Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Open City Halifax Saturday, May 11, 2013

Getting a little excited about this weekend. We have a date night which coincides with one of our favourite new events in Halifax – Open City. It happens this Saturday, May 11.

What is it? Basically it’s a city wide open house for all Haligonians (residents of Halifax) to experience and explore their own city. It’s an opportunity to try new things, shop in new places and arm ourselves with answers for when our summer visitors & tourists ask, “Where do I go for the best ______ in Halifax”. Mind, you don’t have to be a Haligonian to be allowed to take part, everyone is welcome to come into the city and act like a tourist for a day. The goal is to highlight and support local business and attractions.

I believe the list of participants is now over 100, including local shops, restaurants, museums, artists, entertainers, organizations and attractions. One of the more popular aspects for many is the “Back Door Special” offered up by local restaurants. The mechanics of getting one of these special meals or snacks vary depending on the restaurant, some require a stealthy knock on the back door or others are available at “Pop-Ups” around the city. Some are cash only so you might want to have some on hand for the day. Many participants offer discounts or free samples. The list of participants and what they offer can be found here.  

Nova Scotia School of Art & Design: Artist for a Day

You might want to take a look at the website and start making you plan now, there's even an interactive map to plan your route. Participants are located all over the city, from the North End to the South End and points in between, on Quinpool and Spring Garden, on the Waterfront or in the Hydrostone. You can walk it or bike it or if you’re bringing your car there’s free parking for the day at all the My Waterfront parking lots.

This is the second year for Open City and it seems the list of participating business has grown, sounds like success to me, so successful they had a similar event in October and called it City Harvest. I’m hoping that event carries on as well.


We’ve already decided we’ll be returning to a couple of our favourites, Sugah! and Bishop’s cellar but we’ll be adding a few new.  And I’m pretty sure I have to visit Harbour City Bar & Grill at the Delta Halifax for their special, the “ Short Rib Poutine”. It's my favourite dish on their menu, I’m sure they put it on special just for me.

Short Rib Poutine from Habour City Bar & Grll

There are so many other tempting offerings around the city I can see the day might end in a food coma when we crash at our downtown home for the night, the Delta Barrington.

So wear your comfy walking shoes, buffet pants, bring some cash and get ready to sample Halifax like a tourist for a day and feel the Local Love.

Check out the website I Love Local Halifax

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Ultra Thin Crust Pizza

I love pizza. If I had to pick a food to live on for the rest of my life it would be pizza. What can’t you put on top of all that cheesy, bready goodness? Nothing! And yet, it is my nemesis. Typically pizza is so calorie laden and full of processed meats as to make any nutritional value negligible. The first time Brian and I made a pizza together, I swear, the toppings were 2 inches thick. Not a fan, I come from the school of thought that (contrary to the AT&T commercial) less is more, especially when it comes to pizza.
I did manage to get B to pare down the amount of toppings. Yet, when I once put our recipe into the Weight Watchers recipe builder I found that one slice from a 12 inch pizza, cut into 6 slices was 21 points. Yikes! Somehow I had to create a pizza that satisfied the palate without filling the calorie bank. 

My initial experiments were my version of a pizza margherita. Using a flour tortilla as the base, my toppings were slices of tomato and basil leaves from the garden and thin slices of fresh mozzarella. This was my go to lunch once the tomatoes in my garden were ripe. But Brian was not a fan. No meat!

The resort at which we stayed in Cuba served up a nice ultra thin crust pizza for lunch. We had them three of four times and both agreed we had to try recreating them at home. My sister had been making ultra thin crust pizza for some time so I asked how she did it. She explained that she used Buddy Valastro’s (the Cake Boss) dough recipe and divided it into six portions. She rolls the dough so thin you can see through it, each portion makes about a 12” pizza.
I found the dough recipe online, cut it in half, used all purpose flour instead of unbleached and now have a new Friday night favourite. Done right, I am able to get 3 pizzas from half the recipe. What is not used can be frozen. I also use a partially skimmed milk mozzarella so now we have a pizza with less calories eaten with less guilt.

Another recent discovery I made was pizza sauce in a squeezable bottle. I usually get the Compliments brand from Sobeys and get 3 – 4 pizzas covered with a bottle.  If we have a good tomato crop, I will make my own sauce and freeze it in portions for one pizza.

For the very best results of a nice crispy crust, you need a pizza stone and peel. I’ve had both for years now and love them. Just make sure you’ve got the peel well floured or covered in corn meal before placing the dough and building the pizza so it slides off onto the stone easily.
For toppings, your imagination is the limit. Our standards are Brothers pepperoni, lots of mushrooms, green pepper, thinly sliced onion and a few bacon bits. If I’m making pizza just for myself, some of my favourite toppings are thinly sliced tomatoes, ham & pineapple (do not scoff), switch out regular pizza sauce for BBQ sauce and top with chicken, cheese & veg. Sometimes I’ve used feta or blue cheese instead of mozzarella.

What are some of your favourite pizza topping combinations?

Pizza Dough

  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • ½  tsp sugar
  • 1 ½  cups all-purpose flour
  • About ½ cup lukewarm water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Makes 2 – 3 Ultra thin crust pizzas


Put the yeast in stand mixer bowl. Warm 1/4 cup water (Approx 110° F) and pour it over the yeast, add sugar. Stir and let proof for 10 minutes.

Add the flour, remaining water, salt and olive oil to the yeast mixture in the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Paddle on low speed until the mixture comes together. Switch to the dough hook attachment and continue on medium-low speed until the dough comes together in a ball, another 3-4 minutes. Check the dough: If it’s too dry, mix in a bit more water. If too sticky, add more flour.  Continue with dough hook another 3 minutes.
Flour work surface. Knead dough until smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball. Lightly grease a bowl with olive oil, set the ball of dough in the bottom of the bowl and lightly coat with oil, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel. Let rise by about half its size, 30-45 minutes. (If the house is too cold I sometimes turn the heat on in the oven til it warms a bit then turn it off and put the dough in the oven to rise.)

Clean and re-flour your work surface and transfer the dough to the surface. Cut the dough into thirds (or desired portions), and form into tight balls to press out the excess air. Let rest 10 -15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450° F with pizza stone in oven.

For ultra thin crust roll the dough as thinly as you like into a 10 - 12 inch circle. Placed rolled pizza crust onto well floured pizza peel with one edge slightly over the end of the peel. Add desired pizza toppings.  When oven has heated, carefully remove pizza stone and slide pizza from peel onto the stone.

Return stone to oven. Bake pizza for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is browned and crispy.