Tag Archives: pizza


As promised, here is the long story of my very busy December. If you’re worried, stop worrying. I want to start the new year with less worrying.

By busy, I mean no free weekends to enjoy our new house or do anything outdoorsey. I’ll pick up where I left off here, when I had to leave town abruptly before a planned road trip to Oregon to get my dog. That unplanned flight to Los Angeles had to do with the melanoma that turned up on my shoulder back in November. Okay, so it had been there for a while. November was just when I got the results of biopsy from a recent dermatologist visit.


Doc did eventually make it home to us. As a side note: on our trip to pick him up I left my phone on top of my car, it fell off, and was run over multiple times. Fortunately someone found it and it still worked! With a new screen is was almost good as new!

The funny/ironic/sad thing about me having a melanoma is that my dad has always been known as somewhat of a skin cancer Nazi among family and friends. Even though we wore much, much more sunscreen than the average kids growing up in the 90’s, my brother and I used to feel like we’d committed some kind of crime when we got sunburned. We are fair skinned, blue-eyed, and doomed to live in fear of the sun for the rest of our lives.

My melanoma (doesn’t that have an endearing ring to it?) was large enough to warrant a pretty extensive surgery to remove the area around it as well as the nearby lymph nodes where cancer cells might have migrated. I was working on getting an appointment for that procedure at UCSF but wasn’t having much luck so my dad pulled some strings at the university cancer center where he works. With less than a days notice, I was flying to SoCal.

I spent an entire day in exam rooms, alongside ultrasound machines, and under the care of several wonderful doctors. I went home with a biopsied lymph node in my armpit, three stitched-up biopsy spots where a dermatologist decided to test some of my other moles, and an appointment to return for the surgery on January 18th. All those biopsies came back negative but January 18th wasn’t soon enough for the surgery as far as my dad was concerned.

Three days before Christmas Eve, when my dad called me at work to tell me there was a opening and the doctor could do the surgery on December 22, I was not happy. I did not want to fly South to be cut open. I didn’t want to be recovering over Christmas and miss out on those last precious days before the holiday itself arrived. Reluctantly, though, I gave in and my dad made the arrangements. I know he was worried about me and it would have ruined his Christmas to have to keep worrying.


This guy kept me sane through it all.

My second visit to LA involved a pre-surgery procedure and an early morning in the operating room. The day I arrived, they injected radioactive stuff under the skin at the melanoma site (ouch!). That stuff – okay it was an isotope, lets get technical – flowed to the nearest lymph nodes, which happened to be in my armpit, and helped the surgeon find them the next morning.

I had a deeeeelicious dinner at an Italian restaurant with my dad that night and Pinkberry (a special treat) for dessert. We stayed in a hotel because my dad’s apartment is so tiny.

On surgery morning, I got to the hospital at 5 am and began the two-hour process of changing into a gown, funny hat, and socks and having 7 different people ask me the same questions. What is your name? What are you here for today? What shoulder is it on? Do you have any allergies? When was the last time you had something to eat?

I’d never had any kind of surgery requiring general anesthesia before. The whole pre-op room was super interesting, which was nice cause without all those diverting conversations to overhear and people to watch I would never have been able to stay awake to answer all the questions. At 7:30am I finally went into the operating room. That is, the anesthesiologist gave me an injection of “stuff to make me calm and happy”, which also made me forget everything after they wheeled me out of the pre-op room. I know the surgeon was there in his suspenders. That made me happy. Suspenders are cool.

When I woke up I was in the recovery room and a nurse was trying to talk to me. Waking up from Anesthesia was one of the strangest experiences I have ever had. I was so frustrated because I just couldn’t stay awake no matter how hard I tried. It took me all afternoon to wake up and a couple of tries to get out of the room. The first time I got up, went to the bathroom, and realized that my body wasn’t ready to be vertical yet. I went back to bed and back to sleep. On my second attempt, the nurse helped me get dressed and someone wheeled me out to meet my dad in his car. He got me a chocolate banana smoothie from Starbucks, per my request for a smoothie. It tasted wonderful and staid down.

My shoulder hurt. They had taken out five lymph nodes but found all of them normal. I had dressings on the top/front of my left shoulder and under my left arm. I was still so tired. Pain medication and lots of pillows helped me get through the night but by the morning it was clear that super-duper pain meds make me sick. I stopped taking them.


Some yummy eats from the past month. I’ve been making lots of pizza!


I did a lot of cooking+eating but not much exercising thanks to my wounds.

I negotiated the rest of the holiday season with my left arm in a sling and a limited range of motion in my shoulder. The sling mostly kept my arm from resting on my swollen armpit and discouraged movements that might have ripped wounds open. I kept the waterproof dressings on for as long as possible so I didn’t see my actual incisions for a while. When I finally took all the bandages off (two weeks post-surgery) it was worse than I thought! I almost passed out when the surgeon unveiled my shoulder incision, complete with 7 staples! Those came out last week (3 weeks post-surgery) so now I look a little less like Frankenstein.



Filed under inspiration and musings

The best thing in my oven

Can you guess what it is? Is it a pizza? A flatbread?

I cannot resist watching things bake through the oven door.

The best thing to grace my oven for a long time is Ancient Greco-Roman Pizza with Feta, Honey, and Sesame Seeds from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François have done it again. They’ve won my heart with bread and filled my home with the smell of baking dough and hot cheese.

The authors handed out their latest book in person at the Foodbuzz blogger festival. I think receiving this treasure trove of baking inspiration was the highlight of the conference for me.

The Ancient Greco-Roman Pizza was the clear choice for my first go at a recipe from Artisan Pizza. I’m a history geek, what can I say. According to Hertzberg and François, this pizza is modeled after the oldest known recorded pizza recipe and uses ingredients the ancient Mediterranean civilizations would have had. The whole spelt dough is wonderful to work with and bakes into a dreamily crispy-chewy crust. I never would have thought to combine feta cheese, honey, and sesame seeds on a pizza but it tastes even better than it sounds, believe me.

This post will join in the World Wide Pizza Party on Twitter tomorrow. Join in by baking a pizza from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day and tweeting about it using the hashtag #PizzaPartyIn5.


Filed under Bread

Chez Panisse Calzone (Recipe File Project #3)


My new special celebration dinner: I just found out that I got an internship at a museum!

Lee laughed when I told him what this recipe calls for. “ Three kinds of cheese and prosciutto.” I said. I should have known he’d find that funny. You see, Lee doesn’t eat cheese and I don’t eat meat. Why did I choose to make a recipe from my grandmother’s file that calls for both?

1) I wanted to make something savory rather than sweet.
2) The calzones sounded delicious
3) How could I resist Alice Waters?
4) I thought I could easily adapt the recipe to our diets while remaining faithful to it’s flavors.

See, I’m not so crazy. I also think I succeeded in accomplishing #4, although it took some thought. I replaced most of the cheese with chopped, roasted cauliflower, adding some veggie cheese to the filling for Lee’s calzone and goat’s milk ricotta salata to mine. The cauliflower made up the bulk of the filling and it’s earthy flavor blended beautifully with all the fresh herbs called for in the original recipe. I guess you could say I replaced the prosciutto with roasted red peppers, mostly for color.

As a baker, the crust was definitely the most exciting part of this recipe for me. I resisted the temptation to mess with it, using all-purpose flour as called for rather than substituting some whole wheat pastry for some of it. The dough began with a rye flour sponge, a technique I’ve never used for pizza crust before. The dough was so, so silky and light! It was incredibly easy to worth with and crisped up beautifully around the calzone filling. Best of all, it did not tear on the chunk cauliflower as I feared it might. This could become my go-to pizza crust!

I made two calzones – or calzoni, as Water’s calls them – a slightly larger one for Lee and smaller one for myself. They were perfect for a special dinner without making us feel stuffed. I’m sure the cheese-filled originals would be outstandingly delicious and much richer.

Why did my grandmother tear this recipe out of The Denver Post’s Sunday Empire magazine? My guess is that she was drawn to the novelty of calzones and the renowned Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, a restaurant she visited in Berkeley while my dad was at school there in the 70’s. Helen liked to make new and different things and these would have been right up her ally.

I wonder if she ever made them, or if the clipping sat in her file all these years without her getting a taste of Chez Panisse Calzone?


Chez Panisse Calzone
from Pasta, Pizza & Calzones by Alice Waters, reprinted in The Denver Post Sunday Empire magazine

2 oz fresh California goat cheese, crumbled
2 oz French goat cheese, such as Bucheron or Lezay, crumbled
7 oz mozzarella, grated
2 slices prosciutto, cut about twice as thick as you would for a sandwich or salad, then into a julienne
2 tablespoons fresh, finely cut chives
2 tablespoons fresh, minced parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped
1 sprig fresh marjoram, chopped
2 small cloves garlic, minced
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

Blend all ingredients together in a large bowl.

Lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup rye flour
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Make a sponge by mixing together 1/4 cup lukewarm water, yeast, and rye flour. Let it rise 20-30 minutes.
With a wooden spoon, mix together 1/2 cup lukewarm water, milk, olive oil, salt, and all-purpose flour. Add to sponge.
Knead dough on a floured board, adding flour to the board as needed but no more than necessary.
The dough will be light and a little sticky. A soft, light dough makes a light and very crispy crust.
Knead for 10-15 minutes to develop strength and elasticity.
Put dough in a bowl rubbed with olive oil and oil the surface of the dough to prevent a crust from forming.
Cover with a towel and put in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and let it rise for another 40 minutes.

Place a baking stone, if you have one, in your oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.
On a floured board, roll dough into 1 circle, about 14 inches in diameter, or divide into 2 or 3 circles for small calzoni.
Have the filling ready, at room temperature, and work quickly putting it on half of the dough circle(s).
Moisten the edges with water and fold dough over filling. Fold the dough at the end up onto itself, pinching it together.
Transfer calzones to a heavily floured pizza peel, the back of a baking sheet, or a sheet or parchment paper.
Slide calzones quickly into a preheated, 450 degree oven with a baking stone on a rack close to the bottom.
Bake 15-18 minutes or until brown and crisp.
Remove from oven, brush calzone tops with olive oil, and serve.

My notes and changes: Instead of most of the cheese, I used 1 medium-sized head of cauliflower, roasted at 400 degrees for about half an hour, and then chopped. The soft goat’s milk ricotta salata I used in addition was just what I had on hand and it was delicious! (1/4 cup or so for my calzone) I was able to cut down on the rising times for the dough since I was running short on time. I gave the first rise about 45 minutes and the second 20-30 and it worked fine. You can use a parchment-lined baking sheet if you don’t have a baking stone! (But get a baking stone, it really helps and there are inexpensive ones out there that work fine.)


Filed under other goodies