more pizza (a study..)

April 12, 2010

I really want to get pizza right. The crust, the toppings, etc. Yesterday I made an arugula pizza, and the toppings were good, but the crust came out a little bit soggy.

I made a full batch of dough, and left two parts of dough into the fridge to use later, and today I made pizza number two.

My mission tonight was to try to get rid of the soggy crust. I rolled out the dough, set it aside to rise, and preheated the oven, with my cast iron pizza pan in it.

When the oven was heated, I basted the pizza generously with olive oil, dusted the pan with cornmeal, and set the pizza in the oven to bake.

I let it cook for about 10 minutes (I think…) and then took it out, popped the bubbles, added the sauce, cooked nettles, and cheese, and popped it back in the oven to finish cooking.

I kind of forgot about the pizza and it got a little bit crispy, which I like anyways…and no soggy crust! I also loved the nettles, cooked with onions and other veggies, sprinkled across the top.

I set the pizza on the porch railing to cool, perched out there myself, and had dinner with the gentle breeze, chirping birds, and leftover sunshine…

first pick

April 10, 2010

My mom and I spent the morning having quality time in the garden. We turned under the compost on the surface of our garden boxes, raked, and planted one of the boxes. We found a volunteer lettuce patch, the parsley, thyme, and onions. I love that we already have some hearty plants going strong!

We planted a whole bunch of things. First in line are the beets. We planted chioggia beets that are pink and white striped. They are planted in two widely spread rows. My mom wrote the name and date planted on little markers for each row. We left the seed packages because they looked cute!

Next were the carrots and radishes, planted together. Someone (I can’t remember who…) gave me this tip a few weeks ago. The radishes will grow more quickly, and as they are harvested, the carrots will have more room to grow! I can’t wait to see how it works. Next in line is the arugula, and then another variety of carrots, some chard, and kale. We were ambitious!

As we were planting, my mom spotted the first asparagus of the season! A few little stalks poking up around the leaves and compost.

We immediately stopped what we were doing and ran inside to cook the little batch.

My mom always peels the tougher bottom part of the asparagus. It is delicious, and without the tough part, each stalk is extended an inch or two with this simple trick.

We steamed the asparagus in a little water, and had it on toast with a little parmesan cheese on top and set under the broiler. We then sat on the porch and had our toast, and then went back out to finish our gardening.

Yesterday I got on a broth kick. I went to the grocery store while hungry (always either great or a mistake, depending on how you look at it). My friend Ayni was telling me about how she loves chicken broth, and how simple it is to make. I somehow forgot how labor intensive vegetable broth is to make, and told her that it was super easy. Then, I came home with two very heavy bags of vegetables. I spent the entire afternoon washing, peeling, chopping, stirring, and straining vegetables for broth. Making broth takes a lot of work. But it is definitely worth it.

I made two batches of broth. Both were recipes from Deborah Madison, the first from the Greens Cookbook, and the second from Vegetable Soups. I love Deborah Madison’s recipes, they are simple, easy to follow, and consistently delicious. The first recipe was for Winter Broth. My favorite basic broth recipe.

The vegetables start off bright and beautiful. I am always inspired by their cheerful colors and shapes.

As they cook, the color disappears, and I think that it sinks into the broth…which ends up with a beautiful mellow color, and bright flavor.

The lentils add a nice bit of body, and depth to the flavor. The colors of the vegetables are already fading as they cook down..

Above are the left over cooked vegetables, after the broth has been strained out. They are tossed into the compost pile, with a little regret…

Meanwhile, I started the hearty mushroom broth. I realized that I wouldn’t have enough time to cook the broth (about 45 minutes), so I prepared the ingredients to be able to make the broth more quickly (cooking show style) when I came home.

This mushroom broth recipe has tomato paste, flour, and red wine to add body and flavor. The mushroom broth is currently brewing in my kitchen, and the entire house smells delicious! Strong, hearty mushroom flavor. I can’t wait to try this one!

Here are the dried shiitake mushrooms soaking in warm water. The soaking water becomes the water for the broth.

After the vegetables and herbs were lightly browned, I added tomato paste, flour, wine. The alcohol is burned off by boiling, then I added the dried, soaked mushrooms and their water, and simmered the whole pot for about 45 minutes.

The result was a single jar of mushroom broth. One quart.

Ever have an extra bunch of chard in the fridge? I did yesterday, and so I made some Sunday lunch crepes to use it up. I love having everything that I need right in my fridge. Milk, check. Eggs, check. Extra bunch of chard, celery, onions, lettuce, olives, check, check, check…

I even had some yummy local cheese, and enough butter and flour to make a white sauce. Crepe time!

I made the batter first thing, as it needs to sit in the fridge for a while. I am not exactly sure why this is, but I do what they tell me.

Meanwhile, I made a bit of coffee, and started on the filling.

To cook the chard, use a little olive oil, (mine was flavored with Tunisian olives and harissa). To the oil, add chopped onion, chopped celery, and saute until the veggies are translucent. Then add roughly chopped chard and cook it until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Covered the chard, and placed in the oven on warm.

For the sauce, I followed the recipe for “white sauce” in the updated Joy of Cooking. The recipe calls for flour, butter, and milk.

Mix the flour and butter, and when the butter is melted, slowly add the milk, and whisk away!

It certainly takes some whisking to make a white sauce smooth. I always have a bit of concern that it will turn out lumpy, but it is usually okay in the end.

That’s it. Oh, and salt and pepper. To make it cheese sauce, I added a bunch of prairie breeze cheese, chopped up into little bits. And some smoked Spanish paprika for flavor.

Back to the crepe batter. I warmed the pan, and Skye was over and he pretty much took over the job of crepe making. I actually don’t think that I flipped a single crepe.

As Skye finished the crepes, he transferred them to a plate in the warm oven, and right before all the crepes were finished, we warmed the cheese sauce, set the table, and were ready to eat.

Making crepes, and filling, and sauce is easy, but putting everything together is a little tricky. Making sure all the elements are warm and cooked at the right time…

johnny cake

March 11, 2010

I am a sucker for packaging. Especially when the box has a recipe on it that I would like to try. And that is how I ended up with a box of Kenyon’s Stone Ground White Corn Meal; complete with recipe for Johnny Cakes.

It is a simple recipe. Add boiling water to corn, salt and sugar. Make a thick dough, and fry in oil (6 minutes the first side, 5 minutes the second!).

And the finished result? Crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside. A little like “clumps,” or fried leftover cream of wheat (a childhood favorite), but maybe not as good. I think that I need to work on the recipe a little more. Or at least on the frying process. It says that you can thin out the batter with milk or water, and this might make a more manageable batter to work with.

I ate my stack of Johnny Cakes with Heli’s apricot jam and a little cup of coffee. I used about 1/3 of the jar on my little stack of cakes…

Now my belly is full, and I am ready to clean house, aided by sunshine and “balmy” fresh air!