Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cheryl's Key Lime Martini w/ Macadamia Nut Sugared Rim

Last week I stopped by the house of a friend to drop off a belated birthday gift. Little did I know I would be leaving with a gift as well.  It was early evening when I arrived, having just left work a short while before making the drive.  As is usually the case after a long day at work, I was starving.  Not that I know what starvation really is, I just knew that since my breakfast yogurt nothing else but water had passed my lips all day. The cold leftover pizza in the refrigerator was all the sustenance I thought I needed before day's end.

As soon as I got into Cheryl's house she said 'let me make you the Key Lime Martini'.  My plan was to only stay for a few minutes and get home to warm up the leftover margarita pizza. But upon hearing the word martini, I thought, well okay, maybe it will be a liquid dinner tonight.  And does one really say 'no' to a martini?  Well maybe. But 'go with the flow' was resonating in my head. The cold leftover pizza would have to wait for another day. I had wondered if this key lime martini would be 'too sweet', but it took only one sip for me to discover it wasn't too sweet at all.  Actually it was 'just right'. Immediately I knew I absolutely had to ask for this recipe, as this was one martini recipe I wanted to make for others.  Okay, so maybe I wanted to taste test it again just to make certain that being in a state of starvation wasn't affecting my judgment.

As we were enjoying this martini, Cheryl wondered if it needed to be served with a graham cracker rim.  Too sweet was my thought.  And then the epiphany.  A macadamia nut sugared rim.  A kind of liquid version of the key lime pie, only not as tart. It wasn't until the weekend that I experimented with the macadamia nut rim. After just one trial, I knew that if this martini was going to have a rim garnish, this would be the one. Don't you just love when you get something right on the first try?  

To say that I have an obsession for glassware, dishes and serving pieces would be a slight understatement.  Seriously I could probably supply the glassware and dinnerware for a gathering of more than a hundred people, maybe even two hundred people.  So when I walked into a Pier I store last weekend and saw what I thought looked like vintage looking martini glasses, I knew I was probably not leaving without them. The sale price was too good to pass up was how I rationalized this purchase.

I can be, or shall we simply say, a little particular about the brands of vodka I like.  If I had not tasted this martini, I think I would have walked past the aisle or shelf where Pinnacle Whipped vodka was displayed. Pinnacle must sell at least twenty different 'flavors' of vodka. Who knew?  Besides not ever drinking the Whipped Vodka, I don't ever recall ever tasting Dr. McGillicuddy's Intense Raw Vanilla Liqueur. Just its' name had me visualizing it as something maybe once described as 'cures all aches and pains'. You know, like those elixirs sold in the mid 1800s.  (Maybe living in this farmhouse has me channeling a different century.) This martini calls for one cup of the Vanilla liqueur and a half cup of all of the other ingredients.  The proportions in the recipe make at least two to three martinis, depending on the size glasses you are serving it in.  Not only did it perfectly fill three of my new martini glasses, there was enough for at least one refill.

I didn't have a lime, let alone a key lime when I was making these martinis.  So I had to use a lemon to rim the glass. Citrus works so much better than water when trying to adhere the macadamia nut sugar mixture to the martini glass.  While you can serve this martini without the macadamia nut sugared rim, there is something about the taste of the macadamia nuts that balances out the flavor of the martini.

The rimmed glasses were just waiting for the shaken, not stirred Key Lime Martini.  After I rimmed the glasses with the macadamia nut sugar mixture, I took them outside to pour and serve the martinis.  This maybe just be one of the go-to summer beverages.  Maybe I would go so far as to say it will be the 'house' martini, at least for awhile anyway. When blueberrry season arrives in early July, the 'house' martini will switch to Lemon Drop. But that's more than two months away.  
Cheryl's Key Lime Martini with a Macadamia Nut Sugared Rim 
1 cup Dr. McGillicuddy's Intense Raw Vanilla Liqueur
1/2 cup Whipped Vodka (recommend the Pinnacle brand)
1/2 cup Key Lime juice (recommend Nellie and Joe's brand)
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup macadamia nuts (toasted and finely chopped)
1 tablespoon sugar

1. Lightly toast macadamia nuts in oven at 300 degrees for approximately 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool.
2. Place macadamia nuts and sugar in food processor and process into fine crumbs. Place mixture on a flat plate.  Set aside.
3. Put crushed ice in martini shaker.
4.  Add all ingredients and shake until well blended.
5.  Wet the rim of the martini glass with a lime or lemon. Dip martini glass in macadamia nut crumbs.
6.  Pour martini into glasses and serve immediately.

With the days getting longer and the weather turning much warmer and sunnier these past few days, I have gone to the ocean to take long end of the day walks.  Hearing the ocean and watching the sun set are such incredible distractions, I think I could walk for hours. I love being able to walk the beach when no one else is there.  Maybe its my inner Lone Ranger that likes the solitude or maybe its as simple as being able to take photos of the landscape without any other distractions. Or waiting for others to move out of 'that perfect shot'.

As I am now on week two of giving up my diet soda addiction, I feel like I am getting closer to pushing myself to run again. It seems that as I get older, it feels like time is moving much to quickly.  Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and before I know it, I have let some valuable time slip away.  I had made a promise to myself two weeks ago. I promised I would not just 'think' about getting out in the fresh air and exercise, but I would 'act' on this promise. One's spirit, soul and body do not receive any benefits from just 'thinking about doing something' I remind myself.  And yes, I have spent way too much time thinking lately. Glad I am finally moving past this stage.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pan Seared Oatmeal with Cider Syrup & Warm Fruit Compote

Oatmeal, or rather cooked oatmeal, is a food that has grown on me over time.  It was once a food I barely tolerated, now it is a food I sometimes crave. I must confess though that I need to add a little brown sugar to my oatmeal. Which probably changes it from being a perfectly healthy food to being an almost perfectly healthy food. But better a little less healthy than mostly unhealthy. Right?

Every once in a while when having breakfast in a restaurant, I will order oatmeal.  Most menus offer cooked or baked oatmeal on the menu, but once when in a restaurant called Honey, located in the western suburbs of Chicago, I saw something called Pan Seared Oatmeal.  It was described as 'steel-cut oats cooked in apple cider, brown sugar, spices, seared then served with dried fruit, apple cider reduction'. They had me with brown sugar, but the thought of having the oatmeal flavored with apple cider, dried fruit and brown sugar was more than enough of an enticement for me order it. And I was so happy that I did. One bite and I was making noises. You know those kinds of Meg Ryan "When Harry Met Sally" noises one makes when they have just tasted something divinely delicious. These are not the kinds of noises you make in a restaurant by yourself, you need others sitting with you at the table.  Being mid-morning in a public restaurant, my noises were mostly audible to those at my table.

This wasn't a restaurant that shared its recipes.  Imagine that!  I have been thinking about this oatmeal lately. Yeah, go figure. So I decided to go on the hunt for this recipe, to try to find if there was anything out there closely resembling it.  Amazingly Cooking Light had a recipe for Pan Seared Oatmeal that contained ingredients almost replicating those in the restaurants oatmeal.  I was hoping this recipe would turn out as delicious as it sounded and closely resemble the pan seared oatmeal served in the restaurant back in the midwest.  And much to my delight, my hopes came true.

It is nice to wake up in the morning when having guests and be able to put together a beautiful and delicious breakfast without needing to spend too much time in the kitchen.  This pan seared oatmeal is one of those recipes where almost everything can and should be made the night before, particularly the oatmeal and the fruit compote.  And for those of you who don't rank oatmeal high on your list of favorite foods, consider this way of preparing oatmeal as list changer.

To make the oatmeal, you first combine the water, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a heavy medium sized saucepan.  Cooked at medium-high heat this mixture is brought to a boil.  Once it reaches the boiling stage, you add the steel-cut oats, reduce the heat to simmer and continue to cook for approximately 20 minutes or until the oatmeal has thickened.  My cooking time was exactly 20 minutes.

The thickened oatmeal is then poured into a parchment paper lined 9 x 9 inch non-stick pan and allowed to set.  The recipe I adapted called for letting it set up for an hour, but I don't think an hour was long enough.  After it cooled to room temperature, I covered it and placed it in the refrigerator to set up overnight.

Trust me when I saw you will be really happy if you line the pan with parchment paper. You will be able to just lift up the oatmeal, place on a cutting board and then cut into triangles. The 9x9 sized pan enables you to make 16 evenly sized rectangles yielding 8 servings.

In a non-stick skillet, melt one to two tablespoons of butter.  Depending on the size of the skillet, add 4 or 8 triangles, giving them some breathing room to cook.  

The oatmeal triangles are seared on each side for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown and heated through. Remove from the pan, place in a warm oven and continue cooking until all of the oatmeal triangles are cooked.

When making the compote, you can use any combination of dried fruits that you like.  Because I love raisins, I thought I would create a compote made of a mixture of white and dark raisins.  For a different plated look next time, I might use a combination of regular sized and jumbo raisins.  The compote begins with combining the water, brown sugar, cinnamon and dried fruit.  It is brought to a boil and then simmered for 20 minutes or until thick.  The next time I make this I will use half water and half apple cider to give the compote mixture a deeper, richer flavor.

Yes, you can still buy apple cider in the spring1  Even my little grocery store in town carried it in the refrigerated section.  In larger grocery stores, you can sometimes find apple cider in the produce section or the juice aisle.  The syrup is simply a reduction sauce.  Cooked at medium-high heat for approximately 20 minutes or reduced to 1/3 cup and slightly thickened.  I found that it is best to use the syrup immediately after making it as it will further set up and harden.  But not to worry, you can loosen it by adding a small amount of apple cider to get the consistency back to a thickened syrup, sort of like the consistency of pancake syrup.

Pan Seared Oatmeal with Cider Syrup & Warm Fruit Compote (slight adaptation of the Pan Seared Oatmeal recipe from Cooking Light)

2 cups apple cider

2 cups water (or 1 cup water and 1 cup apple cider)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
7 ounces of dried fruit bits (I used 7 ounces of white and dark raisins)

3 cups water
1 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups stee-cut (Irish) oats (I recommend McCann's)
2 Tablespoons butter

1. Combine water, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in heavy medium sized saucepan.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat.
2. Stir in oats and reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes or until thick.  Stir occasionally.
3. Line a 9x9 non-stick pan with parchment paper.  Pour cooked oats into prepared pan.
4. Allow to chill at least one hour or until set.  Recommend making the night before to allow oatmeal to fully set.
5. Cut oatmeal into 8 equal squares, then cut diagonally in half to form a total of 16 triangles.
6. In a medium sized non-stick skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add 8 oatmeal triangles.  Cook 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
7. Remove from pan and keep warm.  Continue cooking remaining oatmeal triangles, adding another two tablespoons of butter to pan.
8. Place two oatmeal triangles on a plate.  Top with 3 to 4 tablespoons of fruit compote and 2 tablespoons of cider syrup.

Fruit Compote
1. Combine water, sugar, cinnamon and dried fruit in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.
2. Reduce heat and simmer approximately 20 minutes or until thick.
3. Remove and heat. Serve immediately or refrigerate and reheat before serving.

Cider Syrup
1. Bring cider to a boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat.
2. Cook for approximately 20 minutes or until cider is reduced to 1/3 cup. Set aside.  (It is best to make the cider syrup on the morning of serving the pan seared oatmeal.)

As I now reside in the 'country' and not in the 'suburbs', the sounds of cars, trucks, planes, and trains have now been replaced with the sounds of roosters, sheep, chickens, cows, peacocks and horses. And oh yes, lest I forget the night time or very early sounds of coyotes.  But more than the sounds of these animals, are the sounds of silence and the ocean waves.  In my sometimes chaotic, stressful life, it is these sounds that nurture my spirit and allow me to have time to think, reflect.  I had a friend once who when I asked 'what are you thinking about?'.  His answer was sometimes 'nothing'.  I often wondered, how could anyone be thinking of nothing?  Well now I know that it sometimes feels good to just let your mind wander and give yourself permission to 'not think'.  And after the periods of a quiet mind I allow myself to have, I return back to my world of competing thoughts and multi-tasking happier.

As I was driving the other day, I stopped to take some photos of a few horses grazing.  Much to my pure delight, one of the horses came from across the field up to the fence where I was standing. He even allowed me to pet him, although I must admit I wasn't sure if this was such a good idea.  But just looking into this horse's most beautiful deep brown eyes, I somehow knew it was going to be okay.  And then I wondered to myself 'so what are you thinking horse with the beautiful brown eyes?'  This was not Mr. Ed so there was no response to this question (for those of you not old enough to remember Mr. Ed, he was a talking horse in a television show a very long time ago).  But did you ever just look into the eyes of someone and instantly feel an incredible connection to them, suddenly not hearing anything? These would be the best moments of silence.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Crab Cakes, Shaw's Style

Thankfully the weather improved enough this weekend to enable me to take a long leisurely walk on the beach along the ocean. Since moving to the east coast, I have discovered just how soothing the sound of waves can have on my spirit, on my soul. Which means I have tried to make time to listen to them as often as possible. One's spirit can never be soothed too much. The drive from the farm house to the ocean is almost three minutes. Which means even at the end of a long day I can have the zen like wave listening experience as often as the weather cooperates. With the days getting longer now, my end of the work day destination will be beach. That is, of course, unless my work commitments turn my usual 10 hour day into a 12 or 14 hour one.

One cannot help but being taken in by the ocean for both its beauty and its bounty. And speaking of bounty, I have had some lump crab meat in the refrigerator for awhile now. Time had come for me to make something with them, rather than just open up the can and just start eating them. Since it had been awhile since I had made crab cakes, it suddenly felt like a crab cake making kind of day.

The first time I ever had a crab cake was at Shaw's Crab House, a restaurant in Chicago.  Their lump crab cakes were and still are absolutely drive worthy, pay for parking, and wait for a table over the top good.  I had been making crab cakes using a recipe from a restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, but I thought if I spent some time searching I might find one that either replicated the Shaw's Crab House recipe or find their recipe.

It didn't take too much looking as I found a video posted by a chef from the restaurant who described how to make these delicious and decadent crab cakes.  The recipe I found listed chopped parsley and cayenne in the ingredients, but I didn't feel like having those flavors in the crab cake so I left them out.  After I made and tasted them, I thought they were perfect.  So I am pretty certain I wouldn't add parsley or cayenne to this recipe any time soon.

The recipe recommended using 3/4 pound each of crab meat and crab claw meat.  I wanted these crab cakes to have a higher ratio of lump crab meat to claw meat, so I used one pound of lump and a half pound of claw meat.  This turned out to be a perfect ratio.

The crab cakes are held together with a mayonnaise based mixture seasoned with mustard, Worcestershire sauce, white pepper and Old Bay Seasoning. One tablespoon of cracker meal (I used crushed Saltine crackers) and one tablespoon of the mixed egg are added to the mayonnaise mixture.

The mayonnaise mixture is then combined with the crabmeat. Once everything was mixed together, I added the remaining mixed egg and one additional tablespoon of crushed Saltine crackers to ensure the crab cake mixture would bind well.  The crab mixture is covered and hilled for at least 30 minutes. One of the great things about this recipe, is that you can mix everything together early in the day and then cook right before serving.

If you are making all of the crab cakes at once, use a nonstick skillet large enough to hold all of the crab cakes so they have room to breathe. I used a two-inch ice cream scoop to form my crab cakes so they were of the same size and weight.  The non-stick pan should be wiped with some vegetable oil and heated before adding the crab cakes.

The crab cakes are seared on both sides and then placed in a preheated 400 degree oven where they are baked for 10 minutes.  These over the top, rich and delicious crab cakes are served with the mustard mayonnaise sauce. The combination of the flavors of the crab and the mustard mayonnaise sauce is incredible. I don't think you will ever use tartar sauce on a crab cake again.

The mustard mayonnaise sauce is one of the easiest you will make.  Rice vinegar, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of Old Bay seasoning are added to one cup of mayonnaise.  After all of the ingredients are thoroughly mixed the sauce is chilled for at least 30 minutes.  The sauce can be made the night before, allowing the flavors to more fully develop, or early in the day.

Crab Cakes, Shaw's Style (inspired by Shaw's Crab House crab cake recipe)

Crab Cake Ingredients
1 pound lump crab meat
1/2 pound claw meat 
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise (recommend Hellmans)
1 large egg, beaten
1 to 2 Tablespoons cracker meal (or crushed Saltines)

Mustard Mayonnaise Ingredients
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
pinch of Old Bay seasoning

For crab cakes
1. Mix dry spices into worcestershire sauce.  Then add mayonnaise and mix well.
2. Beat egg until frothy.
3. Fold one Tablespoon of the egg into the mayonnaise mixture.
4. Mix together the lump crab and crab claw meat in a bowl or on a tray.
5. Incorporate the mayonnaise mixture and 1 tablespoon of cracker meal (or crushed Saltines) to the crab mixture.
6. Add additional cracker meal and egg as necessary for the mixture to hold together.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
7. Using a large ice cream scoop, form the crab mixture into 6 to 8 equal cakes.
8. Lightly brush non-stick a large frying pan with oil.  Heat pan.
9. Add crab cakes without crowding them together.  Press down on each crab cake slightly.
10. Sear crab cakes on both sides, then place in a preheated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes to finish the cooking.
11. Serve with the mustard mayonnaise.

For the mustard mayonnaise sauce
1. Mix the rice vinegar, dry mustard, worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise together.  When mixed add a pinch of Old Bay seasoning.
2. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

It is easy these day to take things and people for granted.  We get busy, we get distracted, or we have no other point of reference from which to make comparisons.  Because I did not grow up near the ocean or the mountains, I continue to be mesmerized by both of them.  For me, the water and the mountains have been great sources of energy and have been places where I gone to sort out my thoughts.  These views can make my heart race and they bring a sense of calm over me.  And sometimes I have wanted to cry as I can be overwhelmed at their sheer beauty.

I can take photos of the same mountain range or the same ocean time and again and each time I see it differently, my photos are just a little different as well.  Light, clouds, and color of the sky are just some of things that impact my photos of the ocean here out east or the mountains in Colorado.  But they are also affected by my moods. As when I am distracted with thoughts of things concerning me or when I am feeling all is right with the world, my focus changes and so do my photos. While I don't write a diary, my photos in many ways reveal much of what I am thinking. I have known for a long time that the reason I take so many photos of these landscapes is because I want to capture forever a view that took my breath away and enabled me to simultaneously experience the feelings of calm and energy.  

I get to take in views of the sea everyday now. And there has not been a day that I have taken these views for granted.  Maybe its because I didn't grow up with them. Or maybe I have just learned to appreciate just how much the landscape can affect my spirit.  It's not always what we hear that matters, it's also what we take in with our eyes.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Margherita Pizza

Two weeks ago my neice, sister and brother-in-law were out east finalizing my neice's college decision. The good news is that the college decision was made, the better news is that my niece will soon be less than a ninety minute drive away from me. From my perspective I could not be happier that she will be close enough for me to be able to visit or for her to come stay for a weekend. As often as a college freshman wants to see their aunt of course.

While they were here we met for a late lunch at a restaurant that baked its pizzas over a coal fired oven. My sister wondered what kind of a place I had selected for lunch, but fortunately everyone gave the pizza, particularly its crust, rave reviews.  Ever since that lunch, I have been wanting to make a pizza.

Growing up the only kind of pizza we ordered had a thin crust.  I don't ever recall making pizza in our house, unless of course you count baking a frozen pizza in the oven as making pizza. It was a food that was ordered and picked up from the only pizza take-out and delivery place in town on either Friday or Saturday nights.  We always and only ordered an extra-large cheese and sausage.  Little did I know back then there were other options for toppings. When I went to college that I discovered the decadent and delicious world of deep dish pizza.  Garcia's and Papa Del's at the University of Illinois were two favorites.  Over the course of time, my taste in pizza has come full circle and I am now back to preferring thin crust over deep dish.

When Jim Lahey's book "My Pizza" cookbook came out I immediately had to make his dough to see what all the fuss was about.  His dough is really very good, however, it is a dough that takes quite a long time to rise. Although it's one that doesn't require kneading, the 18 hour rise and wait time makes you have to plan at least a day in advance. So this weekend I thought I would try Alex Guarnaschelli's dough recipe as its start to finish dough making time is a little more than two hours. And in a significant departure, I thought would take some short cuts and use a San Marzano pizza sauce (already made and bottled) and Stonewall Kitchen's basil pesto.  I wanted my attention to be only on the making of the dough.  Could I have made the sauce too? So yes, admittedly this is not a pure, made from scratch pizza recipe.  Sometimes we need to make things a little easier on ourselves. But seriously, this pizza was pretty gosh darn good.

Staying with the simple theme here (not a theme that I consistently subscribe to), I thought I would make a Margherita Pizza.  One having just pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella, freshly grated romano cheese, some olive oil and some chopped fresh basil.  A perfect Friday night pizza.  Better yet, this is a perfect just about any night of the week pizza.

In a medium sized bowl, the yeast and warm water (110 degrees) are mixed together and left to rest for five minutes. I am still using a thermometer to test the water temperature as I haven't yet learned what 110 degrees feels like. While the yeast is mixture is resting, measure out three and a half cups of flour, all-purpose flour.

Half of the flour is sifted into the yeast mixture.  Using your hands you mix both together until smooth. What makes this dough different from other pizza doughs is the use of honey. Before adding the rest of the flour, you add two teaspoons of Kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon of white pepper an 1 scant Tablespoon of high quality honey.  The rest of the flour is then added.  

Initially I began mixing the dough with a wooden spoon and then started using my hands. At first it looks like it may not come together, but have patience as it will. Once all mixed together, you turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 3 to 5 minutes until soft and smooth.  I needed for almost the full 5 minutes.  The ball of dough is placed in an olive oil lined large bowl, covered with plastic wrap, placed in a warm location and allowed to rise for 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, you put onto a floured surface where you shape into a ball.  The large ball of dough is then cut into four sections. Reshape into balls, placed on a cookie sheet, covered with a clean dish towel, and allowed to rest for at least 15 minutes.

I like a free form pizza cooked on a pizza stone.  Working with one dough ball at a time, the dough is stretched into the shape of preference (circle or rectangle or oval).  The edges of the dough of brushed with olive oil.  Almost every book I read about making pizzas shares that this is one of the important 'tricks' of making a great pizza crust.

The pizza sauce is added to the top of the dough, up to the olive oil brushed edges.  I like adding small dollops of basil pesto randomly on top of the sauce.

The fresh thinly sliced mozzarella, freshly grated romano cheese and a sprinkling of pepper are the final layers before placing in the oven.  When I am working on a pizza peel, I sprinkle the peel with semolina flour so it is easier to slide the pizza onto the stone.  Before turning the oven temperature to 450 degrees, place the pizza stone in the oven.  The stone should be hot when you transfer the pizza from the peel to the stone.

The pizza is then baked for 10 to 14 minutes or until the mozzarella is melted, the sides of the pizza have puffed up and have a light to medium browned edge.  Remove from the oven, top with drizzle of olive oil and freshly chopped basil. Adding a drizzle of olive oil to the top of the pizza adds great flavor and makes for a perfect finishing touch. Slice into squares or wedges and enjoy.

Margherita Pizza (pizza dough recipe very slight adaptation of Alex Guarnaschelli's recipe)

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (generally one package)
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling dough
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 scant Tablespoon of honey
1 Tablespoon of extra virgin oil oil

Jar of pizza sauce (this is enough for the four pizzas made with this dough)
Fresh mozzarella, sliced thin (I like the Bel Gioioso brand)
Basil Pesto (I like Stonewall Kitchen's)
Freshly grated Romano cheese (about a 1/4 cup over each pizza)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper on each pizza
Extra virgin olive oil
Semolina flour dusting the pizza peel or pizza pan
A few fresh basil leaves

1. In a medium sized bowl, combine yeast with warm water.  Stir to dissolve and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
2. Using a strainer or sifter, sift about half of the flour over the yeast mixture, blending with your hands until smooth.
3. Add salt, pepper, and honey and mix to blend.  Sift in remaining flour and mix until blended.
4. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 3 to 5 minutes or until soft and smooth.
5. Place ball into a large bowl that has been lightly oiled with olive oil.  Cover with saran wrap, place in warm location an allow to rise until double in size, approximately 90 minutes.
5. Gently press on the dough and turn onto a floured surface.  Divide dough into 4 equal parts. rolling each quarter into a ball.  Place on a cookie sheet, cover with a clean dish towel and allow to rest for approximately 15 minutes.
6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
7. Flatten each dough ball into a 10 to 12 inch circle or rectangle.
8. Brush edges of dough with extra virgin olive oil.  Spread pizza sauce (amount as desired) up to edge of olive oil, and add dollops of basil pesto.  
9. Place thinly sliced mozzarella on top, spread a handful of grated romano cheese and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper on top.
10. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until mozzarella is melted and edges of crust are a light to medium brown. Remove from oven.
11. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top along with some chopped basil. Cut and serve immediately.

Eating pizza on Friday nights was a routine back in college, but since then there really have not been any 'food' routines in my life.  Whether it's always going to the same restaurant each week for dinner or breakfast or making the same food on one day of the week, there is something rather comforting about having certain predictable food routines in one's life. This pizza dough recipe has got me thinking that maybe I should again return to eating pizza on Friday night.  Maybe some things are meant to come full circle.  The only difference this time is that instead of ordering a pizza for takeout or delivery, the pizza will be homemade.