Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Welcome Feast for Fall


Northern California is not known for its Fall colors, but we really have a way of celebrating the season that is all our own.  We have beautiful fresh produce, and warmer days, now that our summer fog has left us. To celebrate the beginning of fall, this past weekend,  I invited over friends and family to eat homemade pizza  from our outdoor wood-burning oven. We made the pizza from scratch with a little flour, water, olive oil, yeast, and salt.  I then let it rise roughly 3 hours in the warm sun.
 Most of us had not seen each other in six months so as we prepared the pizzas, the wine flowed, and the laughs grew louder.  We began the evening by sitting outside by the oven.  


We ate a bit of goat-cheddar cheese from California, and roasted local Shishito peppers. Just a little olive oil, salt and lemon juice.  One pepper out of roughly every 30, is spicy.  I hope for a spicy one every time. 


As the oven heated to the proper temperature, over 600 degrees, we moved the party onto the deck where we could take in the view and spread out a little.  
 

We had decided on a few different pizza toppings before the party, so I was able to prepare them ahead of time.  There are really so many options when it comes to pizzas, that I find that I have to plan them out before, otherwise, I may end up with a pizza topped with a mishmash of ingredients...which is ok too, sometimes.  I like to make Italian style pizzas and have done everything from a potato and blue cheese to the common, but so delicious Margarita (tomato, basil and bufala mozzarella).
 


  For the first pizza into the oven this evening, I had sauteed Italian sausage and roasted Italian peppers.  I then added roughly a 1/4 cup of fresh bufala mozzarella (the only kind of mozzarella that I use because it is so incredibly flavorful), and a drizzle of olive oil. 
  
 
Another favorite of the party was a mixture of fresh mushrooms sauteed in olive oil, fresh thyme and salt and pepper, then roasted on top of the pizza as it cooks.  
 

As proper California residents we were sure to compliment our hand-made pizzas with local wines that were directly from the Napa Vineyards!  
 
 




As Italians do, we finished the meal with a refreshing red leaf lettuce salad, with beets, goat cheese, and toasted walnuts, tossed in a light champagne-shallot vinaigrette. 


However, with Halloween just around the corner, I couldn't let the holiday just slip by.  When my brother and sister and I were kids, every Halloween my grandmother would buy us delicious chocolate covered marshmallows (decorated with a jack-o-lantern face)  from our local chocolate shop. So we decided to recreate our holiday delicacy... with our own twist.
 

To make the marshmallow I mixed 3 packages unflavored gelatin and 1/2 cup ice cold water in a mixing bowl, and then let it sit.  In a small pot on the stove, over medium-high heat, I mixed 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1 cup light corn syrup, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and another 1/2 cup of water. The mixture needs to reach 240 degrees (about 8 minutes).   Then I poured it slowly into the gelatin mixture while mixing at medium speed.  Once it was all in, I turned the mixer up to high and beat until it was just warm and actually began to look like marshmallow.  Then I added 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.  I spritzed my pan with a bit of cooking spray and then covered it in 1 part confectioners' sugar and 1 part cornstarch.  I spread out the batter and let it sit for about 4 hours.  Voila!  We then cut our marshmallows into some different sized shapes and dipped them in melted chocolate mixed with fall spices.

 A fantastic dinner ...and dessert, made better with family and friends!
Happy Fall! 

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