Posts Tagged ‘cabernet franc’

Natural yeasted Rabbit pizza with Castelveltrano olives and grapes

Well, now that I’ve confused everyone with my natural yeast quackery, lets make a pizza.

For this recipe, I was inspired by one of my favorite pasta recipe books, Pasta Sfoglia. This book is written by Ron and Colleen Suhanosky with Susan Simon and includes my inspiration on page107-The Cuscinetti, black olives, green grapes and parsley recipe on this page sounded great because of the bag of Vidal Blanc and Cabernet Franc grapes Neal gave me. I just tweeked it a bit using some goat cheese, flat leaf parsley and those beautiful bright green olives called Castelveltrano. They are brined when immature and are from the province of Trapani, (of the sea-salt fame.) The mellow unassuming taste of the olive will be a perfect foil for the grapes.


Ron has a new book out called “The Italian Table.” and has a great nack for finding the heart of flavor using simplicity and old-world common sense like his Whole wheat spagetti with cabbage, wild mushrooms, guanciale and caraway or combining juxtaposing flavors that meld together with the bridge of another ingredient like another spagetti dish- using shaved melon, basil, cracked black pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Thank you Ron, this pizza tasted great and…like Picasso said, “Good artists borrow but GREAT artists steal.”

Let’s roll another pie out now. I go to the French World Pizza Championships in Paris tomorrow, so this has to be a fast one.

For the Dough:

Set aside one seven ounce dough ball (from the natural yeast dough recipe on this blog…last one to be exact.)  to use after the olive/grape sauce is made.


For the sauce: Slice one bunch each of the Vidal Blanc and Cabernet Frank grapes, deseed only if you haven’t had coffee. Cut a handful of Castleveltrano olives around the pit. This will mimic the sliced grapes.


Chop one clove of garlic into a fine dice, add to a pan on medium high heat with one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for four minutes or until the garlic is just starting to brown. Add the olives and toss frequently for three minutes, then add the grapes and cook for another three minutes. Do not overcook this, you are only melding the flavors.

Place into a bowl and add one tablespoon of Dijon mustard. Stir and set aside.


For the Rabbit: Select tenderloins from your butcher or farmer if possible. (ask for some fat too, this will add a tremendous amount of flavor and help in the cooking. If you cannot obtain tenderloin then two loins will suffice. Place the fat in the pan first and cook on medium high heat until just crisp. Salt and eat or discard.

Saute the tenderloin on medium high until just browned on each side. Cooking should be determined by a “rare” look. Remember, you will be cooking these on a pizza soon.

 For the pizza: preheat the oven to 485 degrees and place an upturned, heavy cookie sheet or pizza stone on the middle shelf.


Make a disc from the dough ball. Add a creamy goat cheese like this French Soignon then some chopped parsley to the dough.


Add the rabbit and place into the oven to cook for 12 to 15 minutes or until the crust is nice, brown and charred in places. The cheese should be melted and rabbit now medium to medium rare. Perfect!

Bring out of the oven and place the sauce atop the rabbit. Eat with the knowlege that you are creating the full circle of life and death. The rabbit ate the grapes, the grapes told you they didn’t like the rabbit, so you killed the rabbit and because no one likes a ratfink, you killed the grapes also. The parsley, goat cheese and olives were snitches so they had to go also! That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. 

See you in Paris!  AND thank you Neal and Oui at Shade Winery, you guys are awesome!

Naturally leavened pizza dough from Shade Winery grapes

It was harvest time at Shade Winery a few weeks ago and Neal Dix had invited me for a visit. Needless to say, I think he regretted it.

“So these are chardonnay?”

“No John, for the last time, those are Vidal Blanc grapes.”

“And the purple ones are Shriaz?”

“Jeeez dude, no. I’ve told you twice, those are Cabernet FRANC.”

  I knew I was stressing Neal out. But I was overwhelmed at the amount of grapes this guy is raising. Neal is a fabulous guy who is sooooo into his craft that I get inspired every time I talk to him and don’t feel so bad as a self-described “Pizza obsessive.”  I just keep messing up with my stupid questions like last month when I asked, “So Neal what kinda grapes ya growin’ this year?” That set him off on a quick but focused tutorial on how long grape vines take to mature and how stupid I was for thinking they grew like tomatoes.


 Shade Winery location is fabulous because it sits on a high finger ridge above the Shade River just outside of Athens, Ohio but being there makes you feel like you are in the hills of the Emiglia Romagna in Italy.


The winery has been open for eight years and Neal and his wonderful wife Oui have built a beautiful tasting and banquet facility in the winery itself. It’s from here that you can sip a wonderful glass of Vidal Blanc or Ohio Chambourcin while listening to a great band or just mellow out and watch the grapes grow fat and the hawks and turkey buzzards fly high on the thermals overhead.


 (Left) is the Cabernet Franc grape and (right) is the Vidal Blanc grape from Shade Winery.

Here is Neal in a very interesting video explaining the art of the grape!

 I asked why some of the grapes were missing the bottoms. Neal said the rabbits can just barely get to the last sweet orbs. Check out this damage in the pics below. He didn’t seemed too concerned about it but this activity gave me a great idea for a pizza.


So, whatta ya thing of a  little bunny payback with some Harmony Hollow rabbit for this pizza. It’s the perfect circular way of life. The rabbits eat the grape and we eat the rabbit. Yum.


Shade Winery is such a fun place to visit. Neal and Oui have started a fabulous sustainable business from mountainside and a great idea. I encourage everyone to visit and taste thier fabulous wines. Now, I’ve gotta get started on a pizza. First, I have to harvest the yeast from the grapes.

Let’s get on with harvesting the natural yeast from the Vidal Blanc and Cabernet Franc grapes: Day 1


Fill a container with non-chlorinated spring water, add 2 bunches of grapes.


Crush another bunch of grapes into the water. This will introduce sugars that the yeast will feed upon. Cover and place in a warm place for three to five days depending upon the heat. (I covered this because of the unnatural yeast floating around my pizzeria, but you can place with a cheesecloth in a home kitchen.) Anything over 70 degrees should only take three days. When a film of gnarly looking bubbles that resembles pond scum forms on the water, you have active yeast forming.


Day three (left.) and Day four (right.)


Day 4:  Strain the liquid into a new container and take one cup of the yeasty liquid and add two cups baking flour as this has more protein than all-pourpose flour.


Leave the first feeding to sit for 24 hours, you should see some small activity happening with bubbles appearing on the surface by the next day. If you don’t, just wait, this first feeding may take some time. When definate yeast feeding activity is taking place, take 50% of the mix out and in a new container, add double the amount of that mix in flour to the mix and enough water to make a slurry (like a thick pancake batter.) Leave for another 24 hours. The activity will be noticably stronger now after the third day with flour. Now is time to use the 80/20 method- take 80 percent of the active slurry out of the mix and replace with 80 percent new flour and enough water to make that thick batter again. After another 12 hours do this again. By this time the starter will be incredibly active and it is time to slow the starter down to develop the wheaty characteristic that any dough needs. I usually place in the fridge for 24 hours to retard the yeast and concentrate the flavor. When I took the starter out, I fed it one final time using more flour this time to make a more doughy starter…kinda like taking 80% out and adding 100% of flour back to the 20% starter.

 The starter will look like a frenzy of activity and some sort of cheese and smell like a fruity drink with just a tinge of alcohol. If it is too alcohol smelling, feed it again using more flour and wait 5 to 10 hours.


 After that final feeding, I waited 12 hours,then took four ounces of the starter and put it in a bowl with one cup of high protein flour (bread flour will suffice,) and three-quarters cup of water,

 It was just a little mushy as I mixed so I added a sprinkling more of flour and one teaspoon salt. That was it, my final mix. I covered the bowl and let it sit in my walk-in overnight to develop flavor and retard the growth of the yeast. In the morning, I took it and placed it near my pizza oven at about 75 degrees to let it double in size which took about 4 hours. (yes, natural yeast without the help of malt rises slooooooowwwwly.)


When I got to it, It weighed about 15 ounces and I cut it in half, then balled it back up and put it back in the bowl with a cover and set it back near the oven. After 2 more hours, I formed a disc.

 Now, it all starts here! Wait till the next pizza  post when I put this bodacious dough to make a fab pie.


First, Do you remember all the starter I supposedly tossed out from our 80/20 discard? Well, I hate to throw anything away so I made a giant batch of starter and fed and fed with no refrigeration at all. I then made some great mini ciabatta for my friends at the Fur Peace Ranch, (above) and added some local spelt, dried cherry and walnuts for some wonderful couronnes, (below.)


Natural yeast is everywhere. If you have a little patience and water and flour you can raise your own bread or pizza dough easily.