Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vegan white pizza

EDIT: We found a much better ricotta substitute -- make this instead!

So this was kind of an experiment: spinach, mushroom, and tofu ricotta pizza (with walnuts). I'd like to claim some kind of high-minded, ethical reason for cutting out most dairy from my diet, but the truth is I've just gotten kind of sensitive to it in my old age (though it doesn't bother me a bit not to be contributing to the dairy/cattle/veal industry either). I won't lie to you, Fellini's white pizza it was not (that is kind of a high bar to compare oneself to though). And it took a couple of bites to get over the cognitive dissonance -- the tofu looks an awful lot like ricotta without actually tasting that much like ricotta -- but once I did I really rather liked it. The walnuts were Kristen's idea and were a brilliant addition ... a textural contrast with the softness of the tofu or whatever.

I made Mark Bittman's pizza dough recipe (previously, with 2 cups bread flour + 1 cup wheat flour this time), and Isa's tofu ricotta, below. Pop it into a 500 degree oven for about 9 minutes.

PPK Tofu Ricotta
14oz package extra firm tofu
1 clove garlic minced
2 tsp lemon juice
two heavy pinches salt
pinch of black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

Slice the tofu and squeeze out as much of the moisture as you can (within reason). Put it in a bowl with the garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and smash it with your hands for a few minutes, until it's the texture of ricotta. Add the olive oil and nutch and stir with a fork.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Upper West Side Lentil Salad

A lot of times, deciding what we want for dinner is a matter of asking, "What kind of lentils should we make tonight?" This particular dish was inspired by the French lentil salad I had at Alice's Tea Cup on my recent trip to New York (my annual visit to the fabulous J. of custard fame). It was a perfect day: we toured the natural history museum in the morning (where I got the best souvenir -- a pressed penny with the whale from The Squid & the Whale) and then fawned over tea, scones, and lentil salad in the pink and purple wonderland of Alice's for most of the afternoon.

To recreate the experience, I used this super basic recipe from Saveur as a guide, adding dainty pieces of broccoli and carrot for nutrition and prettiness. I'd recommend serving the lentils warm, on top of a bed of mixed greens. We ate this as a small meal but it would work really well as a side dish... and would serve a whole ton of people. Tea party, anyone?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thanksgiving recap

After a travel-filled year, Kristen and I decided to take it super easy over Thanksgiving, fix a smallish meal at home and then spend a couple of days in the snow-capped Southern California mountains (<-- still weird).

At the last minute, we ditched our idea for a tofu-sweet potato "loaf" (mercifully, most likely) and split the ingredients up into a black bean-sweet potato salad with fried sage adapted from Steve Sando's cookbook and Roasted Rosemary Tofu from the always excellent Vegan Soul Kitchen.

I made another batch of Creamless Cream Corn which has been on my mind semi-daily for a year, and to go with our mashed potatoes, Kristen whipped up a batch of Isa's Savory Mushroom Gravy, which totally stole the show... But isn't that always the way with gravy? Yum, it was good.

And we had a really nice time in Idyllwild. The weather was clear and beautiful but sooo chilly! Dinner at the Mountain was kind of amazing...possibly the best piece of salmon I've ever had (I'm an occasional pescetarian in case that's confusing). And if you didn't believe me about snowy SoCal, here're some pictures!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Butternut squash pasta with sage

Hard to believe it now looking out on the rainiest grayest day ever (and loving it), but just a week ago it was too hot to turn the oven on and two sad, neglected butternut squashes were on their last legs in our refrigerator. Too hot to roast winter squash... another one of those unique-to-southern-california problems.

NYT to the rescue, this recipe cooks shredded squash in a skillet until it breaks down into something like a sauce. Taking a cue from some of the comments, I used about 7 torn up sage leaves (added toward the end) instead of nutmeg and skipped the sugar, for a more savory dish. The result really did our CSA organic squash justice, highly recommended.

Playing: The Jezabels - Dark Storm EP

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Breakfast of champions: tempeh sausage on scallion biscuits

A few weeks ago I wrote that skillet smashed potatoes topped with leftover ratatouille topped with an over easy egg was the best breakfast I'd ever had, and I'm going to stand by that, but this is another new favorite. Tempeh is made of pressed, fermented whole soybeans, and it's supposedly better for you than more processed soy products like soy milk or tofu. I used to think it was sort of an acquired taste, until I learned from Isa that I was cooking it all wrong (i.e., I wasn't simmering it). On a warm biscuit straight out of the oven, it's enough to make me forget about Chick-fil-a breakfast forever.

Tempeh Sausage Biscuits

1 package of tempeh
2-3 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
Red pepper flakes
Fresh or dried sage
2 cloves of garlic minced
canola oil

I like to cut the tempeh into three rectangles, then set each rectangle on its side and slice it in half crosswise to make a thin square that will fit nicely on a biscuit. Then add the tempeh to a medium pan, with enough water to nearly cover it. Simmer for 10-12 minutes until most of the water is absorbed (the tempeh should be a bit pliable). Drain the rest of the water, add oil and other ingredients, and cook until they are a bit brown on either side.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole-wheat flour (or just 2 cups of AP)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3.5 tbsp butter
scant cup of plain yogurt
lightly caramelized sliced scallions (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and pinch it into the flour until it's blended. Add the scallions if using and then stir in the yogurt until you can form everything into a ball. It should be relatively dry but cohesive (we had to add a few splashes of soymilk to incorporate all the flour). Turn out onto a flour surface and knead just a few times (~10) until smooth. Press the dough into a 3/4-inch-thick rectangle, and use a glass to cut it into rounds. Bake on an ungreased baking sheet for 7-9 minutes.

Serve with good yellow mustard (crucial!)

Digression: I find the discussion of meat substitutes slightly interesting... With something like a lentil burger that really has almost nothing in common with a hamburger, it probably does a disservice to someone trying it for the first time (really it's just too bad that "patty" is such a gross word). Even worse are things like "vegan meatballs" (which I very infrequently am very grateful for). But at the same time, the lettuce, tomato, pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard on a bun is at least as important as the burger (q.v., In-n-Out grilled cheese) to the extent that calling it anything else would be a sham. Same thing goes for the spices in sausage, if you can call turkey sausage sausage, I think we're pretty safe with this one.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Coccodrillo Ciabatta Bread

Poor neglected hardly starving. We've been cooking but sadly nothing really blog-worthy (except some amazing tempeh sausage biscuits that might make their way here eventually). In any case, if you've been wanting to try baking a loaf of bread, or need a good way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon, or if you don't feel like waiting for an overnight pre-ferment, this is a really good one to try.

You start with a pancake batter consistency dough (an incredible 95% hydration!) and dough hook it until it eventually turns into sticky dough. This took about 20 minutes with the kitchen aid on 6 for me. It rises like crazy--pretty sure mine quadrupled while we were out shopping--and has great oven spring so don't worry if it's all flat and sad looking when you first put it in the oven.

I only made a half-batch (so 250g flour, 237g water) which made two smallish loaves. Also I'd recommend erring on the side of overcooking since the dough's so wet, and make sure to let it cool completely before slicing!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ratatouille with heirloom veggies

Whoa, it's been a long time! September almost went by without my noticing, had a really good time visiting friends the last couple weeks, but it's nice to be home and cooking again.

Inspired by some beautiful heirloom zucchini and eggplants from Suzie's Organic Farm at the grocery store, K looked up a few recipes for ratatouille and we decided to follow the one from Tartelette, attributed to her french mother, which was the right choice. Note to self: when in doubt go for the mom's recipe :) Update: The link to the recipe is broken... Full text is reproduced below.

The dish was super easy to put together, sauteeing each vegetable a bit before adding the next, and then stewing for about an hour basically unattended. And it made quite a lot. Easily enough for a main course for 4-5 people. All the veggies were good, but the Rosa Bianca eggplants (white flesh with white/purple skin) were particularly amazing, which is good because they were easily the most expensive thing that we got at the store.

That clove of garlic sitting on top was a knock out spread on a baguette. Kristen tried to convince me that roasted garlic was the real vegan butter, and while it is super delicious, I still ain't buying it.

Also happy World Vegetarian Day! A great day to go for the lentil burger or the mushroom risotto. Oh man, I need to make some mushroom risotto soon.

UPDATE: skillet smashed potatoes topped with ratatouille topped with an over easy fried egg is probably the best breakfast I've ever had.

Here is the original Tartelette recipe, retrieved from The Internet Archive.

Mom's Ratatouille:
1 medium onion (peeled and diced)
1 eggplant (peeled every other strip and diced)
3-4 zucchini (peeled every other strip and diced)
1 red bell pepper (we used orange because no red ones at the farmers market)
1 green bell pepper
4 tomatoes
1 can good quality tomatoes (we used one 14oz can of fire roasted tomatoes)
5 garlic cloves (we like ours unpeeled and whole but some don' as you prefer)
Herbes de Provence
Or a mix of thyme, parsley, oregano, lavender, all spice and a pinch of basil
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil

In a large saute pan set over medium (and I mean the largest you have that you can put a lid on), sautee the onion in a bit of olive oil until translucid. Add the diced eggplant and sautee until it becomes golden in color. Add a dash more olive oil and add the zucchini, then the peppers, tomaotoes and canned tomatoes. Add the whole unpeeled garlic cloves, the spices, salt and pepper. Do not stir. Cover with a lid and let stew for aout 15 minutes. At this point the vegetables will have reduced a bit in volume from cooking and you will have room to stir and mix the herbs with the rest of the ingredients in the pan. Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for at least 30 to 40 minutes. Uncover and let simmer 20 to 30 minutes on low until most of the cooking liquid has evaporated.
Et Voila...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Roasted vegetable enchiladas

So the thing is, for me, enchiladas are just another way to make tortillas and cheese and salsa, but to Kristen they are apparently something sacred. Not to be trifled with. In what must have been another life, we had a little tradition where she would make these amazing enchiladas with flour tortillas and shredded chicken for my birthday every year.

Since then, we have tried lots of variations with middling success, cheese and black beans, one time with tofu, cashews, lentils, and chard. These all tasted fine but had a real problem with texture, falling apart with the filling spilling everywhere when you cut into it, if not as soon as you tried to take it out of the pan. I suppose I had always resisted a vegetable filling because of that horrible oily mess of grilled fajita vegetables at places like Baja Fresh, but vegetables are definitely the way to go... It just doesn't have to be soggy onions and green peppers! We adapted a bit from this great Rick Bayless recipe and ended up with some of the best enchiladas I think I've ever had anywhere.

Kris added some roasted anaheim peppers to the sauce because we have a ton of them growing on the porch and never know what to do with them. I liked the bitter spiciness they added, but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy them if we didn't already have a surplus. We also opted to skip the crema because that's how we roll.

Roasted vegetable enchiladas
Tomatillo sauce
1 lb tomatillos (about 6)
2 serrano peppers
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium onion
2 anaheim peppers (optional)
1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups of vegetable broth (I like Rapunzel bouillon)

4-6 oz. Button mushrooms, quartered
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 small onion + 1 small shallot (or some similar combination)
1 crown of brocolli
12 tortillas
Small handful grated cheddar

Start on the sauce; broil the tomatillos, peppers, onions, and garlic for about 2-3 min on each side. At this point I was a little nervous that they were turning so black so we opted to turn the oven to 400 degrees and move them down to the center for about 10 more minutes. When everything's getting nice and soft, peel and seed the anaheims if you are using them (if you put them in a ziplock bag for a few minutes while they're still warm, the steam will separate the skin for you). To make the sauce, toss everything into a blender or food processor, and puree. Then add the vegetable oil to a medium pot over medium-high heat. When that's heated up, add the puree and stir constantly for a few minutes until it darkens and thickens up a bit. Finally add the vegetable broth, reduce the heat to medium low, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

While the sauce simmers, put the filling vegetables, except for the mushrooms, on an aluminum lined baking pan, drizzle with a little oil, and a healthy dose of salt and pepper. Let these roast in the 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent them from burning. We sauteed the mushrooms on the stovetop (in a small dry cast iron pan, adding a little splash of tamari when the mushroom liquid all dried up) while this was happening.

Finally, assembly. Warm the tortillas in the microwave with a damp cloth covering them, for about one minute. Pour a thin layer of the tomatillo sauce in the bottom of a 9x12 baking pan. One by one, fill the tortillas with some of each vegetable, roll, and line them up in the pan. Top with the remaining sauce and a little cheese. Bake for about 10 minutes, mostly just to melt the cheese. Garnish with sliced onion and cilantro.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Strawberry icebox cake for Labor Day

I wanted to share a recipe appropriate for American Labor Day, our hallowed end-of-summer celebration (as opposed to Real Labor Day, which they observe everywhere else on May 1st). It's a frozen strawberry cheesecake that you can whip up with minimal labor. Plus it's dairy-free and relatively healthy. And delicious, duh. The recipe is adapted from Green Kitchen Stories (looove this blog).

Strawberry icebox cake

2 c. almonds
10 fresh pitted dates
2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted to liquid
a generous pinch of salt

2 c. fresh or frozen strawberries (blueberries and raspberries would work too)
juice from half a lemon
1/2 c. honey
1 c. soy cream cheese (I used Tofutti, but make sure it's free of hydrogenated oils)
1 c. plain or vanilla soy yogurt (can substitute Greek yogurt)

Grind up the ingredients for the crust in a food processor. Then flatten out the crust in the bottom of an 8-inch spring form cake pan. Stick it in the fridge while you make the filling. You can rinse out the food processor or use a blender to mix the ingredients for the filling. Pour the filling on top of the crust and freeze for 1-2 hours before serving. If you store it overnight, let it soften a little before eating (otherwise you'll get that horrible freeze-burn sensation on your teeth).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gnocchi with pesto and wax beans

We finally rejoined a CSA after I get us kicked out of the very exclusive Be Wise Ranch CSA last year for (accidental) non-payment. This time we are trying out J.R. Organics from Escondido. The first box is interesting, really good lettuce and some other greens, excellent tomatoes, a whole bunch of oranges and a couple apples (weird time of year for both of them, but apparently that's what's growing right now), and among other things some really beautiful green and purple wax beans.

K reminded me of this great simple dish I used to get in Bernal Heights at (the very sadly closed) Valentina, which had spinach fettuccine with potatoes, green beans, and pesto. I decided to give it a try with gnocchi instead of pasta and potatoes, probably because I am obsessed with anything that involves making dough.

After the first batch that I murdered by boiling too long in too-hot water, the rest of the gnocchi came out pretty close to perfect, pillowy, and looking an awful lot like bay scallops. I had a good friend in college whose dad owned an Italian restaurant who pronounced it nacky or sometimes nee-yacky, so feel free to join me in pronouncing it like that, if for no other reason than to honor and make fun of Jim.

Ok actually I'm starting to get a little self-conscious about saying "gnocchi" so much; there needs to be some non-pretentious alternative, something with an s at the end... Potato dumplings maybe? The potato dumplings took about an hour and a half start to finish, which was maybe a little long for a weeknight dinner, unless you are someone who finds cooking relaxing after a long day of work :) Annnd now I need one more sentence here because of the ridiculous formatting of this post. How do those real food bloggers do it??

Here is the recipe for just the gnocchi. We steamed the wax beans with a pinch of salt and topped it with a dollop of pesto. I won't embarrass myself by posting a recipe for pesto. If you want to do it right, I'd predictably look here. If you want to do it like me just put all that stuff in the food processor (and skimp on the olive oil because damn, it is expensive).

Basic Gnocchi
About 1 pound of potatoes (supposed to be russet, yukon gold worked fine)
3/4-1 cup flour (supposed to be AP, bread flour worked fine)
salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes whole with skin on for 30-45 minutes in salted water until they're very tender. Drain and let them cool a bit before peeling, which should be very easy with a small knife or your fingers.

Mash the potatoes with some salt and pepper. I used a wooden spoon but one of those wire potato mashers would work better.

Stir in half a cup of flour. Then add a little bit at a time and keep mixing until you can knead it into a smooth round dough. The goal is to add the least amount of flour possible that makes it a cohesive dough. You can pinch off a piece of the dough and place it in some water that is just shy of boiling to make sure it will stay together (if it doesn't, it needs a little more flour).

Roll a small piece of the dough into a snake about 1/2 an inch thick and cut it into small square pieces. Place a batch of the dumplings in almost boiling water. They will be done about a minute after they float to the surface of the water. I found the easiest way to handle the batches was to roll out all the strands first and then cut one strand right before adding it to the water.

They'll be best while they're still warm. Tossing with a little bit of olive oil in the meantime helped keep them from sticking to each other.

Mario Batali says that peeling the potatoes after you boil them is a big deal in Italy. He sounded a little dubious about the benefits of it but unwilling to mess with tradition, and so shall I be.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Carrot-ginger muffins & a digression

This is my first-ever post about muffins. Pretty surprising given the fact that I am a muffin fanatic. Zealot. I'm of the opinion that the most perfect weekday breakfast is baked in a tin. Scones and bagels are fatty enough to be reserved for the occasional weekend indulgence, but I can bake a batch of muffins and eat them all week! I'd settled into this Spiced Carrot muffin routine (super healthy and quite yummy) when I discovered a small bag of wheat bran in our pantry. K had used it in his multi-grain sandwich bread and I decided to claim the leftovers for muffins. These ones are the best yet to emerge from my teeny tiny kitchen, which is why I'm finally posting a muffin recipe.

Carrot-ginger muffins
Makes 8 muffins
  • 3/4 c white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c wheat bran
  • 1/4 c raw sugar
  • 1/4 c agave nectar (or honey)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp  freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/4 c applesauce
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 c (packed) shredded carrots
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Preheat the oven to 375F. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk the egg, applesauce, butter, and coconut oil in another bowl. Add the carrots and fresh ginger to the wet mixture. Combine the wet & dry ingredients and fill 8 muffin cups. Bake for 22-25 min.

Want more hardly-addicting muffins (proof of my obsession)? Here they come!

Doughnut muffins to cheer you up on bad days
Savory roasted red pepper and goat cheese muffins
Healthy lemon poppy seed muffins
Tart walnut yogurt muffins
Baked egg muffins (inspired by bouchons au thon)
Chocolate chip banana muffins (based on these from Supernatural Cooking)
Blueberry corn muffins from The Bread Bible

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chickpea Red Curry from VeganDad

Quick post on dinner last night... This thai-style curry made a really great, super quick weeknight meal. Starting with cooked chickpeas and with a frozen stir fry vegetable mix, it took all of about ten minutes and I should mention that I reduced the sugar to a heaping tablespoon and it was still just a little too sweet honestly. Judging by the color and spice level, I probably should've added a good bit more red curry paste.

I'm a little embarrassed that I like this blog about cooking for kids so much, although this guy's kids have much more sophisticated palates than I ever did (my favorite thing to eat as a kid was strawberry pop tarts crushed up with milk; I think it was a Paula Poundstone joke that I took literally)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sourdough: First contact

Now this has been a fun one... I started cultivating a wild starter about three weeks ago, right when we got home from Oregon. This is actually my second attempt at making bread with it and I'm relatively happy with the result -- the crust is beautiful, the crumb a little bit too tight, and it's only just a little bit sour. The addiction center of my brain is fickle and usually gives up when something gets difficult but I'm hoping I stick with this long enough to make a truly face-twistingly sour loaf of bread.

So then, a wild starter is different from a regular starter in that it contains ... surprise, wild yeast. This is as opposed to commercial baker's yeast (also brewer's yeast) in other types of bread. It is apparently widely misconceived that wild yeast comes right out of the air -- I say apparently because I didn't even know that wild yeast was a thing, let alone a thing to be misconceived, until a few weeks ago. The yeast actually lives right there on the flour (particularly rye flour, particularly organic rye flour) and given some time to grow and ferment with regular feedings (i.e., adding more flour) it will turn itself into a little self-sustaining ball of bread-rising power. The really cool implication is that this bread is literally made from flour, salt, and water only (although the complete truth is that the starter began life in half a cup of pineapple juice to stave of leuconostoc bacteria that can sometimes, and on my first attempt did, delay the starter a few days)

All credit to Bread Baker's Apprentice by the way for this information. So another interesting thing is that it's actually bacteria and not the wild yeast that makes the bread sour. San Francisco sourdough is so distinctive because it contains a type of bacteria that lives only in that hallowed city (Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis believe it or not). The reason the wild yeast is important is that it can live in the acidic environment that the bacterias thrive in, and live long enough for the bacteria to grow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Zucchini pasta with watercress pesto

There is a special place in my heart for watercress on account of The Man Who Cooked for Himself (a children's story about ... well a shut-in who is out of food and goes foraging in the woods for himself and his cat, or an early introduction for children to the benefits of pescetarianism). Whatever your feelings about watercress, you must agree that it has the most appetizing name for a bitter lettuce ever!
Kristen found this clever recipe for zucchini "pasta" on Claudia Pearson's blog (you should click on that link, the recipe is very beautiful) -- shaved raw zucchini is tossed with a little salt and left to soften until it can be treated sort of like cooked pasta. I went for parmesan instead of blue cheese -- I'm sure blue cheese would have been good, but that's one of the few foods that I really never came to terms with... I can tell objectively that it should taste good, but if I'm honest with myself, blech.

We had a little white bean salad (with cilantro, red onions, and red wine vinegar) and a homemade baguette on the side

Saturday, July 24, 2010

sweet potato mac & cheese

i have a few food obsessions--raspberry lemon scones, oatmeal walnut chocolate chip cookies, spiced carrot muffins, purple potato frittatas, watercress sandwiches, tempeh bacon, aaaaand cheese. macaroni and cheese to wit. and this, my dears, is no ordinary variation on the classic casserole. this is IT. the macaroni and cheese i'd walk down the aisle with. it's smoky, it's sweet, crunchy and creamy, indulgent but healthy (not that it's bathing suit season or anything).

i should point out to my vegan friends that the key ingredient here is the sweet potato, not the cheese. you can substitute and modify any of the cheeses, but i really wouldn't lose the sweet potato (maybe butternut squash, but i'm not a big fan). i have been known in the past to jokingly describe my cooking as "50% vegan", which is ridiculous i know. but part of why i've been hesitant to post this recipe is precisely because it's a non-vegan dish inspired by the vegan version that calls for squash, sweet potato, or carrot to sweeten (and color) the cheese sauce. this sauce is healthy in the same way (no butter and plenty of veggies) and most of the cheese ends up on the top (slightly brown and crispy).

sweet potato mac & cheese

1-2 white-flesh sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup vegetable broth
1.5 cups plain (unsweetened) soymilk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of ground cayenne or chipotle pepper
1 lb. macaroni noodles
about 4 oz. grated smoked gouda
about 1 oz. finely grated parmesan
about 2 oz. grated sharp white cheddar
handful of arugula, coarsely chopped
1 slice of bread, coarsely chopped (for breadcrumbs)
1 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Bring milk and broth to a boil; add potatoes. Simmer about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and add the macaroni. Cook according to package directions (about 8 min). Puree sauce with stick blender until smooth. Add nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper. Stir in all of the gouda cheese and half of the parmesan. Then toss macaroni and arugula with the sauce before added to greased baking dish. Top with the cheddar and remaining parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until cheese is slightly browned. Add breadcrumbs immediately before serving. To prepare breadcrumbs, broil the pieces of bread with olive oil and salt/pepper for 1-2 minutes.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

5 pounds of flour

Given access to Kristen's family's giant kitchen, a digital thermometer, chlorine-free water, and their Bread Bible, I went a little nuts last week ...

Olive bread
As I was reading the recipe, I KNEW this was going to taste like Charlie's olive bread and I was so right! Thin crust, chewy, almost doughy interior. I think this was my favorite of the four

This was Kristen's favorite and definitely the best texture-wise, perfect crust and pretty big holes. Instead of the durum flour that was suggested I used 1/4 cup of whole wheat pastry flour; I have no idea whether that was a reasonable substitute but it definitely tasted good.

Tuscan Low-Salt Bread
This one was a lot like the pugliese except drier and with (duh) less salt. I liked it on its own, but I think everyone else felt that it lacked... drumroll... salt. It was pretty perfect for sopping up Kris's excellent homemade pesto (that's about a pound of fresh pasta that we made there too!)

Bread Baker's Apprentice and a pound of instant yeast are en route from Amazon, and day 1 of a sourdough starter on the counter. Man I hope I never try heroin.

EDIT: I remembered that we also made banana bread from America's Test Kitchen, chocolate chip cookies, and two pizzas. So yeah, if you were wondering what happened to the gigantic jar of AP flour...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Basic hearth bread

Uh oh, I can already feel my addictive brain taking over. Kneading the stretchy soft dough, the crackling as it cools and the crust starts to contract on itself, the oddly holistic appeal of making so many different things from the same three ingredients...

This is my first time making bread from a sponge (or any kind of) starter. The sponge is a very wet mixture of flour, water, and yeast, with the consistency of thick pancake batter. I always thought that the point of fermenting was just for the bread to rise, but apparently giving the yeast more time to ferment changes the flavor dramatically too -- I am kind of in love with the Bread Bible.

So baking this thing was no small task, the sponge takes 4 hours, then you knead and/or shape and let it rise 3 times for about an hour each. It was unmistakably a (country?) white bread, not really sour like sourdough or super chewy like French or Italian bread, but it was crusty and tasty (unlike some previous attempts which have tasted sort of like raw flour) and very very good for plain ol' white bread... if I do say so myself.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer time in my mind

It's been comically cloudy and cool in San Diego for the past couple weeks; while our friends in the north, east, northeast, northwest, south, and whatever Texas is are "enjoying" the full force of summer, we've been wearing jeans and debating light sweater or coat.

Now to be clear I am not complaining -- we do not lack sunny days, and today I count myself among the lucky few in the US who could survive preheating the oven to 500 so we could give the pizza stone K got for her birthday a test run. I'm really sorry I'm posting so much pizza but this one was too good to pass up. Yet another secret about yeast that I did not know -- it doesn't like chlorine (surprise surprise). In addition to sunny days, the other thing we have plenty of is chlorine in our tap water... So this time I heated up a cup of filtered water in the microwave for the bloom and it made a huge difference (also didn't hurt that I let it rise for two hours instead of my usual impatient one)

Made a quick red sauce (half an onion sauteed, a 15-oz can of roasted tomatoes, 1/3 cup of sugar, 1 tsp of cornstarch, salted to taste, and pulsed a few times in the blender), a few halfway-to-caramelized red onions, goat cheese, baked for about 8-9 minutes, and then topped with a handful of arugula (walnuts would be really good on this too, but I forgot). Holy macaroni it was good, and what a difference the pizza stone makes (if you don't have one, a 12" cast iron pan still works pretty great)

Here is a little Vietnamee-ish BĂșn salad with peanuts and a tamari-honey sauce that Kris made a couple days ago. Also I was psyched that these came out of the camera white balanced pretty much perfectly (tried the "PRE" setting for the first time -- awesome)

Bonus hardly bartending! From 4th of July weekend, I present the Mint Julep, a.k.a. Whiskey Snowcone (wouldn't that be a great band name? much better than Whiskeytown) Typically these are served in metal cups, I used the bottom half of my cocktail shaker which quickly became too cold to hold for more than a few seconds, which I have to imagine is part of the allure of the drink. Real southerners I'd love to hear if this is right or wrong:

Mint Julep

Muddle 10 mint leaves with 1/2 tsp simple syrup
Fill cup with shaved ice -- about 3/4 of an ice try pulsed a few times in the blender
Pour 2 1/2 oz (2 shots) of bourbon over the ice (I used Bulleit which I love and is pretty cheap at TJ's)
Stir and garnish with a few mint leaves and maybe a dash of powdered sugar sadly, I wasn't really aware of liquor when I lived in Georgia. I remember a SoCo with Lime poster at Rocky Mountain Pizza and Jaegermeister at every bar, but I'm guessing Coke's presence kind of killed the chances for any cocktails that weren't Beam and Coke or Bacardi and Diet, Which in retrospect really seems like a shame so close to Tennessee and Kentucky

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Rosemary foccacia

I reeeeaaally don't know if I'm cut out for making bread ... the waiting is terrible! I managed a 2+1 hour rise rise for this, but overnight? I don't think I could stand it. Kristen, in a brilliant stroke of empty-refrigerator-as-mother-of-invention, put together some excellent (and photogenic) edamame hummus for sandwiches this afternoon.

All and all the bread was fun and turned out decent enough, but I'm sure it'll take a few more tries before I make something I'm really happy with. The recipe I used was basically a pizza dough recipe with a little bit more oil (I also tried subbing 1/2 cup of flour for cornmeal, but I wouldn't recommend that). The dough was certainly wetter than french bread, but I have a feeling it's supposed to be even wetter (and that feeling's name is Peter Reinhardt)

I won't post a recipe, but I did want to put up a couple pictures, mostly so the blog doesn't think I forgot about it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ode to: Farmers market squash blossom quesadillas

One of my (our) absolute favorite things in San Francisco was going to the Alemany farmers market on sunday mornings (the largest in the city, a five minute walk from our old apartment). A street food neophyte, I'd fallen into a long and expensive rut of eating fancy crepes from these two French guys (it would be funny if I could say French creeps so they would be French creep crepes, but they were nice guys)... until one day their tent was missing, and I was forced to look further afield.

Enter El Huarache Loco and life-changing, home-made tortillas -- literally pressed to order -- and the achingly short squash blossom season (or maybe they were just always sold out). They had really fantastic, even less frequently available, mushroom quesadillas too.

And here we are three (or wow, more like four) years later. The Hillcrest farmers market in San Diego was kind of disappointing at first, but in the last year or so -- I don't know if it's changed dramatically or if I just have a better idea what to look for -- but it has turned into/out to be a remarkably good place to buy food. I particularly love Be Wise ranch, Eben-Haezer eggs, Sage Mountain Farm, Suzie's, Archi's Acres but they're almost all great, lots of cool organic farms represented. Also Spenser Little has a booth there

So last weekend we picked up this small bunch of blossoms, to use with some fresh nopales tortillas (that Kristen had earlier in the week asked me to "hook [her] up with"), avocado (from archi's), salsa, and goat feta (sounds weird but it's not that different from cotija). The squash blossoms were kind of an adventure, apparently this is normal but I realized they were completely covered with ants when we got home... suffice it to say this meal involved significantly more death than they usually do at our house. But oh the result was delicious... if you haven't had them, squash blossoms are pretty much exactly what they sound like, flowers that taste like squash. They quickly cooked down into almost nothingness but the flavor stood up quite well.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Heirloom tomato pesto pizza

I wanted to update my pizza crust recipe because apparently I learned a few tricks since the last time around -- this one turned out so much better: chewy and pretty evenly cooked (though I'm still going to strongly advocate generally for the rosemary + goat cheese + caramelized red onions).

The brilliant innovation came from our neighbor: cook the pizza in a 12" cast iron pan (had been using a cheapo cookie sheet). This forced me to roll out a thicker crust but more importantly kept the pizza from burning on the bottom.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

hardly bartending! ginger beer, dark 'n stormy, and the communist

It seems like we've had a couple of days lately where we wake up, make a semi-elaborate breakfast, ride bikes to the farmer's market for lunch, do shopping for the week in the afternoon, get home just in time to start cooking dinner. Well this Saturday was like that... except with liquids :)

Ginger Beer

We'd both been excited to try making ginger beer after seeing this post on Lottie and Doof recently -- another thing I'd never really considered making. And I'm still not completely sold that the proper way to make it is to make ginger juice and add club soda, but the method seems pretty common on the internet and it sure tastes good.

Ginger is wonderful, curative stuff, but we made a budgetary decision to limit it to 1 pound (down from 2.5), and I'm kind of really glad we did because it is still crazy crazy spicy.

Homemade Ginger Beer

1 pound of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
4 cups of water
1.5 cups of simple syrup (1 cup sugar dissolved in 1 part water). Turbinado syrup turns daiquiris an unappetizing color but it was perfect for this
0.5 cups of fresh squeezed lime juice

Put the ginger and two cups of water in the food processor. Process on high for about 3 minutes, strain the liquid and return the solids to the food processor. Add an additional cup of water, process for another 3 minutes, and strain again. Return the solids to the processor a third time, add a final cup of water, process and strain. At this point you should be left with some totally flavorless cellulosic ginger, and a big bowl of fiery ginger juice (go ahead and taste a big spoonful, it's fun. and by fun I mean shocking). Add the sugar and lime and stir.

Serve with lots of ice and about a 2:1 ratio of club soda to ginger. You can add a little more sugar to taste at this point, but this seemed a pretty good balance to me.

This stuff is great on its own, but two shots of Gosling's dark rum and a slice of lime puts it right over the edge.

The Communist

Another classic mixed drink I learned from Rachel Maddow (It is hilariously difficult to try to search for this on Google; lots of hits for "rachel maddow communist"). It's been on my to-try list for a while, and when I finally saw Cherry Heering at BevMo I could not resist.

Pretty ain't it?

The Communist
1 shot gin
1 shot orange juice
1/2 - 3/4 shot of lemon juice
1/2 shot of Cherry Heering

Shaken with ice and served up

For me, the cherry and lemon juice are the stars. I was worried it would be sweet with the syrupy liquer and orange juice, but thankfully it balanced out quite well, though the gin is maybe not quite as prominent as I'd like. Definitely one I'd make again.