Entries tagged with “Tips”.

First… Some Piz’za History

Piz’za (n) – A baked pie of Italian origin consisting of a shallow bread-like crust covered with seasoned tomato sauce, cheese, and often other toppings, such as sausage or olives.

The Origins of Pizza
Considered a peasant’s meal in Italy for centuries, modern pizza attributes itself to baker Raffaele Esposito of Napoli (Naples), who in 1889 created a special pizza for the visiting Italian King Umberto and Queen Margherita. The pizza, named after the queen, was patriotic in its resemblance to the Italian flag; red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella cheese), and green (basil). It received rave reviews, setting the standard by which today’s pizza evolved.

The idea of using bread as a plate came from the Greeks, who ate flat round bread (plankuntos) baked with an assortment of toppings. The tomato came to Italy from Mexico and Peru through Spain in the 16th century as an ornamental plant first thought to be poisonous. True mozzarella is made from the milk of the water buffalo imported from India to Campania in the 7th century. So, the Neopolitan baker, as the saying goes, put it all together. Also, in 1830 the world’s first true pizzeria, Antica Pizzeria Port’ Alba in Naples, opened and is still in business today!

Pizza migrated to America with the Italians. Gennaro Lombardi opened the first U.S. pizzeria in 1895 in New York City at 53 1/3 Spring Street, but it wasn’t until after World War II when returning GI’s created a nationwide demand for the pizza they had eaten and loved in Italy that pizza went public. In the late 1950’s, Shakey’s and various other mass production pizza parlors appeared and further popularized pizza.

Pizza in this day and age is not limited to the flat round type. It’s also deep-dish pizza, stuffed pizza, pizza pockets, pizza turnovers, rolled pizza, pizza-on-a-stick, pizza strudel, etc., all with combinations of sauce, cheese, and toppings limited only by one’s inventiveness. However, the best pizza still comes from the individual pizzaiolo, a pizza baker, who prepares his yeast dough and ingredients daily and heats his oven for hours before baking the first pizza.

Chef Cali’s Pizza Sauce

Makes: 3 cups

1 can (28-ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, in juice
2 tablespoons olive oil, to sauté
1 small white or sweet onion, finely diced and minced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
3 to 4 fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch sea salt
Pinch fresh ground black pepper
Pinch sugar, optional

Empty the contents of the tomato can in a mixing bowl and coarsely crush the tomatoes with a fork or your hands, leaving them just a little chunky.

In a heavy bottom 2-quart saucepot, add the olive oil, over a medium high flame and heat a little. Add the onions and sauté until slightly translucent. Add the garlic and sauté about a minute until golden. Quickly add the crushed tomatoes to the mix. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add the fresh basil and oregano.

You can add a touch of sugar if desired or if tomatoes are tart. Simmer on a low flame, stirring often for at least 15 minutes.

If not using right away, cool down and store in airtight container in the refrigerator, up to 1 week.

Chef Cali’s Pizza Dough

Makes:  2, 14” pizzas

1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope active (not instant or rapid rise) dry yeast (about 2 ¼ teaspoons, a 4 oz. jar of yeast = 14 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ cups cold water
1 tablespoon olive oil
Yellow cornmeal, for sprinkling the baking sheet

In a bowl, combine warm water, yeast, and sugar. Stir to combine.

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt.

Add the yeast mixture, cold water, and oil. Be careful not to overwork the dough. Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for several minutes until dough is smooth. Allow dough to rest for 2 to 3 minutes. Place dough in oiled bowl and allow to rise at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Punch dough down, let rise another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place cookie sheets in oven (inverted). Form a 10 to 14-inch pizza crust and place on a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with yellow cornmeal. Place topping on the crust and place the pizza, with the parchment paper, in the oven on hot inverted cookie sheet. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes.

ABOUT YEAST … Yeast is a living, microscopic, single-cell organism that, as it grows, converts its food (through a process known as fermentation) carbon dioxide. This trait is what endears yeast to breadbakers. The art of breadmaking needs the carbon dioxide produced by yeast in order for certain doughs to rise. To multiply and grow, all yeast needs is the right environment, which includes moisture, food (in the form of sugar or starch) and a warm, nurturing temperature (70° to 85°F is best).

The breakdown of the yeast causes effervescence, the giving off of gasses which get trapped in the dough, and the lump of dough expands. As the bread is usually in a tin, the only way it can expand is upwards. A lump of dough not in a tin will expand sideways as well as upwards.

Artichoke Strudel


2 cloves garlic
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, coarse chop
1, 10 ounce box frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
5 tablespoons parmesan cheese, finely grated
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
18 sheets (approximately) phyllo dough, thawed
5-8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In the bowl of a food processor, fitted with the metal chopping blade, chop garlic. Add lemon zest and parsley and pulse several times. Add artichokes and roughly chop. Add cream cheese, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper and pulse just to combine.

Place two sheets of phyllo dough on work surface (keeping unused phyllo covered with a slightly damp, clean towel). Brush top layer with melted butter. Add another two sheets and brush with butter. Spread 1/3 of filling across bottom of sheet, leaving about 1″ uncovered on left and right sides. Roll sheets up beginning with the filling edge and pinch each end of the roll closed. Repeat 2 more times, with a set of 6 sheets and 1/3 of filling, for a total of 3 logs. Place rolls on parchment lined baking sheets and brush each roll with melted butter. Bake until phyllo is golden brown and crispy, about 20-25 minutes. Allow to rest about 10 minutes. Cut individual serving pieces on a diagonal. Serve warm.

Phyllo Dough 101

Phyllo (say, “FEE-loh”) Literally translated; the Greek word phyllo means “leaf.” Culinarily, it refers to tissue-thin layers of pastry dough used in various Greek and Near Eastern sweet and savory preparations, the best known being baklava and Spanakopita. Phyllo (also spelled filo) is very similar to strudel dough. Packaged fresh and frozen phyllo dough is readily available-the former in Greek markets, the latter in supermarkets. Unopened, phyllo can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month. Once opened, use within 2 or 3 days. Frozen phyllo can be stored for up to one year. Thaw overnight in refrigerator. Refreezing phyllo will make it brittle. When you are ready to work with the dough, be prepared with a slightly dampened dish towel. Phyllo dried out very quickly unless you keep it covered constantly with a towel. Phyllo is always used in layers, giving it its characteristic flaky texture. The tissue0like sheets are stacked, with butter brushed on each layer to add flavor and crispiness. Phyllo pastries come in many different shapes and sizes. You can use phyllo to create large or appetizer-size strudels, triangles, beggar’s purses, turnovers or casseroles that need to be cut before serving (like baklava or spinach pie). The final shape of the pastry determines how many sheets of phyllo you need to start with. For example, a pastry with a lot of folds like a triangle needs fewer sheets to start out with because they get layered as they are folded. Typically, phyllo dishes require 3-6 sheets per layer (a one pound box of phyllo contains about 20 sheets).

Almost anything can fill phyllo pastries. Appetizer pastries are delicious filled with thick fillings based on cheeses like goat cheese, feta or cream cheese. Most fillings, with the exception of some fruit fillings, should be completely cooked before stuffing the phyllo (since they take so little time to bake in the oven “raw” fillings wouldn’t get thoroughly cooked).


Always brush the pastry with butter before baking in a hot oven to create a nice golden brown effect.

Phyllo pastries can often be very brittle when baked. We recommend using a serrated knife to cut the finished dish to prevent all of the filling from coming out.

Make many phyllo-based appetizers ahead of time and freeze the finished pastries (unbaked) in a single layer on a baking sheet. The bake (without thawing) whenever you need a quick appetizer!

An Afternoon Reception

Passed Appetizers

Smoked salmon on dilled lemon zest scone with crème fraiche
Chili lime-rubbed chicken with avocado lime dip
Grilled bosc pears and prosciutto with balsamic glaze and arugula
Sun-dried tomato and shrimp bruschetta

Buffet-style Appetizers

A Trio of “dips and spreads” all served with mountains of toasted baguette, crackers, flatbreads and pitas

Bruschetta di Roma
Kalamata Olive Tapenade
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
White Bean and Rosemary Spread
Wild Mushroom Pate
Artichoke and Spinach Dip
Creamy Roquefort Dip
Black Bean & Grilled Corn Pico de Gallo

Buffet-Style Punches

Mango Ceylon Iced Tea Cooler
Spiked Watermelon Cooler
Key Lime Limeade
Santa Fe Sangria
Lemon Raspberry Cooler

Contact ChefCali to arrange your special afternoon reception!

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