Nov 29 2017

The Art of Pizza Making at the Napoli Culinary Academy

Classes at the Napoli Culinary Academy popped up on Groupon over the summer. A girlfriend and I were having dinner and decided it would be fun to sign up for one. Classes fill up fast, the first “Art of Pizza Making” session with two seats available was four months out. Perfect, that worked with both of our schedules. Napoli also hosts a “Cooking with the Movies” series of classes where they teach students how to cook dishes inspired by favorite movies. Example: Gone With the Wind: Three Course Southern Class where students make Sweet Southern Cornbread, Chicken Brunswick Stew and Peach Cobbler. I’ve taken three other pizza cooking classes from chefs local to Sacramento and I was excited to take a fourth at a new place. They do offer the Art of Pizza Making paired with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, but we opted for the no movie class.

Fast forward to Friday, November 3 (the day we attended the Luke Bryan concert in the pouring rain) and being in the car when Michelle asked just after midnight – What time should I pick you up tonight for our class?

Me: Huh? Class?  What class?
Michelle: Um… our cooking class. Did you not put it on your calendar?
Me: Apparently not. 

How about 4:30 p.m.? Laughter ensues. 

We walked through the door and were immediately greeted by our instructor, Chef Hassi Sadri.

“The Napoli Culinary Academy was established in 1997 by Mr. Hassi Sadri. Mr. Sadri’s nationally recognized restaurant, Café Napoli appeared on the cover of Pizza Today Magazine naming the restaurant as one of the 100 most unique restaurants in the nation. This exposure and notoriety for Mr. Sadri in 1992 inspired him to open the Academy .”  – Napoli Culinary Academy Website

The interior was really cute. I kept comparing it to other cooking classes I had taken and I knew it would be a very different experience. The dim lighting, intimate setting and smaller instructor station intrigued me and also made me sad because I knew my photos would end up being dark/mediocre. 

We sat together at one of the side tables and looked through the drink menu. Our class fee included water, soda, beer or wine and tastes of all the food made that evening. 

We were given a dough and pizza sauce recipe to start things off. There were some introductions and then Chef Sadri demonstrated the art of preparing/throwing pizza dough. The dough recipe was similar to other recipes I’ve received or found in cookbooks and online. Bread flour, ice water, salt, butter, yeast. He stressed the importance of using a food scale, which inspired me to order a new one for myself. My trusty scale from my Weight Watcher days bit the dust a few months back.

Chef Sadri tried to catch people off guard by throwing the formed dough at students while he was talking to see if we had been listening when he explained the proper way to catch formed pizza dough using the back of your hands/wrists, not your fists or fingers and definitely not while wearing rings or other jewelry.  The first student did great. She nailed it with a perfect back of the hands/wrist catch. The second student stuck her entire finger through the dough and said it was because she got scared. He mocked her for a good 5 minutes after that, which I didn’t mind,  because this person was the same that probably asked “is this going to be on the final?” while attending school. Translation: she was annoying AF.

We learned about the importance of creating your own sauce and how all bottled, jarred or otherwise packaged pre-made “pizza sauces” are crap. Ha-ha, not going to lie, I’ve used Trader Joe’s and other brands many times. 

He first applied freshly chopped garlic to the raw pizza dough once formed on the  pizza pan/or board. He then used a sauce combination of (crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic and optional crushed red pepper) directly on top of the garlic/raw dough. He used a ladle to spread sauce to the outer edges while leaving over an inch of space around the edges so the sauce/cheese lava flow wouldn’t jack up the pizza oven. I’m sure not his exact words, but pretty close. Chef Sadri had a lot to say about people that use too much sauce. He even sarcastically offered to bring students cups of sauce to drink so they wouldn’t flood their pizzas due to “their love of sauce.” Once the sauce was spread onto the dough, he sprinkled the pizza with more oregano, followed by a thin coating of Parmesan cheese. 

Then it was time for the toppings. The first pizza was a stuffed pizza. The toppings included sausage – a blend they order and actually sell at the cafe/academy, red and green onion, a three pepper (yellow, red, green) blend, mushrooms and lots of mozzarella cheese. He topped the dough with regular and black sesame seeds. The sausage was some of the best I’ve ever tasted on pizza.

Chef Sadri continued making pizzas for the class while demonstrating technique. The one above had lots of veggies, including broccoli. The white sauce was made with ricotta, heavy cream and garlic. I honestly can’t remember what else, but I know there was something. I’ll have to check with Michelle on that.

He used WAY more toppings than in my previous pizza classes. Those chefs all seemed to stress the importance of using very few toppings, while simultaneously dissing Americans for their love of piling them on. Chef Sadri did not shy away from toppings. He did talk about the importance of not piling them up in the center of the pizza. He used a few pieces of toppings for aesthetics, but explained that it allowed the middle of the pizza to cook more evenly and it was easier to cut and pull pieces apart without a lot of toppings falling off. 

It was really cool to watch him make the calzone. It confirmed that I’ve been doing it all wrong. He actually put the filling (in this case – ricotta, spinach, caramelized onion, mushroom, sausage and mozzarella) down the center of the circle of dough. After using egg wash around the edges, he brought BOTH sides up to pinch together. I always fold one side on top of the other and then pinch. Nope, this way was much smoother. He brought both ends together, creating space for the sauce which was something I’ve never done.

We didn’t get to taste the calzone since they turned it into the prize for the student that made the best pizza. We all washed our hands and then headed into the kitchen in our aprons to get to work. While there wasn’t anything for us to do prep wise (everything was already chopped, the sauce was prepared and the dough was portioned out into balls) we still had fun forming our dough on our pans and getting to choose our own toppings. I’m not going to brag – o.k., yes I am. Michelle and I definitely had the best pizzas of our group. They looked freakin’ amazing. It’s the first time I’ve been able to really get the dough thin enough and to the desired size without ripping it. I even managed to toss it in the air a few times staying very close to my hands, I wasn’t brave enough to toss it high over the table or floor. 

Now comes the lame part. The majority of the student pizzas went into the wood fired oven up front with Chef Sadri critiquing them as they went in and came out. There was only one sauce disaster that he sent back to do over.

Ours ended up in the kitchen oven, so yeah, they weren’t part of the contest. WTF? THEN, not only did we miss out on the contest and winning the calzone, they crammed our beautiful piping hot pizzas into styrofoam clam shell containers. 

Um, excuse me – why did we even bother shaping them into perfectly round pizzas? Michelle and I also think that something happened when they placed them in the back oven because there is no WAY our sauce was even close to the edges where it went over. I forgot to snap a photo of Michelle’s pizza, but it was fabulous too. 

Whatever, call us sore losers, fine. It was just a disappointing end to an otherwise very fun class. We were full from all of the pizza tasting throughout the class, so we didn’t even try our pizzas until the next day. I’m glad that I went all out with toppings (Pepperoni, sausage, olives, mushrooms, green and red onion and lots of mozzarella cheese) – making sure to not place toppings near the center of the pizza, just like we were taught in class. I learned some new tips and tricks and look forward to putting them into action during my next pizza making session.  I will definitely consider ordering sausage from Napoli, it was that good! They also sell the fresh mozzarella cheese by the pound and the dough too. 

The regular price for a class is $156 per person, but the Groupon deal was $21 per person plus a $6 gratuity charge,  so a great value for sure. I’ve got my eyes on an Egyptian, African or Persian class for round two. Thanks Michelle for scoring the Luke Bryan tickets and for signing us up for another fun food adventure, I really enjoyed myself.
foo

 

Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=11206

Oct 16 2017

Dreaming Dog Brewery – Your New Best Friend

I was very excited to hear that Elk Grove was getting a new microbrewery and taproom with the added bonus that is was dog friendly. My friend Kristen knows the owners (David and Liz), so I followed the brewery’s progress online.

Dreaming Dog Brewery

Dreaming Dog Brewery’s grand opening celebration “Dogtoberfest!” was held on Saturday, October 7 and we jumped at the chance to check out the taproom, taste some beer with friends and surround ourselves with adorable dogs. I loved that all of the event vendors were dog related – Elk Grove Police K9 Association, City of Elk Grove Animal Services, DoggieStyle HotDogs, Dog Gone Purrfect Grooming, etc.

The brewery offers English and Belgian-style beers, games and entertainment, trivia nights, Monday Night Football viewing parties and karaoke/live music with more events showing up on their Facebook page weekly. 

Dreaming Dog Brewery

We arrived and were greeted with live German music from the Grand Isle Fire Brigade Street Band donning their Lederhosen and festive bavarian hats.

The beer line was out the door, so we decided to head there first. I was in dog heaven… they were everywhere. I chose to leave my two at home for my own sanity. They are adorable, but let’s just say they could use some training when it comes to crowds and other dogs.

Dreaming Dog Brewery

New shiny fermenters, tanks and brewing vessels that you could see through the glass windows off to the side of the entrance near the bar.

Beers on tap for the event were:

English Black Lab Porter
An English Style Dark Porter – A softer, sweeter, easier to drink dark beer
Tasters $2 and Pints $6

American Chesapeake Bay Retriever (Chessie) Pale Ale
A little malty and balanced with a smooth finish
Tasters $2 and Pints $6

Other beers they are now serving:

English Bulldog IPA
American Bulldog Double IPA

All dog names… love, love, love.

Dreaming Dog Brewery

The bar and taproom barn doors were recovered sugar pine from the Sonora area and really added to the industrial chic feel of the taproom. David explained that the vibe of the taproom was all Liz.

Dreaming Dog Brewery

I was the DD, so I opted for the taster size, which was a good thing because the one negative was the beer wasn’t cold. We later found out that it didn’t go into the chiller until the night before the event – that kind of stuff happens when things are crazy before a grand opening and I look forward to many future cold beers.

We got our beers and all of the tables were taken, but there was some space in one of their seating areas. Dreaming Dog Brewery – Your New Best Friend – in memory of their beloved German Shepherd Mason – their inspiration for the brewery. 

Dreaming Dog Brewery

How cool to just have a beer with your dog… she was a super sweet lab.

David (the owner) was happy to see Kristen and I was able to snap a quick photo. Kristen is the queen of photos at events, so a bunch of the photos from this post are hers… I’m seeing a photographer/second career in her future. 

Dreaming Dog Brewery

A taster of English Black Lab Porter.

Dreaming Dog Brewery

The place was packed and the line kept growing. A table opened up and we snagged it to share with a friend. The band made it’s way inside and the festivities really began. “Ein Prosit” with raised glasses everywhere. So fun!

Dreaming Dog Brewery

Congressman Ami Bera showed up and Kristen was able to get a photo for David and Liz with a photo bomb from their daughter Kate.

Elk Grove’s other breweries – Flatland Brewing Company and Tilted Mash Brewing showed up to support David and Dreaming Dog and Kristen got a great photo of that too – so cool!

The community really turned out to support the new brewery. We met so many friendly owners with their adorable dogs.

Dreaming Dog Brewery Dogtoberfest

I petted all of them as Kristen was capturing their cute little faces. My dogs stuck to me like glue when I got home. I actually had to take my shoes off so I could walk, lots of sniffin’ going on.

Dreaming Dog Brewery Dogtoberfest

One of these things is not like the others… too much cuteness for one post. If you are in the Elk Grove/Sacramento area and love bringing  your dog places or enjoy a good pint, you need to check the place out. 

Dreaming Dog Brewery
2501 West Taron Ct.
Elk Grove, California 95757
(916) 714-2735
Facebook |  Twitter Instagram

Thanks Kristen for another fun adventure.
Foo

Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=11118

Sep 08 2017

Creamy Sweet Pepper Soup

My Uncle recently gave me some beautiful sweet peppers from his garden. Well… actually he brought a big bag to share with the rest of my family, but I convinced everyone that I needed them all.

Sweet Peppers - Foodiddy

I had no idea going in what I was going to make with them, so I started searching through my cookbook collection and online for inspiration/recipes. I did find a recipe for a Creamy Sweet Pepper Soup by Brooklyn Farm Girl – but her recipe card plugin disappeared, so it only had ingredients without steps. I felt up for the challenge. I gathered similar ingredients – changing quantities and adding a few others. I did realize early on that I was going to need more sweet peppers. Her recipe called for 1.5 lbs. My Uncle’s harvest was 15 oz., so I added an additional pound, bringing me just under 2 lbs. Note: Brooklyn Farm Girl’s recipe card does work now, so I was able to see how far off I was on the directions after the fact. Not too bad…

Organic Sweet Peppers

I was surprised that a one pound bag of organic sweet mini peppers was priced at just under $4.00 – the non-organic one pound bag was $7.99 – That was an easy decision. 

Sweet Peppers

I gathered all of my ingredients for the photo op. The amount of rice was more than required, I just wanted my glass bowl to look full. My little meal prep bowls were in the dishwasher and I was too lazy to hand wash. #FoodBloggerProblems

Sweet Pepper Soup Ingredients - Foodiddy

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Pounds Sweet Peppers – Chopped
  • 1 Jalapeño – Chopped
  • 6-8 Cloves Garlic – Minced
  • ½ Medium White Onion – Chopped
  • 32 Ounces Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 3 Tablespoons Fresh Thyme
  • 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1-2 Cups Cooked Basmati Rice (Any rice would work)
  • Sea Salt and Ground Pepper to taste

 

I chopped the onion and sweet peppers into big chunks… then I minced the garlic.

Sweet Pepper Soup Prep

I added the onion, garlic, fresh thyme and red pepper flakes and olive oil to my pot over medium heat. I stirred frequently for just under 20 minutes while the rice cooked in a separate pot.

I then took the softened onion/sweet pepper mixture and added 1/2 to the Blendtec and added 1/2 the veggie broth for the first batch. I then repeated with the remaining peppers and broth. I used the whisk option on my blender and did leave some texture since that’s my preference, even in creamy soups. 

I added the blended peppers back to the main pot over medium heat and then poured in the cup of heavy whipping cream and salt and pepper to taste. I let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes. It was just past 7:30 p.m. and I had lost most of my light, so my iPhone photos aren’t awesome, but you get the idea. I’ve decided that if I wait for the perfect everything and break out my Canon… I never get to editing and posting. 

I did add some of my favorite brand Fresh Gourmet Crushed Ciabatta, Butter and Sea Salt Croutons and 1/4 cup of rice to my bowl. I’m glad I left the rice as an add in, rather than adding it to the soup itself – now I have the option of eating it both ways. You could also omit the heavy whipping cream if you were looking for a non-dairy soup option. I tried the soup straight out of the blender before adding the heavy whipping cream and it was still tasty and fairly creamy. 

I loved the soup… as in I licked the bowl clean and then decided to serve up a second bowl. It was that good! I’m excited to have four more portioned out bowls in the fridge for future meals.

Creamy Sweet Pepper Soup

I can’t wait for colder temps so I can try out some more soup recipes. Winter soups are a favorite of mine for sure. What’s your favorite soup?

Foo

Creamy Sweet Pepper Soup
Serves 6
A delicious, creamy sweet pepper soup full of flavor.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. • 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  2. • 2 Pounds Sweet Peppers - Chopped
  3. • 1 Jalapeno - Chopped
  4. • 6-8 Cloves Garlic – Minced
  5. • ½ Medium White Onion - Chopped
  6. • 32 Ounces Vegetable Broth
  7. • 1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  8. • 3 Tablespoons Fresh Thyme
  9. • 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  10. • 1-2 Cups Cooked Basmati Rice (Any rice would work)
  11. • Sea Salt and Ground Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Add olive oil to medium to large pot over high heat.
  2. Add onion, garlic, fresh thyme and red pepper flakes to olive oil and stir until onions and garlic soften.
  3. Add sautéed onion/sweet pepper mixture and ½ the vegetable stock in two separate batches to a blender. Be careful of the heat – I used a towel over the hole in my lid to let the steam escape. Blend until you get the consistency you are looking for.
  4. Add your blended contents back into the original pot over medium heat and then add 1 cup heavy whipping cream and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Pour into bowl and add rice and/or croutons as add-ins.
Notes
  1. The rice and croutons are optional and if you are looking for a non-dairy version, you can omit the heavy whipping cream.
Adapted from Brooklyn Farm Girl
Adapted from Brooklyn Farm Girl
Foodiddy http://foodiddy.com/
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=11089