Restaurant-Style Thin Crust Pizza

Thin Crust Pizza

Just about anyone will tell you that you can make perfectly good pizza at home. Go to the store, pick up some pizza dough, roll it out into a big circle, throw on some toppings. Then stick it in the oven for, Oh, I don’t know, 30-45 minutes at 375 degrees?

But those of us who really know pizza? Who love it? We know that just isn’t true. You might be able to make a pizza-like object by following those instructions. But real pizza, it is not. 

Thin Crust Margherita Pizza

Good pizza takes time, dedication, and a tremendous amount of skill. We’re talking New York- or Neapolitan-style pies with maybe little riffs to turn them into something special. Pies that never stray too far from tradition. And pies that most definitely, always have perfectly crisp, slightly blackened crusts. Topped, but not too heavily. Tomato sauce that is bright-tart but also smooth and rich. Melty cheese, slightly bubbly and browned in places. 

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Banana Chocolate Chip Crumb Cake

This recipe feels strange and out-of-place on my blog in the middle of summer. This recipe does not feel summery at all. It feels like something you bake up in October, when the air turns crisp. Or in December, for an office holiday party. Or maybe in late February, with the first snow melts.  

But there have been summer cold snaps in the East Bay, and I feel like they perfectly justify this banana chocolate crumb cake in the middle of July. The longest day of the year has come and gone, and I feel like this city still hasn’t made up its mind about the weather.

I spent the summer solstice wandering city sidewalks, blocks of shops and houses in full afternoon sun. It was Father’s Day, so I painted a mug at the ceramics studio for my dad. I ran a few errands. I went to the market for fresh produce. Filled my bag with corn, peppers, shallots, lemons, apricots, apples, mangoes, and plums. 

I had dinner at a West Berkeley comida under string lights and a crescent moon. 

It was so hot outside, and the warm weather continued for a week and a half.

Less than a week later, the weather turned cold and foggy. I found myself in the kitchen with a mug of hot chocolate and craving this banana chocolate crumb cake. Sweltering hot days turned into a streak of chilly nights. 

The weather is back to normal over here, blazing hot and constantly sunny… But I’m still eating slices of this cake out of the freezer. 

Here’s how we make it. 

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Sweet Plum Lemonade

Fourth of July weekend seems like the perfect time to share this lemonade recipe. It’s an easy recipe, and the perfect thirst quencher on a hot afternoon. 

This lemonade is made with sweet-tart plums, sugar, water, and lemon. It’s a stunning bright red, and flavorful despite the simple preparation. 

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Apricot Cashew Yogurt Bowl

As promised, a yogurt bowl recipe. Truly effortless. Extremely simple.

A perfect way to use homemade yogurt. A healthy snack, and portable if you make it in a jar. 

If you saw my blood orange yogurt bowl recipe, you’ll see that this bowl works the same way– yogurt topped with fresh fruit, honey, and nuts. It’s a fail-proof formula, and one that barely requires a recipe.

This particular bowl– with homemade yogurt, apricots, and cashews– is my go-to late spring, early summer bowl. (I know it’s mid-summer now, but there are still apricots in the markets, so I’m going to say this recipe is still fair game.)

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How to Make Yogurt

How to Make Yogurt | Kitchen in the Hills

Last week, I was seriously stuck on inspiration for a blog post. I wanted to make something, and I wanted to blog about it. But I was running low on a lot of ingredients and didn’t have the time (or energy!) to make a run to the store. I looked into my fridge, and there I found my answer– a too-full carton of milk and a nearly-empty container of Greek yogurt. 

Could I culture yogurt myself? Could I do it in a way that was simple and stress free? And could I teach other people to do it, too? 

(The answers to the first two questions turned out to be “Yes!” The answer to the last one is for you to determine.)

How to Make Yogurt | Kitchen in the Hills

I know it seems like a lot could go wrong with yogurt– failed cultures, bad bacteria, sour milk. I’ve had a couple of yogurt fails myself, when I tried to culture yogurt in coconut milk, and then again when I tried it with nut milk. Did not work. 

But there’s a very simple method for yogurt-making that, when followed, yields beautiful and consistent results.

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Weekend Things

Succulents in a North Berkeley garden

{I caught a glimpse of these succulents next to the sidewalk on an early morning walk.}

There are some weeks when I have the time to cook a new recipe every night, or photograph a couple of posts in one long afternoon. This hasn’t been one of those weeks. I’ve been trying to eat simpler, healthier foods. Usually something I can make a batch of and stash in my fridge to grab-and-go later. But often something as simple as a protein bar or an egg and cheese sandwich on an english muffin. Which is to say, stuff that isn’t quite blog-worthy. 

In lieu of a recipe this week, here’s what I’ve been reading on the internet and dreaming of cooking up in my kitchen. 

This round up is going to be a long one, so links are after the jump!

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Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam

Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam | Kitchen in the Hills

If there’s one food item to look forward to in the summer, it’s the baskets of farm-fresh, ultra-ripe, extra sweet fruit at the farmers’ market. I’ve waiting for strawberries all season, and finally picked up a gorgeous basketful at the North Berkeley Farmers’ Market. I like using strawberries to fill and decorate cakes, or cooking them into pies of all kinds.

But there’s an even simpler preparation that yields great rewards. Jam.

Strawberry Thyme Quick Jam | Kitchen in the Hills

This method works with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, stone fruits… Just about any summer fruit works here. But I like strawberries the best, for their fresh flavor and texture. 

The simplest and easiest quick jams are just fruit and a little sugar, simmered together until done. You always can fancy-up your jams with all kinds of juices, spices, and flavorings. I chose to add lemon and thyme to my strawberry jam. (Strawberries + thyme are an unexpected flavor combo, but they’re total winners to me!)

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Challah

Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

Challah has long been one of my favorite breads. I first tried it after baking a loaf with a good friend several years ago. It was soft, springy, eggy, tender, and sweet. 

Challah | Kitchen in the Hills

This loaf is from Kamren Siddiqui’s Hand Made Baking. It’s a little less sweet, and a little more sturdy than your typical loaf of challah. It’s wonderful served plain with butter, but you can also toast it up and top it with an avocado or fried egg.

My current favorite topping is nutella. Can we talk about how freakin’ adorable these mini nutella cups are? 

Also, can we talk about how delightful Kamren’s writing is? I read his book cover-to-cover for the recipe descriptions and stories alone. Kamren effortlessly links food to memories, stories and emotions. You can read some of his writing on his blog, Sophisticated Gourmet. He’s a skilled baker, but he also has a knack for compelling storytelling. Go check it out.

On to the challah!

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Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

I’m always looking for interesting ways to add whole grains to my diet, and for filling dishes that feature raw vegetables. I love make-ahead meals for their ease and simplicity. And light lunches I can eat straight out of my fridge are the absolute best. I’ve been cooking big batches of grains lately, adding them to different meals throughout the week. When I finally realized that I could make tabbouleh with quinoa, I knew it would make it into my regular lunch rotation.

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern herb salad, traditionally made with parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, and cooked bulgur wheat, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. This version goes a little lighter on the herbs, skips the mint, adds in cucumber, and replaces bulgur with quinoa. Perhaps inauthentic, but delicious nonetheless. It’s still a parsley-heavy grain salad, and makes for a light summertime meal. 

Quinoa Tabbouleh | Kitchen in the Hills

It’s hard for me to say “no” to any meal that involves fresh, bright summer vegetables. 

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How to Cook Quinoa

Cooking quinoa should be pretty simple, right? Well, it is.

Quinoa is simple to prepare if you know how. It’s cooked like most other whole grains, in a pot of lightly salted water, with a 1:2 ratio of grain to water. 

But it took me a surprisingly long time to figure out how to make quinoa at home. The first few times, I skipped the rinsing step, thinking I was saving time. Turns out, quinoa is really bitter if it isn’t rinsed. You can also end up with bits of gravel or rock in your pot if you don’t rinse thoroughly. It’s also important to use just the right amount of water, and avoid under- or over-cooking.

After I figured those things out, I could make a pot of quinoa pretty easily, without even thinking about it. 

This post is a how-to for those of you who maybe haven’t made quinoa at home yet, and would like to avoid the mistakes I made. Here’s a primer on how to cook quinoa the right way. 

There will also be a recipe later this week featuring quinoa, so now is a good time to learn to cook it!

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