DIY: Easy, Fresh, Pita Bread

What if I told you that you could make pita bread easily? More than likely, you have everything you need to make it already in your pantry. Not only that, but to eat warm fresh pita bread tastes so much better than what you can buy at the store.  
I recently discovered this recipe from the website Half Baked Harvest and have already made it a few times. The results are wonderful.  
Minimal ingredients are:

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Combine the hot water and yeast together in a large bowl and stir so that the yeast can dissolve. 
  Add the flour, salt, and olive oil to the bowl and mix together well with a wooden spoon.   
 Once it is well blended, turn the dough onto a floured work surface.   
 Knead the dough with your hands until it smooth and elastic, about ten minutes. Add a small amount of olive oil to a clean bowl and place the dough in the bowl and turn it in order to coat the dough in its entirety.   
 Wrap the bowl with Saran Wrap and let it rest for about an hour. The dough will rise and become springy.   
 Place the dough onto a floured surface. Divide the dough into eight even pieces and then put them back into the covered bowl. 
 One at a time, roll out the dough with a rolling pin to about 1/4 inch in thickness. If the dough gets sticky, add more flour as needed.   
 Heat up a flat griddle or an iron skillet to a medium high heat. Brush some olive oil on the heated pan. Place one of the rolled out pieces of dough onto the pan. If you have a large enough griddle, you can cook two at a time. Watch for bubbles to form on the dough, about thirty seconds and then flip over.   
 Grill for about a minute. Shortly after the edges of the pita bread begins rising off the pan, it will have created toasted spots and is ready to flip over again.   
 Grill for a final minute. The pita bread will puff up and you will know it’s ready. Repeat the process to make 8 pita bread.
 You will be amazed at the deliciousness of the pita bread as well as the nice chewy texture. I bought three different types of hummus from Trader Joe’s to dip the pita bread in. Of the garlic hummus, the beet hummus, and the tomato basil hummus, I enjoyed the latter one best.   
 

Lin Jia Kitchen: Quality Chinese Food

Growing up in a Chinese American home, I eat a lot of Chinese food. My mom regularly cooks it and I sometimes cook it. Often, we go out to eat Chinese food. Most Chinese restaurants in Chinatowns have delicious, cheap food. Most of the time you don’t know where the food is coming from which is not always a good thing. If that worries you, you definitely want to know about Lin Jia Kitchen, a Chinese restaurant on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland.  
Lin Jia Kitchen recently celebrated five years in the neighborhood! Their niche is cooking with organic and sustainable ingredients. They use Mary’s chicken, a local producer of free range chicken as well as grass fed beef. Their vegetables are always fresh and seasonal. The prices are quite a bit higher than what you can get in Chinatown, but you pay for what you get. The food at Lin Jia Kitchen remains authentic as you can hear the chefs speak Cantonese in the back.  
The menu is diverse and actually really great for vegetarians. I especially like the Tamago Tofu which is delicate egg tofu and eggplant braised in a house-made xo sauce with eggplant and snap peas.   
 After multiple visits to Lin Jia Kitchen, I have never had a bad plate. The chefs are also good about presentation as represented in some of these dishes.   
 So if you are looking for a healthier option for Chinese food, Lin Jia Kitchen is the place to go. They are open everyday of the year except Thanksgiving. So if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you might want to check out Lin Jia Kitchen.  They also have a great online ordering system if you want to do a pick-up.

Madhur Jaffrey’s New Cookbook Inspires

Actress. Chef. Cookbook Author. Food Writer. Television Personality. Worldwide Name. She is Madhur Jaffrey and is known by some as the Godmother of Indian cuisine. She introduced the United States to Indian food in 1973 when she wrote her first cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking.
I was fortunate to be in Ms. Jaffrey’s presence last Wednesday at an event at Camino in Oakland. We enjoyed delicious food that the talented Camino kitchen prepared using recipes from her latest cookbook, Vegetarian India: A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking.   
 In her new cookbook, Ms. Jaffrey travels throughout India and explores vegetarian dishes in various regions of the country and compiles the best and most simplistic recipes she finds. With each recipe, Ms. Jaffrey provides a description of where the dish originates.   
 I had fun reading and learning about her travels, including her experience with Kodava mushroom curry with coconut, a dish enjoyed in the mountainous region of Coorg. The Kodava community farm cardamom, coffee, black pepper, and multiple varieties of mushrooms that range in size from tiny to a large dinner plate. When Ms. Jaffrey came home to her test kitchen to recreate this dish, she substituted lime juice for a type of vinegar that could only be found in Coorg kitchens. This was one of the many dishes we were served on Wednesday and it was my absolute favorite!   
 I have always been intimidated by cooking Indian food and have never experimented with this cuisine. After having this fabulous meal and perusing Vegetarian India, I am inspired to cook from this book. There are probably a few basic Indian spices I need to get my hands on, but Ms. Jaffrey does mention over and over that the recipes are simple. Wish me luck! 
 

Star on Grand: Pizza You Want to Know

The first time I dined at Star on Grand, a pizzeria near Lake Merritt in Oakland, it was over two years ago when they first opened. I was with my best friend and we shared one pizza. I remember thinking that it was really good, but I would have to go back to explore more of their menu. Today was the day I finally went back for lunch with my book club.  

We shared a large Goddess salad which is made of baby greens, chives, and toasted almonds tossed in a creamy pesto dressing. It was a simple, but I enjoyed the crunch of the almonds and the flavor and creaminess of the dressing.    

Star has a reputation for serving excellent Chicago style deep dish pizza. We ordered The Port which has toppings of sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green bell peppers. The tomato sauce that covered the pizza was chunky and well balanced. The biscuit-like crust held everything together nicely. It is not my favorite style of pizza, but I enjoyed this version. 
 If memory serves me correctly, I had a thin crust pizza from Star the first time I visited. On this occasion, the thin crust we ordered was the Adam’s Point which has pepperoni, salami, onions, green bells, black olives, and pepperoncinis. The combination of toppings were an awesome explosion of flavor. The crust was chewy, but the bottom of the pie maintained its crispness with the inclusion of cornmeal.  
 The pizza at Star on Grand is fresh and high quality. I recommend going with a larger group so you can try out different styles and toppings. If you are in Albany or San Francisco, visit Little Star, the sister pizzerias.