Saturday, August 16, 2008


I am getting more and more encouraged by the bread making. There is beginning to be consistency and I can mostly predict what is going to happen. Madame is visiting her mother this week, so since her mother is from Bohemia originally, I though a Czech rye would be a nice thing to take. It was – they devoured it apparently. But that isn't the point of this post!

While Madame is away, I like to experiment with ideas – it keeps me off the streets and out of mischief. I had made ciabatta yesterday – and taken a loaf to my physician so he would give me a clean bill of health! I got to thinking, "I wonder what would happen if I made pizza out of a ciabatta type of dough". It clearly shouldn't be as wet (the ciabatta comes in at about 81% hydration, and you need a spoon to move it around.). So I made up a dough at 70% hydration and added 2T of olive oil as it was kneading in the mixer. It had maybe a bit much yeast, so I will back that off next time. The biga had been fermenting for around 15 hours before it got used.

Now thinking about toppings. Well the farmers' market had a lot of local tomatoes very cheap, so they were a given. I had had prosciutto and provolone in my ciabatta sandwich last night so had some left. Thus the tomato/prosciutto/provolone and basil pizza was born.

A while back Williams Sonoma (the high end cooking equipment store) had sent me some details on the "pizza-que" – essentially a pizza stone for use on the grill. $99 seemed a lot, so I thought I would try one of the pizza stones from the oven on my gas grill.

I was all set to bake. So for lunch took 1/4th of the dough, made a circle from it (it seemed just the right consistency), put the cornmeal on the peel and made a pizza. I cooked it on the stone on the grill and sadly the bottom became burned before the edges were nicely browned. Of course I ate the melted cheese, etc. anyway – and made another.

This time I made less of a rim to the crust by pushing the topping nearer the edge. Also formed the whole thing thinner, so there was less dough to cook through at the rim. Spread the toppings, some olive oil and salt and cooked it. It took 3 minutes to cook and was absolutely magnificent. Not quite wood fired oven delicious, but definitely worth repeating and suitable for company.

I don't know if it is bad for the grill to work this way, I don't know if pizza stones are set to explode when placed directly above such eat – and frankly I don't care! The results are so amazing, it's worth it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Thai Beef Salad (Yum Neua)

It's been hot here in Texas – so hot that cooking indoors has been a non-starter. However, we still want things that taste good and we both had a hankering for meat. So, what better than a nicely spiced Thai Beef salad with the meat cooked on the grill. Everything else was raw, so didn't introduce extra heat to the kitchen. The dish is a pain to make – it elapses about 2 ½ hours, with serious attention needed for about 30 minutes. It doesn't meet my 45 minute concept to table at all. As can be seen from the ingredient list, there are some rather strange ingredients – some of which might be hard to come by. After all, who has roasted rice powder on hand?

The dish got rave reviews from Madame, including the premier accolade, "We can serve this to people". That is goodness in itself!

Anyhow, here goes (Serves 4 as a main course, 6-8 as an appetizer).


16 Oz Beef steak (sirloin or flank work well. Meat should be no more than ½ inch thick)

1 6oz can frozen pineapple juice concentrate

Vegetable oil spray

Juice of 3 limes

3 inches of lemongrass, minced

3 Thai lime leaves (kaffir lime) minced (or 2t lime zest)

1T Roasted rice powder

1T Roasted dried chile powder (e.g. de Arbol. Do not use chipotle, they are too smoky)

1 Cup dressing (recipe follows)

½ medium yellow onion

1 cucumber peeled (1/2 sliced thinly on diagonal, ½ shaved into strips with a peeler for garnish)

12 lettuce leaves, torn into bite sized pieces

12 cherry tomatoes halved

A handful of mint leaves

A handful of basil leaves (Thai basil is best, but regular sweet basil is OK)

A handful of cilantro coarsely chopped


Marinade the meat in the pineapple juice concentrate for 1-3 hours. Spray the meat with cooking spray, and grill until medium rare (Total grilling time about 8 minutes depending on grill temperature). Allow the meat to rest until about lukewarm and then slice very thinly across the grain. Add the lime juice and leave to sit for 10-15 minutes.

Just before serving make up the salad. First add the lemon grass/kaffir lime) and toss lightly. Next the roasted rice powder and the ground chile – again toss. Pour in the dressing and toss. Next add the onion, sliced cucumber, lettuce and toss. Finally add the cherry tomatoes and toss again. Plate the salad garnished with the cilantro, basil, mint and shaved cucumber strips.

Serve while the meat is still slightly warm.

The Dressing

The dressing is an intense mixture of fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, chile peppers and cilantro roots or stems


1t Kosher or sea salt

¼ cup fish sauce (nam pla)

2T light brown sugar

2T granulated sugar

Juice of 6 limes

At least 3 hot fresh minced chile peppers (cayenne) – more to taste. Depends on personal level of heat

1T minced cilantro roots or stems

1 Clove garlic minced finely (or pushed through a garlic press)


Combine ingredients stirring to ensure that the sugars are dissolved. Let stand until ready to use.

Roasted Rice Powder

This adds body to the dish without imparting a lot of flavor. It is made by heating rice in a skillet until the rice is uniformly brown. Allow to cool and then grind in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar