>> Sunday, October 17, 2010
My family has always loved traveling. Even though my parents were incredible frugal with everything else, we somehow always could afford plane tickets to fly to various parts of the world. Heck, my paternal grandfather founded what became the largest travel agency in Taiwan. When you have something like that in your lineage, you know you're destined to travel.
To this day, the travel bug has never left me, and I'm always wondering what trip to take next.
The next round in Project Food Blog is to create our own interpretation of pizza. I decided to take this opportunity to reflect upon the last decade or so of travel and express those trips by creating the flags of the countries I have visited as pizzas.
Now mind you, I do mostly Asian cooking (although Bryan does have an affinity for fresh pasta, so I do make lots of various pasta dishes). Nevertheless, I have never ever made pizza before.
Pizza dough is easy enough to make, ha ha, if you have a bread machine, which I do.
Just throw in water, oil, flour, salt, sugar, and yeast into the machine (in that order), set the machine to "dough only cycle," and before you know it, out pops some pizza dough. Of course, you can also purchase pizza dough, either from the supermarket or your favorite pizzeria. You'd be surprised to learn that they are often willing to sell the dough for a very reasonable price.
Silly me, I thought you had to toss the pizza dough and magically stretch it in this laborious way.
So Not true. Rolling out with a rolling pin works just fine.
In fact, it's a lot easier to control the shape of the pizza dough that way, which was important for me, since I needed rectangles for my flags.
You don't need a pizza stone, but it really makes the pizza taste so much better. It's best to heat the pizza stone in the oven for about 30 minutes at 450 to 500 °F before putting the pizzas onto the stone. After that, bake for about 10-12 minutes.
It's really surprisingly simple. And you can totally use your creativity for the toppings - heh, just like the way I did in creating these pizzas. I tried my best to incorporate bits of each country's actual cuisine into the pizzas (in some cases easier than others).
Sooooo . . . without any further adieu, allow me to take you on a short, virtual tour of my travels in the form of pizza flags!
I grew up about an hour's drive from Windsor, Canada, so my family went there frequently to shop for Asian groceries and eat good Chinese dim sum. However, my most memorable trip to Canada was a family trip to the Canadian Rockies in 1998. This is seriously one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The scenery is breathtaking, especially the soaring mountains and the unusually turquoise water.
Canadian Rockies, Canada
This pizza takes an ordinary pepperoni pizza and jazzes it up by caramelizing the maple-leaf shaped pepperonis with maple syrup in a toaster oven. The red sauce on the side is a simple tomato, butter, and onion sauce. Feel free to use your favorite tomato sauce recipe.
The United Kingdom
I visited London for the first time back in 1999 when my college a cappella group went to work with a Chinese church in London for a week. I have fond memories exchanging cultural ideas with those Chinese Christians in London.
This pizza is a play on "Bangers and Mash," a British dish I learned about during that trip. The pizza sits on base of purple mashed potatoes ("mash"), and has strips of sausage ("bangers") as the red stripes. Thinly sliced mozarella cheese act as the white part of the flag.
Bryan and I spent our honeymoon in Rome, Venice, and Florence. We enjoyed absolutely fantastic food in Italy, and learned how good, fresh ingredients can really make simple dishes shine. This pizza is inspired by the classic Italian salad Insalate Caprese (tomato, basil, and fresh mozarella). In this case, instead of using basil, I have added peppercress, a pungent and fragrant green that adds a lovely bite to the pizza.
A rooftop champagne toast in Venice, Italy
I studied French in high school and have always loved the beautiful language. For a special milestone birthday, Bryan and I spent a week in Paris, staying right on the grounds of Versaille. It was in Paris where I first discovered my love for the Pierre Hermes Ispahan macaron.
This simple French flag pizza comprises fresh tomato slices, fresh mozzarella cheese, and mashed blue potatoes. The flavors are simple yet delicious when you use high quality, fresh ingredients. For a taste of France, you can incorporate a strong blue cheese into the mashed potatoes for a more unique flavor.
Bryan’s family loves to camp at national parks, and I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of seeing some of these beautiful parks with his family ever since we got married.
This USA flag contains blue potato slices, mozzarella cheese, and a simple red tomato sauce. The stars are sprinklings of feta cheese. For an alternative way, you can use a base of mozarella cheese and then make the red stripes using bacon.
Kyubei in Tokyo (my favorite sushi place!)
Of course, my parents are from Taiwan, so I went to Taiwan frequently as a child. My favorite foods in Taiwan? Traditional Taiwanese breakfast, shaved ice, and dumplings! I gave this pizza an Asian twist by blending roasted red peppers and “spiking” the mixture with Sriracha sauce to create a spicy and sweet base sauce. The blue portion is mashed blue potatoes, and the “sun” is a sliced mushroom.
Ice Monster, Taipei Taiwan
So that's it! I have hardly touched every country I've visited, but at least I've taken you to visit some of them, albeit brief! Thank you so much for joining me on this journey around the world in the form of pizzas!
Thank you so much for those of you who voted for me the last several rounds. This blog entry is my submission for The Next Food Blog Star’s fifth challenge: Pizza! If you are so inclined, please vote for this entry. Thanks so much for your support!