Cooking with Connie

Food brings us together.  It gives us a reason to get together and get to know each other and enjoy each other.  Part of a healthy lifestyle is sharing life with others and through that we are all better.

When I first hit upon the idea of blogging, I was having lunch with my sister, Connie, and mentioned it to her.  She said, “That’s a great idea!”  (Believe you me I had tried several other ‘career of the day’ ideas that did not get that response from her or anyone else). She not only encouraged me from the start but has edited each of my posts and is always there to tell me to knock it off.

But going back, Connie has always loved food.  She and her husband, Craig, have enjoyed wonderful restaurants all over the world and Connie is happy to recommend a good place to eat if you are going anywhere.  We always follow her recommendations and have eaten in some fabulous places.

She has been a great inspiration to good food for me and my family.  I remember one time when the kids were little, we were in Minneapolis and Connie and Craig happened to be there, too.  It just so happened that Marlo and Craig were doing something else, so Connie and I and the kids were downtown for lunch.  Connie suggested a place she had heard about that was new and was supposed to be good.  If Connie wanted to go, I certainly was willing to go with her.

The Dakota Jazz is still very much alive and was nice and quiet for lunch with three small children.  I searched their ‘out of the box’ gourmet menu for something for the kids and found the mac and cheese and gave it a go.  But the five cheeses and the lovely trumpet mushrooms were a bit too much for them and at $15 a plate (mid 1990’s) I didn’t want to repeat that experience.  But that did not bother Connie and the kids still had a great time.

After that, we took a more moderate approach to choosing restaurants until the kids got a bit older.  Now they all enjoy adventuresome dining and I give a lot of the credit for that to Connie and Craig.

So here is the delicious pizza Connie has served us in her home. She has worked over the years to fine tune this dish using the dough recipe from Roberta’s in Brooklyn, NY, and Ina Garten’s sauce recipe and then added their favorite toppings.  You will love this.  Give it a try.  The recipe is here:

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Connie’s Delicious Pizza

Roberta's Pizza Dough

Yield: Two 12-inch pizzas

Time:  20 minutes plus at least 3 hours' rising

Ingredients:

     153 grams 00 flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon)

     153 grams all-purpose flour (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons)

     8 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)

     2 grams active dry yeast (3/4 teaspoon)

     4 grams extra-virgin olive oil (1 teaspoon)

Preparation:

     Step 1  In a large mixing bowl, combine flours and salt.

     Step 2  In a small mixing bowl, stir together 200 grams (a little less than 1 cup) lukewarm tap water, the yeast and the olive oil, then pour it into flour mixture.  Knead with your hands until well combined, approximately 3 minutes, then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.

     Step 3  Knead rested dough for 3 minutes.  Cut into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball.  Place on a heavily floured surface, cover with dampened cloth, and let rest and rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator.  (If you refrigerate the dough, remove it 30 to 45 minutes before you begin to shape it for pizza.)

     Step 4  to make pizza, place each dough ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it, then your hands to shape it into rounds or squares.  Top and bake.

 

Baking the pizza crust.

I use a pizza stone in the oven. I put the pizza stone in oven about an hour before I want to cook the pizza, and set the oven to 500 degrees to really get the oven and stone well heated.

Put the pizza dough on a piece of parchment paper (with a little flour under the dough). Add all the stuff to the top of the pizza then transfer the pizza onto the hot pizza stone using a pizza peel. I use a wood one, and it works well to slide it right under the parchment and then slide the parchment and pizza directly onto the hot pizza stone in the oven.

Leave the pizza in the oven about 13 minutes, time required will vary depending upon your toppings, leave it in until there is some good browning on the crust and the cheese.

Use the pizza peel to remove the pizza (slide the pizza peel under the parchment paper and pizza) and transfer it to a cutting board to cut the pizza. It’s hot, so be careful.

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Sauce:

1 onion, finely chopped (sometimes add one clove of garlic too, depending upon my mood)

2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter – live it up, it’s pizza)

1 link hot Italian sausage, removed from casing and broken into pieces (Johnsonville is my first choice), can skip sausage and still delicious

1 can tomatoes, diced or whole (if whole, I crush them into the saucepan with my hands)

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

salt to taste

(sometimes I also add red pepper flakes, if you want more heat)

fresh mozzarella and fresh basil for top of pizza

 

In a saucepan, sauté the onion and the sausage in the olive oil until sausage is browned and onions are translucent.  Add the tomato, oregano, basil, vinegar, and brown sugar. Taste and add salt if it needs it (and hot pepper flakes you need it.)

Pizza:

Form dough into a round, spoon on the pizza sauce (with the sausage incorporated), add fresh mozzarella.  After you take the pizza out of the oven, add the leaves of fresh basil.

Really, give this a try and let me know what you think!  I love to hear from you.

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