Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day Two – Santa Cruz, CA

A quick 90 minutes from Berkeley lies the coastal town of Santa Cruz, a breezy beach community complete with boardwalk and seaside amusement park.  We steered clear of the kids and headed to a quiet spot on the beach, where we soaked up some sun while we “worked,” squinting at our iPhone screens while responding to messages.  Seriously?  Is this work?  We’ll take it.

While we were at the beach, we did a little research for dinner, finding a New York Times article, 36 hours in Santa Cruz, Calif. highlighting La Posta, a farm-to-table restaurant with Italian specialties, including brick-oven pizza.  Well, that was an easy decision.  We’re always on the search for the perfect versions of two dishes—fish tacos and Neapolitan pizza.  Done.  

Before dinner, we walked along the path hugging the cliffs above the water.  Stopping to peer over the edge, we saw a sea otter on his back, clutching an abalone shell and stopping to eat only long enough to do a belly-roll under the water and up again. We couldn’t tell if he was playing or keeping an eye out for predators.  Either way, it was cute.

One look at the pizza on the tables at La Posta, and we knew we’d come to the right place. The chewy crust, blistered on the edges, launched La Posta to our Top 10 Pizza List, not an easy feat.  (Click here to see our list.)  And the heirloom tomato salad was garnished with green beans that rivaled ones we had eaten at The Herbfarm a few weeks before. 

We were starting to wish we had more time to explore Santa Cruz, including the quirky Bonny Doon Vineyard and dinner at the Cellar Door, specializing in fresh and biodynamic produce, and a side trip up to Los Gatos to dine at the amazing David Kinch’s Manresa.  Ah well.  Next time.  Instead, we stopped at the New Leaf Market where we found the classic formula of G.T.’s Synergy Kombucha.  We’ll pause here for a moment of silence.

Thank you, G.T., for bringing back the classic.  We bought a dozen bottles of our favorite flavors, packed them in our snack bag and hit Route 1 for Monterey.  More on Monterey next time.

A Little More About our Pizza Obsession

People always seem surprised when we tell them that pizza is our favorite food. How can dietitians advocate pizza so much? It’s because pizza, in the classic Neapolitan (thin crust) style, can actually be a very well balanced and nutritious meal. Not to mention absolutely delicious.

Lisa makes her own yummy and healthy pizza crust containing whole wheat flour.  The recipe is below.

If you don’t have the patience or time to make your own dough, there are a ton of wonderful pre-prepped doughs available on the market today. McKenzie’s favorite is the refrigerated whole wheat pizza dough at Trader Joe’s, and if you live near a Whole Food’s Market, they also sell an excellent whole wheat dough.  (Nourishing Note: it’s recommended that about ½ of our daily servings of grains are whole, so we might as well get it from our pizza dough).

By using a whole grain crust, loading your pizza up with veggies, and using a moderate amount of cheese (fresh mozzarella is our favorite), you’ve got yourself a healthy dose of fiber, nutrients, and protein.
Here are some of our favorite veggie toppings:

·         Fresh tomatoes & basil
·         Caramelized onions & spinach or arugula
·         Artichokes, olives & sundried tomatoes
·         Roasted tomatoes, roasted eggplant & kalamata olives  

Making your own pizza at home is also a lot of fun and a great choice for parties! Whether you’re spending a relaxing Sunday night in watching movies or hosting a group of friends, pizza is always a good choice.
Lisa's Pizza, Made at Woodstone Pizza Ovens

Lisa’s Pizza Dough

NOTE: This is not a crust for tonight's dinner. The best pizza crust will rise in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours. But if you MUST have pizza tonight, let it rise at room temperature for 2 hours. It will still be good.
2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 teaspoon honey
3 - 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 packet yeast (1/4 oz yeast total)
2 cups white bread flour
2 cups whole wheat bread flour (you can substitute regular whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon sea salt
Herbs, if desired*
Additional flour, for kneading and dusting
Olive oil
Corn meal

Add the two cups of warm water to a small bowl.  Whisk in the honey and olive oil, until the honey has dissolved.  Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and stir or whisk slightly to incorporate the yeast into the water.  Let the yeast mixture set or “proof” about 10 - 15 minutes until foamy and until you smell the yeast developing. 

In the meantime, in a very large bowl, whisk together the flours and salt and herbs (if using).  After the yeast has proofed, pour the yeast mixture into the flour.  Stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough is formed.  Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, sprinkle the top of the dough with additional flour and begin to knead.  Continue to sprinkle flour over the dough as you knead (using either the white or whole wheat flour for this – I usually use the whole wheat flour), incorporating as little flour as possible.  The dough will soft, and slightly sticky.  Total kneading time will be about 8 – 10 minutes.  The less flour you knead into the dough, the softer and more pliable the crust will be.
Place the dough in a very large bowl coated with olive oil. Turn the dough so that both sides are covered with olive oil.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and then top with a towel. 

This is the important part.  Put the bowl in the refrigerator and let it rise slowly for 24 - 48 hours.  If you want to know why, check out Peter Reinhart's cookbook, American Pie
Take the dough out of the refrigerator about 4 hours before you're going to use it.  Punch down the dough and fold it over itself.  Let rise again at room temperature.

When you are ready to use the dough, divide into 4 even balls.  Keep the dough covered until you are ready to work with it.  On a lightly floured surface, flatten the dough into a disk and then begin to stretch the dough until you have it as thin as you want it to be.  (I stretch it until it is almost see-through and even tearing in places.  If you want the dough thicker and a little more chewy, just don’t stretch it as thin). 

When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 500 degrees, or as hot as it will go.  Place your pizza stone, cast iron griddle or sheet pan in the oven to preheat as well.  Once the pan and oven are preheated, take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle with corn meal.  Place the dough on top of the corn meal and then top the dough with your favorite pizza toppings.  Be sure not to put too many “wet” toppings on your pizza, or to make the toppings too heavy or the bottom will be soggy.  Bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is browned and done.  In my oven, it takes exactly 12 minutes.

Note:  Once the pizza dough has risen and been cut into the 4 balls of dough, it can be frozen.  Just place in a freezer zip lock bag.  When you are ready to use it, just take it out of the freezer and let it thaw on the counter for a few hours.  Be sure to let it come to room temperature before using.           

*sometimes I knead herbs into the dough, such as za’atar or fresh rosemary

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