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Caponata Pizza

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My friend Gail summoned me over last night to help consume her never-ending garden harvest. I’m so jealous of her bounty: lemon cucumbers, squash, eggplant, swiss chard, kale, sweet peppers, onion, tomatillos, endless herbs, and six different kinds of tomatoes – it’s like a farmers market in her backyard! And since there is no way Gail and her husband can eat through the garden by themselves, I am always more than happy to accept invitations to help them (and to be sent home with any extra produce she cares to offer).

The past couple of times I have been over Gail’s house we made pizza. It’s one of my favorite things to make as a home cook because while you need to have a good comprehension of flavors and textural components, there is a ton of opportunity to experiment. And last night we did just that! We made two pizzas: one with pesto, squash, pancetta and chard (so earthy and delicious), and one with our version of Caponata and fresh ricotta – my new favorite pizza combo!

Caponata Pizza (serves 2)

  • 1 TB olive oilIMG_3167
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup diced red and yellow sweet peppers
  • 2 small eggplants, diced
  • 10 Sicilian green olives
  • 2 TB capers (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 plain pizza dough, rolled out
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 2 TB grated Parmesan, divided
  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh ricotta
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned

Start by making the Caponota. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the onion and continue to sauté for 2 minutes, then add peppers and eggplant and sauté over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add olives and capers and continue to sauté for another 10 minutes. Increase heat back to medium and add white wine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Once most of the wine has evaporated, lower heat and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so. You want the texture to be soft but not mushy – you should be able to see each individual ingredient.


Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 and place a pizza stone or baking tray inside the oven. Top the pizza dough with tomato sauce, mozzarella and 1 TB of Parmesan. Evenly spread the Caponata over the pizza, then top with tomato slices, dollops of ricotta and remaining TB of Parmesan. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until crust is browned and cheese is bubbling. Remove from the oven and top with fresh basil. Slice into 6 pieces and serve!



We were battling some hot weather (and a hot kitchen) so we stuck to a dry Rosé and some Napa Sauvignon Blanc – both of which worked great. A light wine with a good amount of acidity would be best, so you could also pair this pizza with an Aglianico or a Sicilian Nero d’Avola. I think a Rosé of Sangiovese would have been perfect! I’ll have to remember that for next time.

I Can’t Even Pizza

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There really is no pizza like NY pizza. That’s not to say that I like NY pizza the best, but it does mean that I won’t tolerate establishments outside the state that claim to have “New York style pizza.” I literally can’t even.

I had my semi-annual fix of New York pizza last week when I was back East for my cousin’s wedding. I got a slice of fresh tomato and garlic from Sunrise Pizza, my hometown favorite and a spot I frequented in my formative years – so much so that the owner still recognizes me when I stop in twice a year. The rest of the year, I’m eating the kind of pizza that I like best: California flatbread. You know, the sauceless pizza-looking thing with the leafy greens and veggies and occasionally some fancy meat.


Butternut Squash & Kale Flatbread (serves 2)

  • 1 cup butternut squash, peeled & cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1/2 a medium squash)
  • 1 TB olive oil, plus 2 tsp
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 pizza crust
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, diced
  • 2 cups chopped Tuscan kale
  • 4 oz cubed pancetta (sold at TJ’s)
  • 1 TB Crème fraîche
  • 2 oz Manchego cheese (a few thin slices)
  • 3 fresh sage leaves, torn

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss squash with 1 TB olive oil, salt and pepper and lay out on a baking sheet in one even layer. Bake for 20 minutes. When there are 5 minutes left, place the pizza crust on top of a sheet of parchment paper and place in the oven to lightly toast.


Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp olive oil in a large skillet over a medium flame. Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, then add kale and cook for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Increase the heat to medium-high and add pancetta to the pan. Saute until crisp – about 4 minutes – then remove from pan and set aside.


Remove squash and pizza from the oven, and increase heat to 450 degrees. Spread the Crème fraîche onto the crust, leaving about an inch of dough on the edge. Top with sautéed kale, shallots and garlic, then add butternut squash and pancetta. Finally, finish with Manchego and sage. Cook for 15 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes, then slice.



I was thinking about this recipe all day, obsessing over every component and how to place them to make it the perfect autumnal flatbread. One of my best friends – currently a New Yorker, and who shall be known as Paco from this point forth – called just as I had pulled the pie out of the oven. When I told him what I had made, he grunted and said “you’re such a Californian”, to which I said, “I can’t even call it pizza.”

The obsessing paid off because the pizza was insanely delicious if I do say so myself. It was the perfect combo of sweet and salty and crunchy and creamy. I was worried the Crème fraîche would totally backfire on me, but it softened the base of the flatbread without making it soggy from the weight of the other ingredients. I loved how the kale and sage leaves crisped up to be chip-like while the squash was soft and gooey. And the hint of Manchego added just the right amount of nuttiness. Perfection.


I paired this flatbread with the 2010 St. Clair Brown Chardonnay that I got in my most recent wine club pick up. Choose a full-bodied white with a good balance of nuttiness and tropical fruit, such as Pine Ridge Dijon Clones, or if looking to go the French route try a Chablis or White Burgundy.

Fresh Leftover Pizza

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It’s beginning to be my favorite food time of the year, filled with persimmons, pomegranate, squash and apples. I officially welcomed fall when I made a big pot of chili last Sunday, despite the fact that it was a hot Indian summer night (and I followed up my two bowls of chili with a walk to a gelato shop). Quite fittingly, today was cold and rainy and I said goodbye to summer by finishing the last of my home-canned heirloom tomato sauce. I also had to get rid of some hot and sweet peppers that had been in my fridge for a while, and I remembered that I had some mozzarella cheese leftover from when I made lasagna. So of course, it had to be a pizza night.


Saucy Pizza with Hot Peppers and Sausage 

  • 1 pizza crustpeppers
  • 1 cup homemade tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Gruyère cheese
  • 1/3 lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4-5 small peppers, sweet and spicy
  • 2 TB shaved parmesan
  • dried oregano
  • fresh basil

My neighbor (who shall be known as Jimmy from this point forth) introduced me to TJ’s par-baked organic pizza crusts, which are an okay substitution for my sorely missed Giorgio’s rolled-out doughs. They come with two per package, and can be found in the freezer-section of TJ’s near the other pizzas. These are perfect for a night when you just need to throw some leftovers on a pizza, which is exactly what I did!

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and place a baking sheet in the oven to get hot. Meanwhile, brown sausage in a nonstick skillet for about 8 minutes. Drain the oil, wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then coat with a thin layer of cooking spray. Add onions and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, then add peppers and continue to sauté over a medium flame for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.



Remove baking pan from oven and cover with parchment paper, then place dough on top of paper. Top pizza dough with tomato sauce, then mozzarella and Gruyère. Add onions and peppers, then sausage, and top with shaved parmesan and a sprinkle of dried oregano. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove and let cool for 3-5 minutes before cutting. Top with fresh basil and enjoy!



Between the sausage and the hot peppers, this pizza was pretty damn spicy! It called for a fruity yet powerful Zinfandel, like the 2011 Seghesio Old Vine or the 2012 Ridge Lytton Springs – both from vines that are 90-100 years old in Dry Creek and Alexander valleys. These wines exhibit red fruit with spicy pepper and sweet, firm tannins, and stand up well to spicy, Italian food.

Sunday Sauce and First Time Canning

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Last week my friend posted a photo of some tomatoes that she had roasted, inspired by Alice Waters, and in turn inspired me to make my own batch of roasted tomato sauce this past weekend. After reading about some methods that other food bloggers had practiced, I decided to keep the tomatoes whole, the temperature low, and the roasting time long. The rest of it would be up to the quality of the tomatoes!

photo 4

On Saturday I picked up four pounds of heirloom and shady lady tomatoes from the Napa Farmers Market. I also had some vine ripened tomatoes from TJ’s, as well as some yellow cherries. Then I got some Ball Jars – and a bunch of other fantastic kitchen stuff – from Shackford’s, my newest Napa obsession. Think Sur La Table meets Ace’s Hardware, but with a warm mom-and-pop feel and small business vibe (the girl who rang me up hand wrote the bill and used an accounting calculator). And finally, after some quick Googling, I figured out how to can the proper way when making an acidic sauce. Then Sunday came, and I got to work first thing in the morning.

Roasted Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil (makes 9 cups, or three 24-oz jars)heirlooms

  • 4 lbs of tomatoes (use one variety, or combine several)
  • 2 heads of garlic, peeled
  • 20-30 fresh basil leaves
  • 3-4 cups olive oil
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper

If canning or preserving infused olive oil, you will need:

  • 3 mason jars fitted with a sealing lid
  • A large pot (at least 3 quarts)
  • sturdy tongs
  • a clean dish towel
  • a measuring cup with a spout
  • a sieve or fine strainer

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Remove the cores from all the larger tomatoes – cherries can stay as they are. In two deep 9×13 baking dishes, arrange tomatoes core side down, then tuck in basil and garlic between the tomatoes. Liberally add salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes if you want to heat it up a bit. Pour olive oil all over the tomatoes, so that it comes up the larger tomatoes about 1/4 of the way. Submerge the basil into the oil so that it doesn’t burn. Place in the oven and cook for 6 hours.

photo 2

photo 4

Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Peel off the skins of the tomatoes and discard; they should come off pretty easy with just a tug. Place peeled tomatoes in a large mixing bowl, then stir to break down the tomatoes and combine into a sauce-like substance. I reserved a jar of my sauce to eat right away, and preserved the two other jars.

photo 3

photo 5

I also reserved the oil that the tomatoes roasted in, and plan to use it on almost everything! Once the oil cools, set a strainer over a spouted measuring cup and pour the oil into it. The oil will rise to the top of the measuring cup, leaving the tomato juice substance on the bottom. Slowly pour the oil into the bottle, leaving the juice in the cup then discarding. Repeat until all the oil is transferred to the bottle.

As for the canning, it’s really pretty easy but it’s important to follow steps to insure you won’t be poisoning yourself and contracting botulism! When the tomatoes have about 45 minutes left to roast, fill a large pot with water (enough to cover the jars by two inches) and set to boil. In a smaller sauce pan, boil water to sterilize the lids and rings for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them rest in the water until use. Put a clean towel on the bottom of the larger pot to protect the glass from breaking. Once boiling, carefully use tongs to add the jars, filling them with water as you slowly lower them into the pot. The towel will be moving around, but just use the jar to steady it on the bottom of the pan. Boil for ten minutes, then remove the jars with the tongs and set on a clean towel to dry. Keep the water in the pot, as you will use it later to seal the jars.

photo 1

photo 4

Add sauce to the sterilized jars and tightly seal. Bring the large pot of water back to a boil, and place filled jars into the pot, with two inches of water above the lids, boiling for 5-10 minutes. Remove from pot and set on a dry towel to cool. If sealed properly, the lids will not flex up and down when the center is pressed. Try to lift lids off with your fingertips. If the lid cannot be lifted off, the lid has a good seal. If a lid does not seal within 24 hours, the product can be immediately reprocessed or refrigerated. Store in a cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year – if you can wait that long!

tomato sauce

I used my reserved sauce to put over some spaghetti for myself and a friend. I topped it with some extra sauce, chopped fresh basil, shaved Grana Padano Parmesan cheese, and extra red pepper flakes. Delicious! We both had seconds. I think this sauce would also go great on toasted baguette slices, on a pizza, over grilled Italian sausage, or any other way you like it. I can’t wait to open up another jar in the next couple of months. And I think I’ll try salsa next. Stay tuned!

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