Friday, May 14, 2010


There's a wonderful restaurant supply store in Los Angeles called Surfas. I think the sign says it's been around since the 1930s. What sets it apart from Star Restaurant Supply in the San Fernando Valley is its size, its food section, its cooking classes, and, in its most recent location, a good cafe.
The Bon Appetit Magazine columnist Andrew Knowlton (BA Foodist, often to be seen judging television chef shows) recommended the cafe in a recent issue. I've eaten there several times, and last Saturday I had the Lobster Panini, about which he waxed eloquent.

Sadly, I was a bit disappointed. The next day on Big Daddy's Kitchen, as Aaron McCargo, Jr. was making a lobster roll, the reason was pointed out to his audience. Lobster is a delicate flavor and you have to be careful with the bacon. The Surfas panini had too much bacon on it. Yes, it is true. There is such a thing as too much bacon.

I have no idea how many thousand square feet the equipment/food store covers, but it is a lot. There is a case of high-priced antiques (currently located near the entrance) and featured prominently is this cookbook, priced at several hundred dollars:
I taught myself to make pizza dough and doughnuts from that cookbook. My mother may still have her copy. It is bound the way many law books are, because I think she bought it in sections at her grocery store and had to put the sections together over a period of months to make the book. It's probably 8-1/2" x 11" by about 3 or 4" thick and reflects much of what cooking in the late 1950s and early 1960s was about. The doughnut recipe was great, by the way, and I still use the pizza dough recipe (which I had copied from it) some times.

Both my husband and I are huge fans of neat food labels, and Surfas is a great place to go to look at them. Here's a selection of oils and vinegars. I couldn't resist buying the chocolate balsamic vinegar. We haven't tried it yet. I'm thinking strawberries might be the right pairing, since Marcella Hazan says sprinkling balsamic on fresh strawberries brings out their flavor.
We used to make Sunday morning pilgrimages to Bristol Farms, an upscale grocery chain, when there was one in the neighborhood, just to look at labels. That's probably why we've got so many odd bottles of mustard and other condiments.

I used the occasion to pick up the heaviest-weight cookie sheets I've ever owned and some half and quarter sheet jelly roll pans. Aluminum, not non-stick. The rimmed pans should be as good for prep organizing as they are for baking. Now I should get rid of some of my old pans and find some time to actually cook.

Pizza Dough from the Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking

1 cup warm (not hot) water
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons oil (I use olive)
2 cups sifted flour, plus an additional 1-1/2 cups, approximately (depends on the weather)

Sprinkle yeast into water until dissolved. Stir in sugar, salt and oil. Add 2 cups flour and beat until smooth, then gradually add rest of flour, a little at a time. Dough should be like biscuit dough.
Turn dough onto floured board and knead until elastic. Placed in a greased bowl and rub top lightly with soft shortening (again, I'd use olive oil.) Cover with a damp cloth (or plastic wrap) and place in a warm spot to rise until double in bulk (approximately 45 minutes.)
Divide dough into two equal parts and shape with hands to stretch into two 12" pizza pans. Top appropriately (sauce, cheese, whatever you like.) Bake in 400 degree until done.
Notes: These days, I'd be more likely to shape it on a pizza peel lined with some parchment and slide it into the oven to cook on a baking stone for a much better crust. I own two of them and I love them, but pizza gets a little sloppy sliding off a peel using only cornmeal. My pizza pan was made by my father at a plant which made hubcaps and other chrome accessories for automobiles. I've also got a couple of non-stick pizza pans with holes in the bottom, but I've only used them for heating up frozen pizza--and that was before I got the baking stones.

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