

So, yikes! Now I have tons of green onions. I gave some to my neighbor but still am overflowing. There's not even room in my fridge. Don't get me wrong. I love green onions--but I'm bursting at the stinky allium seams.

When you start poking around for inspiration on how to use them en masse, what you find is that green onions are pretty much limited to garnish or grilling material. That just doesn't do it under the circumstances.

Soup, I thought, would--and given the heat wave we're enduring right now, chilled soup. My inspiration came from Saveur and a soup they had made with spinach, chives, and yogurt. The green onions they included were grilled--and a garnish. But if chives, why not green onion? With that little start I came up with something my own I think you'll like.

I had spinach I was going to use for smoothies. I chopped up a bunch of the green onions. I added garlic. I was with my mom at her doctor's office and mentioned all this to her and she said, "Add dill." So, I went into my garden later that afternoon and cut off some dill. I also picked a Meyer lemon because I could tell this mixture, which had a base of yogurt and sour cream, needed some acid. The garnish would be panko crumbs browned in butter--and some more chopped green onion.

The soup is delightful--thick and creamy, and quite herbaceous. It's perfect for a steamy summer meal. Other than sautéing the panko, no heat is involved. Everything goes into the blender and poured into a bowl. If you want a more refined soup, puree all the greens first and then put the mixture through a sieve. Then add the yogurt and sour cream. I like a more peasant-style soup and on a hot day didn't have the patience for an extra step so I blended everything together.

The irony is, of course, it still didn't come close to using up the green onions. Any takers?

Chilled Spinach and Green Onion Soup
(printable recipe)
Serves 4

2 cups spinach, tightly packed
1 cup green onions, sliced (set aside a couple of tablespoons for garnish)
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup ice cubes
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup low-fat or "light" sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces panko crumbs

1. Place all of the ingredients until the butter in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings.
2. Chill the soup for at least an hour.
3. In a skillet, melt the butter and then add the panko crumbs. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds until the crumbs become slightly brown and crisp. Drain on a paper towel.
4. To serve, divide the soup between bowls. Garnish with the set aside slices of green onions and a sprinkling of the panko crumbs.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Daniel Wolinsky's Tagliarini with Hot Sausage and Clams

Last week I promised to share a pasta dish that Daniel Wolinsky, Chef de Cuisine at cucina SORELLA in Kensington, taught me how to make. Wolinsky, who teaches pasta-making classes at the restaurant, made a simple Tagliarni with Hot Sausage and Clams. Like many of us who cook at home, he created a "what's in the fridge" style dish. Initially he was thinking of a corn pesto, which intrigued me. But, there was no corn around that day. But clams and other seafood were. So we were going to go in a seafood and tomato pasta direction. Until he noticed his house-made sausage. Scratch the seafood. Instead it evolved into just clams with the sausage, along with garlic, and even green garlic (it is, after all, still spring), lemon juice, and white wine. Actually, there was fresh minced basil, too, which you can certainly add, although Wolinsky didn't include it in the recipe below.

If you don't know Daniel Wolinsky, it's probably because he's fairly new to San Diego. He came here from New York last year to open the restaurant. Originally from upstate New York, he grew up cooking as a kid. His mom, he said, is a great cook. He is especially fond of what he calls her "funeral" cookies--cookies packed with everything from coconut to walnuts to chocolate chips. They're the reliable cookie you bring to occasions like a funeral, he explained.

Wolinsky started out exploring food in Israel and returning to the U.S. to attend the New England Culinary Institute. He developed an interest in French fine dining, interning at a Michelin star restaurant, Auberge du Lac, in England as a young cook. When he returned to New York, he continued in fine dining for awhile, then worked at a Korean American restaurant called The Good Fork in Brooklyn, where he started making dishes like potato gnocchi. As his career continued Wolinsky segued back into French and Italian fine dining. In 2014, he staged at the three-star Michelin restaurant Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy under Massimo Bottura.

"The common denominator," he said, "was fresh pasta. The more I played with it, the more I loved it."

Surprisingly, Wolinsky doesn't leave cooking behind at the restaurant. He still loves to cook at home for himself and his girlfriend.

"It's hard to eat and be depressed so I also cook at home." He also hosts Monday night dinners for the staff with non-Italian food. "Our last dinner was Israeli. We've done Asian. And I hosted Passover."

Of the various restaurants in the Urban Kitchen Group, cucina SORELLA is the "pasta" restaurant. But given what he calls the micro cultures in Kensington, Wolinsky designed the menu to have something for everybody--gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian. He explained that he changes something on the menu every three weeks, making decisions based what's in the farmers market truck he buys from.

So, that explains the origin of our dish.

He started with making the pasta. He already had a batch of dough mixed that one of his line chefs had been turning into ravioli. This dough, rich in eggs, is a house specialty and Wolinsky felt it might be too difficult for home cooks not all that experienced in making pasta to get right. Instead, our recipe below is a little more user friendly with fewer eggs (three whole eggs instead of nine yolks) and your success that much more guaranteed.

The noodles Wolinsky prefers for a seafood pasta like this are thin. He explained that they cook quickly in water and in the broth of the seafood component they better absorb the flavors.

When running the pasta through the machine, you'll want to get it as thin as possible. When Wolinsky did his final roll, you could actually see the grain of the wood counter through the sheet.

The long flat pasta stretched about three feet along the counter so Wolinsky cut it into several pieces. Then sprinkled them lightly with flour so when he folded each up there'd be no sticking.

Then he sliced through the folded piece of pasta to create long, thin noodles of tagliarini.

With the pasta made we went into the kitchen to create the sauce. It was ridiculously quick. So first put a pot of water to the boil. Then grab a pan and add the sliced sausage. Sauté the coins until just golden brown on both side. If they don't give off enough fat, add a little extra virgin olive oil, and then add the garlic. Just before the garlic starts to brown add the clams and quickly cook together before pouring the wine into the pan. Cover the the pan so the clams will steam open--it'll take just a couple of minutes. Once the clams open, add the pasta to the boiling water and the green garlic to the pan. The pasta should be cooked in less than a minute. Pull it out of the water and drop into the pan and toss, adding the fresh lemon juice. Taste and add salt if necessary. If the dish is too dry for you, add a little of the pasta water to the pan.

At that point, it'll be ready to plate. Pour the pasta mixture into a bowl and top with the bread crumbs.

Tagliarini with Hot Sausage and Clams
from Daniel Wolinsky of cucina SORELLA
(printable recipe)
Feeds about 4 people

1 pound fresh tagliarini (Any long noodle will work but we recommend fresh long noodles; recipe below.)
8 ounces or 2 spicy Italian sausage links pre-cooked and sliced into coins 1/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped1 pound Little Neck clams (Manilla also work.)
3/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon green garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup fresh toasted bread crumbs

1. Put on a 8-quart pot of water to boil and season heavily with salt.
2. In a large sauté pan over medium/high heat sear the sausage till golden brown on both sides.
3. Add the garlic and right before it starts to color add the clams and toss together. Cook for 30 seconds.
4. Carefully pour the white wine into the pan and cover to steam the clams open, about 2 to 3 minutes.
5. When the clams open drop the pasta to cook and add the green garlic to the pan.
6. Toss in the pasta and squeeze in the fresh lemon juice. Season the dish to taste with salt. If you like the dish more brothy, add a few tablespoons of pasta water.
7. Plate and top the pasta with a healthy portion of bread crumbs. Enjoy!

Fresh Pasta Recipe
3 whole eggs
300 grams 00 flour
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

1. In a Kitchen Aid stand mixer add the flour and on a low speed with a dough hook slowly pour in the eggs and olive oil.
2. Mix for about 10 minutes (Note you may need to add a touch of water if it's too dry.). After the dough has formed wrap tightly in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes.
3. Roll the dough using a pasta rolling machine to the desired thickness and shape. I recommend, longer thinner noodles.

Cucina SORELLA is located at 4055 Adams Ave. in San Diego.

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