Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pizza Crust, Take 2 (101 Cookbooks version)

So, I found the purported "best pizza dough ever," and since I wasn't bowled over by my first run, I decided to give it a try. The dough is much more difficult to work with than the last dough, and the recipe more finicky. Here's my version, simplified where possible:

4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 3/4 (.44 ounce) teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon (.11 ounce) instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces) olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) water, ice cold
Semolina flour OR cornmeal for dusting

1. Stir together the flour, salt, and instant yeast in a bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). With a large spoon, stir in the oil and the cold water until the flour is all absorbed (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment), If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand. Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further. Do this for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed. If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and doesn't come off the sides of the bowl, sprinkle in some more flour just until it clears the sides. If it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a tea- spoon or two of cold water. The finished dough will be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky.

2. Oil a sheet pan or other storage container (Tupperware). Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (to make individual-sized pizzas), You can dip the knife into the water between cuts to keep the dough from sticking to it. Lift each piece and gently round it into a ball. If the dough sticks to your hands, coat your hands with oil. Transfer the dough balls to container, coat with oil, and cover.

3. Put the dough into the refrigerator overnight to rest the dough, or keep for up to 3 days.

(Note: If you want to save some of the dough for future baking, you can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag. You can store the dough in the freezer for up to 3 months. Transfer them to the refrigerator the day before you plan to make pizza.)

4. On the day you plan to make the pizza, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator 2 hours before making the pizza. Before letting the dough rest at room temperature for 2 hours, oil hands and gently press the dough into flat disks about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches in diameter. Mis dough again with oil, and cover the dough loosely. Now let rest for 2 hours.

5. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Heat the oven as hot as possible, up to 800F. If you do not have a baking stone, you can use the back of a sheet pan, but do not preheat the pan.

6. Make the pizzas one at a time. Dip your hands, including the backs of your hands and knuckles, in oil and lift I piece of dough by getting under it with a pastry scraper. Very gently lay the dough across your fists and carefully stretch it by bouncing the dough in a circular motion on your hands, carefully giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss. If you have trouble tossing the dough, or if the dough keeps springing back, let it rest for 5 to 20 minutes so the gluten can relax, and try again. You can also resort to using a rolling pin, though this isn't as effective as the toss method.

7. When the dough is stretched out to your satisfaction (about 9 to 12 inches in diameter for a 6-ounce piece of dough), lay in on the pan, making sure there is enough semolina flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide. Lightly top it with sauce and then with your other top- pings, remembering that the best pizzas are topped with a less-is-more philosophy.

8. Slide the topped pizza onto the stone (or bake directly on the sheet pan) and close the door. Wait 2 minutes, then take a peek. If it needs to be rotated 180 degrees for even baking, do so. The pizza should take about 5 to 8 minutes to bake. If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone to a lower self before the next round. if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone for subsequent bakes.

9. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait 3 to 5 minutes before slicing and serving, to allow the cheese to set slightly.

Makes six 6-ounce pizza crusts.

from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (Ten Speed Press) - reprinted with permission

Comments: While this recipe is a lot more difficult than the other, the taste is far superior. It-s also forgiving, as I added a lot of extra flour to the first ball while trying to shape it, and after another hour of rest, it was just as springy and tasty as the others. I'm trying a calzone version tomorrow, with one of the frozen dough balls.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Simple Cauliflower Recipe

Simple Cauliflower Recipe (101 Cookbooks)

To make this recipe vegan, just omit the Parmesan cheese finish - still delicious.

2 - 3 heads of small cauliflower (or 1/2 head large)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
a couple pinches of sea salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small bunch of chives, chopped
zest of one lemon
freshly grated Parmesan
a bit of flaky sea salt

To prep the cauliflower, remove any leaves at the base and trim the stem. Now cut it into tiny trees - and by tiny, I mean most florets aren't much larger than a table grape. Make sure the pieces are relatively equal in size, so they cook in the same amount of time.

Rinse under running water, and set aside.

Heat the olive oil and fine grain salt in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cauliflower and stir until the florets are coated. Wait until it gets a bit brown on the bottom, then toss the cauliflower with a spatula. Brown a bit more and continue to saute until the pieces are deeply golden - all told about six minutes. In the last 30 seconds stir in the garlic.

Remove from heat and stir in the chives, lemon zest, and dust with a bit of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a pinch of flaky sea salt (if you have it on hand). Serve immediately.

Serves 2-3 as a side.

Comments: I make my own variations of this all the time, based on what I have on hand. It's a great jumping off point.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pizza Crust (and pizza!)

Martín and I have been buying a bunch of prepizzas lately...and since making your own crust isn't that difficult, I figured it was time to give it a go. However the stores I went to didn't have the dry yeast I'm used to...one of the women gave me a 101 on the wet stuff, and I was ready to experiment, when we discovered all her packs had expired--yesterday! I would have bargained, but she wanted to sell me the flour with yeast already added. This doesn't appear to be the same self-rising flour they sell in the US--it contains yeast, not baking powder. So, I went to adapt the recipe, but found the recipe is so simple, it's really more a matter of adjusting for texture.

Really Simple Pizza Dough (Smitten Kitchen)

Makes enough for one small, thin crust pizza. Double it if you like your pizza thick and bready.

1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Dump all clumps and floury bits onto a lightly floured surface and knead everything into a homogeneous ball.

If you are finding this step difficult, one of the best tricks I picked up from my bread-making class is to simply pause. Leave the dough in a lightly-floured spot, put the empty bowl upside-down on top of it and come back in 2 to 5 minutes, at which point you will find the dough a lot more lovable.

Knead it for just a minute or two. Lightly oil the bowl (a spritz of cooking spray perfectly does the trick) where you had mixed it — one-bowl recipe! — dump the dough in, turn it over so all sides are coated, cover it in plastic wrap and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.

Dump it back on the floured counter (yup, I leave mine messy), and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under that plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.

Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, toss on whatever topping and seasonings you like. (I always err on the side of skimpy with toppings so to not weight down the dough too much, or if I have multiple toppings, to keep them very thinly sliced.)

Bake it for about 10 minutes until it’s lightly blistered and impossible to resist.

So...the crust turned out well. The flavor seems a bit off, and I'm not sure why...like it's missing a bit of tang or something. However, it was super cheap and definitely edible! Maybe my pan is a bit smaller, or I made a bit more dough (measuring is a difficult task here!), but I think doubling the dough would be fairly disasterous, and it wasn't super thin as it was...my final learning experience, the oven was slightly higher than the lowest setting, next time it needs to be hotter. I was just nervous after previous pizza burning experiences.

Smitten Kitchen also has a stepped up dough I can't wait to try! As you can see, I topped this with queso cremoso and something random I had in the fridge. I think I prefer a queso cremoso/mozzarella blend, but wasn't up for going to the store. I also used thinly sliced zapallitos and a squeeze of lemon. Fabulous!

Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Parmesan

I made this "salad" the other night. Simple and tasty, although it seemed like it could benefit from some added pizzaz...or at least a better quality cheese (I used the packaged queso rallado).

2 c. cooked chickpeas
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tsp. olive oil
A pinch of salt
¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and stir gently to mix. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve immediately, or chill, covered, until serving.

Note: This salad keeps well in the fridge and is, in my humble opinion, best eaten cold.

Yield: 2 servings

Future add-in ideas:
"I like to crumble some sharp and salty Greek Feta into mine and maybe, if the content of my fridge allows, a handful of flatleaf parsley, and for good measure some cubed cucumber, bell peppers (though never green ones: I loath green peppers) or a celery stick. I might even sneak in a black olive or two. I douse it with olive oil and lemon juice and a pinch of cumin, coriander and chilli if I am feeling sophisticated. "

"I tried this earlier in the summer and LOVED it. This afternoon I grabbed the chickpeas and parmesan, but also threw in some leftover pesto and toasted sunflower seeds (good if you like a little crunch) - YUM! Throw it all on a bed of spinach and life is truly good!"

"I made this for dinner last night. After I mixed it up I was thinking of what to serve with it to bulk it up a bit when I remembered some whole wheat rotelli in my cupboard. While digging for that I found a can of black olives. I mixed in the olives and the pasta, added a bit more cheese, oil and lemon and had a hearty and delicious meal. "

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Delicious Dal

I picked this up when I was in the US...omigod, it's making me so happy in the spice-free land of Argentina!

Drop Biscuits

I had to try Trader Joe's drop biscuits because the recipe looked to simple to be true. They turned out great!

2 ½ Cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 Tsp Salt
2 Cups heavy cream

Pre-heat oven to 350°. Mix all-purpose flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Add heavy cream and stir until the mixture starts to get dough-y. Scoop out a golf-ball size of the dough and squeeze into a “drop of biscuit” – drop “drops” onto an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat (be sure to give each drop sufficient space). Bake for about 15 minutes (time may vary depending on oven calibrations) until the
bottom and crests of the biscuit are golden brown. Cool (if you can) for a few minutes.

Brighten Up The Biscuits: Serve them with raspberry fruit spread. Or... add shredded cheddar cheese or freshly chopped herbs to the dough prior to making the biscuit drops.

Another Peanut Sauce

Yes, I'm still trying to get it right...but I think it's been so long since I tried the Smitten Kitchen one, I've forgotten. It's probably better, this was very watery when mixed with cooked veggies. Maybe better with pasta and raw veggies.

1 tsp canola oil
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 tsp vinegar
1/4 tsp sriracha
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup hot vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt

Blend ingredients well.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Pasta with Let-My-Eggplant-Go-Free! Puree

I loved the idea of Francis Lam's eggplant sauce for pasta, however this didn't come out quite as I imagined. It was thick and rich--not bad, but not addictively good, and had the unfortunate eggplant appearance rendering it unfit for company. If I make it again, I will try fresh oregano, as the original recipe called for and omit the basil and tomatoes, as I didn't feel the basil added anything and the sun dried tomatoes went unnoticed.

Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as a starter

2 medium eggplants, cut into ½ inch slices
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, lightly smashed (I mean just flatten them, don’t take out your aggression on them)
2 T oregano
1 cup stock
2 tablespoons sun dried dried tomatoes, minced
6 leaves basil, chiffonaded
Salt and pepper
1 pound long pasta – spaghetti, linguini, whatever floats your boat

• Lightly salt the slices of eggplant, stack them back together and let it all hang out for about 20 minutes. This will season it and water will drip out, allegedly removing the bitterness, if it’s there. They also say to choose eggplants that are dense and heavy for their size to make sure it’s not bitter.

• Dry off the eggplant, cut it into chunks. Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a wide, heavy saucepan, add the garlic cloves, and set over low heat. You’re just trying to get them friendly with one another, so don’t worry if nothing happens for a while. When you start hearing the garlic sizzle a little and can smell it, drop in your eggplant and stir to coat it all with oil. Turn up the heat a little bit to medium high and add your oregano and stir. When the eggplant is turning translucent and softening, add the liquid, let it come to a boil, and turn it back down to medium-low. Let it bubble for a bit and cover it, leaving a crack for steam to escape. Stir once in a while so that the bottom doesn’t stick.

• Meanwhile, bring water to boil, salt it, and cook your pasta.

• Check on your eggplant. Is the liquid mostly absorbed or reduced? It should be after about 20 minutes or so. Does it look good and mashable? Great. Mash it up with a spoon, and adjust the seasoning to taste. Isn’t it great? Silky smooth and garlicky and eggplanty and humming with oil? And totally stress-free! Amazing.

• Drain your perfect al dente pasta and toss with the eggplant puree. Stir in your minced tomatoes and basil and gild the lily with some more oil. Celebrate your new friendship.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sweet Potato Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing

I filed this epicurious recipe away ages ago, and just found it again. Maybe it was a mistake to try it with a cold? It just didn't seem that flavorful, and I don't think it was my adaptations--although I did substitute a bit of raw white onion, for green, and that was a mistake!

  • Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 T. mayonnaise
  • 4 t. minced fresh ginger
  • 4 t. toasted sesame oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T. peanut butter
  • 2 t. chili-garlic sauce
  • 1 1/2 t.golden brown sugar
  • 2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts


1. Whisk first 9 ingredients in medium bowl to blend.

2. Add enough water to large saucepan to reach depth of 1/2 inch. Bring to boil; add sweet potatoes and cook until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain; cool.

3. Mix sweet potatoes, dressing, peas, and green onions in large bowl. Season salad with salt and pepper. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Sprinkle salad with peanuts and serve.

Don't be fooled by the appearance...it probaby looked as it should, it just lacked zing. I have to make it again, sans cold, before writing it off.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hard Boiling Eggs--Julia Child

Julia Child reportedly found the best method for hard boiling eggs. Given her legacy, I felt it was worth a shot. Here's the rundown:

1.Lay the eggs in the pan and add enough cold water to cover by one inch. Set over high heat and bring just to the boil; remove from heat, cover the pan, and let sit exactly 12 minutes.

2. When the time is up, transfer the eggs to the bowl of ice cubes and water. Chill for 2 minutes while bringing the cooking water to the boil again. (This 2 minute chilling shrinks the body of the egg from the shell.)

3. Transfer the eggs (6 at a time only) to the boiling water, bring to the boil again, and let boil for 10 seconds - this expands the shell from the egg. Remove eggs, and place back into the ice water.

Chilling the eggs promptly after each step prevents that dark line from forming, and if time allows, leave the eggs in the ice water after the last step for 15 to 20 minutes. Chilled eggs are easier to peel, as well.

Well...I guess I never had a problem with my eggs developing a dark line (I only leave them for 12 minutes, and left these for 12 minutes as well, although 17 was stated in the recipe).

This recipe didn't merit the extra work, as my eggs stuck worse than usual. I don't think that had to do with the recipe, but...it didn't help it! Back to the tried-and-true.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Green Soup with Ginger

I made this tasty soup after catching a cold. It was light and simple, yet comforting. A little strong on the ginger, next time I'll cut back. The bites of sweet potato were delicious, so next time I'll double the amount. The onions and vegetables were both done early, probably after 20 minutes each. It needs some bread and protein to make a meal, maybe garbanzos or white beans mixed in? The water didn't look like enough, but it was perfect. Here's the recipe with my changes:

1 large yellow onion (250g)
2 tablespoons (30 ml.) olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
2 large sweet potatos (1 1/2 pounds; 700 g)
1 large leek, white and light green parts (5 ounces; 140 g)
1 bunch spinach (8 ounces; 225 g)
1 large bunch green chard (12 ounces; 350 g)
3 tablespoons (30 g) chopped fresh ginger, plus more to taste
2 cups (500 ml) good-tasting vegetable broth
2-4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper

Chop the onion and cook it slowly in the olive oil with a sprinkle of salt, stirring now and then, over low heat until it is soft and golden, about half an hour.

Meanwhile, peel and dice the sweet potato and put it in a large soup pot with 4 cups (1 liter) water and a teaspoon of sea salt. Thoroughly wash the leek, spinach, and chard, chop them coarsely, and add them to the pot, along with the chopped ginger.

Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the soup, covered, for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are completely tender. Add the caramelized onions when they are ready. When the vegetables are soft, add the vegetable broth (you can add less if you like a thicker soup) and decide whether you want your soup chunky, like this, or smooth. If the latter, puree the soup in a blender, in batches, or with an immersion blender until it is smooth.

Stir in 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice and a few grinds of black pepper. Taste, and correct the seasoning with additional salt or lemon juice.

Serves 5-6.