For the Love of Cooking

Listening to my favorite radio program recently, this question was posed: 

Where does your love of cooking come from? 

Callers were citing their moms, grandmas, aunts....  Telling stories of learning family dishes from homelands far away, passing on tricks and tips through generations, preserving hand written recipes by great great so-and-so to keep traditions alive.  It was all so romantic.

So I was digging deep, trying to remember that moment, the meal, the person. Visions of hamburger helper, instant mashed potatoes, meatloaf, and TV dinners popped in my head.  As a child of the 70's, and 80's, and a mother who, bless her heart, just doesn't have a passion for the kitchen, I concur that my love of cooking has just come from within.  

I am basically an entirely self taught home cook.  There is a cooking "gene" in the family, it's just that the other gene-carriers live at least 2 states away, and always have.  But being free from the confines of culinary traditions does have it's rewards:  I can cook with abandon!  Whatever I want, how I want, with no old-school grandma telling me: you're doing it wrong.

Recently, I participated in another of Mario's Weekend Cooking challenges, and this was my favorite so far:

This recipe is courtesy of Chef Jamie Gwen:

  • 6 ounces Pizza Dough, recipe follows
  • 1/2 cup virgin olive oil, for brushing and drizzling
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups shredded Fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 containers cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Pizza Toppings: Grilled and raw vegetables, prosciutto strips, sausage, pepperoni, pesto, pineapple, basil leaves, fresh Mozzarella cheese, crumbled goat cheese, red pepper flakes, fresh basil leaves

Fire up your outdoor grill or stove-top grill to medium-high. In a mixing bowl combine the shredded mozzarella and Fontina.

Cut the pizza dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each ball of dough flat on a floured work surface. By hand, stretch each ball of dough into a 5-inch round, as thin as possible. Layer the floured pizza crusts on a cookie sheet, in between layers of parchment paper until ready to use.

Brush the top side of the dough rounds with olive oil. When the fire is hot (when you can hold your hand over the coals for 3 to 4 seconds at a distance of 5 inches), drape the dough onto the grill. Within a minute the dough will puff slightly, the underside will stiffen, and grill marks will appear. Using tongs, immediately flip the crust over, onto the coolest part of the grill. Brush the grilled surface with olive oil. Scatter the garlic and cheeses over the dough and top with cherry tomato halves and your toppings of choice.

Using tongs, rotate the pizza frequently so that different sections receive high heat; check the underside often to see that it is not burning. The pizza is done when the top is bubbly and the cheese melted, about 6 minutes. Serve at once, topped with the basil leaves.

Makes 8 Individual Pizzas (or 2 good sized pizza's)

Chef’s Tip: Fontina is one of my favorite, flavorful melting cheeses.

Try using it in your next lasagna, baked pasta dish or melted on a sandwich…Delicious!

PIZZA DOUGH (or your can get ready made dough at your favorite pizzeria, or grocery store)

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 6 cups high-gluten flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
Sprinkle the yeast over 1/2 cup warm (105 to 110°F) water and allow it to dissolve and activate, about 5 minutes.

Combine the flour and salt and mound it onto a cool work surface creating a high walled well in the center. Combine the yeast mixture with 1 1/2 cups of cool water and pour into the well. Slowly begin to mix the water and flour, a little at a time, moving your fingers in short, counter clockwise circles around the border of the water. When the dough is firm enough to hold it's shape, scrape the remaining flour over it and knead until the mass is smooth and shiny, approximately 7 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a bowl that has been brushed with olive oil. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil to prevent a skin from forming, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place away from drafts until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. Punch down the dough and knead once more. Let the dough rise again for about 40 minutes, punch down again and form dough into 4 balls.


Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of your oven. Preheat the oven to 450°F for at least 30 minutes.

Lightly sprinkle your pizza peel (or a flat baking sheet) with cornmeal. Transfer one prepared flattened dough to the pizza peel.

Spoon on the tomato sauce, sprinkle with cheese, and place your desired toppings on the pizza.

Sprinkle some cornmeal on the baking stone in the oven (be careful, the oven is hot!). Slide the pizza off of the peel and on to the baking stone in the oven. Bake pizzas until the crust is browned and the cheese is golden, about 10-15 minutes.

Delicious!  And my pizza made it on Martha's radio blog:
My pictures are 13, and 17. 
Enjoy!  Go forth, and cook with abandon!!


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