Playing with pizza

Last night we brought out the pizza stone to experiment with pizza. Because we don’t make it often, we have never perfected the art of making one that actually *looks* like a pizza. Here is our “creation” back in 2007 when we first had a go at it:

The amoeba

The amoeba

3 years later…

The pizza

The pizza

Mine still look like the amoeba but Alex has clearly perfected the pizza shape.

Lucky for us, the dough is always delicious. (Big thank you to Rick and Deb.) You mix 3 cups flour, 1 cup warm water, 1 envelope rapid rise yeast, 2 TB olive oil, 1 TB honey, and 1 tsp salt and knead them in a mixer with a dough hook for a few minutes until everything comes together. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel for an hour to rise. This will yield 2 individual size pizzas.

We used the following two topping recipes and they were fantastic. I’ll definitely be making these again soon as I continue to attempt to make a normal looking pizza.

Spinach, White Bean, and Taleggio Pizza

1 ball of pizza dough (see recipe link above)
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 to 5 ounces taleggio, sliced or pinched off into small bits
1/4 cup white beans
parmesan cheese
4 ounces fresh spinach (we used baby spinach leaves)

Spread a couple of teaspoons of olive oil over the dough, then evenly scatter the garlic, taleggio, and white beans. Grate a bit of parmesan over the pizza (you should need very little, about an ounce). Toss the spinach in a large bowl with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Because it’s hard to slide a heavy pizza off of a cookie sheet or peel, and because you’re going to have a mound of loose spinach leaves that tend to fly off when you shake it, transfer the pizza to the hot stone BEFORE adding the spinach.

Once you’ve transfered the pizza to the pizza stone, pull out the oven rack (if you haven’t already) and gently mound the spinach leaves in the center of the pizza. Close the oven and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, until the crust is brown on the edges and the spinach is wilted.

The second pizza was based off of a recipe from Bon Appetit. Instead of chanterelle mushrooms, radicchio, and pancetta, we used cremini mushrooms, endive, and pancetta which made for a very tasty pizza.

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Sunchoke Soup

Tonight we made Joyce’s chicken with fingerling potatoes, carrots, and onions. I love the way the onions caramelize at the bottom of the pan. They are especially delicious when they have dried up. Yum! I had some sunchokes in my CSA box so I tried to replicate a soup I really liked at a veggie restaurant last fall. Using a Bon Appetit recipe as a guide, I gathered the following ingredients:

  • Large bowl of water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • 1.5  pounds Jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped leek (white and pale green parts only)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken because it’s what I had on hand)
  • 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream (I used 2% milk)
  • Ground white pepper
  • Shelled pumpkin seeds, toasted (I used pine nuts)
  • Pumpkin seed oil (optional)
  • Sautéed chanterelle mushrooms (optional garnish)

Mix water and vinegar in large bowl. Working with 1 Jerusalem artichoke at a time, peel and place in vinegar water to prevent discoloration. Set aside.

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion, leek, and garlic; sprinkle with salt and sauté until soft and translucent, stirring often, about 12 minutes. Drain artichokes; rinse well and drain again. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Add to onion mixture and sauté 5 minutes. Add broth, increase heat to high, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until artichokes are very tender, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender until very smooth. Return to pot. Rewarm soup, adding more broth if needed (mine was fine). Stir in cream and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Divide soup among bowls and garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds; top with a drizzle of pumpkin seed oil and some sautéed mushrooms, if desired.

I’m curious to see if and when the “sunchoke effect” hits us tonight…

Corned Beef Goodness

Today I experienced the magic that is my slow-cooker. I put 4 lbs of corned beef in the slow-cooker along with some onions, spices, beer, and brown sugar and had a feast of a dinner with the boys when they returned from Mt. Baker tonight. I found the recipe in Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever that I borrowed from the library. I don’t actually remember ever having eaten corned beef but my grandmother tells me she made it often for my grandfather. She was surprised that I wasn’t making it with cabbage. When I came home from school this afternoon, I immediately thought of my Grammy’s house in that the smell brought me back to when I was a little girl staying over on weekends. While the taste wasn’t familiar, I definitely recall the smell. I served it over polenta triangles with steamed broccoli and a red lettuce salad from our CSA box. Yum!

Ingredients:

– 2 12 oz cans Guinness or other stout or dark ale

– 1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

– 2 tsp mustard seeds

– 6 whole black peppercorns

– 1 bay leaf

– 2 allspice berries

– 3 large sweet onions sliced into ½ inch thick half rounds

One 3.5 – 4 lb corned beef, rinsed

Stir all ingredients together in a 5-7 quart slow-cooker. Add onions and top with the corned beef. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours (I did 9 and it was fine) until meat is fork tender. Remove the meat from the cooker, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf, peppercorns, and allspice berries from the cooking liquid. Thinly slice the brisket across the grain to serve.

The inaugural slow cooker meal

Since Santa brought me a slow cooker, I’ve been perusing potential recipes online and in books at the library. It seems that the pot roast is the quintessential slow cooker meal so I decided to give it a go. I opted for browning the meat on all sides with some fried garlic, red pepper flakes, and all spice berries before putting it in the slow cooker with a cup of cheap white wine, fresh sage leaves, and some halved purple potatoes. A nice hike in the snow and 8 hours later, we were feasting on an all American meal by 5:30pm on a Sunday night. How 1950s of us! The roast was super tender and I loved the earthy yet sweet flavor the sage left on the potatoes. I based this off of the second method here. Next up, tapioca pudding!

Putting my CSA box to use

I finally got around to joining a CSA in Seattle and my first box came yesterday. Thanks Mom!

In it was a recipe for Barley Stew with Leeks, Mushrooms, and Greens from Bon Appetit which I made last night for dinner. It was a super simple and filling meal with tons of veggies. Yum! Then I got it in my head to make some bread to go with the leftovers today. I used a Whole Wheat No-Knead Bread with Flax Seeds and Oats recipe from one of my favorite cooking blogs. This might just be my favorite bread yet.

Barley stew:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only, I used one huge leek)
  • 1 8-ounce container sliced crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed (i used three)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (i only had dried and it was fine)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4 cups (or more) vegetable broth (i used chicken for more flavor)
  • 1 bunch kale (about 8 ounces), trimmed, center stalks removed, leaves coarsely chopped (about 8 cups packed) (i used spinach because I didn’t have any kale on hand)

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add leeks; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté until leeks begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, and rosemary; increase heat to medium-high and sauté until mushrooms soften and begin to brown, stirring often, about 7 minutes. Add tomatoes with juice; stir 1 minute. Add barley and 4 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until barley is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add kale; stir until wilted, about 1 minute. Cover and simmer until kale and barley are tender, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls as needed for desired stew consistency, about 10 minutes.

Bread:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 4 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp table salt or 3/4 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1 tbsp white distilled vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast

Whisk flour, steel cut oats, flax seeds, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy, sticky ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Lay 12X18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6-8 quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 475 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2 inch-deep slit along top of dough.

Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature before slicing.

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Something different

Tonight I decided to experiment with the tofu and green curry paste that I bought on a whim yesterday at Whole Foods. After consulting a few different recipes online, I chopped up the veggies in my fridge (carrots, green beans, broccoli) and put them in a pot to simmer with small pieces of drained tofu, two cups of low-fat coconut milk, and 2 TB of green curry paste. I then added some water, ground ginger, red pepper flakes, shoyu, and brown sugar once the tofu and vegetables were cooked through and served it over a bowl of steaming brown rice. Not bad for an impromptu weeknight dinner!

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Happy New Year!

It’s hard to believe my 2.5 week vacation from school is already over. I had a wonderful time visiting with family and friends and feel lucky to have had such quality time with those I love. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen which was really relaxing. Some of the highlights were making peanut brittle with my friend Heather and experimenting with a no-knead walnut bread (goes nicely with butternut soup) on Christmas Eve. Alex and I met up with my good friends Jessica and Jeff at Hog Island Oyster at the Ferry Building in SF and feasted on oysters, clam chowder, and grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s one of my favorite things to do in San Francisco and we had a blast. My cousins and I had a German-themed feast which included my dad’s boar sausage slowly simmered in beer. Who knew I liked venison! My friend Wei hosted a tasting party where she set out an array of chocolate, olive oil, cheese, red wine, apples, and cola and we had to guess the brand/type of each. I actually wrote, “uninteresting” on the Valhrona piece. Now I know I have cheap taste in chocolate! This last week I made an eggplant parmesan and a lasagna bolognese for 16 people after a gorgeous day skiing. It’s been a long time since I’ve cooked for so many people and it makes me want to start another supper club sometime soon.

Santa brought me a slow-cooker and a new yogurt maker (my old one died last month) so I’ll be trying some stews, soups, and breakfast options in the next few weeks. If you have any recipe ideas, please send them my way!