Best Pizza Around Boston: Max & Leo’s

13 Jul

I don’t even know if I should be sharing this with you. I’ve found the absolute best pizza I’ve had on this continent, and it’s just outside Boston. Many places will boast they have the best pizza – “authentic Italian”, they might say, or “artisan thin-crust,” if they’re hipsters. But often, their pizza dough is too dry and chewy, the whole pie is plain greasy on the bottom, or maybe the crust is so thin that each slice flops over under the weight of a few toppings. Then there are those pizza joints that skimp on the toppings and try to fill you up with a thick crust. Max and Leo’s pizza is none of those things.

Max & Leo's pizza

The restaurant is tiny, with a few bar seats and table seating for only 6 people. The very first time I went there, we were lucky enough to get a table for the three of us. We ordered the L’Umina – a white olive oil pizza with prosciutto, sliced pears, caramelized onions, shreds of basil, dabs of ricotta cheese, and drizzled with a little honey. This creative pizza is absolutely delicious!

IMAG2495Max & Leo’s doesn’t deliver, and they are not open late – closing 9 pm, even on Saturday nights (and at 8 pm on Sundays). But when you make pizza this good, you don’t need long hours, and hungry diners will always come to you. Now, whenever I crave pizza, I stop by Max & Leo’s for takeout.  The secret’s out – they are always packed. Each time I go, the seats are filled and there’s a line of patrons waiting to pick up their pizzas.

Max and Leo's - JuliannThe Juliann pizza (above) is my boyfriend’s favorite, with sopressata, jalapeno peppers, and strips of roasted red pepper over tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. (This time the crust was more burnt than usual.)

IMAG2499Usually, the crust is a perfect golden brown. It’s thin but stiff enough to hold the toppings, with a springy, poofy edge to hold on to as you eat. Normally, I don’t like eating pizza crusts, but I can’t get enough of Max and Leo’s chewy crust.

IMAG2501The L’Oscar pizza is another one of my favorites – it’s a white olive oil pizza with Italian sausage, caramelized onions, flavourful wild mushrooms, mascarpone and  mozzarella cheese. Sometimes we get the Brooksy, which comes with grilled chicken instead of Italian sausage, and we ask them to add tomato sauce as well.

Well, there you have it. I’ve let you in on my favourite pizza joint! Of course, I’d love to hear about your favourites too!

Info: Max and Leo’s, 325 Washington Street, Newton, MA 

Max and Leo's Artisan Pizza on Urbanspoon

Spiced Quinoa Pilaf made in a Rice Cooker

6 Jul

I love the pallow rice at The Helmand. At the same time, I’ve been on sort of a quinoa kick lately. I liked quinoa even before it became a trendy “superfood” – yes, it’s a complete protein (with all nine essential amino acids), full of fiber, rich in magnesium and manganese (an antioxidant), among other things. But it’s also deliciously crunchy, has a nice nutty flavour, and combines well with many different ingredients to make creative alternatives to rice dishes. I used some of the spices that The Helmand uses in its pallow rice – cumin, cinnamon, and nutmeg, to make this quinoa. I also added raisins that plump up when steamed  to add some sweetness to the pilaf (inspired by Moroccan couscous).


I make quinoa in my rice cooker because it’s easy – no need to supervise or stir the quinoa as it cooks. My boyfriend teases me because I don’t know how to cook rice on a stovetop… and I guess I don’t know how to cook quinoa on a stovetop either. But I’m Asian. No Asian cooks rice on a stovetop – that’s why we invented rice cookers! It guarantees perfectly steamed food and no kitchen fires. If you don’t own a rice cooker, I suggest that you buy one. You can get a basic, 4-cup model for around $10. It’s great for making rice, steamed vegetables, and now, quinoa pilaf too.


  • 1 cup raw quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 onion, diced
  • ¼ tsp + 1 dash cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • 1 dash (⅛ tsp) ginger powder
  • 1 dash (⅛ tsp) nutmeg
  • ½ cup raisins

This recipe calls for 1 cup of raw quinoa. This is about the maximum amount of quinoa that you can cook comfortably in a 4-cup rice cooker.

Using a colander with a fine mesh, rinse the raw quinoa well under cold running water until the water runs clear and isn’t frothy. This carries away the saponin in the quinoa, to ensure that your quinoa won’t come out tasting bitter. Even if your box of quinoa claims that rinsing is not required, I would still do it anyway.


  1. In a small bowl, mix together cinnamon, pepper, cumin, ginger powder, and nutmeg.
  2. Put all ingredients except raisins in the rice cooker and stir.
  3. Start the rice cooker.
  4. When the quinoa has just finished cooking (about 25 minutes), add the raisins and toss together. Mix the pilaf well, as some of the spices may have settled to the bottom of the rice cooker.

Happy Canada Day!

1 Jul

Canadian flag cakeI used regular red food coloring from the grocery store…and ended up with pink!

Spicy Black Bean Soup

28 Jun IMG_0610

Bright Angel Lodge - black bean soup

During a visit to the Grand Canyon, I stopped by the Bright Angel Restaurant at the Bright Angel trailhead for a snack. I ordered their house made black bean soup – it came with sour cream swirled into an intricate flower pattern and it tasted so delicious.

At that moment, I decided that I would try making my own black bean soup when I got home. A search for black bean soup recipes turned up several, with comments that the soup tasted rather bland. That’s not going to happen with this recipe, guaranteed!

Just in time for summer, this black bean soup will help cool you down. My boyfriend tells me this is one of his favourite soups that I make (another favorite is my carrot ginger soup) but this one is incredibly nutritious – high in protein and fiber, and low fat.

Ingredients for black bean soupIngredients

  • 4 15 oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cut into thin rounds
  • 2 celery ribs, finely diced
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 ½ tsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • ½ tsp chili flakes (or more, for spicier soup)
  • cilantro, for garnish

Of course, you could use one pound of dry black beans instead of canned beans, and soak them overnight. Don’t be ridiculous – you’d run the risk of having undercooked beans.


  1. Put all ingredients except lime juice and cilantro in slow cooker. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can cook this on a stovetop instead.IMG_0607
  2. In a slow cooker, cook on HIGH for 4 hours. Continue cooking on LOW until ready to serve. If you’re making this soup on a stovetop, simmer for about 50 minutes.
  3. Add lime juice.
  4. Puree ½ to ⅔ of the soup using an immersion blender (or regular blender) depending on how chunky or smooth you want the soup to be.
  5. Garnish with cilantro, sour cream, Greek yogurt, diced tomatoes, tortilla chips, or diced avocado.
  6. Makes 2 quarts (8 servings)


Monkey and black bean soupNutritional Info
(per 1 cup serving)

Calories: 257
Total Fat: 2 g
Saturated Fat: 0.5 g
Sodium: 57 mg
Sugars: 2 g
Protein: 17.5 g
Fiber: 15.2 g


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