Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza – Lou Malnati’s vs Connie’s

October 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza

Chicago has many deep dish pizza restaurants and my friends took me to these two. My first night in Chicago, I tried Lou Malnati’s pizza and ordered the “Lou” which has spinach, mushrooms, roma tomatoes and three cheeses. This was their only vegetarian option and did not allow any substitutions.

The pizza took about two hours to arrive and by then I was starving. Lou’s pizza is much shallower than other deep dish styles according to my friends. The pizza was not as heavy as I had expected and the crust was thin and buttery. I ate one and a half pieces and was really stuffed.

Connie's pizza

Connie’s Pizza is notorious in Chicago and the official pizza for many of their sport’s teams. Their restaurant on Archer Avenue seats 100 or so people and was easy to get a seat on a saturday night. Their pizza comes in the option of thin crust, artisan, deep dish and stuffed. Plus their menu has a lot of other Italian options to choose from.

I created my own pizza and ordered a personal pizza with goat’s cheese, artichokes and green olives. After we ordered, the waiter brought a basket of buns with a sweet whipped butter. I ate a piece and saved my appetite for my pizza.

When the pizza arrived, I could not wait for it to cool before I dug in. I cut up a piece of the pizza with a knife and brought a piece to my mouth. The cheese was stringy and the pizza delicious. The flavours were perfect as it is my favourite pizza combination. The crust was crispy but did not have as much flavour as Lou’s.

I felt that Lou’s had a better crust but I liked the flexibility in Connie’s menu and being able to create a personal pizza. They are both great and I would eat at both places again.

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Pizza in Venice

October 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

pizza venice

My fabulous trip in the Mediterranean had come to an end and I spend a day in Rome before I hopped on a train to Venice. It was my second time there and it was still as beautiful and magical as I had remembered. I was so shocked at the number tourists there, even though it was the end of September. It was difficult to maneuverer through the crowds and I was happy that I decided to get a hotel on the other side, on the island of Giudecca.

I found a cute restaurant along the water and ordered what would be my last pizza in Italy. The crust was a bit thicker than what I had in Rome and a little dryer though soft and chewy. The sauce was a nice balance of sweet and savoury. The cheese, tomatoes and arugula were placed cold on top and cooked slowly from the heat of the pizza base.

The pizza was amazing and as the toppings slowly cooked,  the flavour got better and better with each bite.  Just thinking about it, I am falling into a dream state. Eating pizza is no longer the same and now I’m on the hunt to find authentic Italian pizza at home.

venice

Adventures in Rome

October 23, 2013 § 1 Comment

cappuccino

I clearly remember my first trip to Italy in the summer before grade 12 like it was yesterday. I fell in love with it’s architecture, culture and of course it’s food. After a few decades of separation, I finally made it back. My plan was to eat everything in sight and so I worked out like crazy a few months before I left to increase my metabolism. My journey started as soon as I got on the plane.

For some strange reason, the airline did not receive my vegetarian meal request and I was starting to wonder how I was going to make it to Rome on an empty stomach.  Fortunately the lady sitting beside me was a pilot who was going to Rome for her shift and seemed to have some pull with the flight attendants.

She explained my situation and they were kind enough to bring me a left over meal from first class, cheese ravioli with a tomato sauce. It was so good that I could not even believe that it was plane food. My new pilot friend also was able to get us both glasses of wine from first class, I got VIP service in economy.

The next day, I arrived in Rome in the morning and was greeted by my friend at the airport. On our way back to their place, I was asked if I wanted to stop for a cappuccino, it was like he read my mind.

We stopped at a cute bar where we got a table outside. A friend met us there and we placed our order. It took me some time to sort through the rows of pastry in the case and decided on an apple tart and cappuccino. I was shocked when 2 cappuccinos, an iced coffee, pastry and bottle of water came to 4 euros or $7. Each sip of my frothy cappuccino was delicious and made me feel like a local.

singita miracle beach

My friends had planned a beach day and it seemed like the best place to relax after a long flight. We went to Singita Miracle beach where all the sexy Romans go to spend their saturday. We spent the day sun worshipping and as soon as the sun began to set, we moved to a table on a white sheet and sat crossed legged and shared drinks and food.

rome sunset

We sipped on the Italian beer Peroni and munched on a flat bread cracker that I had never seen before. A dj was playing electronic music and a white piano hid his equipment. The mood changed as the sun set and partiers migrated from the city.

flatbread crackers

After such a long day, I still was up for more and we decided to head into Rome for dinner. We went to my friend’s restaurant and we ordered pizza. I got a plain Margherita pizza and my friend got a pizza with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes on top.

pizza

The pizza was absolutely amazing. The crust was really thin and could not be eaten by hand. I had a bit of trouble eating pizza with a fork and knife only because I didn’t have the patience to cut eat piece. The crust was a little soft and soggy and the cheese was delicious. Their idea of mozzarella is like the Canadian version of a firm bocconcini. It so was filling that I only ate about 2 pieces and took the rest home for the next day.

Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Snow peas and green beans

September 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Spaghetti

This is the other pasta dish that I made for my Japanese friends. I made one cold dish and one hot one. I decided to make spaghetti using my favourite cooking method. Basically I sauté fresh veggies that are in season and melt in fresh parmesan. In this dish I added a dried hot chili and you can also drizzle a chili oil when you serve the dish. I have to say, I will miss using chopsticks for every meal. I am actually getting quite good at using them. I even eat like the Japanese now, hunched over bowls slurping noodles.

Cooking time 30 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 package organic whole wheat spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic minced
1 dried hot red chilli
1 handful green beans cut into 1/3 inch pieces
1 handful snow peas
1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
1/2 tsp (2ml) basil powder
1/2 tsp (2 ml) parsley powder
1/2 tsp (2 ml) grated pepper
1 large jar of organic tomato sauce
1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half
1/2 package fresh basil thinly chopped
1/2 cup (125 ml) fresh parmesan shavings (optional)

Directions:
1. Cook pasta as directed on package.
2. In a large saucepan on medium heat, add the oil, garlic and chili and saute until golden.
3. Add the green beans and cook until outside gets slightly soft about 2 mins and then add the snow peas.
4. Add the salt and spices, stir, cook for a minute and then the tomato sauce.
5. Cook for 5 minutes or so and add the tomatoes. When the sauce is ready, add the cooked pasta, mix and then add the parmesan. Serve and garnish with fresh basil.

In the kitchen in Tokyp

Fusilli Pasta Salad

September 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

Tokyo, Japan

One my last night in Tokyo, my friend Saya and I cooked a delicious feast while her husband Sunny played bartender. He requested that I make a cold pasta dish, so I made a pasta salad.

I had fun being in the kitchen as I knew it was my last night to enjoy being in Japan with my good friends. It was a fun challenge to create recipes that I am used to using different ingredients and adding a Japanese flare on it.

I used fusilli pasta with fresh vegetables that were available at the market with parmesan in a sweet balsamic dressing. I used the beautiful purple cabbage sprouts as a garnish. Sunny was very happy and thought the dish was beautiful as well as having harmony in the flavours.

Cooking time 30 minutes
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 package cooked fusilli pasta
1 handful snow peas
1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half
corn niblets
shavings of parmesan (optional)
1/2 handful green olives
handful of baby greens
finely sliced green onions
chopped fresh basil
purple cabbage sprouts.

Dressing:
olive oil
balsamic vingegar
raw sugar
sliced dried hot pepper
fresh ground pepper

Directions;
1. Place the veggies in a bowl and marinate with the dressing for 1/2 hour.
2. Toss with the pasta, parmesan and 2/3 of fresh basil. Garnish with fresh basil and purple cabbage sprouts.

cold pasta salad

Gluten Free Pizza

June 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

SKP gluten free margherita pizza

To celebrate a close friend’s move to Toronto, I took him out for dinner and he suggested the restaurant SKP in my neighbourhood because of the gluten-free options. The Italian Restaurant in Vancouver Point Grey has gluten-free pizza dough and gluten-free fusilli pasta.

We arrived at the restaurant at 8:30pm and were the only table seated in the dining area. The bar area was busy with guys hanging out who had come to watch a basketball game and were having drinks.

While we looked over the menu, I noticed that the restaurant had two floors.One which is perfect for private parties and large groups. The downstairs, where we were seated had a comfortable atmosphere which is inviting for a first date.

The owner, Travis Davidson came by to say hi and was very helpful at explaining the menu and telling us what was popular. I love a basic Margherita pizza and wanted to try their gluten-free crust. So I ordered one with a glass of Pinot Grigio.

Our food arrived quite quickly as we were the only table in the restaurant. The pizza crust was thin and a bit chewier than a regular crust. The toppings were very fresh and the pizza was delicious. For $13 the pizza was a good deal as I ate 4 pieces and my friend ate 2 with his starter.

All in all, I had a surprisingly great experience at a neighbourhood restaurant that I had not tried before. The service was good and staff was very friendly plus the food was delicious. I will definitely go there again with friends who are gluten-free or when I feel like a Margherita pizza. SKP restaurant is on 4409 West 10th Avenue Vancouver, BC V6R 2H9, (604) 222-0220.

Naan Flatbread Pizza

June 25, 2012 § 1 Comment

I love making personal pizzas and lately I’ve been using Indian naan bread for the crust. I get creative with the ingredients and try something different each time. For this recipe, I picked out vegetables that I had in my fridge and created this delicious pizza. The dill was amazing and added more flavour to the pizza.

Ingredients:
1 piece of naan flatbread
2 tbsp (30 ml) pasta sauce
scant sea salt
freshly ground pepper (optional)
1 leaf swiss chard broken into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 tbsp (15 ml) diced pepper
1 tbsp (15 ml) diced tomatoes
2 green olives sliced
1 tsp (5 ml) roughly chopped cilantro
1 tsp (5 ml) roughly chopped dill (optional)
grated cheese (optional)

Method:
1. Place the naan on a baking tray and add the ingredients in the order listed above.
2. Bake the flatbread pizza in the oven at 350 degrees F for 10 mins until the cheese has melted.

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