Posts Tagged ‘Rich Organic Gardens’

Junior Chefs School and “Pasta-goon”

Just a few weeks ago, my uber-chef (and General Manager of Avalanche Pizza) Joel Fair and I enjoyed a hot afternoon at Junior Chefs School run by the fabulous Sarah Conley-Warbler and Kip Parker, manager of the Athens Farmers Market. This is a monthly school set up for local kids to learn from different chefs in the area (and even from pizza guys.)  Our target on this day was pasta, or as I like to call it “Eggy pizza dough that takes a dip in a Turkish bath.” (That tagline hasn’t quite caught on yet.)

First we made a well of of ONE CUP OF FLOUR AND CRACKED TWO EGGS IN IT.

We had made some examples of pasta including Taglioline, gargonelli, fettucini, squid ink and saffron carmelli, Rigatoni etc.

These kids were great learners and wonderful to work with. They caught on beautifully and, with the direction of Sarah, mastered the art of pasta.


 Then we passed the pasta dough through an Italian Pasta Machine to make it thin.

Cutting the pasta into Linguine and Fettuchini was done with the pasta machine and a Ciatarra, an italian metal-stringed intrument especially designed for making pasta.

That’s the ciatarra at the bottom of the above picture.

 Some junior chefs made some very long fettuchini that stretched almost three feet long.

 We were ready with food to add to our fresh pasta like (Clockwise from left) Integration Acres goat feta, local pattypan squash, local Bordeaux spinach from Rich Organic Gardens, imported Parmigiano Reggiano and at the bottom some Bottarga di Muggine, or salted and flattened grey mullet roe from Sardinia which tastes just like Beluga Caviar and is heaven atop pasta.

 Local tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil was the favorite with extra virgin olive oil and salt.


 Thanks to Kip Parker and his pasta rig,  we were able to cook a tremendous amount of pasta “ala minute.”

 The kids ate so much, Joel and I had to scramble to make more for the vendors at the market.

 It was so rewarding to see the abundant smiles of the self-made pasta makers as they slurped away. Thank you Sarah Conley, Kip Parker and all the Junior Chefs.

This kids pasta recipe is simple,  straightfoward, easy to remember and it works!

1 cup flour  (with a little more reserved on the side)

Two eggs

Pinch salt

Make a well in the middle of the pile of flour on a strong, smooth countertop. Add salt. Break the eggs into the well and using the fingertips of your best hand (hand #1), break the yolks and mix with the whites and circle the fingers slowly in a small circle. Using the other hand like a “Karate Chop” (hand #2) or a dough scraper push little amounts of the flour into the middle of the well and keep mixing around and around with fingers of hand #1.


Keep going around in a small circle in the middle of the well and incorporating the flour with the help of the Karate hand. Use the Karate (#2) to keep all the flour in a small an area as possible.

Take your time as the flour and dough will seem to not combine. Keep going pushing the flour and dough together, as the chunk gets harder use hand #1 to grip the mass like a baseball and squeeze, then push against the table picking up all the loose flour.  Take both  hands and rub together slowly to drop all the loose pasta and push into the ball.

The pasta should be formed in a hocky puck so keep folding the dough over and over. If it is too dry add a very small amount of water, if too wet add small amount of flour.

Once hocky puck is formed put it in saran wrap for at least 30 minutes to let the gluten strands rest.

After it has rested, it is time to roll the dough with a pasta roller of with a rolling pin.

Morel Mushroom and Spring Garlic Pizza


O.K., I admit it, I am a fanatic for Bellwether Farms cheeses.  I saved some of  thier fabulous crescenza from my exploits in Italy just in time for morel mushroom season! It’s also time for the farmers to start trimming the tops in thier garlic fields, life cannot connect the culinary dots any better than this!


The older I get, the more I notice that when it comes to really fabulous pizza, perfection is more easily obtained with great ingredients and simplicity. The Bellwether Crescenza has matured from it’s creamy, young state and has become more tart, assertive and lemony with that hard to duplicate coastal nuance from the California breezes. The Italian Fontina I will pair with this creamy cheese will add a textural mouth chew and allow the light morels to stay afloat atop this melting cream.  This pizza is simple and is gonna rock, and, because of new technology, you can now just lick the screen and taste the perfect springtime pizza. (I’ll wait.)**


This year there is a bumper crop of morels here in southeast Ohio. They are as thick in the woods as fleas on a tick, (or is it ticks on a flea.)  The rain and mild climate are making the asparagus bolt faster and the mushrooms are poppin’ as fast as people can pick ’em. I’ve pried myself away from Athens, Ohio and  Avalanche Pizza long enough to make this pie and this entry.


Here is my recent cache of grey and blonde morels. For scale I  included a Star Wars laser pistol (with silencer, of course.)

It’s too bad that the State of Ohio has issued a decree that any and all wild mushrooms are off limits for me to prepare for my customers. This level of absurdity even covers morels, which do not look like any other mushroom at all. They have no poison twin sister out there that even looks like a real morel.


 Instead, (this is the hilarious part) I have to buy morel mushrooms from China, and; guess what? They grow wild there and are harvested, dried, put in bags and sold to large food conglomerates to ship to Ohio. This is a perfect example of the level of  corruption in our food system under the guise of “making food safer.” Our wonderful corporate barons have slowly eroded our culinary knowledge about wild things and have even lobbied governments to make it illegal to sell any food made from nature. But enough of the rant, lets eat a great freakin’ pie from the forest and the field!


Close up of the grey morel on the left and the coveted blonde morel on the right.

Garlic tops are the tops of the garlic plant that get cut off to facilitate a larger bulb in the ground. Rich Tomsu has graciously given me boatloads of this glorious and pungent plant. The tops, when ground up, present a smooth mellow garlic tang unlike a raw bulb. I love to pair this with cashews (the roasted, salted kind) and extra virgin olive oil.


Here is Rich Tomsu of Rich Organic Gardens. He’s one of the most dedicated farmers I’ve met. That’s a garlic top that wasn’t trimmed on the right. Looks for all the world like some psycho-orchid.


Make two, seven-ounce dough ballsl from the Easy Dough Recipe on this blog. Put one in the freezer unless you are making two pies.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a pizza stone or heavy cookie sheet upside-down on the middle rack.



Six to eight garlic tops

Two ounces roasted salted cashews

Six tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Three ounces Fontina cheese

Five ounces Bellweather Farms Crescenza cheese

Five large morel mushrooms or up to 10 smaller ones

Just a splash of black truffle oil


 Chop the garlic tops into very small rounds as close to a chiffinade cut as possible. (this prevents a stringyness to occur in the pesto.) Place in a food processor, pestle or a glass container (if using an immersion blender) with the olive oil, cashews and a pinch of salt. Blend on high until  nice and viscous like above.


Bang out the dough ball as prescribed in the Easy Dough method to create a 10 to 12 inch round disc.


Place the Crescenza then the Fontina on the dough disc.


Slice the morels lengthwise and create a starburst pattern, cut the last one horizontally creating hollow rounds, place this in the middle of the pizza. Sprinkle with black truffle oil for a spectacular taste.


Place the pesto on and slice into the hot, preheated oven for 10 to 14 minutes until golden brown along the edges and more brown on the bottom.

Serve immediately.

** Oh, after you clean the saliva off your screen, I have a great website for great desert acreage in the Sahara.