Thursday, May 2, 2013

Meet Amy!

I was born in Okinawa to a military family. When my father was discharged, we ended up settling in Idaho. My love of food came from being in a family that had no interest in cooking or eating well. I thought dry, chewy pork chops and overcooked green beans were normal. Then one day, I actually discovered how food was supposed to taste. That was a revelation! Properly prepared food could taste fantastic!

I took my first job, as a semi-grown up, in a pizza place waiting tables. Since I was having difficulty making ends meet, it made sense to work in a place that would also feed me. Entering into adulthood, I worked in better places and I learned that you could turn ordinary food into wonderful creations. I gravitated towards the pastry side of cooking, and I studied and created desserts at home until I was able to do it well enough to make a living.

I worked at a food court on an Air Force Base for more than 5 years. I started as a food service worker, and within a year, I became an assistant manager of the food court. After I had, almost single-handedly, opened a new store in the food court, I was sent to school where I got a Culinary Management degree. Later on, I helped manage all the stores in the food court. Eventually, I ended up working in fine dining. I was really proud of the accomplishment and finally realized how far I had come. I'm not working in the field right now, but I hope to get back in that crazy world soon.

37 Cooks has helped me to learn even more and to push myself to try different foods that I hadn't tried before. I get tons of encouragement and help when I need it, and in return, I hope I have been able to help other cooks with their questions as well.

Detroit-style Pizza

It doesn't really define my style of cooking, but pizza is something I make on a regular basis, and this style is currently my favorite.

14 ounces lukewarm water (105-110F)
2 teaspoons yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 -4 1/2 cups flour
vegetable oil

Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a large mixing bowl; let sit for about 10 minutes. 

Tip: The mixture should become foamy and bubbly. If it doesn't, that means either the water is too hot or your yeast is bad. This step is handy because you know before you make your dough if it's not working properly, and you can easily start over without having to waste an hour before finding out.

Add 3 1/2 cups flour and the salt and knead in a stand mixer for about ten minutes. If it's too wet (sticky), add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you get a soft dough. If it's a little wet is fine, but you need to be able to handle it without it sticking to your hands.

Brush two 8" x 10" pans with vegetable oil and press half the dough into each pan. You can use a more standard 9" x 13" pan; that will make one pizza that will be larger and thicker. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about an hour, or until almost doubled in size. Meanwhile, make the sauce.

1 15-ounce can pureed tomatoes
1 teaspoon each: basil, oregano, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon each: salt, pepper, and minced garlic
1 bay leaf

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer over low to medium-low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool.

Once the dough has risen, punch it back down, leaving the edges untouched, and let it rise again for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Top the pizza with toppings of your choice, then sprinkle with about 1 cup of shredded mozzarella and 1 cup of shredded cheddar, making sure that you get the edges of the pizza covered as well. Drizzle about a cup of the sauce in three or four lines across the pizza. I usually sprinkle a little extra cheese on top of that as well. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, until the cheese is browned and the pizza is fully cooked.

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