Posts Tagged ‘larry cowdery’

Nama-Yuba Pizzette

This is a great pizza appetizer that pairs the sweet balsamic-macerated strawberries I’ve sourced from Vest Berries and Cowdery Farms with local burdock pickles, New Zealand spinach and the luscious aged chevre from Integration Acres. It is also gluten-free and wheat-free thanks to a yuba base proving again that great pizza can take on all forms, shapes, tastes and profiles.  Vive la difference!

Yuba has been used in Japan for a thousand years in a variety of forms. It is the skin that accumulates on the top of almost-boiling soy milk. Most yuba is still made in mom and pop shops in Japan, Korea and China and sold in dried sheets or cut up in many different forms. It is a delicacy in Japan, especially when freshly made, (Nama-yuba,) or in shojin ryori, (Buddists monks vegetarian cooking.) The dried stuff is usually used in broths and soups and is the specialty of Kyoto in the kaiseki tea ceremony 

The taste of fresh yuba, (besides tasting of soya-daaaaa,) is delicatley sweet like a cross of fresh cream and mild cheese. It has an egglike texture and I get subtle hints of tapioca and far-off malt. The best thing about yuba is that it is higher in protein than any soy product and is low in calories with no cholesterol. A super food indeed.

Lately, some great chefs are incorporating yuba in thier menu-mix. Nobuyuki Matsuhisa of Nobu fame makes yuba-wrapped tofu, yuba shashimi and even a yuba sauce with kudzu powder as a thickening agent. There are also chefs creating yuba-skin-like variants like Renee Redzepi, Chef and Co-Founder of Noma restuarant in Copenhagen and one of the most innovative chefs on the planet. He uses cream, milk protein and full-fat milk to make his delicious “Milk Skin” and rolls it like a small stromboli in his Musk ox, fresh young garlic, milk skin and carmelized garlic recipe and his pairing of milk skin with salsify, rapeseed and truffle puree looks spectacular- I’ve yet to find truffles around here but there’s still hope to try that one.

 Making yuba yourself is one helluva experience. It’s like the proverbial joke about hiking way up into the mountains to find the old monk to tell you the meaning of life and when you get there, he tells you that true happiness lies only in the climbing. The time it takes to make a single sheet of yuba is, at first, traumatizing for someone like me with no time on thier hands and a penchant for immediate pizza gratification. Each sheet takes about seven to eleven minutes to solidify atop the steaming soy bath and as you pull each of the crepe-like sheets out, the temptation to spritz with soy sauce and gorge the yuba in one bite becomes quite annoying.

On my nama-yuba pizzette is a cheese called “Griffins Dream” made by my friend Chris Schmiel, owner of Integration Acres. It is an aged chevre, (or creamy goat cheese,) in the Sainte-Maure tradition. On top of the cheese, I’ve selected the crunchy New Zealand spinach, or “Kokihi” in the Maori language. This is my favorite green in the hot days of summer and I usually use it with juicy summer tomato salads because the crunch of the leaf and vine hold up strongly when drenched in juice. The fresh strawberries are from Rick Vest, a great farmer who owns Vest berries (as well as the spinach.) These brilliant red gems are macerated in sugar and balsamic vinegar and topped with some burdock, (gobo in Japanese,) pickled in soy sauce and maple syrup.


Burdock grows wild around Ohio like crazy probably because people “round “ere” don’t eat it. I got a huge load from the Amish in Chesterhill who were weeding thier asparagus patch. They only use the burdock as a poltice for healing and thought I was crazy for wanting to eat it. It was first introduced to Japan from China and is also used in herbal medicine. It’s main nutritional content is sugar but it’s also high in fiber and calcium. Wild mountain burdock is smaller than regular gobo and is called Yamagobo. It is Japans most popular commercial variety of miso pickle  and is parboiled, salted, pressed for a few days, air-dried then embedded in red miso for one to three years-yum!

Finally… lets get on with this pizzette Holmes!

For the burdock pickle: (3 days out)

One medium sized burdock root

4 cups water for brine

1 cup salt for brine

1/4 cup water for pickling juice

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons maple syrup


Wash the burdock root and trim the edges. Scrape the outer edges with a potato peeler and cut into three to four inch batons. Place baton on cutting board trim the outer edge of the burdock using the burdock ring as a guide. Inside the  ring is what we are using. Cut down the length of the baton halving the root then slice very thin matchsticks. Cut them in two to end up with one to one and a half inch sticks.


Mix the water and salt for the brine mixture and stir until disolved. Place all the cut burdock in the brine for two days. Take out and strain. Place the pickling water, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and the maple syrup in a pan and bring to a boil. Add burdock and turn off heat. Leave on the stovetop to cool down. When cool place in the refrigerator for two days.

For the Nama-yuba:

5 to 7 cups soymilk


You will need a large cast iron skillet filled with one inch of water and a gas-burning oven, (electric will never hold the temp at 175 degrees.) Find another pan and fill with the soymilk. Test that the upper pan will sit inside the cast iron skillet water like a double boiler without overflow and turn the oven on high. Using a thermometer (only stick it on the side of the soymilk pan) wait until the temperature reaches 175 degrees and turn the gas up or down as needed. I’ve found that constant vigilance is needed. Do not let the soymilk come to a boil. If the soymilk is higher than 175, no skin will form. As the skin forms, take a chopstick and dip it into some water so it won’t stick too badly, (it will stick,) to the skin, (I used some olive oil on the chopstick.) The skin will start to stick to the side of the pan so you have to take a small knife and gently cut loose the sticking skin.


Now is the moment of truth. After 7 to 10 minutes, the skin will seem sufficiently thick for a “pull.” You can use your finger to test the raft and see if any side sticking is occuring and to see how thick it is. When you are ready, push the chopstick under the middle of the raft horizontally and try to reach the other side of the pan. Pulling the chopsick up, you will see the skin fold in on itself. Some really great yuba makers grab it on the edge for a true round yuba, (good luck with that!) hold the skin up and let drip for a minute then place on parchment. Repeat this processs eight times laying layers on each other to produce a pizza round.


The skin will be somewhat wet and you can dab with a paper towel  to dry it. Place another piece of parchment on top of the yuba and start other prep. Congratulations!

For the strawberries:

15 strawberries

1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


Place the stawberries in a bowl and dump the sugar on them. Wait 15 minutes tossing the fruit every minute to coat then add the balsamic. After another 15 minutes the juices will be oozing out. Take the stawberries and cut each in half.

For the New Zealand spinach:

1/4 cup spinach

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

pinch salt

splash balsamic vinegar


Take the buds and leaves from the spinach and add to the hot olive oil for only five seconds then place on a plate to cool and add a pinch of salt and a small splash of balsamic vinegar.

Final pizzette assembly:


 Gently take the yuba round and place in the oiled pan from the spinach saute’ on medium high heat. Wait only five seconds and gently flip. This is only to warm the yuba up and it may be difficult to turn so be careful. After the flip, place the cheese, spinach and strawberries on the yuba and slide onto a plate.

Place the burdock matchsticks on the pizzette and gobble it up like I did.



Veal Sweetbread Pizza


Man oh man, do I love sweetbreads.  “Holy cow” is what I thought last week I was peeking at the great meats at Sunny Mead Farms run by Richard and Tanya Jeffers. A pack of sweetbreads it was. I held it in hand and almost drooled on my shirt. Sweetbread pizza bounced around my cranium (not much to stop it) for days before I had the guts to do this.

Well, even if you are disgusted at the thought of eating a thymus gland from a small bovine, let me ask you this: How many cows anuses have you consumed in the past year? Ears? Lips? Snouts? I’ll tell you now, (because Hormel won’t) that it all depends on how many pepperoni’s you’ve had on your pizzas.

Sweetbreads have been a wonderful treat for centuries. The Italians call them “animelle,”  and after the usual immersion in water or broth, are coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and fried. The Northern Italians liberal use of cream and truffles add to the sensuous crunch and mellow flavor of this offal.

 At Chez Maxim’s in 1900’s Paris, two stellar dishes of sweetbreads, the Ris De Veau A La Paoise included the old-style cooking of the whole sweetbread in a loaf presentation that accomodated six diners who enjoyed this offal paired with butter (go figure,) ham, eggs and lemon. Called a “Plat de resistance,” by the Maitre d’ Hotel, Mr. Cornuche’, it was just as popular as the Ris De Veau Aux Petits Pois that was blanketed with a sauce of salt pork, onions, vinegar, carrots butter and boullion blanc then surrounded by fresh peas. To the south in Madrid Spain, the approach to the sweetbread is much simpler with the Mollejas Salteadas sauteeing a smaller diced version with breadcrumbs in olive oil, garlic parsley and onion.

My own affinity with sweetbreads came when I was a dining room Captain at the fabulous French Restauarant, Le Ciel Bleu in Chicago. I salavated watching guests nibble on sweatbreads with a lemon buerre blanc (butter sauce.) Our chef also had a little twist of gently placing a small salad of watercress, celery leaves and thinly sliced nectarine in the center for a crunchy-sweet juxtaposition as foil to the cream. 

So here is my sweetbread pizza. It has some great components compiled for maximum enjoyment. The Creamy Fontina is topped with the local peppery bacon from King Family Farm and crunchy celery. These flavors counterbalance the sweet pepper from Cowdery Farms and nectarine from Gillogly Farms. The little crisp-sourness of the watercress and celery leaf finishes this pie well, especially with the splash of Balsamico.

For the Sweetbread offal.

1 Veal or young cows thymus gland

Water to cover


Take the whole gland and rinse very well. Place in a large bowl of cold water for one hour, drain and fill with cold water again waiting another hour. Drain the water and add new water and place in a refrigerator overnight.


Remove from the water and place in a pot of water that just covers the sweetbread. Turn the heat on high and wait for it to boil. Leave in boiling water for two minutes. Drain the hot water off and place into a ice-cold water bath to cool. Drain them again.


Using a sharp knife cut and pull off any excess membrane or fat from the sweetbreads.


Cut the enlogated part of the thymus off and use the round portion. Cut this into smaller lobes.



Place these small lobes onto parchment paper on a tray. Put parchment over them followed by another tray. Place a weight on the upper tray compressing the lobes to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cool and compress in refrigerater overnight.


Pressed sweetbread chunks ready for cooking.

For the Pizza:


 1 tablespoon olive oil

Seven small lobes from the round thymus gland prepared above.

Salt and Pepper sprinkled on the sweetbread

2 strips peppered bacon cut into small squares

1 stalk celery

1/2 lemon

3/4 cup Fontina Cheese

1/2 cup roasted yellow (Toro) peppers

One nectarine

A few sprigs of watercress and celery leaves

Preheat your oven to 485, using either a pizza stone or heavy bottomed cookie sheet upside down. Using the Easy dough recipe, make a seven ounce round dough and press it out.


Turn heat on high and add olive oil. Season sweetbreads with salt and pepper. Just before oil smokes, place the sweetbreads in the pan until lightly browned (2 minutes) then turn and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Pull and reserve to cool.    


Saute bacon in pan on medium-high heat until just starting to crisp. Add celery and saute for 2 minutes. Place on plate and squeeze half the lemon on the celery bacon mix.


Slice nectarine and grate cheese.


Place Fontina, bacon, celery, peppers on the pie skin. Load the pizza in the oven using the bottom of another cookie sheet dusted with semolina or cornmeal for easy transfer.


Slice the sweetbreads in half and ready all other ingredients for the oven. Wait ten minutes or until the pizza just starts to brown, then carefully place each piece of sweetbread around the pie. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes longer. The sweetbread will be crispy on the outside and luscious in the middle.


Place nectarines, celery leaves and watercress on pie and spritz with some Balsamic Vinegar. serve immediately.