Cooking in the Time of COVID-19: Tom made Pizza for Dinner using his Ooni Koda

We’ve been taking turns in the kitchen while we wait this virus out and for the first time we have been able to cook without looking at the clock. We can cook the way we used to when the kids were little, when there were no appointments, no schedules, no eating and running out the door. We are taking the time to slow ourselves down and savor our food. Last night, Tom fired up the oven and made pizzas.

       A little bit on his oven. This oven came to live with us when I went to Trinidad for my cousin’s wedding. Leave Tom alone long enough you will comeback to something new. It was not just the oven but it was a station on the back deck for said oven.  It heats to 900 F and takes about 90 seconds to completely cook. So when there are guests, pizzas are made and served on after the other and no one is left waiting to eat. If you don’t have a gas fired pizza oven you can still use this recipe to make light crusted tasty pizza. All you have to do is heat your stove’s oven to the highest temperature. Ours at home is 500 F and in 10 minutes we were able to make a pizza just as enjoyable and tasty as the ones in the Ooni Koda.

I have to give Tom props for taking on baking the way he has. I am no good with dough. I don’t like mixing it, kneading it and I certainly can’t toss it without wrecking it.  He also makes his own tomato sauce. He is not an “eyeball it” cook like I am and I do admire his precision when it comes to measuring and timing and texture. Do here you go – here is Tom’s Pizza that you can easily make during this time of social isolation. Please enjoy and please stay at home. Let’s get through this pandemic one day at a time, one meal at a time ~ Daniella and family.

DOUGH

To make the dough for 4 pizzas there are just 5 ingredients:-

500 grams ’00’ flour (SUPER finely ground flour)

300 grams water (pizza dough is always 60% water to whatever amount of
flour…so if you only want to do 300 grams of flour to make a couple of
pizzas, then 180 gms water)

1 teaspoon of active dry yeast

10 grams salt

10 grams olive oil

Method:- Put the salt in the flour, and mix it. I got this really inexpensive mixer on Amazon called Aicok and it had great reviews in spite of it’s low cost. The point is, cooking and cooking utensils don’t have to blow the budget. Doing the research can get you great brands you may have never heard of, but their reviews are fantastic and the price is affordable.

Next, heat your water for 40 seconds in the microwave, and it should be between 110 and 120 degrees F, basically WARM to the touch.Add the yeast to the water, and mix it up, making sure to keep the yeast in the water as much as you can. Leave it for 15 minutes.  It should bubble or foam.

 

Let the flour and salt start mixing in the mixer at the lowest setting…then pour in the water/yeast mixture. Add the olive oil. Use a silicone spatula to occasionally keep the dough in one ball, and not sticking to the bottom. Let it knead for a good 10-15 minutes.

Bring that ball out as intact as you can onto a well floured surface. I like using a Limnuo silcone pad when kneading dough. No sticking, you use less flour on it’s surface and less mess ergo happy wife but any clean flat floured surface would do just fine. Roll the ball of dough around and knead it a little just to keep its shape.

       

Lightly oil the inner surface of a big container. I like to use a stainless steel mixing bowl. Make the dough into one big ball (haha) and put it into the container. Oil the top of the ball  and then cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours.

SAUCE:

1 big can of San Marzano tomatoes FROM DOP.  You can get this in the international section of WalMart.

    

       

 

Use 2 cloves of garlic.  Peel them, and finely slice them. Coat the bottom of a medium sized pan with olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the sliced garlic. In about 30 seconds it will start to get really fragrant. Add the whole can of tomatoes and add ONE dab of tomato paste.

 

Good pinch of red pepper flake and Oregano. Let simmer on LOW and let it go for a good 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

      

Once it’s at your desired thickness, blend that sucker, and put it in a container and put it aside until you’re ready to use it.

 

DOUGH again, then PIZZA:

The DAY you’re going to make pizzas, take the dough out of the fridge and let it acclimate for an hour or so. On a well floured surface, cut the dough into 4 equal sections (they should be about 200 grams each). Using flour and rolling with your hands, make them into tight balls.The surface should be without any cracks or lines.  Any dimples or imperfections should all be at the bottom and pinched together in a ‘navel’ that can close itself up.  Put them to rest in a lightly oiled container, trying to keep them separate.

Now, prep your ingredients.

I recommend using a GOOD mozzarella and/or goat cheese.  Do NOT use pre-shredded cheese, as that’s usually coated with a starch so it doesn’t stick together in the bag.  Better to freshly shred, or slice your cheese.

If you’re using toppings, remember this is going to be a THIN crust pizza, so they need to be cut THIN too.

   

When it’s time to make the pizzas, put the pizza stone in your oven (if you don’t have a pizza oven) and put that to the highest it can go…likely 500 F. Flour your surface again, and take one of the dough balls. Stretch it out into a pizza dough. You’ll have to look up the techniques to do
this, and find the one you like best. There are a bunch on Youtube.  I suggest starting with OONIVERSITY on YOUTUBE with their simple  doable steps.

Once stretched, put it on a pizza peel that has a generous amount of semolina flour spread on it. Make sure the pizza dough freely slides around on it.

Now, you need to sauce it pretty quickly, and add your mozzerella (or GOAT CHEESE…GREAT option!) and toppings. LESS IS MORE…and quicker is better. If you take too long, the dough will stick to the peel, and that’s not fun.

Slide that thing onto your pizza stone and just WATCH it.  Once you see
some decent ‘leoparding’ spots on the dough, you can take it out and see
if it’s completely done…if there are some lighter spots, turn the
pizza that way and put it back in for about half a minute. Bring it out, give it 30 seconds or so to cool, and cut – DONE. HAVE FUN. EAT. ENJOY. STAY HOME. KEEP COOKING ~ Tom and family.

Check out the pizza creations we have made.

 

   

 

 

Cooking in the time of COVID-19: Bravo,Logan on your Delicious Beef Broccoli

The deal is, Logan learns a new dish every Monday and Friday. Tonight’s diner…Beef Broccoli.

 

My son and I share a deep and meaningful love of Chinese cuisine. For the past 7 years, we would go to Toronto for March Break and have the 3 but at least 1 all day Chinese food and Dim Sum feast. This would also be the time he would bring all his gift cards he received at Christmas and buy new clothes. If we had time we would take in a play, catch a movie or visit an attraction (usually the Hockey Hall of Fame). In addition to other spots we would try, out two spots are Rol San on Spadina for Dim Dum and Island Mix in Pickering on our way home for Chinese food made by a Trini hand. It is so crazy, that we promised each other if we ever had anything of major significance to tell each other we would do so at Rol San. But there was no all Chinese food weekend for March Break this year because of the COVID-19 Pabdemic. So, if we cannot go to the Chinese food, we will make it here at home with whatever ingredients we can find.

I taught him how to boil rice the other day and he decided to do rice  as his base dish as we were out of the broad rice noodles we usually serve with Beef Broccoli (we only have Basmati rice in our pantry and we are not going out if we don’t have to). He remembered everything I told him. He measured out 1 1/2 cups for our meal and he washed it the way I showed him 3 times until the water drained clear. He put it in a medium saucepan and added just over 2 cups of water, a squirt of sesame oil salt, pepper and a bit of parsley as we were out of green onions and we weren’t going out just for that. He stirred the pot occasionally and reduced the heat so it went from a boil to a simmer. As the water evaporated, he lowered the heat and put the lid on it until it was moist yet fluffy. I have to say, teaching him to cook with the Rock pots is a blessing as we don’t have to fuss over food sticking and we don’t have to worry about any non-stick coating peeling off and getting into our food. I also f=don’t have to worry about having to use certain utensils with these pots. When he eventually moves out I think I will be getting him his own Rock set of pots.

Taking some pre-seasoned meat we thawed earlier, He put a table spoon of sesame oil in the Instant Pot and selected saute. He let the meat cook for about a minute and a half, stirring occasionally.Because we knew we were going to do beef broccoli with this batch of stewing beef, we did not season with salt, This allowed him to put a table spoon of soy sauce in with the meat, and by his choice, a table spoon of Hoisin sauce. Stirring that in with 3 table spoons of water, he switched the key pad to meat/stew and sealed the pot and had it cook for 20 minutes.

Next he prepped the broccoli. He used frozen broccoli and it was semi-thawed which was perfect. Throwing it in a bowl, he cut up some ginger and sprinkled in some sesame seeds and microwaved it for about 30 seconds on high. He drained the water and set the broccoli aside.

Once the beef was done in the Instant Pot, he gingerly let the steam out. (It is funny watching a newbie hesitate with the valve  – a very safe valce by the way, and still get stunned by the steam). He tasted the sauce and was happy with the flavor he was able to capture with the ingredients we had available. He stirred in the broccoli, ginger and sesame seeds and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

He garnished his rice with a little more parsley and called us to the table. He plated our meals for us to, giving himself the largest portion, (lol) sprinkling some extra sesame seeds for a bit more garnishing. He has the capacity to consume a whole lot more than we do and still stay lean, even now that he can’t do any sports until the pandemic is over.

The beef was tender and juicy and we could taste the ginger and soy and whatever else the Hoisen sauce brought to the dish. Logan has always loved broccoli  and is always looking to incorporate it into a lot of his meals and he really enjoyed how each piece was soaked in the sauce.

I apologize I only have a few photos of this, but my attention was on showing him what he had to do.

Dad thought it went very well with beer

This is a very quick and easy dish to prepare that is tasty and flavorful. we even had a little bit left over which I believe he ate later that night as a snack, as per usual.

  TA DA!

Try this at home if you have the ingredients and us know what you think. Remember to share your recipes too. This is a good time to cook what you have in your freezer teach your kids to cook and experiment a little. Stay home. Stay safe. #flatten the curve. If we all do it , we will beat this virus sooner rather than later. ~ Daniella and family.

Cooking in the time of COVID-19: The Pancake Smile.

It is the second week of lock-down as we try to stop the spread of COVID-19. I woke to more bad news of it’s impact around the world and I was disappointed to learn there are still people gathering in large numbers, refusing to heed the advice of medical officials, begging them to stay at home.

MIAMI BEACH, FL – MARCH 17: People eat at a restaurant along Ocean Drive on March 17, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida in spite of warnings from government and medical officials worldwide. Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

Opening up the curtains in my kitchen, I looked up at a perfectly blue sky; white wispy clouds like puffs of cotton drifting by. It is business as usual for Mother Nature as spring blooms. I could see shoots of my annuals pushing skyward from the earth, little chickadees popping in and out of our birdhouse and a pregnant robin and her mate, perched on a nearby branch of the massive Russian Olive tree in my yard. Yep, that’s my girl, Mother Nature, the greatest force, doing her thing in spite of the pandemic that is raging through every country on the planet.

I may be disappointed in mankind, but I was uplifted by the beautiful day and wanted my family to wake up to something welcoming. So, I decided to make pancakes. The recipe is etched in my mind after watching my mother make them for us every Sunday for years. I remember she would set up her special Teflon pan. It was a Sun Beam and it had it’s own power source and stand and she had special cooking utensils she used to prevent the surface from scratching. Seems like she had that pan forever – I think it may have made the trip up to Toronto when our family migrated. That pan is a significant part of my childhood memories and I liked that it was a big deal, even though there is nothing easier than making pancakes from scratch. I remember her telling me that making it from a boxed mix took the same amount of time than making it from scratch and why would one want to sacrifice taste and texture by a heavy box mix? Oh Mom, you are so right and I am so happy I have never made pancakes from a box or poured my family’s dinner ready-made out of a can. Thank you for extending your sweet hand to both your girls and just so you know, it is a pleasure for us to cook alongside you. This recipe I am about to share I have also taught to my son, Logan and I have to say, they guy makes a damn good batch of pancakes, ensuring that granny’s recipe is still being extended through the generations.  My mother always had a smile on her face when she made pancakes for her family because she was making them with so much love. I wanted to smile today in spite of all that is unfolding around us, so I gathered the ingredients on the counter and got to work.

Since there is no school or sports to get to, I decided to make a smaller batch that yields about 20 mid sized pancakes. Usually, I can make about 30 to 40, so this morning, this will be quick. Sift 1 1/2 cups of unbleached flour with a teaspoon of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda into a bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of brown or white sugar and mix. Throw in a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon if you have it and mix again. By now, you should be smiling.

 

Next, add a tablespoon of olive oil (or vegetable of whatever oil you have available), a splash of vanilla and an egg to the dry ingredients.

   Measure out 1 cup of almond milk or regular milk (we use lactose free milk) and add to the other ingredients. Mix well with a whisk, adding a little more milk or water if batter seems too thick.

 

Place a seasoned pan on stove on high heat for about a minute. As mentioned in a previous post, I like The Rock line of cookware because food never sticks to it and it is so easy to clean. I usually use the Rock mini griddle pan for pancakes but I think it grew legs and left the house, so today I am using a big frying pan which means I’ll be done sooner because I can make 3 at a time if I want to.

(A seasoned pan is a pan coated evenly with butter or olive oil. Pan must shine without having excess oil that could change the consistency of the batter)

    

Once the pan is hot, lower burner temperature to medium/low heat. Place a small amount of batter in pan and wait for it to bubble before flipping it. This is the runt pancake.

    It will either be too light and look under-cooked or it will be too dark and spongy. Such is the plight of the runt pancake which used to be called the “doggie” pancake when we had a dog. The runt pancake is very normal. It happens every time. The next pancakes come out perfectly – they rise a bit, are nice and tender and are are a nice medium brown colour with a lighter brown, smooth underside.

  

Continue to spoon the batter into the pan, wait for all the bubbles to appear then flip.

  Repeat this until you run out of batter. The kitchen will have a gorgeous inviting smell and I guarantee you will catch yourself smiling, especially when it comes time to plating and serving it to your family.

   If you have fruit of any kind, now’s a nice time to serve it up. I usually have frozen raspberries or frozen strawberries or pitted cherries.Today, I decided on raspberries, so I took them out of the freezer before I started making the pancakes, so they thawed and juicy by the time I was ready to plate. Like my mom, from time to time I like to make a small production of the presentation of my pancakes.

As you can see, I served the pancakes with a few raspberries on top, a drizzle of maple syrup and a light dusting of icing sugar to make it a little special with some sliced banana on the side.

The pancake scent wafted throughout the home and soon, I heard the thundering of feet up the stairs bringing hungry bellies to the table. With smiles on their faces, the only words said were “Pancakes! Thanks, Mom.” They were smiling, I was smiling and there was a feeling of warmth, comfort and love inside my home this morning in spite of the harsh reality of the pandemic outside.

During this time of isolation, make comfort food for your family, check in with each other and try and enjoy this time as we slow ourselves down, hunker down at home and contribute to the efforts being made to bring this virus down. Stay at home, leave only for supplies and limit your time in public. Wash your hands, wipe down and clean all surfaces and do all you can to stay healthy.