Grilled Pizza

August 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Summertime … and the grilling is easy. Cheese is melting, and the pizza is fine.

Okay, I’m no George Gershwin, but what I’m trying to say is this: Pizza on the grill is not only easy, it’s one of the quickest summertime grilled meals possible. What do I like about it most? The fact that I don’t have to deal with my smoke alarms going off. Yeah, that happens whenever we cook pizza inside. The super-heated oven ends up burning the corn meal that remains on our pizza stone. Pizza in January usually means both our front and back doors are open to prevent smoke buildup. No. Kidding.

So, when we can slap that pizza dough on a hot grill, we go there.

And you can go there, too.

I’m not going to tell you what kind of pizza to make. Your toppings are your toppings. You want pepperoni? Have pepperoni. You want smoked salmon? Go for it. Sauce? Yes, please—but don’t go overboard. A little dab will do ya (I’m showing my age with that quote).

My assorted pizza toppings, minus a bowl full of kale-ricotta mixture.

Plus, I’m not the pizza maker. Jennifer is the star when it comes to assemblage. I make the dough, I’ll make sauce. I’ll sous, but she chefs when it comes to pizza time. We’re practiced at this, but the following are our tips, not our must dos. Also, p.s., our grilling is done on a gas grill. Charcoal? A slightly different animal, so adjust as you see fit.

Grilled Pizza Tips

A hot hot grill is good. 500F is good. Clean it really well, not leftover burnt chicken skin, please.

Prep your toppings. I can’t emphasize that enough. Slice, dice, chop, stir. Get ’em ready. AND, pour a small bowl – maybe 1/3 to a 1/2 cup? – of olive oil to have on hand. Put ’em all on a big cutting board or tray to carry out to the grill.

Roll out a nice flat but not too thin dough. Round, square, oblong, whatever.

Here’s a great trick: Lightly oil a section of aluminum foil. Take that dough you just rolled out and put it down on the foil. Now, lightly swab the top of the dough with oil.

Okay, maybe I over-oiled this one. Swab off any extra oil!

Grill’s good and hot. Your toppings are ready to go. Your dough is ready to go. So, go out to the grill and … Quickly flip that dough, oiled top side down, on top searing-hot grill, and peel back the foil.  There’ll be some “yikes!” and “oh, sh*t” moments, I’m not gonna lie to you. Pull the dough one way or the other, make your tweaks QUICKLY, and then close that grill cover. And fast. The sooner heat completely surrounds the dough, the quicker that dough is going to turn into a pizza crust. Right? Right.

Two-three minutes. Peek once or twice to make sure the underside is not burning. Oh, it’ll burn. Believe you me.

Oh damn, I burned the first one. These things happen.

NOTE: The first dough got kinda … well … crispy. I started another. Much, much better.

Get your mise en place in place, ready to go. Open the grill, flip that crust over.

Not using a sauce? Then give a quick brush all over the top with evoo. Using a sauce? Spread it thinly and quickly. Layer everything else on as you see fit. And be quick about it!

Close the lid for another couple of minutes. Keep an eye on the bottom, making sure it’s not burning. When the cheese (if you’re using) and the sauce look melty and hot, it’s time to take it off the heat.

Let sit for three minutes to let the sauce and toppings set. And then cut yourself a slice.

Worth it all, huh?

Food Trucks: Lefty’s, Bon Me & Roxy’s

August 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Our neighborhood has this gem of a Sunday market—the Sowa Open Market. With our summer travel schedule – both work and pleasure –  it’s a not a place we get to a whole heck of a lot. And that’s a darn shame. We definitely are able to get there during the “shoulder seasons” – spring and fall. And if you like to explore all the artsy-craftsy stuff going on in Boston and New England, this really has been the place to go for the last eight years.

More recently – maybe in the last couple? – they’ve also had a pretty nice array of food trucks. I put a question mark down there because, like I said, we don’t get there a whole heckuva lot. With the food truck craze that’s traveling in the left lane nowadays, it’s probably one of the major draws of the Market.

And considering that one of their usual food trucks is participating in the second season of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, we decided to take one of our atypical in-town weekends are check out Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, among the other dozen or so trucks parked within the Sowa Open Market.

Of course, I scheduled only an hour (including walking time) between my various work-related activities to check out the food trucks. Seriously, not a smart move.

We decided to divide and conquer. We didn’t get far.

I stood in the Roxy’s line while Jennifer stood in the Bon Me line. Guess which line was longer? Jennifer decision to hit the Vietnamese street food truck was smart. My standing in the ‘order waiting to be picked up’ line at Roxy’s was not.

Jennifer was already chomping on her tofu and shitake mushroom banh mi (aka a sandwich on a baguette) before I decided to abandon my chance to nibble on a TV star. She shared, of course. Excellent flavor in the marinated tofu and mushrooms, a nice pickled topping. Great filling. Bread? Not the best, but I’m a bread snob. I’d definitely line up there again.

I was determined to have my own food truck experience, so I lined up for Lefty’s Silver Cart for a specialty sandwich. What drew me to that one? Pressed for time, it was close by, the line wasn’t long, and I judged a book by its cover—I really liked the old-timey font they used. Menu items were intriguing, too. It took me a good couple of minutes to realize they had a vegetarian menu, that’s how fun their combos were. I was torn between the Granny-B-Good – a grilled cheese with Vermont cheddar and Granny Smith apple – and the Figment, which was baguette with truffle-dressed mixed greens, goat cheese and fig jam. LOVE fig jam, so ordered the latter. Can’t go wrong with fig and goat cheese, and putting it on bread makes it a very healthy thing, I’m sure. Very happy with my order. Plus, Lefty’s baguette rocked. Now, if Bon Me had that baguette, they’d kick it up a notch. The difference? Baking technique, definitely. More steam produced a better crust for whoever is making Lefty’s bread.

Dainty Rates: 4 Dots.

If you’re around Boston Sundays through October, take a walk down to Sowa. Save room for lunch.

Dainty’s Got a Facebook Page

July 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

I did it. I went ahead and joined the army of bloggers who have a Facebook page. Even linked my posts to Twitter. It’s Dainty 24/7, right? Dainty Dot Mediaworks – almost there. Seriously, I have a plan for this.

The Dainty Dot Facebook page

Question is, with all this social media juggling, who’s got time to, you know, actually do the stuff we’re blogging about? Oh, and also have a paying job – or two or three. (Yes, I have three paying jobs, but that’s another story.)

So, if you get a chance, go over to Facebook, search The Dainty Dot, and “like” me. I’d be grateful. And maybe even make you a pie.

Hiking Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary

July 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s been a long, long spring and summer. All work and no play makes Dainty a very sad and tense Dot. Good thing we scheduled vacation for this week.

We typically vacation in Provincetown and spend the whole time lying low—as in low on a beach towel. But, as crazy as this is gonna sound, being on a beach towel soaking up the sun can be a bit boring after awhile. Our solution for that is taking a hike.

This time around, we headed to Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s a Mass. Audubon sanctuary on the western edge of the Cape Wellfleet Bay Wildlife SanctuaryCod forearm, right on Wellfleet Harbor. Lots of marsh grass and sandy soil, lots of Cape woodland, lots of birds and wildlife, so bring a camera. And there’s lots of green head flies and sand flies, so arm yourself with repellent and you’ll be fine. There are … let’s see … close to 4-5 miles of hiking trails, so pack a light lunch and enjoy it while watching the shore birds at the end of the boardwalk.

The folks at Mass. Audubon must have gotten some inspiration of Groupon deals, because when we arrived at the nature center they were offering a “half-price sale” on membership. $10 would have gotten the two of us into the sanctuary for the day. For just $29, we could have a year-long family membership that would give us free admission to the 50 Mass. Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries throughout the state. And, it feels pretty terrific to support an organization that is protecting our state’s natural habitat.

Somewhere along this hike my eye decided to focus on the little things nature had to offer. Except for a couple of spectacular angiosperms, I mainly captured slime molds, lichen, fungi and the occasional gymnosperm. (Look at me, throwing around fancy botanical references. I feel like I’m in college again!) The vistas at Wellfleet are beautiful, but some of the coolest things are underfoot.

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Under the Bruins Flag

June 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

This is not your typical Dainty post. But I have a set of photos I think you’re gonna like. Especially if you’re a Boston Bruins fan.

I was on the South End Garden Tour on June 18—I know, bummer, I couldn’t make it to the Bruins Rolling Rally. But one of the garden tour stops just happened to have a great view of the Hancock buildings. It was a gorgeous day in the city and it was a gorgeous shot of the Bruins championship flag flying from the smaller Hancock building.

Bruins flag flying proudly on the Hancock building

Bruins flag flying proudly on the Hancock building

Thinking it would make a really cool Facebook profile pic, I zoomed in and framed the flag. When I downloaded, I noticed a little somethin’ somethin’ under the flag. And it just happened to be a person.

Bruins flag on Hancock Building with man underneath

He had the best view of the Bruins Rolling Rally

So, if you know this guy, or you know someone who knows someone who knows this guy, tell him about it. He deserves to make it his own FB profile pic.

Horsing Around in Amsterdam

May 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Imagine walking around a bustling shopping and commuting thoroughfare just outside Amsterdam’s ring of canals. You pass Dutch bakeries, Shoarma houses, Surinamese restaurants. Ah, the sweet, sweet scents of an international city.

Suddenly, your nostrils pick up something not so … sweet. Or, shall I say, sweet in another way. Is that … manure? You look down quickly to make sure you didn’t step in anything. Nothing there. No carriages passing by, either. What is that?

Following your nose, you turn down a side street. It’s a quiet street, and just beyond there’s greenery—a park, possibly. Ah, that must be the source. You continue walking down the cobblestone walkway, admiring the old and exclusive row of homes. Nice, very nice. One of the facades, though, doesn’t look like the others. It’s more of an arch with large wooden doors. Hmm. Interesting. And … there’s that “sweet” scent again.

The Hollandsche Manege

You have stumbled upon the home of the Hollandsche Manege, Amsterdam’s oldest riding school, established in the 1770s. This building dates from the 1880s is, luckily, open to the public—as long as they are quiet, of course.

I admit, I did not stumble upon the manege. My Amsterdamster friend brought me by knowing I’d love this hidden nugget. Open the doors and there’s a long low-ceiling, cobbled entry leading to a large, vaulted arena. Peer over a 4- to 5-foot tall wall any time of day, and you’re likely to find a riding class going on, or also the “adult swim” version of riding.

But wait, there’s more. Walk through a door to the right and walk up an elegant staircase. Yes, it’s elegant. Really.

On the staircase you get a sense of not only the history of the place, but of the generations that have come here to ride: Each rise is heavily worn. The destination? A small cafe with a patio overlooking the ring.

The afternoon riding class.

And look at this: You can even enjoy a coffee, beer or aperitif while waiting for your daughter to finish her riding lesson. How civilized.

How civilized.

De Kas Restaurant: A Hot Table in Amsterdam

May 24, 2011 § 3 Comments

More than a week after lunching at De Kas Restaurant in Amsterdam, I’m still dreaming of the meal. It’s one of the hottest tables in Amsterdam, and no wonder, given its fresh, bright flavors, dedication to locally grown foods and airy environment. And I mean airy environment: The restaurant is under glass in a state-of-the-art greenhouse.

Restaurant De Kas

De Kas is certainly in unique surroundings. The history of the property goes something like this: Back in the 1920s, the parcel of land was home to Amsterdam’s municipal nurseries. All of the plants and flowers used for Amsterdam’s municipal plantings were grown on these grounds and in greenhouses. Over the decades, the nurseries were shut down and the buildings and greenhouses became dilapidated—such a shame! About 10 years ago the greenhouses were scheduled for demolition, but a Michelin-rated chef, Gert Jan Hageman, came up with the idea of converting one of the greenhouses into a restaurant and growing area. The dining room was designed by renowned designer Piet Boon and is lovely. The kitchen is open, and there’s even a chef’s table, where guests can enjoy their meal just steps from the hot grill (honestly, not something on the top of my list to do). And the bar area, while open and visible, is tucked away and is just shady enough for any self-respecting bar fly.

The Piet Boon-designed dining room, with the just-shady-enough bar in the background.

As I mentioned, they believe in fresh, local food. And it can’t get more local than the greenhouse adjacent to the kitchen and the gardens that surround the restaurant. The team also has a farm that produced a great deal of their produce. What they don’t grow and raise themselves is sourced from nearby farms and the North Sea.

The veggie gardens outside De Kas.

The growing area inside De Kas's greenhouse, adjacent to the kitchen.

Enough about that, let’s move on to the food. The three-course menu is fixed; i.e. you are served what they are preparing that day (they do ask if the chef should take into account for any dietary restrictions). And they do offer a wine pairing, which I eagerly agreed to. Can’t recall the first wine, but the second was an unoaked chardonnay from Spain. Tasty!

The meal was fabulous, that’s a given. And beautiful – not something every restaurant gets right. Instead of attempting to describe the meal, I’ll just leave you to enjoy the photos.

First of two first-course salads: Roasted beets and steamed rhubarb over baby beet (?) greens with a pea puree and nasturium flowers.

Second of two first-course salads: White asparagus, turnip and a boiled quail's egg over young lettuce greens with a sauce of some kind (sorry, whatever it was, it was delicious) and sweetpea blossoms.

Second course: Lobster with a bechamel sauce topped with a light frisee salad.

Third course: Pollack over roasted eggplant and cauliflower with a North Sea-shrimp and caper brown butter sauce. (Oh man, was this good.)

First dessert: Pistachio meringue with salt-touched white chocolate ice cream and pansy petals.

Second dessert: Platter of three cheeses with fruit and nut brown bread and a dot of apple-pear stroop (syrup) to the right and a candied cherry (?). Translation of cheese on right is "cheese that sticks to your knife."

While  the municipal nurseries are long gone, the remainder of the property has retained its “municipalness”—it’s now a public park enjoyed by people and wildlife alike.

Children's play area below, and a stork nest with baby on top of the smoke stack.

Floating in Amsterdam

May 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

And I don’t mean on a canal. Waaay better than that. Of all the typical things you can do on a visit to Amsterdam—drink beer, eat cheese, visit the Red Light District, take a canal ride, drink beer—here’s something that’s incredibly special and absolutely amazing: floating on a salty pool of water at Koan Float, a lovely spa right on the canal of Herengracht, in the old city.

So, picture this: A small room with a shower and a big plastic pod, shaped kinda like an egg positioned on its side. There’s a hatch that opens up on the small end to reveal that the pod is filled to the hatch rim with water. Step in (that’s after you shower and are completely naked as a baby) and try to sit like it’s a bathtub— you can’t sit. Your body just doesn’t sink. You bob up like a discarded soda bottle on the Charles. Close the hatch and stretch out. Your body naturally floats high up in the very very salty water. Aaaaahhhhh….relaxing.

I can’t stand getting water in my ears – not even in the shower – so they provide ear plugs. And there’s a floaty pillow like the kind you use on a plane – helps a lot. They also give you the option of listening to that celestial new-agey music. Sounds hokey, but do it! And turn the lights out completely in the pod. And just float there. And float. And suddenly you’re just back in the womb, suspended, mind as blank as that Taoist uncarved block. Truly. Amazing.

After 45 minutes, they’ll come on the intercom and have the lights come up and down a bit, letting you know time has expired. I totally missed all of that because I fell asleep. Floating on water! Exactly what your mother warned you about! I did suddenly spring to consciousness, more refreshed—body and soul—than I have ever experienced in my life. I would do this once a week if I could. Hello, some spa in Boston? Get these pods!

Don’t take my word for it, watch this video from Koan Float. And book an appointment for right after your overnight flight. It’ll totally help you relieve the stress and enjoy the rest of your day.

A Lovely Day in Amsterdam: Part 1

May 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

It may be raining and a bit chilly here today, but I love every minute I spend in Amsterdam. And I love everything about it—the cheese, the beer, the bikes, the people, the canals. The cheese. Did I mention how wonderful Dutch cheese is? You get my point. Oh yeah, and cheese.

This is my third visit to the city – all for business, lucky me – and each time I’ve tacked on at least a day to spend on my own. Each time I’ve tried to add on to my experiences. Even though I’ve just finished an absolutely lovely second day in the city – which I will tell you about in another post – I have a few thoughts about Day 1:
As a rule, the Dutch people are tall and beautiful. I don’t know why or how, but we should be so lucky. I’ll try to provide visual evidence to this affect later this week.

A guy pedaling along with a box full of kids like it's nothing.

I don’t recommend being like your average New Yorker and just walk along the cobblestone streets with your head down and your headphones on. If you do, you will suffer injuries. Someone will hit you with a bike or moped or tram. Pay attention! And I will now put a positive spin on this: It’s terrific that there’s so much green transportation in this town. But seriously, transporting yourself on two wheels – whether motorized or person-powered – is the fastest and smartest way of getting around. Some mommy bloggers would have a fit if they saw how unprotected children are on the bikes, for sure. But that’s the way this society is, and motorists just motor along with bicyclists’ safety top of mind. Again, we should be so lucky.

Interestingly, bars/restaurants serve only particular beers. Like some restaurants in the States have either Coke or Pepsi products. For the bigger beer companies, they’ll serve Heineken or Amstel—that’s regular Amstel, not Light—or Grolsch or whichever other. Oh, and by the way, Holland, you need to have bigger beer glasses. If only to keep around in service for American customers.

For the foodie types out there, I have an interesting food delivery gadget for you. I ordered the largest piece of apple cake I’ve ever seen “to go,” or as they say, to take away. And check out the cardboard sleeve they placed the slice into. It’s not a pastry box, but it still gives support to the baked item. And it uses minimal cardboard. Who knows, maybe these are commonplace somewhere in the U.S., but I’ve never seen it and I think it’s a fabulous way to box up a to-go pastry.

The hotel I’m staying in has the most amazing line of toiletries. I stayed at the same hotel last year—Jennifer joined me at the end of the trip for a few days, too—and we snagged as many of the teeny tiny bottles of shampoo, shower gel and lotion as we could. Especially the lotion. The brand is called Rituals, and I believe it’s made in the UK, but I’m not sure. We’ve been very judicious in our use of our bottles from last year and are constantly on the hunt for it. In fact, I nearly accosted a flight attendant last week because I swore she was wearing the stuff. I slather as much lotion as possible on myself each morning and seriously, I should be a little worried about this obsession. I wish smell-o-vision was possible, but until then, here’s what the bottle looks like:

Rituals body milk, shampoo and shower gel.

This is truly a beautiful city. Picturesque beyond words. I don’t have the best photography skills but I think this might capture just a bit of what makes Amsterdam so special.


Day 2 coming up next.

A Dozen Things I Have and Have Not Done This Week

May 13, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’ve been off my usual schedule lately. And not just with Dainty. With everything. Spring and summer are busy times for me. My calendar fills up, the fridge empties, dust bunnies leap with springtime glee on my office floor.

So I thought I’d use this week as an example of things I’ve done and haven’t done, all of which are not the norm.

  • I have flown to the DC area and back, and to Chicago and back, just this past week. And I’m packing for Amsterdam tomorrow.
  • I haven’t cooked nor eaten dinner at home. The closest I came was a lunch of spaghetti topped with frozen homemade pesto. And it looks like that’ll be my lunch again today.
  • I have matching rug burn-type scars on my elbows. They are my first slide injuries in about 35 years. Walking up a slide and then turning around and sliding down as a 5 year old jumps on and rockets toward you is harder than it looks.
  • I have run the dishwasher only once all week. And only because we’ve run out of coffee mugs.
  • I haven’t visited my community garden plot all week, but I have consulted on garden matters for at least three different people.
  • I have struck up a conversation with a woman in a bar at O’Hare who, as her stories went on, has an obvious drinking problem. I left my second beer unfinished. She eyed it as I left.
  • I have won an iPad 2! People really do win those giveaways during Public Radio fundraisers.
  • I have not finished half the things I have on my to-do lists. Crap.
  • I have attended a fundraiser for a wonderful organization, BayCove Human Services, the largest provider of human services in Boston. They serve hot meals, help people of all ages who have developmental disabilities, support their families, and do all sorts of great stuff that makes you really thankful someone is doing this incredibly necessary work. Think about how miserable society would be if organizations like this weren’t around. We couldn’t live with ourselves.
  • I have not sent an anniversary card to my parents, who’ll be celebrating 60 years of marriage while I’m away next week. Oh man, I gotta get that in the mail.
  • I have lost a friend to cancer.
  • I have not been thankful enough.

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