Steaming Vegetables

A reminder of what a great cooking technique steaming vegetables is. Fast and flexible for the win.

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Steaming vegetables is an underutilized cooking technique in my kitchen. After my last trip to Japan, I pledged to remedy the issue. This simple, direct method of cooking is one of the reasons I love eating in Japan. I mean, let’s be honest, I probably like steamed vegetables more than most, but I enjoy them exponentially more there. Somehow, many of the things I love about traveling there are summed up in this simple preparation.
Steaming Vegetables - assortment of colorful vegetables
I’d often receive a sampling of seasonal produce as part of a combination lunch. The vegetables arrived at the table beautifully arranged in the bamboo basket they were steamed in. I’d work my way through a rainbow of vibrant, tender potatoes, squash, mushrooms, broccoli rabe, and the like, sometimes adding a pinch of zesty shichimi togarashi, but more often than not, a casual toss of a few grains of salt would be all. Each meal was a vibrant, satisfying reminder of just how good vegetables can be when prepared simply with care and intent. Their natural flavors coming through direct and perfect.

Break out the Steamer!

After this past trip, my inexpensive, tri-level bamboo steamer was promptly dusted upon my arrival home, and put into proper rotation. The thing that never ceases to surprise me is the speed even the most hearty chunks of root vegetables or squash become tender – ten minutes, often less.Bamboo Steamer

Choosing a Steamer

Bamboo steamers are easy to come by, and relatively inexpensive. Go this route if you aren’t sure how often you’ll use your steamer. The one downside is they take up a good amount of storage space, not much more than a big pot, but still. These steamers are available in a range of diameters, and are made of interlocking trays intended for stacking on atop of the other. Placed above simmering water, the steam from the water rises through the trays and cooks the food. It’s a simple premise that works astoundingly well. I use three trays, but you can certainly go up or down a level.
Steaming Vegetables in Bamboo Steamer
I eventually graduated to a ceramic steamer, and also picked up this Mushi Nabe, donabe steamer. Both are nice because you can make a broth or curry in the base, and then use steam the ingredients up above at the same time. Any of the steamers make a nice jump from cooking to table. If you want to expand beyond steaming vegetables, you can also steam everything from dumplings and tofu to eggs, tamales and certain rices.

Colorful Vegetables in a Bamboo Steamer Basket

Some Tips on Steaming Vegetables:

  • While steaming with water is most common, I’ve also played around using miso broth, vegetable broth, vegetable dashi, or tea in place of water. Each imparts a different scent and flavor to the vegetables. More times than not though, I use water.
  • Arrange your slowest cooking vegetables in the bottom basket, working up to the quickest. Another time saver is to get your densest, slowest cooking vegetables started in in the bottom tray, while you prep the quicker cooking vegetables for the mid and top baskets. Place the lid on whatever basket is on top at the time.
  • Some people line their steamers with cabbage leaves or parchment. I don’t bother, placing the vegetables directly on the steamer instead. I like how it seems to keep the steam circulating. A quick scrub with hot water and the rough side of a sponge makes clean-up simple.
  • When using the bamboo steamer, you can use a wok (steamer sits above the simmering water) or wide skillet (I set the steamer directly in a shallow skillet of simmering water)…A wok is more traditional, and easier on your steamer, but both techniques work well.

Plate of Assorted Vegetables to be Steamed

So, less of a recipe, and more of a reminder today of how good the most basic preparations can be. A few years after I initially posted this, I did another deeper dive into Using your Underutilized Steamer. Have fun! -h

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Homemade Bouillon

You can absolutely make homemade bouillon. Use it in all sorts of soups, stews, and noodle bowls. It’s so much better than any canned broth I’ve tasted.

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You can absolutely make homemade bouillon. And I know you can thanks to Pam Corbin. Pam wrote the lovely River Cottage Preserves Handbook.* In the very back of this exquisite little book, long past the rhubarb relish, and well beyond the piccalilli and winter fruit compote, she proposes a simple idea: make your own bouillon. I’m not sure why this never occurred to me, but until I reached page 207, it hadn’t. She outlines a list of ingredients that are pureed into a concentrated paste of vegetables and herbs, preserved with salt. I’ve been cooking with a version of it all week, and it is infinitely better than any canned vegetable stock I’ve tasted. And the best part about it? You can build on the general idea and tweak it based on what is in season and my own personal preferences – which is what I did.
Homemade Bouillon

What is Bouillon?

Technically, a bouillon cube is a dehydrated cube or powder used to create an instant vegetable stock. Pam calls her version “souper mix”….but you use it in a way similar to bouillon cubes. It is used to make quick, flavorful broth. For example, when cooking soups, risottos, curries, whatever really. Homemade Bouillon

A Few Tips

The main thing? Keep in mind bouillon is quite salty and very concentrated. I mention in the recipe I’ve been using 1 teaspoon per 1 cup of water/liquid to start. You can adjust from there based on what you’re making and personal preference. And as far as variations go, this first batch was made primarily with ingredients from my refrigerator, but I’m really excited to try other versions using different herbs and ratios of the base ingredients. In fact, if you have any suggestions or ideas give a shout in the comments – I’d love to hear them!

More Bouillon Variations

A number of your variations caught my attention, so I thought I’d highlight a couple here. Love these!

  • Karen “tried a variation with local ingredients: carrot, long onion (like a leek), daikon radish, japanese wild parsley, salt, and 7 pepper blend. added a bit of soy sauce for more salt and flavor, too. then i used it to make red lentil soup. WOW! the soup never tasted so good!!!”
  • Dominican Foodie liked the texture of the version she made noting, “I made a couple of changes to your recipe. I doubled the ingredients (except salt and tomatoes) Added extra garlic and white onions, juiced the first half (set aside), tossed the second half in olive oil and roasted for two hours, then tossed everything into a large deep pot, added bay leaves and simmered until liquid was reduced by half. Took out bay leaves, stuck an immersion blender in the pot and smoothed everything out into a paste. Perfection!”

*The U.S. edition of the River Cottage Preserves Handbook is now available.

There is a whole directory of great soup recipes where you can put your bouillon to use!

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How to Dry Herbs

Some of the things I’ve learned about how to dry herbs in the spring and summer. I love seeking out unusual varietals like caraway thyme, pineapple sage, fresh coriander. At the market, some will appear for a week or two, then aren’t seen again for another year.

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This is the time of year I find myself drying herbs. In part, it’s because I tend to come across special, unusual varietals in the spring and late into summer – caraway thyme, pineapple sage, fresh coriander. Some will appear for a week or two, then aren’t seen again for another year. Other times, it is the herb flowers that get me – I like to use them throughout the year, and the one way to guarantee a supply is to dry them. It couldn’t be simpler, so I thought I’d share my method for those of you who may have missed it the last time I wrote about it.

How to dry herbs

Group Herbs into Small Bunches

I tend to group any herbs I’m going to dry into small bunches. Leaves are stripped from the bottom few inches of each stem, and a bit of twine secures each bundle. A push pin or strip of washi tape is typically enough to secure the herbs anywhere high and dry – walls, bookcases, fireplace mantles, cabinet knobs, and the like are all fair game around here.

How to dry herbs
A Pro-tip

Leave a few inches of extra string when you tie the herbs to dry them. The stems will become dehydrated, and lose a bit of volume. The extra string will allow you to re-tie the herbs more snuggly if needed without starting over. Kelly left a comment below that caught my attention, “I use rubber bands (recycled from foods like asparagus or carrots that come banded together) instead of twine. That was the rubber band contracts as the herbs dry and i don’t have to adjust the twine or clean herbs off the floor!” I haven’t tested it yet, but it sounds like a winner.

How to dry herbsHow to dry herbs
To dry chive flowers, you’ll want to trim them from their stems and place on a flat surface for a week or so. Toss every couple of days so that all sides are exposed to air.How to dry herbs

How to Store Dried Herbs

Be sure your herbs are completely dried before transferring them to a sealed container. Any moisture can result in mold. Store in a cool dark place. Also, after a few days of drying, your herb bundles will contract a bit from dehydration. Per the tip above, you may need to tighten the twine a bit.

Let me know if you have favorite herbs I should try to seek out. I love the offbeat, slightly unexpected thymes, sages, and lavenders. I’m sure there there are others I should know about as well!

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Spoon Butter

A spoon butter that doesn’t use mineral oil as an ingredient. It will keep your cutting boards, wooden spoons, and wood-handled knives in good shape.

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I have a good number of wood cutting boards, wood-handled knives, and wooden spoons in my kitchen, as I’m sure most of you do. One of the things that bothers me most about caring for them is nearly all the products related to this task are mineral oil based. For example, spoon butter. It’s typically a blend of beeswax and mineral oil. You rub it into cutting boards and spoons to moisturize them, prevent cracking, and repel water. The wood soaks it up beautifully. I’ve been thinking, for years, that there must be an alternative to the mineral oil based spoon butter. It’s a by-product of petroleum production, and not something I want to ingest.
Beeswax to Use in Spoon ButterBeeswax to use in Spoon Butter

Thinking Through an Alternative

So, the way spoon butter works is quite simple. You rub it all over your wood-based spoons, handles, tools, and food preparation surfaces as a moisturizer and conditioner of sorts. Figuring out an alternative solution is a bit tricky. You need something to cut the beeswax, which is solid, snappy, and dense. Mineral oil brings a fluidity to the blend, and it allows you to slather. Swapping in another oil is the logical thing to do, but it’s not that simple because a lot of those oils go rancid quickly. Lately, I’ve been making a spoon butter with a blend of organic beeswax and extra-virgin coconut oil, and I like it! The coconut oil is quite stable, and won’t go bad quickly, and the wood laps it up. A coconut scent lingers, just a hint – actually quite nice.How to Make Spoon Butter

Buying Beeswax

You can typically buy beeswax in bars, or little pearls. The pearls are great because they melt quickly. The bars (above) are rough to cut. I typically cut partially through, and then snap a break on the cut line. That seems to be easiest.
How to Make Spoon ButterSpoon Butter

Before & After Spoon Butter

Here’s the before and after – parched spoons on top. And then below, just a few minutes later, after applying the spoon butter. Because, like beeswax, coconut oil is solid at room temperature, getting the ratio of oil to beeswax right is important. If you have too much beeswax, it’s impossible to get the spoon butter out of the jar. Coconut oil melts at 76F degrees, so with a high ratio of it, you scoop a chunk onto the surface your working on, and it quickly becomes spreadable.

Alternative Ideas: Let me know if you have other ideas on this topic – I’m all ears. A friend, who makes beautiful all-natural body products recommended I try broccoli seed oil. And as I was poking around, I noticed watermelon seed oil as well. Also, a number of people in the comments have enthusiastic suggestions, including a number for walnut oil. In the meantime, I’m pretty happy with this version & hope some of you give it a try! xo -h

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A Few Words on How to Cook Artichokes

A primer on how to cook artichokes, particularly the baby ones. A lot of people are intimidated by the process, or they think it’s not worth the effort. But with a little patience, salt, and fat – you can absolutely cook some of the best artichokes of your life.

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This is a primer on how to cook artichokes – if you’re going to invest the time into cooking artichokes, you want them to be fantastic. Spring is the time I tend to cook them once or twice a week. And, although the process takes time and attention, I can’t help myself. When artichokes are good, there are few things I’d rather be eating. 
How to Cook Artichokes
Straight up, I think a lot of people are intimidated by the idea of cooking artichokes, or they think it’s not worth the effort. My friends confirm this. The topic has come up a few times lately, and the conversations are typically punctuated by a confession that they never cook artichokes at home.
How to Cook Artichokes
So(!) I thought I’d do a quick outline of how I handle these armored spring ambassadors. Eight times out of ten I use the cooking method I’m going to outlined in the recipe section below. It requires nothing more than good (baby) artichokes, olive oil or clarified butter, and sea salt. If you can pair those ingredients, with a bit of practice, a hint of patience, and a window of time, you can absolutely cook some of the best artichokes. Not kidding. Once you hit your groove with these wondrous thistles, few of you will look back.

A Case for Cooking Artichokes

Nutritionists celebrate artichokes for a long list of reasons. They’re packed with fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, and have long been known to support the liver. They don’t get as much of the limelight as other ingredients – for example pomegranate, turmeric, acai, etc. – but they bring quite a lot to the table. It’s worth incorporating them into your meals, particularly when they’re in season.
How to Cook Artichokes

A Worthwhile Shortcut

Update(!): I recently discovered frozen bags of artichokes at a local Trader Joes, and started experimenting to see if using them would be a worthwhile substitute to using fresh artichokes. At the very least, this could be a way to extend artichoke season. I don’t love canned or jarred artichokes, and it turns out, the frozen option is pretty great. You can cook them in a covered skillet in a bit of olive oil, straight from the freezer, until they’re cooked through, and then remove the cover and dial up the heat to get some nice, golden color on them. Season and serve. So good!
How to Cook Artichokes
How to Cook Artichokes

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Guacamole

To make great guacamole you have to go off-recipe. It’s all about the in-between steps, decisions, and knowing when avocados are at their best.

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If pressed, I could tell you how to make good guacamole in one sentence. It goes something like this. Mash ripe avocados with finely chopped white onions, a minced garlic clove, a squeeze of lime juice, then salt to taste. But to make great guacamole, it’s the little decisions going between those commas that make all the difference. If you were standing next to me throughout the process, you’d pick up on the dozens of choices and considerations that actually matter. So, I thought I might try to go longer-form with you on this one – walk you through my thought process, step-by-step here, related to one of my favorite things to eat.

Guacamole Recipe - The Little Steps that Lead to Great Guacamole

Good Shopping is Key

Like most things that end up on the table, your success or failure depends on how you do at the market. The most important step in this entire process is procuring the perfect avocados. Ripe. But not too ripe. Beautiful, buttery, green-fleshed decadence – that’s what you’re after. Sometimes easier said than done.

Guacamole Recipe - The Little Steps that Lead to Great Guacamole

Choosing the Right Avocados

I spend more time choosing the avocados for guacamole than actually preparing it. You want avocados that are ripe and the only way to figure out whether they’re at their peak is to evaluate them one at a time. To decipher whether or not an avocado is ripe enough, hold it in your palm, and give it a gentle squeeze with the pads of your fingers. There should be some give, like butter that has been out of the refrigerator for an hour in an average-temp kitchen. The give should be uniform across the surface of the fruit. Try to imagine whether that amount of give would translate to good mash-ability. Avocados tend to be more ripe toward the surface, less ripe toward the seed. Keep that in mind as you’re evaluating them.

Look at the color as well. Over-ripe avocados (depending on the varietal) tend to be black with pockets of unstructured softness. I don’t typically use the trick where you wiggle the stem button – if it’s loose, the avocado is ripe (but possible too ripe!), but that is another tactic to decipher whether an avocado is in the zone.

If you buy under-ripe avocados and have a few days before using them they’ll continue to ripen over time. If you’re in a rush – avocados ripen more quickly sealed in a paper bag. To slow down the ripening process, place them in the refrigerator (but bring back to room-temperature before using).

Guacamole Recipe - The Little Steps that Lead to Great Guacamole

The Right Temperature is Key

Temperature matters here, and you’re going to want to use room-temperature avocados. Because avocados have such a high percentage of fat, imagine trying to mash cold butter versus room temperature. Once is going to be much creamier than the other. So, don’t try to make guacamole with cold avocados. Also, serve at room temperature, not chilled.

The Concept of Guacamole “Stretching”

Avocados can be pricey, so a lot of restaurants will “stretch” or bulk out their guacamole with things like chopped tomatoes. I’m not a fan of this. The tomato addition in particular. I don’t love the way watery tomatoes bump up against fatty avocado – it’s literally oil and water. I like guacamole to be about the avocado, and unless I’m throwing some wildcards in the mix (like the one in my last book), I typically keep it as clean and simple as possible.

Variations

Beyond this – trust your taste buds to balance things out. If you like a bit of spicy kick, add some minced serrano pepper. Use salt and lime juice, adjusting little by little, until things taste just right.

Guacamole Recipe - The Little Steps that Lead to Great Guacamole

If you want to take your guacamole up another notch, try this favorite Indian-spiced guacamole, and inspired by a Julie Sahni recipe. I also love to use this guacamole on these Vegan Nachos – so good!

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Super Swiss Meringues

Let’s make beautiful, billowy Swiss meringue! You can shape it into all sorts of shapes and swooshes, or punctuate with a range of nuts, seeds, and spices.

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Let’s make beautiful, billowy meringues! Few treats are more charming or versatile. The first order of business is deciding which method to use – there are a number of options. More often than not, I go the Swiss meringue route, which I’ll explain below. A lot of people like to use the French method – where you whisk eggs until they are nice and frothy, adding granulated sugar, a bit at a time. I wouldn’t disagree that it’s the simplest method, but I like the Swiss meringue approach instead, for a number of reasons.How to Maker Swiss Meringue

Swiss Meringue Technique

To make Swiss meringue, you basically combine all your ingredients in a mixing bowl. Heat it over a pan of simmering water until smooth, and then pop that mixing bowl back into your mixer. Whisk until you have a beautiful, bright, glossy meringue. It’s quite straight-forward. I think cooking sugar always freaks people out, and to do it right, you should use a thermometer, but don’t let that deter you.How to Maker Swiss Meringue

Why Swiss Meringue?

Reason number one, you don’t have to remember to bring your eggs to room temperature. This is major. I always forget to pull my eggs from the refrigerator. You don’t have to worry about this if you’re using the Swiss approach. The second thing, I like to be able to pipe my meringue into somewhat intricate shapes (see photos). I have much better luck with Swiss meringue. It’s stiffer, and holds ridges, dollops, and flourishes better. If you’re trying to avoid blobby meringue, start here. 
How to Maker Swiss Meringue

Keys to Success

1) Use a completely clean, dry  bowl, whisk, spatula, etc. to get the most volume of meringue. Any residual oils will hamper your efforts.

2) Adjust your baking time based on whether you’re like a chewier or crisper meringue. Leave them to bake longer for crisper. Up to a few hours even!

3) If you do leave your meringues to bake longer, just be sure they aren’t taking on any/too much color. Ways to counter coloring: gently rotate pans, propping over door open with a wooden spoon, moving baking sheets either up or down in oven.

4) To maintain a glossy sheen and texture, try not to slam your oven door or baking sheet while baking. They might collapse a bit and end up with a crackled texture.
How to Maker Swiss Meringue

Favorite Add-ins

The recipe below is a nice base recipe. Once you get the hang of it play around with different add-ins. I love to stir in cacao nibs, toasted coconut flakes, saffron bloomed in the almond extract, dried rose petals + rose extract, lots of mixed sesame seeds, or toasted pistachios.
How to Maker Swiss Meringue

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Deviled Eggs

A beautiful and delicious deviled eggs made with an herb-flecked filling and topped with toasted almonds.

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This is a recipe for beautiful deviled eggs, but before we get to it, I’ll ask that you let me tell you about the last couple of days first. I know the eggs are distracting, I mean, look at them! If I could give you one right through the screen, I would.

Deviled Eggs Recipe

These deviled eggs were part of a Saturday night dinner spread – leftover from Friday’s lunch. They made the trip north with me, to visit friends in Bolinas. We had a tasty dinner of mostly leftovers and the eggs were a hit! Let’s talk about what makes them great. The main thing is they’re classic-inspired, simple to make, and updated at the same time.

A box with a platter of deviled eggs, flowers, and salad greens.

Above is my leftover box packed for Bolinas – soup, eggs, Josey Baker Bread, various toppings and condiments.

How to Make Deviled Eggs

The concept is straight-forward, but there are a couple of pitfalls to avoid. The main thing, boil your eggs properly. This is so you don’t ended up with dreaded grey yolks. An ice bath after boiling is your friend here. Cool, peel, halve, make a beautiful filling from the yolks, and you’re on the home stretch.

The Best Filling

It’s all about getting the flavor and texture right here, and I use a little trick. The filling is mixed, mashed, and fluffed into a light herb-flecked dollop. Toasted almonds add the crunch, chive flowers bring the pretty. They’re not technically deviled, as there is no paprika or mustard in this version, but you can always tweak the filling to your liking with a few pinches of either.

Deviled Eggs Recipe

Tasty Variations!

A number of you have made these over the years, and have noted variations and suggestions that I wanted to highlight.

Allyson:  “I just made these for Easter. Coincidently, it was the first time I’ve ever made, or actually eaten, deviled eggs. They were fantastic. I used pistachios instead of almonds, and couldn’t find chervil or dill seed, but they were so much better than I had imagined. My fiance, who loves deviled eggs, declared them the best he’s ever eaten.”

Berndy said, “I make my deviled eggs with pickled eggs for a more interesting taste.” Love this idea, and think they’d be great using these pickled turmeric eggs!

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Five Minute Tomato Sauce

Great tomato sauce in a flash. A quick, simple, easy (and absolute favorite) tomato sauce recipe. Bright and clean flavors, a vibrant red in color, exudes the essence of tomatoes.

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Let’s talk about tomato sauce. Last week in an airplane miles above the expansive plains of the mid-west, in the midst of a flurry of turbulence, it dawned on me that I’ve never shared with you my all-time favorite tomato sauce recipe. I’ve included the recipe in one form or another in both of my books, but I’ve never gone into depth here on the website about why it is the little black dress of my cooking repertoire.

Five Minute Tomato Sauce Recipe

How to Make a Simple and Bright Tomato Sauce

I realize many of you have romantic notions of what a good tomato sauce should be. And I realize it is going to be a tough sell on my part to get you to make a break with some of those hearty, meaty, long-simmering sauces. But, I’m going to encourage you to give this ringer of a tomato sauce recipe a shot. It comes together in five minutes flat, and the only chopping required is a few garlic cloves. It is bright and clean, a vibrant red in color, and exudes the essence of tomatoes, in part because there isn’t much to get in the way of the tomato flavor.

Video: How to Make Five Minute Tomato Sauce

 

A Short Ingredient List

Many of the tomato sauce recipes in this realm (in the U.S. in particular) include all sorts of ingredients. One camp likes to kick things off by browning onions and ground beef for a chunky stew-like sauce, others love to use carrots and celery and all manner of dusty dried herbs and seasonings. This recipe is going to be on the absolute other end of the spectrum – in all the best ways.

You wouldn’t wear a wool coat to the beach, right? That’s what heavy spaghetti and tomato sauces in warm weather feel like to me. This sauce is a relatively pure expression of tomatoes accented with a bit of edge from crushed red peppers, a hint of garlic, and my secret ingredient – a touch of lemon zest which brings its citrus aroma and a bit of surprise to the party.

Five Minute Tomato Sauce Recipe

So Many Different Uses!

The first time you make this sauce I recommend spooning it over light, fluffy pillows of ricotta-filled ravioli. Beyond that there are many other avenues to explore. It is transcendent in all manner of baked pastas and pasta-based casseroles (don’t skimp on the zest). Toss it with good-quality spaghetti noodles, a sprinkle of freshly chopped basil, and a dusting of Parmesan – you’ve got a beautiful bowl of noodles.

Beyond the pasta realm, I use it on thin-crust pizzas, in my thousand-layer lasagna, as the foundation for stuffed shells, as a base for soups, and as a way to pull together various “grain-bowls”. For example, quinoa tossed with a bit of this tomato sauce, your protein of choice, and accents like basil and a bit of cheese is simple and satisfying. 

Five Minute Tomato Sauce Recipe

Pictured above on my favorite pizza dough, with some mozzarella, and fresh basil. Be sure to to pay attention to the type of crushed tomatoes to buy in the recipe headnotes. I hope you love this sauce as much as I do, and appreciate it for what it is more so than what it isn’t.

Variations

A bit richer. There are times when I’ll add a splash of cream at the very end, totally changing the character of the sauce – it becomes silky with a bit of richness, while still being bright, and without compromising the tomatoes in the lead role.

Sarah noted in the comments below, “Mmm, I love a nice quick San Marzano tomato sauce — mine’s very similar, though I also toss in a few capers or maybe some black olive paste if I have them on hand.” Love this take.

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Best Pizza Dough by a Master Baker

Peter Reinhart’s Napoletana pizza dough recipe. It makes my all-time favorite pizza dough using a delayed-fermentation method.

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I can make a mean pizza, but it took me a while to learn how. Maybe I should rephrase that – I can make a mean pizza, but it took me a while to find the right teacher. For a long time I didn’t really know where to look for guidance – I just knew I wanted pizza the way I’d enjoyed it in Rome and Naples. The key is good pizza dough.

Best Pizza Dough Ever: Watch the Video 

I was smart enough to know early on, if you have bad pizza dough, you’re destined to have bad pizza. Figuring out the dough factor was not as easy as you might think. As I got going, my oven gobbled up the fruits of many deflated attempts – a little yeast here, a lot of yeast there, this flour, that flour, knead by hand, knead by mixer, high baking temps, lower baking temps, and on and on.

Crust Styles

Then I was given a hint. A gift, really. My friends and I would visit a favorite tiny pizza place in San Francisco quite often. We would go to eat, but also to try to absorb some of the good pizza karma flowing from their single-shelf, Baker’s Pride oven. A lot of time was spent there, not because we wanted to know their secrets really – but primarily because the food was so good. Hours would pass as we chatted over thin-crusted pizzas with slightly puffy, blistered edges. It became the crust I would try to emulate at home.

Best Pizza Dough by a Master Baker

The Source

One day in the aforementioned pizza shop, I noticed a copy of Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice on a bookshelf near the prep area. It must have been recently published, and my curiosity was piqued. Sure enough, the book contained an interesting (and meticulous) description of how to make just the sort of pizza I was after. The dough Peter uses for his Napoletana pizza in this book is rooted in a delayed-fermentation method – different from the other techniques I’d tried up to that point. Game on.

Make Ahead Pizza Dough

If you like to wait until the last minute to make pizza dough, you are out of luck here. The key is the overnight fermentation. You end up with a golden, beautiful crust with the perfect amount of crunch and subtle yeasty undertones. If you try this recipe and like it, Peter also went on to write an entire book about the quest for the perfect pizza, fittingly titled, American Pie. It’s a great reference for those of you who really want to geek out on pizza.

Close up of a slice of pizza.

Give Peter’s dough a try, and if you are interested in baking world exceptional breads, be sure to spend time with his book

Topping Strategy

I’m going to leave you with the dough recipe. It’s up to you to play around with the toppings. The best advice I can give you is to take it easy on that front – a little goes a long way. My favorite is a simple pizza margherita made with this tomato sauce, a few torn up bocconcini cow’s milk mozzarella balls, and a few pinches of salt before placing the pizza in the oven. And, don’t forget the magic touches. When the pizza is hot from the oven, give it a quick dusting of freshly grated Parmesan, a tiny drizzle of artisan-quality virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of basil cut into a chiffonade. Serve pronto!

Oven Temperature

As far as oven temperatures go – I have great results at 450F degrees WITH a pizza stone. Go buy a pizza stone immediately if you are serious about making great pizza at home. They are cheap and make a huge difference in your crust.

This is the stripped-down, adapted version of Peter’s Napoletana pizza dough recipe. If you want all his great side notes, tips, and back-history on the recipe, please pick up the book.

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