Week 47: Czech – Kulajda white pizza with potato, dill & mushroom

For this week’s Czech-inspired pizza, I opted to turn a classic Kulajda soup into a tasty potato and mushroom pizza pie.


Potato, mushrooms, caraway and dill provide the majority of the flavor and texture, making up the base of the pizza. The egg comes later.


The potato was peeled and diced into small cubes.


After boiling the potatoes with caraway seeds and bay leaves, cream and flour are added to create the white cream base that would normally make the base of the soup.


Sour cream was there too.


The creamy potato base was topped with mushrooms and a sprinkle of mozzarella before getting a big 550 degree smooch from the oven.


Meanwhile, an egg was poached stovetop and then placed in the center of the pizza after being pulled from the oven.


To pair, 2013 Ottoventi Bianco, a Sicilian white wine featuring a refreshing blend of Catarratto, Grillo and Zibibbo. With the pizza, this wine provided a delightful backdrop of tangerine and yellow apples. This wine had a zingy little personality without being too much of a thinker.


The pizza was pretty alright, to0. With the wine, it was the tits.


Week 42: Homemade Pasta – Langostine, Beet Cavatelli, & Lemon-Poppy Seed Creme Fraiche Pizza

This week’s reddit challenge of homemade pasta was a bit of a nightmare to get through, but one worth the experience of making pasta by my onesie. While leapfrogging to a beet-flavored pasta may have been unwise considering how many new elements were already being introduced, I couldn’t resist the chance to shed one more item in the fridge so beet pasta it was.


The initial dough making seemed straightforward enough to imbue me with the confidence to tackle a brand new Kitchenaid attachment without reading the instruction manual.


My attempt at producing spaghetti seemed to be a manageable struggle, especially when compared to my macaroni attempts, which were an all out disaster. These first tries were fruitful enough to work with but for the fact that mold took hold of the pasta before the drying process could offer protection.


This is when I turned to a more traditional apparatus for pasta shaping. Cavatelli seemed to be the only shape I was capable of producing, which happened to also be a shape that was satisfying to try to perfect.


But handmade pasta isn’t an appropriate vehicle for perfection, it seems.


The pasta boiled for just a couple minutes before drained and staged for pizza.


Meanwhile, creme fraiche was enriched with lemon zest and juice to create the sauce.


While the concept of carb on carb pizza might seem ridiculous, the layering of interesting textures could be enough to make the entirety make sense.


Langoustines and poppyseed also added texture of complementing flavors.


Fresh chives made for a zippy little addition after the pizza cooked.


And while together the whole pie looks grand, the experience of consuming each piece was underwhelming, mostly due to the delicate textures of langostine and fresh pasta being marred by the intense heat of the oven. Thus, completing the final phase of nightmare pizza. Bonus: also dreamt about the nightmare pizza, thus actualizing the experience.


The one purely positive outcome of this challenge was the wine selected, Matthiasson Chardonnay. Not only was the pairing a solid match, but the wine by itself was tits. That I will highly recommend.

Week 39: West African – Tatale, Yam Fufu & Peanut Sauce Pizza

This week’s theme, West African, gifted me the opportunity to work with plantain and yam, two semi-standard produce items I tend to ignore.


As ugly as this once-green plantain now is, it’s still kicking inside. I’d like to applaud myself for spending weeks with this blackening fruit and not turning it into some kind of pseudo-banana bread.


Peanut is a common feature in West Africa sauces and stews. Here, it made the base of the pizza using the broad stroke flavors of this recipe’s sauce to create my own.


Unlike a well-ripened banana, plantains seem to keep their structure even in their old age. It took more effort than expected to mash in shallots and cayenne for a tatale recipe.


The plantain cakes caramelized in the pan, some more than other, which gave it a candied sweetness. Cornmeal can be mixed in to the batter to create a more stable texture.


Meanwhile, yam was cut up, boiled and mashed for an addition of fufu to the pizza, an admittedly silly topping when considering fufu’s role as a starchy vessel to assist in eating other dishes.


Peanuts are crushed to finish the pizza.


The peanut sauce is liberally applied and the plantains divvied up to see at least one piece per slice. Fufu and peanut crumbles finish the pie.


And without the use of cheese, this pizza turned out accidentally vegan.


Pretty damn tasty vegan pizza. And the wine pairing only improved the situation.


The sweeter flavors of plantain and yam needs a style with more luscious fruit to offer. Jaffurs’ Santa Barbara Viognier of Bien Nacido Vineyard offers pineapples and peaches with a rounded texture that dances quite nicely alongside our pie. The two complement each other without either pizza or wine taking over the experience.

Week 38: Acid – Snow Crab, Grapefruit, & Blood Orange Beurre Blanc Pizza

This week’s pizza featuring the theme of acid has not only grapefruit and blood orange, but also a splash of champagne vinegar to brighten up the mood.


The blood orange and champagne vinegar were used in the beurre blanc that was prepared as the sauce for the pizza.


After cooking down the liquid, the shallots were strained from the final sauce before adding butter for richness.


A quick lesson in cutting suprèmes from grapefruit was necessary to protect the delicate textures.


To further protect the delicate nature of the toppings, the base of this pizza, blood orange beurre blanc, cottage cheese and fromage blanc, was baked in advance so as to allow the crust to cool to a welcoming temperature.


Meanwhile, the snowcrab was quickly boiled and shelled for clean segments of meat.


The construction mainly took place after the pizza had cooked in the oven. Grapefruit, avocado and snow crab made up the core flavors while poppy seed were added as a final touch.


My instinct was to reach for a wine with high acid and a severe dryness to match that of the pizza’s profile. White burgundy worked well enough to match the profile.


In the end, Vouvray with a whisper of residual sugar was a natural pairing to help maintain a high level of acid while also counteracting any of the harsh quality with the sweetness inherent in the style.

Week 26: Gelatin – BBQ Pulled Pork & Pineapple Gelatin Morsels

Inspiration for this week’s gelatin challenge came from the leftover pineapple juice of last week’s creation. The thought process began with a play on a Hawaiian pizza and evolved into a pulled pork sandwich craving that could not be shaken.


Pork shoulders were purchased and my first attempt at pulled pork began with a flavorful, smoky rub.


To begin what would inevitably become the long road towards appreciating my slow cooker, I first took to the outdoors to light coals for a Weber grill that’s been aching to celebrate summer with a feast.


Having never used wood chips for smoking, it’s hard to diagnose and fix any issues when I’m still learning how the grill itself best operates. Within a couple hours, I switched gears and opted for an indoor cooking session with a dusty item in the cabinet: the slow cooker.


Onions made up the base of a cider vinegar stew the pork was to cook overnight in. The next morning, the onions were strained off and saved for topping later.


As an anti-ketchup user, I am shocked at how magnificent the flavors of apple cider vinegar and ketchup combine together to create a simple yet perfect Carolinian BBQ sauce. It doesn’t excuse ketchup for being the way that it is, but it does now give it a reason to exist at all.


Fresh pineapple juice keeps enzymes that are just as detrimental to gelatin as they are to human flesh (yes, that’s right. pineapples are eating you right back). Cooking helps to shut these enzymes down so that the gel can hold their shape.


Using a combination of gelatin and agar agar, I managed to make gelatin faster than expected. The gel set so quickly I had to start from the beginning to set it in the shape of my choosing.


Albeit not a very interesting one. I settled for the broken pieces of a thin and flat pineapple topping to debut my gelatin skills.


BBQ sauce lined the bottom of this pie while pulled pork & onions bulked up the top.


After a minute of cooling, the pizza was dressed with pineapple gelatin pieces and served with green onions.


Mulderbosch’s single vineyard Chenin Blanc was able to tease out the softer pineapple notes with some tropical aromas of its own while cutting through the fatty richness of the pork. The combination was pretty incredible.


Just watch out for that pineapple.

pineapple eats you.gif

Week 24: From Scratch – Heirloom Tomato, Pesto & Ricotta pizza with a Black Bean Flour Crust

This week’s challenge required a couple leaps of faith in the kitchen. To truly begin from scratch, as was encouraged, ingredients need to be sourced as whole and unprocessed as possible (and convenient). Since I already make my pizza dough and sauce at home, I had to push myself one step further and make the cheese and flour myself as well. Not only was I looking to make my own flour, but I was going to attempt at making it out of a whole branch of legume I actively avoid: beans.


While I’ve kicked a solid 90% of my childhood food fears, all-not-green beans have a way of threatening my sanity through texture alone. When it comes to green beans, be they edamame, haricot verts or english peas, all is forgiven. Why? If reason was involved, I wouldn’t be scared of beans in the first place.


To combat this ridiculous fear, exposure is required. This challenge offered a way to experience a positive bean-eating experience without the horror of a chalky texture. Little did I know how frustrating a non-glutenous flour would be as a pizza base.

I took small batches of dry bulk black beans and blended the hell out of them in a Vitamix. The noise was simultaneously wretched. Earplugs were required to pulverize handfuls at a time for 30-40 seconds.


Next, I stupidly tried to raise the flour with a dose of yeast and warm water. Apparently, gluten is useful for capturing the carbon dioxide, hence allowing dough to puff up. Without that possibility, this ball of bean flour did very little else besides stare right back into the soul of my frustration and whisper how easy it would have been to choose a wheat berry base instead.


While ignoring the cursed bean flour stares, I boiled some whole milk and began a simple cheese making process that requires a little acid and patience. The acid that can be used in this situation can come in many different forms. While lemon juice and distilled vinegar were both options, citric acid


While more practice would likely reveal simple efficiencies of how to extract more curds from the whey, I was happy with what small amount of ricotta come of this quart of milk.


Rolling out a portion of dough from such a sticky, floam-like substance was a chore.



For the sauce, a classic pesto was made to command attention in both color and freshness.


All but the assortment of heirloom tomato slices have been made “from scratch.”


The flavors and textures didn’t inspire any new ideals in pizza-making. The fact that it looked like pizza, could hold itself up like pizza and could even taste like pizza was an achievement in itself. Wine would help lubricate the illusion of greatness.


Premier Cru Chablis helped to cut through some of the funkier flavors presented in the mingling of the black bean crust and pesto. It doesn’t shy away from the bright and fresh juiciness of the heirloom tomatoes and provides a mineral complexity to distract the brain with delicious flavors as my body consumes a bite after bite of black beans.

Pizza Nova & Sancerre

Perched overlooking the sleepy harbor of Point Loma, San Diego’s Pizza Nova is a spacious bayside joint cooking up wood-fired pizza amongst other restaurant standards. Aside from the expected basics of pepperoni and margherita, a range of non-traditional pies tempt the more adventurous with toppings not often found on pizza, such as pears, zucchini or thai flavors. Proximity to the sea seems to have had some minor influences on their chosen style as their eponymous signature pie features smoked salmon. Fluffed up with flavors of red onions, caper and goat cheese, the Pizza Nova pie is a tasty departure from loveable classics most swear allegiance to.

pizza nova whole pie

When ordered to-go, the freshly baked pizza kisses salmon with boxed-in heat, cooking in a bit more flaky texture and pink opaqueness. While the salmon brings a sweet smokiness to the overall profile, the capers are bright with ocean-like salinity and the goat cheese peps up each bite with a hit of grassy tang. The oily presence of fontina and mozzarella cheeses wants for a super palate cleanser of acidity while the most prominent flavor of salty brininess calls for something light and mineral-driven.

We return to the Loire Valley where Sancerre grows Sauvignon Blanc from a limestone-rich soil littered with fossilized seashells and capable of fostering a chalky minerality in these vibrant wines. Quintessential Sancerre is unoaked and bone dry with aromatics encompassing a broad spectrum, from green bell pepper to wet rocks to gooseberries. The 2013 Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre is a clean, straightforward style with flavors of citrus blossom, tart lemon and grapefruit as well as contrasting tropical fruit aromas that are especially loud and lush when juxtaposed with the savory pizza elements. Enhanced with aromas of garlic and red onion, the sharp flavors on the pizza soften the edges on this piercing style of Sauvignon Blanc, balancing each other in turn.

pizza nova sancerre and salmon

One ingredient here truly secures this pairing: goat cheese. Sancerre and chèvre are a classic “grows together, goes together” combination, adhering to a culinary philosophy that resonates throughout cultures worldwide. While terroir may be an influential factor, the main driving force behind so many of these “perfect” pairings is more likely a matter of time and space. When food and wine find themselves at the dinner table again and again, regional preferences drive the two beyond mere coexistence into a balanced dynamic reinforced by generations of tradition. Since this culinary symbiosis requires ample time for coevolution, most examples of the phenomenon unsurprisingly emerge from the Old World, encompassing classics such as Muscadet and oysters or Nebbiolo and truffles. The many traditions are worth exploration and thoughtful engagement, but they should be considered handy tools rather than governing guidelines. Otherwise this whole business of pairing food and wine would prove way less fun.