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Wonders of the World

Wonders of the World: the podcast that visits the great places on Earth to tell the story of our people, our civilization, and our planet.
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Now displaying: March, 2018

Please visit the show's official page at wonderspodcast.com

Mar 27, 2018

We who are about to podcast salute you! Titus comes back for one more round as he unveils his father's masterpiece: the Flavian Amphitheater, a.k.a. the Colosseum. The stadium on which all future stadia have been based is a magnificent creation, site of gladiatorial combat, public executions, and emperors giving thumbs up and thumbs down.

Dr Peta Greenfield of the Partial Historians podcast drops by to talk about Vespasian, Titus, and the gladiators themselves.  We discuss visiting Rome, gorging on gelato, and the joys of exploring the living city.

The recipe is bruschetta, the perfect appetizer of which you've probably only had disappointing versions.  Not this time, my friends.  Not this time.  Salvete!

Mar 24, 2018

Can you make this classic Neapolitan pie at home?  No.  No you cannot.  You don’t have Neapolitan flour, Vesuvian tomatoes, Campanian water, fresh mozzarella from Italian buffaloes… or a dome-shaped wood-fired brick oven.

So whatcha gonna do?

Well…  You can improvise. 

I like to grill my pizza in the summer - which gives a nice char and crisp but still provides a good chew.  But it’s not Neapolitan.

To replicate the Neapolitan experience, you’ll need your oven.  It won’t BE Neapolitan.  Your oven can’t get up to a Vesuvius-like 700 degrees, so it will never be the same. But it can be delicious.  So step one is getting a pizza stone.  Now, I hate the concept of buying a giant piece of rock that you’ll rarely use and will take up space in your house. But you can actually use a pizza stone for all sorts of other thing that you’d like to bake or roast.  A pizza stone is just a slab of rock or ceramic that absorbs heat from the oven and provides that heat to whatever you’re roasting in a nice even, consistent way.  Better than an aluminum baking sheet, anyway.  So get one, but remember, have it in the oven as your preheat.  If you put it in after you’ve preheated, it will crack, as both pizza stones I have ever owned have done because I’m an idiot.

OK. So dough. Flour, salt, yeast, and water.  But not just any flour.  It has to be type 0 or type 00 Italian flour, which are very finely milled flours, so they are super powdery, almost like baby powder.  You can find this at specialty groceries, or you can substitute all-purpose flour, if needs be.

Mix up the flour with salt, water and yeast. Knead it up, divide into a couple of balls, cover and let them rest overnight in the fridge.  So no, this isn’t a spur-o-the-moment thing. 

Put the stone in the oven and preheat it to full hot for an hour.  Flour a surface and stretch out the dough with your hands.  Don’t twirl it over your head unless you’re an expert or comfortable with having floor dirt in your pizza.  Get nice and thin so you can almost see through it.

Sauce is next.  You can get canned San Marzano tomatoes at many stores, although note that a lot of canned tomatoes claim to be San Marzano without actually being San Marzano, so double-check.  Just puree the tomatoes to make the sauce, with a smidge of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  That’s it.  And DON’T USE MUCH.

Next: fresh mozzarella.  Again, quality matters.  If you can’t get the buffalo mozz, cow’s milk will do, but it has to be good. Get it in the fancy cheese section, not in the dairy case in the back.  And make sure you drain it, if it’s packed in water.  You do NOT want that extra moisture, unless you like soggy pizza.  Slice some thin slices and plop them on the sauce.  Again, NOT TOO MUCH.

And then scatter a few pieces of torn basil leaves on top.  Some people leave their leaves whole, other like a fine chiffonade.  Whatever.  I like torn pieces, but the key is 4 to 5 leaves per pie.  That’s it.

Use a pizza peel, which is a pizza-size super-thin spatula, to move the pie onto the stone.  Cook for 6 to 8 minutes and buon appetito!

Wait.  Drizzle some good olive oil on top at the end.  Then buon appetito.

Serves 4-ish

INGREDIENTS

  • 306 grams 00 flour (2 cup plus 2 tablespoon)
  • 8 grams fine sea salt (1 teaspoon)
  • 2 grams active dry yeast (3/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 can whole tomatoes (
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (approx 15 ml)
  • 2 2/3 ounces (75 g) fresh mozzarella
  • 4 to 5 basil leaves, roughly torn

STEPS

  1. Place a pizza stone or tiles on the middle rack of your oven and turn heat to its highest setting. Let it heat for at least an hour.
  2. In a food processor or blender, blend tomatoes, 5 ml olive oil and dash of salt
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, stir together 200 grams (a little less than 1 cup) lukewarm tap water and the yeast, then pour it into flour mixture. Knead with your hands until well combined, approximately 3 minutes, then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Knead rested dough for 3 minutes. Cut into 2 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Place on a heavily floured surface, cover with dampened cloth, and let rest and rise for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. (If you refrigerate the dough, remove it 30 to 45 minutes before you begin to shape it for pizza.)
  6. To make pizza, place each dough ball on a heavily floured surface and use your fingers to stretch it, then your hands to shape it into rounds or squares.
  7. Put the sauce in the center of the stretched dough and use the back of a spoon to spread it evenly across the surface, stopping approximately 1/2 inch from the edges.
  8. Break the cheese into large pieces and place these gently on the sauce. Scatter basil leaves over the top.
  9. Using a pizza peel, pick up the pie and slide it onto the heated stone or tiles in the oven. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, approximately 4 to 8 minutes.
  10. Drizzle a little olive oil over the pie, and serve.

 

Recipe adapted from https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016231-pizza-margherita

Mar 13, 2018

The volcano Vesuvius still looms of the ruined Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, along the coast of Southern Italy. Dr. Fiona Radford from the Partial Historians stops by to discuss these accidental wonders: towns whose destruction have preserved a remarkable view of Roman daily life. We follow Pliny the Elder as he ventures to his death, pillow strapped to his head. There's chaos, destruction, drama, and weird fish sauce! 

Plus I cannot be so close to Naples without talking about pizza, that most glorious gift to the world.

Mar 5, 2018

Traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil, and among Israeli Jews, that means sufganiyot: jelly doughnuts.

The word sufganiyot comes from the sword sfog, meaning sponge, and North African Jews brought a long tradition of frying doughnuts with them to Israel.  There, they mixed with Eastern European jews who brought their own doughnuts, with jelly.  These ponchkes in Yiddish are the Jewish version of the Polish pączki (pronounced "paunch-key".  Pączki are Mardi Gras treats, best known in America as the reason there’s a line out of every Polish bakery in Chicago in February.

So, to make sufganiyot, you need to be able to manage yeast and dough.  I can’t.  I’ve tried several times.  Once the water was too cold, and the yeast didn’t bloom.  Another time, the water was too hot, and the yeast died a tragic scalding death.  A third time, the yeast seemed OK, but I kneaded the dough too much. 

But if you have skill with baking, try this recipe, and let me know how light and fluffy they are.  This recipe has an orange zest, which adds some zing to the dough, and raspberry or strawberry filling.  That’s great, but if you’d rather lemon zest and blueberry, I won’t be mad at you.

Serves 4 at least

INGREDIENTS

  • ¼ cup lukewarm milk or water
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) sugar
  • 1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) sour cream or vegetable oil
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) salt
  • ¼ teaspoon (1.25 ml) vanilla extract
  • Freshly grated zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1  cups flour (400 ml), more as needed
  • ½ cup (120 ml) thick raspberry or strawberry jam
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting

STEPS

  1. Place milk or water in small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) sugar over milk. Set aside until frothy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat remaining sugar with egg and egg yolk. Add sour cream, salt, vanilla extract, orange zest and yeast mixture, and mix well.
  3. With mixer running, gradually add flour. Mix until dough is soft, smooth and elastic, adding flour if dough seems very sticky, 3 to 5 minutes. Do not add more than an additional 3 tablespoons (45 ml) flour; dough will be somewhat sticky, but will firm up in refrigerator. Place in an oiled bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness (1.25 cm). Use a biscuit or a cookie cutter to cut out 2-inch rounds (5 cm), placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Reroll scraps and cut again. Let rise in a warm place 30 minutes.
  5. In a heavy pot, heat 3 inches of oil (7.5 cm) to 365 degrees F (185 C); when hot enough, a small piece of dough will brown on bottom in 30 seconds. If too hot, doughnuts will brown outside before cooking through.
  6. Working in batches, fry doughnuts until golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels and dust with sugar while still warm. Let oil come back to 365 degrees F (185 C) between batches.
  7. If you have a pastry bag, fit with a small round tip and spoon jam into bag. When doughnuts are cool enough to handle, use tip of bag (or pointed tip of a serrated knife) to make a hole in bottom of doughnut. Squeeze or use a small spoon to nudge 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of jam into hole. Repeat with remaining doughnuts and serve immediately. Dust again with powdered sugar.

Recipe adapted from https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016210-orange-scented-jelly-doughnuts-sufganiyot

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