Saturday, July 26, 2008

Exquisite Pizza Sauce

Since discovering this recipe on AllRecipes, I have made this pizza sauce almost every single week and our consumption of commercially-made pizza has gone down significantly. On my first few attempts at making Exquisite Pizza Sauce, I deliberately omitted several ingredients: onion powder because I do not care for the taste of powdered onion (but have added finely chopped onion when I have it on hand) and anchovy paste because Devin will only eat seafood if it has been fried or if it is tuna from a can, and even then is seafood a last resort for him.

At this point, I think Devin will realize what I have been doing with that suspicious tube of anchovy paste in the fridge these past couple of weeks, SURPRISE! Yes, it is true that I finally started to add the requisite anchovy paste to this sauce, as directed on the recipe. When I omitted the anchovy paste, my tongue would start watering immediately upon tasting the sauce on its own because it was so sour. It's true that after allowing the sauce to rest and then baking it, the sourness toned down, but it was still off. I took the plunge in investing in a tube of anchovy paste when I happened upon it at the grocery store. I wasn't going to seek it out if I knew Devin would be strongly against it, yet there it was beckoning to me. Admittedly, anchovy paste from a tube sounds pretty gross (meat in solid form should not be mushed into a paste before it enters your mouth), it is an unappetizing shade of dark grey with tiny lumps of black, and it smells like it should, which is not to say it smells particularly pleasant. But it does wonders for the exquisite pizza sauce, mellowing out the sour tones and giving it richness. And come on, the recipe only needs 1 teaspoon, that hardly qualifies as ingesting fish. The 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste does wonders!

So what do I do with this Exquisite Pizza Sauce? Make pizza, of course! I know I fail as a true cook by using refrigerated pizza dough, but give me a break, I come home after 8 hours of work and have an hour to make and eat dinner before I am due in class. Making the pizza sauce the night before not only saves time when I actually assemble the pizza, but it allows the herbs and spices to fully flavor the tomato paste. With the pizza sauce prepared the night before and using refrigerated pizza dough, assembly and baking only takes a total of about 20 minutes. It is quicker, cheaper, and more delicious than ordering pizza for delivery. Additionally, adhering to the measurements as indicated on the Exquisite Pizza Sauce recipe provides the two of us with enough sauce for two pizzas using the refrigerated pizza dough. Quick, easy pizza two times a week? Yes, please!

Sometimes when we have string cheese in the refrigerator, I assemble the pizzas as cheese stuffed, pushing out the edges of the refrigerated pizza dough and inserting the sliced string cheese.

After flattening the edges of the pizza dough and placing the quartered string cheese along the edge, I simply roll the edges of the dough over the cheese and seal the cheese in by pressing the crust into the body of the pizza dough.

Devin doesn't like pizza that is heavy on the pizza sauce (this particular pizza looks a bit over-sauced), so one batch of Exquisite Pizza Sauce usually makes two pizzas with some sauce left over (good for dipping the crusts).

For the past couple of months, I have really been enjoying green bell peppers on my pizza. Even though Devin is an omnivore, we rarely have meat in the apartment (other than lunch meat), so when I make pizza, he often has a simple cheese pizza (maybe this is the reason he likes to go out to eat so often...).

A drizzle of olive oil along the crust and a bit over the cheese, twelve minutes in the oven, and it's done! This picture makes me crave pizza right now. Good thing I have some Exquisite Pizza Sauce in the freezer right now!

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Out running errands on a Sunday morning, we realized it was quickly approaching lunchtime, but hadn't preplanned where to eat.

This is how we ended up at Spires. We frequently pass by Spires on our way to the grocery store or the bank, but I never really gave thought to trying it out until Devin reminded me of its existence. That's the kind of place it is; it's quite and unassuming, you're not expected to dress up to dine here, but one comes here to relax and enjoy a comforting meal at a reasonable price. I was eager to try a new place, but unfortunately didn't have a suitable camera with me, only the camera on my cell phone. So here's a restaurant review, kind of, just please excuse the quality of the pictures.

You can see that the house Thousand Island dressing was quite lumpy in addition to being very thick. The lumps in the dressing were chopped pickles and onions, providing much of the flavor in the otherwise plain, iceberg lettuce salad. I really enjoyed this tangy, house-made Thousand Island dressing.

It's at places like this that I most rely on my pescetarian diet, because there were little, if any (other than a plain salad) vegetarian options here. The Tuna Melt sandwich came with a choice of french fries, coleslaw, fried zucchini, or onion rings. I was excited to to see fried zucchini on the menu as an option to the standard sides, and so could not resist getting them. Swiss cheese came on the tuna melt and while Swiss is not my favorite kind of cheese, it worked very well to add a subtle nutty flavor to the tuna salad. The tuna salad was adequately seasoned with enough mayonnaise to provide a creamy texture while still retaining the crispiness of the grilled bread. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this Tuna Melt, since I was initially hesitant about the Swiss cheese.

Fried zucchini are an occasional treat for me, usually reserved for county fairs. The fried zucchini at Spires did not at all resemble the huge mutant zucchini often found at county fairs to be soggy messes of grease. At Spires, the fried zucchini retained their original shape and were quartered lengthwise. Appropriately, ranch dressing accompanied the fried zucchini. Biting into the fried zucchini, the centers of the vegetable were able to retain their crunch, not because they were undercooked, but because they were cut to a manageable size and the deep-fry oil was at the correct temperature. Because the breadcrumb coating was thin, the flavor of the zucchini was able to shine through and surprisingly, here was only a light reminiscent of grease left on my fingers from picking up the fried zucchini sticks.

Devin had a cheeseburger ordered medium and his choice of side was french fries. He enjoyed his cheeseburger and fries on the same level as those found at Denny's, Coco's, and Norm's, but didn't find them to be anything outstandingly special.

13451 Newport Ave.
Tustin, CA 92780

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Merriam-Webster: Pescetarian

"I'm a vegetarian. Oh, but I still eat fish."

This is the explanation I usually give people when dining in a situation where the food will be provided for me.

Thanks to a new addition to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, I may soon be able to shorten my statement to simply "I'm a pescetarian" and people will know that I adhere to a vegetarian diet but also eat seafood, rather than having to explain this type of vegetarianism.

It's always interesting to find out the new words being added to the dictionary because it's a potential sign that these words are becoming standard in our vocabulary, if not also in our culture.

I am Afishionado and I'm a pescetarian.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


A visit to San Diego to see family and friends always includes a stop at one of our many favorite Mexican food joints. For me, eating a burrito in my hometown of San Diego evokes many fond memories of growing up, since these small Mexican shops seem to be more prominent than chain restaurants down South.

There is a plethora of Mexican food in San Diego and we have specific places to go to when we feel like something in particular, whether it be potato flautas, spicy shrimp burritos, fish tacos, greasy quesadillas, huge bean and cheese burritos, or the elusive California Burrito.

As if East county weren't rural San Diego enough, Bertha's is located on a side road in Santee and you would miss it except for this sign. Luckily, Devin used to live in an apartment complex right across to the street from Bertha's and this Mexican shop used to be one of his frequent haunts.

Before even stepping into Bertha's small dining area, it's good to note the liquor store right next door because they sell Mexican Coca-Cola.

You can tell this is Mexican Coca-Cola because it's made with real sugar instead of sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. So while we waited for our order to be cooked up at Bertha's, we walked over to the liquor store next door to pick up some Mexican Coca-Cola because what could be better to wash down our burritos?

Bertha's vegetarian burrito is called a Supreme Burrito and includes all the basic components of a vegetarian burrito: beans, rice, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and tomatoes. Guacamole is included in the Supreme Burrito, unlike some Mexican restaurants which charge extra for it. The Supreme Burrito is a standard vegetarian burrito made with a fresh, chewy flour tortilla, but it was missing something that I can't put my finger on. What I love about the food from these little hole-in-the-wall Mexican shops are the tortillas made with lard. These tortillas are thin and delicate, allowing the flavor of the filling to shine through unlike those hard disks pumped with preservatives found at the grocery stores, yet resilient enough to withstand a heavy dousing of the house hot sauce. I loved peeling off the extra tortilla folds from my burrito and dipping them into the hot sauce.

These little tubs of hot sauce added a lot of flavor to my Supreme Burrito. Although you can see the seeds from the chili peppers used to make this hot sauce on site, it wasn't as spicy as I would have liked. Three tubs of this hot sauce provided enough salt and sourness to make my Supreme Burrito decent, but I was still left longing for a vegetarian burrito from Cotija's.

A California Burrito, simply put, is a basic carne asada burrito (assembled with carne asada, sour cream, and cheese), with french fries added. Outside of San Diego, not only is it difficult to find Mexican shops that sell this version of the California Burrito (it seems to be a very loose term outside of San Diego), but I have heard of incidences where the cooks will refuse to create this concoction and instead, one is forced to order a carne asada burrito with fries on the side and then assemble the California Burrito oneself. Although I no longer eat California Burritos, I remember the simple addition of fried potatoes to heighten the already semi-euphoric experience of ingesting a carne asada burrito. A superb California Burrito will have the french fries spread across the width of the burrito so that every bite contains fried potato. Another requisite to the perfect California Burrito is juicy carne asada so that the french fries absorb the beef juice. Some of you may be horrified by this and maybe that's the reason why California Burritos are in fact a hidden treasure only found in San Diego. I can't say for sure that the California Burritos from Bertha's are the perfect specimen, but Devin sure enjoys them, whether for their outstanding medley of flavors or out of pure nostalgia.

Bertha's Authentic Mexican Food
8667 Fanita Dr.
Santee, CA 92071