New Year’s Feast

Since 2005 we’ve been hosting the family feast for Rosh Hashanah. And what is a traditional holiday dinner without an excuse to do some cooking.


Rosh Hashanah occurs in September or October and so it’s traditional to include fall produce, particularly fruits which symbolize the hoped for sweetness of the new year. To this effect we made a huge run on the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and picked up nearly all of the fruits and vegetables for the meal, including this apples.


When you have to slice two dozen of them, the slicer helps. These are served with honey (also from the market).


A traditional first course is the chicken McNugget of the fish world, Gefilte Fish. We made ours from scratch using this recipe.


As we have a beet dish, we used the beet greens as garnish.


You can see some of the appetizer plates prepped and ready to go.


And the fish plated with the greens and horseradish sauce (using Atomic Horseradish naturally).


Second course was a dish we’ve been working on this fall. Jose AndresGazpacho (recipe here). This is the garnish of homemade croutons and various vegetables from the farmer’s market.


And with the soup added, dressed with a bit of olive oil and toasted pinenuts. You can see the chef’s own version at my recent é outing.


Then the main course is served buffet style. Here is the finished spread.


It includes farmer’s market mixed potatoes in olive oil, salt, and garlic.


Roasted.


And in their final form.


This beet salad (recipe here). We adapted it for buffet style serving (chopped everything finer).


Here with dressing.


My brother’s homemade couscous with various farmer’s market vegetables, mint, etc.


Brisket is one of the traditional meats for the dinner. This is one of two giant slabs of beef we cook up.


We used this recipe (more or less). Which involves slow cooking (for a long time) with carrots and various fruits.


And here is the finished and dressed version. At some point in the middle the brisket is pulled out, sliced, and put back into the stew.


A more conventional “autumn salad.”


The bottom of “Wendy’s Kugel.”


And extracted. I’m not generally a big kugel fan, but this one tastes like a cinnamon, so I’m very partial to it.


And my gluttonous plate.


Then the dessert spread.


My mom generally makes a fruit crumble out of whatever is in season. This year we picked up at the farmer’s market these lovely nectarines.


And added some fresh blackberries.


Here dabbed in flour to prevent them getting too damp.


The crumble itself is a mixture of crisco, nuts, flour, cinnamon, and sugar.


You just sprinkle it on top of the fruit.


And bake.

We also made a traditional seven layer cake. You bake seven very thin cakes.


Make butter-creme icing.


And then layer them up one by one.


And add some finishing touches!

There were snacks and a lot of wine too, but I’m too full to get into it.

Ultimate Pizza in Review

Since I have so many Ultimate Pizza posts I wanted to gather their links together into a single page. But I solemnly promise this is the last pizza post for a good while — at least until I prepare another batch of them!

In summary, every couple of months we make homemade pizzas. Like many things at my household, we take this to the extreme in a quest to reach the Ultimate level of quality. Hence Ultimate Pizza. This pizzas are really good (and a lot of work), and to do them justice required quite a number of articles. I broke them down on individual topics.

Ultimate Pizza – The Dough
Ultimate Pizza – The Pesto
Ultimate Pizza – The Sauce
Ultimate Pizza – The Toppings
Ultimate Pizza – New Years (pizza itself)
Ultimate Pizza – Day 2 (more pizza)
Ultimate Pizza – Day 3 (and even more)
Ultimate Pizza – The Birthday (the second coming)
Ultimate Pizza – The Comeback (the third coming)
Between Ultimate Pizza there is Burrata

If you still want to see more food after this, check out the FOOD INDEX which links to all my food related posts.

Also I throw in here a survey of random pizza photos from past pizza nights:

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Ultimate Pizza – Day 3

The seventh Ultimate Pizza post. Earlier in the series were DoughPesto,SauceToppingsNew Years Pizza, and Day 2. Woah!
We had family over on Sunday to polish off the seven remaining pizza balls and work our way through some more of the toppings. I made a number of repeat pizzas that I didn’t photo, like another Tuna and another Lox pizza. So there were about four pizzas made but not pictured.

This puppy has black truffle sauce, then a generous spread of caramelized onion marmelade, gorgonzolla, parmesaen, morel mushrooms, marcona almonds, cherry compote, and drizzled honey.

After baking.

Then I added some fresh basil, burrata, and drizzled balsamic glaze and olive oil. It was really good. The sweetness of the onions mixed nicely with the salty blue cheese and nuts giving it that sweet and salty factor that I’m very fond of.

A repeat of my Tikka Masala pizza. Ricotta, Mozzarella, Parmesan, onions, corn.

Dressed with basil and olive oil.

A tomato sauce, fresh tomato, mozzerella, archichoke, sun dried tomato pizza.

Dressed with a little basil and olive oil.

We ran out of balls, and my niece wanted a pizza of her own creation so we used a tortilla. This one has pesto, tomato sauce, mozzarella, parmesan, and sliced tomatos.

Then dressed with bail. The tortilla actually worked incredibly well. It came out like a water cracker, incredibly thin and crunchy. The overall feel of the pizza was very light and crispy. I was surprised. Different than our chewy tasty pizza dough, but good.

With that I conclude the endless saga of Ultimate Pizzas. It will be at least a few weeks before I have the energy to do them again.

Ultimate Pizza – Day 2

Here we are at the sixth Ultimate Pizza post. My neck is all knotted up from this much obsession. Earlier in the series were Dough, Pesto, Sauce, Toppings, and New Years Pizza.

Since we had a lot of dough balls, and tons of ingredients, why not get a couple meals out of it.

I wanted to do a “Jewish Pizza.” I’ve done it before, and I’ve refined the technique. First I mixed up the “sauce.” Pictured is dill, chives, and creme fraiche.

Creme cheese isn’t fresh enough, so creme fraiche! Mixed up here. I set this aside.

Then I rolled my pizza and glazed it in olive oil (single vineyard) and a little fresh rosemary from the yard. As my wife calls it: “Osiris pee rosemary.” (The dog does, after all, use the yard).

This bakes really quickly, just 4-5 minutes. With this pizza you bake it first. I tried putting the creme fraiche on before baking in a previous session. This worked MUCH better.

Add the creme.

Red onions and capers. As you would on a bagel.

Wild scottish smoked salmon! And more capers and onions. This was really really yummy.

My wife recreated her crowd pleasing margarita + corn, almonds, mushrooms, and figs.

Baked up nicely.

My Tikka Masala pizza worked so well on New Years that I tried it again. This time I took care to get it neater, and I left off the basil until the end. Tikka Masala sauce, ricotta, red onion, corn, little mozzarella balls.

In the oven.

Neater than last night.

Added the basil and a touch of olive oil. Just as good the second time.

PLEASE CONTINUE if you want to learn more about Burrata. Or, CLICK HERE for the final pizza post.

Ultimate Pizza – New Years

Finally, five posts later, we come to the main event, the Ultimate Pizza. This post is pretty epic, but just to recap. We set the stage with articles on the Dough, the Pesto, the Sauce, and the Topping Preparation.

Now everything is set to go. Most of the toppings and the workspace.

The pizza stones (actually, there’re ceramic) are in the grill, and it’s been heated to 800-900 degrees.

The dough balls (read about their preparation HERE) have been taken out of the fridge two hours before and are rapidly rising on the counter. In fact, they will soon escape their plastic prisions on their own.

The peels, spatulas and pizza cutters are on the counter.

And more importantly the wine station is set up. The bottles in the back are “best ofs” from previous nights.

Being New Years, it’s time for the big guns.

For the white lovers: “The 2009 Kabinetts were absolute knockouts, and the one from Dönnhoff’s famed Oberhäuser Leistenberg vineyard is a likely candidate for Kabinett of the vintage! A complex core fragrance of golden apple, vanilla, orange peel, and Indian spices are subtly interwoven with notes of clove and incense. In the mouth, the wine shows impeccable purity, concentrated tangerine and tropical fruits, livel y acidity and pretty mineral notes that become pronounced on the back palate. Complex and beautiful, it is the essence of why the wines of Dönnhoff are referred to as ‘the most perfect Riesling can ever be.”

And for the red lovers. A perfect wine.  Parker gives it 100+.   “This is a Le Pavilion of mythical proportions. Produced from extremely old vines, some dating from the mid-nineteenth century, with yields averaging under 15 hectoliters per hectare, this is the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage. The 1991 Ermitage Le Pavilion follows the pattern of the 1989 and 1990-it is another perfect wine. The saturated black/purple color is followed by a compelling bouquet of spices, roasted meats, and black and red fruits. Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely endowed personality, this extraordinary wine should age effortlessly for three plus decades. Very powerful and full, yet displaying silky tannin, this is a seamless beauty! Anticipated maturity: 2001-2035.”

The ’91 Le Pavilion was the first truly great wine I ever tasted, back in 1996, and I bring out a bottle of it every once and a while to remember the glory days.

For my first pizza I thought I’d give something new a try. The Tikka Masala Pizza. While shopping I had found this stuff, and it looked good.

This is basically a tomato butter spice sauce, perfect as a substitute for regular tomato sauce.

Then I had to imagine what would go well with it. Mild cheese I thought, so I went with ricotta. Some corn, fresh chanterelle mushrooms, and a bit of basil.

It tasted WAY better than it looked, which is generally the case with these homemade pizzas. Notice the cornmeal by the way. This is a very important part of the process, allowing pizzas to be slid around easily. Even after doing this about a dozen times (perhaps 100 pizzas) I still mess it up a lot. You need to make sure you can move the pizza without making a mess if you want a pretty result. I wasn’t totally successful this time and some of the sauce slopped to the edges. Next time I’d also put the basil on after cooking, or late on the grill.

It still tasted FANTASTIC! Like naan dipped in Tikka Masala sauce.

One of my friends concocted this one. Herb oil as the base (the one I made in the sauce article), and then the pesto I also described.

Sun dried tomatos, and goat cheese.

After baking, drizzled with balsamic glaze. This was real good too. Goat cheese and sun dried tomatos go really well together, and the herby/basil thing complimented nicely.

A mini. Sweet onion marmelade, gorgonzola, figs.

Also drizzled with balsamic glaze. This was really really good, sweet. Unfortunately half of it was accidentally knocked on the floor and enjoyed by Osiris (the dog).

My wife likes a fairly straight up pizza. The fresh tomato sauce I made earlier in the day, roma tomatos, figs, mushrooms, mozzarella, parm, pecorino. She did add some marcona almonds. Everyone enjoyed it immensely, as it’s a very bright and perfect version of the classic margarita pizza, but with a bit texture and sweetness.

This is another one of my cooky creations. Herb oil, the crushed tomato sauce, red onion, capers, and most of a jar of really really good Italian chunk tuna packed in olive oil.

I tossed on a couple morels too and baked it.

Then to dress it. My favorite fresh cheese in the world. Burrata. I’m going to write a whole post about this stuff in a couple days.

I put a virtual salad on top using my pre-prepared arugala tossed in meyer lemon juice and black pepper (discussed here in the toppings). Then I drizzled single vineyard olive oil and balsamic must on top. I’ll write about those with my burrata article. The net result is AWESOME. The tomato, onion, caper mix below provides a delicious tang that pairs with the tuna, and then the bright citrusy flavor of the salad, and the mild creamy cheese. Yum Yum.

For my next trick. I used as a sauce the pre-bought “black truffle sauce,” then added mozzarella, parmesan, gorgonzola, bucheron, marcona almonds, figs, corn, white asparagus, and morels. Then I drizzled blobs of pesto, tikka marsala sauce, cherry compote, and fig jam on top, and a thin swirling of acacia honey! This is a sweet and salty pizza, a variant of one of my masterpieces that I call Formaggio Maximus (that one has more cheese, and less funny sauces).

I botched the transfer again because it was so heavy and wet. So it’s ugly, but it still tasted great.

Then I dressed it with the burrata. This is a very tasty pizza, with all sorts of sweet and salty flavor surprises in every bite.

Another big bertha of a wine. Parker gives it 98!  “The Philadelphia tasting was the finest showing yet for this wine, which has been forbiddingly tannic, backward, and broodingly difficult to assess for much of its life. In the blind tasting, I thought it was Lafleur, and came close to giving it a perfect rating. Although still youthful, it has turned the corner and is emerging from its closed state.
A murky, dense, opaque garnet color is followed by spectacular aromatics of roasted herbs, smoked meats, cedar, prunes, black cherries, and black currants. Rich, powerful, and full-bodied, with a thick, unctuous texture, considerable fat and glycerin, and dazzling concentration, Certan de May has not produced a wine of such intensity, thickness, and aging potential since their 1949, 1948, 1947, and 1945. It is accessible, but do not mistake that for maturity. This 1982 demands another 5-6 years of cellaring; it should age easily for 30+ years. It is a modern day classic, and unquestionably the finest Certan de May I have ever tasted.”

One of my friends whipped up this peanut sauce by combining skippy, sugar, soy sauce, and a bit of water for consistency.

Then he put down the herb oil and white asparagus.

Corn and a few almonds.

Then the peanut sauce and a little bit of mozzarella.

The result.  Again it looks a little ugly, but tasted amazing. As a kid I used to melt peanut butter on pita bread in the toaster oven. This was like the 100x better version of that. Sweat and spicy. The thing with custom pizzas is that anything that goes well with toasted bread (and that’s a lot) will work on a pizza.

This all took a long time, but we still had to wait for the ball to drop. So expresso. I have a little Italian commercial machine because I’m ridiculously obsessive about doing everything at the maximum level of quality — work or play.


New Years approaches. And so time for the crystal and Cristal. Parker gives this 96. “The estate’s 1996 Cristal, from a legendary vintage, does not disappoint. Like the 1979, there are elements of austerity that will require some time to sort themselves out, yet the 1996 is an insanely beautiful Cristal loaded with floral, perfumed fruit and vibrant minerality. The wine turns delicate in the glass, yet this is a sublime, fresh Cristal that is in need of further cellaring. In 1996 Cristal is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. According to Lecaillon 1996 is a vintage that did not respond well to oak aging, so only 3% of the wine was aged in wood, while 10% of the wine saw malolactic fermentation. This bottle was disgorged in 2007 and dosage was 8 grams. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2026.”

I use Riedel Sommelier crystal because it’s well… excessive. Austrian leaded old school hand blown crystal. Nothing else will do. Just touch touch it, and washing is a total nightmare. It takes about 5 minutes a glass, and can only be done by hand.

Desert. From Bottega Louie. We had a passionfruit poof thingy (upper left) that was amazing. A coconut sponge cake (lower left) which was pretty good. A chocolate thing (upper right) which was fair.

A coffee creme brulee (left center) which was awesome. A hazelnut choc cake (lower left) which was pretty good. A real dense bitter chocolate “cake” (upper right) and an amazing creme puff (lower right).

 

After all that, Osiris has the right idea. Happy New Year!!

We have so many toppings that two more days of pizza are possible, so I’ll be back soon with more reporting.

Please CONTINUE HERE when we make even more pizza for New Years Day.

Ultimate Pizza – The Sauce

This is part 3 of my comprehensive coverage of our New Years pizza making, following the article on Dough and the one on the Pesto. Upcoming will be toppings and the pizzas themselves.

Here are the ingredients. Two types of marzano tomatos from Italy. Crushed and pulped. Garlic, lemons, salt, pepper, oregano, and fresh basil.

We use this recipe from the excellent pizza making book American Pie as a basis, but wing the proportions.

Dump a bunch of stuff in, and blend. This is super easy and makes a much much fresher and better tomato sauce than any canned sauce. One could use fresh Marzanos, but they can be a bit of trouble to find.

The vat.

As a tease, here is the “pizza oven” in preparation. I have two ceramic pizza stones and I shove them in a Viking outdoor gas range. If one pre-heats an hour in advance it will get up to 800-900 degrees F — hot is good for pizzas.

Southern California, December 31, 2010. 62 Degrees and gorgeous.

At the last minute I decided to try and make some of this herb oil.

I through all sorts of herbs together, including fresh rosemary from the garden, and some garlic.

Dumped in some olive oil and stirred vigorously (picture is before the stirring). We’ll see how it tastes in a couple hours.

Please CONTINUE HERE as we get closer to Ultimate Pizza.