Tag Archives: pies

Porcini Mushroom Pizza


epiphany pizza

I’ve been experimenting with pizza dough for a few years now, but only recently did I hit on what I consider a sure-thing recipe. Or method, I should say. Turns out you really must make your dough the night before, or at least 6 to 8 hours prior to forming your pizzas. That, and let it rise in the fridge! In honor of this epiphanic moment, I decided to top my finally perfect pizza dough with something worthy. Porcini mushrooms are common enough around here come September, but this year in particular their abundance and size are breaking records and turning heads (other species as well) after an atypically rainy summer. So I picked up a few lovelies at the town market and made this, if I may say so, masterpiece of a pie.


for the pizza dough (makes enough for four 10-inch pizzas)
3 & 1/2 to 4 cups flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 & 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons salt

for the topping (2 pizzas)
4 or 5 large porcini mushrooms
1 handful fresh parsley
olive oil
1 cup circa grated fresh mozzarella
3 or 4 Tablespoons grated parmigiano (optional)
2 teaspoons minced fresh red chili pepper (optional)


Make the pizza dough the night before. You will have enough dough to make two 10-inch pizzas per this recipe (or four pizzas if you increase the toppings amounts above accordingly).

Sprinkle the yeast over 1/2 cup of the warm water in a bowl. Wait a minute then stir briskly with a fork and stir in 1/2 cup of the flour until combined. Set aside at room temp for 30 minutes to let the mixture double in size.

Combine the yeast mixture, 3 cups of flour, and 1 cup of warm water in the mixer and mix on low with the dough hook until a dough forms and the mixer starts to struggle. Add the salt and mix a minute more. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until very smooth and elastic. Form a ball and place in a flour-dusted large bowl. Leave in the fridge overnight.

Remove the dough from the fridge and let rest at room temp an hour before you plan to cook the pizza. ‘Punch’ it down and cut the dough into four equal pieces. Put two back in the fridge if you don’t intend to make four pizzas at this time. Form the other two pieces into balls and set them aside on a flour-dusted surface to rest again. In the meantime, prepare the porcini for topping.

Clean the porcini if needed by gently brushing or wiping with a paper towel. Dampen the towel if needed but only slightly. Slice the caps and stems into thickish pieces (no more than 4 slices per cap) and cook them in about 2 tablepoons olive oil for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Turn the pieces carefully rather than stirring them all together. After turning them, add 3/4 of the chopped parsely and lightly salt and gently combine. As they brown a small amount of juice will form. Turn off the heat and leave the mixture in the pan.

Preheat the oven to 260° C / 500° F (probably as high as your oven will go). Prep the cheeses and set aside.

Flour a work surface and make your pizza rounds. You can use the hand method or a rolling pin. The hand method which involves flattening out the ball into a thick disk and, while rotating the disk continuing to flatten the dough using your fingertips, working from the center outwards. Pick up the disk and let gravity help by hanging it from the edge and turning (or try tossing it in the air if you’re brave!). Then place on your pizza stone or baking sheet and shape as needed. This method results in a more rustic-looking pizza. Or use a rolling pin if you prefer, arguably simpler, which results in a uniform look and consistency.

Cover your two pizzas with the grated mozzarella, then divide and arrange the porcini on each. A lot of flavor will be in the oil/juice in the pan, so drizzle that on top, too. Dust with finely grated parmesan cheese, and for a kick and some color, a teaspoon or so of minced fresh red chili (optional).

Bake for about 6 to 8 minutes, keeping an eye on them. The pizzas are ready when the edges are brownish or even slighly blackened in places, the bottom is golden and the cheese is bubbly. Garnish with the remaining parsley (optional).

Cherry Tomato & Zucchini Flower Tart

Hello. I'm your new favorite tart

Hello. I’m your new favorite tart.


for the pastry:
1 & 1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup very cold butter
ice water

for the topping:
1 large or 2 small zucchini
2-3 zucchini flowers
1 handful cherry tomatoes (about 7-8)
1 egg
3 heaping Tbls fresh ricotta
1 Tbls fresh thyme leaves
2-3 Tbls grated parmigiano or pecorino romano
salt & pepper


Make the pastry crust first. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Chunk in the butter with a knife or try my own favorite method: put the butter in the freezer for about 5 minutes then grate it into the flour using the large holes of a cheese grater. Crumble the butter into the flour with your fingers until you have a uniform crumbly mixture. Add a few spoonfuls of the ice water and continue combining with your fingers. Keep adding water and blending until a dough forms. Transfer to a flour-covered work surface and knead lightly and quickly. Form a ball and close it in plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters. Slice the zucchini into very thin strips (I used the slicer of the cheese grater). Gently clean the flowers and cut them in half length-wise. Whisk the ricotta and egg together with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Heat the oven to 180° C / 350° F.  Roll out the pastry to about 1/8 inch thickness and cover the bottom of a 10″ or 12″ pie dish or cake pan with a spring form release. I used the latter, after having lined the bottom and trimmed the excess pastry from the edge. Spread the ricotta and egg mixture evenly across the crust, then arrange the tomato and zucchini slices and flowers as you prefer, gently pressing the ingredients into the soft mixure. Dust with another bit of salt and pepper and sprinkle with the fresh thyme and grated cheese. Bake for 20 minutes. The flowers and thyme will crisp and turn brown, so you could add those ingredients to the tart half-way through the cooking time to maintain their color (they will be softer, too). Let cool slightly before releasing the spring form and serving.

Eggplant Parmesan: A Misnamed Classic

the star of the show

the star of the show

Would it surprise you to learn that this Italian classic does not traditionally call for Parmesan cheese? The name melanzana alla parmigiana means simply eggplant ‘made in the Parma way’—which is to layer a dish with vegetables and/or other ingredients. Its lineage is equally shifty, as there’s nothing truly definitive to suggest the dish originates in the Parma area. In fact, many say melanzana alla parmigiana is a Sicilian recipe, sometimes pointing to the word parmiciana, the Sicilian word for the strips of wood that comprise window shutters and whose appearances recalls the layers of a parmigiana dish. Technically then, the correct name of the dish is not eggplant parmigiana, but rather a parmigiana of eggplant, much as one could make (and say) a parmigiana of veal or a parmigiana of zucchini.

The wonders don’t end here. I learned something pretty amazing today while consulting a handful of cookbooks: the true, traditional parmigiana of eggplant calls for sliced boiled egg. The first time I read this I admit I scoffed a bit. I looked elsewhere, on the web and in my own cookbook collection, including my La Cucina Italiana encyclopedia and Il Grande Mosaico della Cucina Italiana, and found it repeatedly mentioned. You won’t find boiled egg in many of your mainstream recipes on the web, but it is out there. Don’t believe me? Well, I don’t blame you. But do check it out. Today I made it, the real-deal parmigiana di melanzane.


2 medium eggplants
250 grams (1 cup) of chunky tomato sauce (5 to 8 tomatoes)
250 grams (about 9-10 ounces) of fresh mozzarella
3 boiled eggs
5 or 6 fresh whole basil leaves, plus 1 Tbls minced
olive oil


Slice the eggplant into ¼ inch thick rounds or strips. If you’re using a round baking dish, cut the eggplant into rounds. If using a square or rectangular dish, slice them lengthwise into oblong strips. This will help when it comes time to arrange the slices in your dish.

Layer the slices on a large platter, sprinkling with a small amount of table salt as you proceed. Place another heavy platter on top of the eggplant and let them ‘bleed’ for 15-20 minutes. (If your eggplant is uber, plucked-from-your-veggie-patch fresh you can skip this step.)

Boil the eggs for 7 minutes and let them cool in their water. Heat the oven to 180° C (355° F). Now make the tomato sauce. Score and boil the tomatoes for 5 minutes. When cooled, peel and deseed the tomatoes and place the pulp in bowl. Add about 1 tablespoon of minced basil and 1 teaspoon of salt and stir well. Leave aside.

Now the eggplant. First drain the slices of any brownish water. Flour both sides of the slices. Heat 5 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and fry the eggplant until golden on both sides. You will have to work in batches. Place the fried slices on paper towels and salt lightly.

Peel and slice the eggs (about 4 slices from each egg). Slice the mozzarella into rounds. Cover the bottom of your baking dish with a light drizzle of olive oil and start layering: eggplant, eggs and mozzarella, tomato sauce. Finish the top layer with cheese only. Bake for 30 minutes circa, or until the top is bubbly and golden. Garnish with a few basil leaves. You can add a sprinkle of grated Parmesan if you really want to. But it won’t mean anything.

eggplant sans parmigiano

eggplant sans parmigiano


Provençal Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart

tart art

My dear friend Emily, who is both a diligent reader of The New York Times and a thoughtful recipe-sharer, sent me the link to this recipe of Martha Rose Shulman’s tart made with tomatoes, goat cheese, and mustard. I’d likely never have discovered this particularly scrumptious tart otherwise, which I’ve made a good five or six times over the past year. Thanks, Em!

I followed Ms. Shulman’s recipe exactly, and served it with a yogurt sauce with herbes de Provence. There’s no improving a recipe as perfect as this Provençal Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart!

Pizza Bianca

who needs tomato?

Pizza bianca with sausage, mushroom, and green onion. Really, who needs tomato?

Pizza bianca, or pizza sans tomato sauce, is a favorite of my hubby’s and our Saturday night go-to meal. Start with a good pizza dough and top with your favorites: sausage or pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, mozzarella, hot pepper flakes, minced garlic. Tips: Brush a little olive oil on the pizza before adding the toppings, and add the mozzarella half-way through the cooking time, unless you like your cheese crunchy and slightly burnt (which is nothing to be ashamed of).


This dough recipe will make one large pizza (circa 14-16 inches) or two small-to-medium pizzas. Double the recipe for more/larger pizzas.

1 cup (250 grams) flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup (100 mls) tepid water


Preheat the oven to 190° C / 375° F, on the pizza setting if your oven has it.

Blend the dry ingredients in a large glass bowl. Slowly stir in the water with a fork, then use your hands to form the dough. When you have a soft dough transfer to a flour-dusted board and knead for 8-10 minutes, dusting with more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Form a round, place the dough round back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, and let rest for two to three hours in a warm place. The dough round should rise to about double its original size. (In cold weather you can use 2 teaspoons dry yeast. Or, if after a few hours the dough has not doubled in size you can put it in the oven on the lowest temp for about 10 minutes.)

Re-knead the dough for a few minutes and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer to baking sheets or a pizza stone, brush with olive oil and layer with your ingredients. Bake for about 12 minutes, less if you like soft pizza and more if you want a really crunchy crust. Experiment! It may take several pizza nights to get your pizza bianca just the way you like it.