Monday, January 31, 2011

Simple Cous Cous

This simple take on cous cous was a nice accompaniment to hummus and the fennel salad below.

The cous cous will take on any flavor, similar to pasta, so be sure to be a bit heavy handed with the spices. This simple dish adds onion and fresh parsley to the cous cous.

Herbed Cous Cous
about a cup cooked Isreali cous cous (see here)
about half an onion, diced
1 - 2 cloves garlic
1 - 2 tsp cumin
1 -2 tsp zatar
salt and pepper
small bunch parsley, minced

Prepare the cous cous, while it is cooling, heat oil in skillet and add onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the soften, making sure not to brown. Then add the seasons. Cook until coated and flavors are blended.


Add the cous cous, tossing to coat.


Let cool slightly, then add the parsley and adjust the taste with more seasonings as needed.


I served this with a simple fennel and celery salad with sumac.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

"Left Overs"

Last night was another night of using up what is in the house, which meant squash and pizza dough.

I made a simple roasted squash salad.


I had made a couple pies a few nights earlier and had a couple left over doughs. I made another red pie.


And a roasted garlic, caramelized onion with roasted red pepper spread from Pastoral.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Toasts

The other night we went to Abigail's with our friends Adam and Renee, there we had an appetizer with mushrooms and truffles. I was inspired by this.

I had recently read on about a new method to caramelize onions, using two slight changes. One is to caramelize a small amount of sugar, this jumps starts the process, the other is to add baking soda (a base) which changes the pH and allows you to cook hotter and breaks the onions down quicker. The end result was surely tasty and likely took a bit less time, was somewhat mushy. So for an application like this dish, it works great, but for something where you wanted pieces of onion, it would not work.

Mushroom with Goat Cheese Caramelized Onion Toasts
half a large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp sugar
1/8 baking soda
pinch salt to taste
oil and/or butter

1 - 2 cloves garlic, sliced
a couple cups thick sliced mushrooms
2 - 3 ounces goat cheese
3 - 6 slices bread
small bunch arugula
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt and pepper to taste

To make the onions, start by heating a stainless pan over medium heat, add the sugar and cook until melted and slightly golden.


Add the onions, and turn to coat. Then add the baking soda and salt, and butter and/or oil. Cook over medium heat turning occasionally. If the onions stick add a touch of water and incorporate any of the browned pieces.


Cook until the onions are broken down and have a nice caramel color. Cool completely before adding to the cheese.


To prepare the mushroom, add a touch of oil to a pan and add the garlic and a touch of salt. Cook for a minute to soften then add the mushrooms. Cook over medium heat, until cooked though and soft.


Mix the cheese with the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Toast the bread, then spread with the cheese.


To finish, top with the mushrooms, then with the arugula. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

4 pies, 3 doughs, 1 oven set up

We had good friends over last night for dinner (Thanks Dan for the wine, and Cat for the treats) and what a great way to do a little taste test.

I have been trying many methods lately and wanted to see how much they differed and which were the best to work with. Even though all the doughs were basically the same four ingredients (flour, water, salt and yeast) they ended up with different tastes and textures. (You can read more about the methods

I made three batches of dough on Monday. This would not normally be enough time to let the dough ferment, but that's what I had to work with.

For the first recipe I made this recipe, originally from Cooks Illustrated. It uses a food processor to mix the dough rather quickly. This can be a great way to make dough, though there is a concern that the processor will heat up the dough too much, killing the yeast, leaving the dough flat.

The second recipe was a some what standard 65% hydration (meaning for 100% flour (250 g) , 65% water (163 g)) using a large amount of Ischia Culture (100% hydration), about 25% (300 g flour to 100 g culture).

The third dough was Jim Lahey's no-knead recipe.

In an attempt to get better heat out of my oven, I tried making a bit of a oven in an oven using fire bricks. These thick bricks retain a lot of heat and by surrounding the baking stone and building a little roof, I was able to direct more of the heat back to the pies and ultimately get a better cornicione (outer crust).


Pie one, cooked red sauce, half mushrooms, processor dough.


Pie two, roasted garlic and hot peppers, culture dough.


Pie three, mushrooms and truffle, no-knead.


Lastly, squash, roasted garlic and arugula, culture dough.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

White Bean Soup with Winter Vegetables

Soups are always a great way to use up any vegetables. With this recipe, as with many, there are not real hard and fast rules as to what to put in. I had some root vegetables and white beans, and finish with chard. I like to chop everything about the same size, in this case the size of the beans, so that when eating you do not have a huge piece of carrot and a tiny onion.

White Bean Soup with Winter Vegetables
large onion, diced
2 - 4 carrots, diced
1 - 2 parsnips, peeled and diced
1 - 2 turnips, diced
3 - 6 cloves garlic, rough chopped
2 - 4 cups white beans
2 - 3 potatoes, diced (I left the skin on)
bunch chard or other green, chopped
about 1 Tbs Thyme
about 1 Tbs Rosemary
salt and pepper

In a large pot, warm oil and add onions. Cook over medium heat a few minutes until they begin to cook. Add the other vegetables and season with salt and pepper.


Cook this for about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Then add the beans and potatoes. Add more water or stock to cover.


Cook until the potatoes are almost cooked through.


Then add the greens and cook a few minutes more. Season to taste. Serve with Parm.


I always love to serve with a simple salad, here we had a beet with goat cheese and bibb lettuce salad with balsamic glaze.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cucumber Salad

Here is another quick and easy salad. I just tossed together a bunch of veggies I had, a little feta and used some of the arugula pesto from the other night to make a quick dressing.

Cucumber Salad
about a half of a cucumber, peeled or not, sliced
marinated onions*
2 - 3 stalks celery
about a 1 Tbs arugula pesto
Extra Virgin Olive oil
Vinegar of your choosing
salt and pepper
1 -3 oz feta to taste

Toss the veggies with the pesto, oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.


To serve top with the feta.


*to marinate onions, thinly slice and place in a small bowl. Add a few splashes of vinegar and oil. Season with salt and pepper and let sit at least 30 minutes. I've been using mine for days.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Grilled Mushrooms with Pesto

The other night I made some arugula pesto, last night I used the left overs with some mushrooms.

I thinned the pesto with more oil and tossed with mushrooms.


I grilled them, on a grill pan for about 5 minutes.


To serve, I topped with a touch more cheese.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Smashed potatoes

Yesterday I was in the grocery store with Auden, he noticed on the TV some one making smashed potatoes and asked if we could make them. Luckily, we had potatoes at home.

Smashed Potatoes
small to medium red potatoes
3 - 6 cloves garlic
olive oil
course salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes, whole, in heavily salted water for about 15 to 20 minutes, until cooked but not so much that they fall apart.


Drain, and let cool. Then using your hand or a spatula, smash the potatoes so that they are smushed but are still in one piece


In a large skillet, add enough oil to coat the bottom and add the garlic. Cook over medium to infuse the oil with the garlic. When they start to brown, remove and set aside.


Add the potatoes to the oil and pan fry. Cook for about 5 minutes a side until nicely browned.


Add the garlic back in to warm. Then serve with course salt and fresh pepper, drizzle with the garlic oil and the garlic pieces.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Carrot Soup

We ended up with a lot of carrots this week from our CSA. Soup is always the easiest, and tastiest, way to use up a lot of veggies. I even tossed in some squash to enhance the flavor.

This is a simple soup flavored with some Indian spices and coconut milk.

Carrot Squash Soup
large bunch carrots, chopped
large onion, chopped
2 - 3 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium winter squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 - 3 cloves garlic
about 1 Tbs cumin
about 1 Tbs garam masala
salt and pepper
1 large piece chopped ginger
about 1 Tbs chili powder
one can coconut milk

Place all the vegetables in a lat pot, and cover with water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.


After the soup has cooked for about 20 minutes and the vegetables are soft, add in the spices to taste and coconut milk. Puree in a blender or food processor.


Return to heat and re-season with salt and pepper


To serve, garnish with yogurt or sour cream and hot sauce.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Pestoed Squash and Pizza Sandwich

We have ended up with a lot of squash lately and I was looking for something new to do with it. I came across this recipe with pumpkins seeds and thought that pesto would be a great addition. Instead of the pumpkin seeds, I made a simple arugula version.

Roasted Squash with Arugula Pesto
one winter squash, skinned and diced
salt and pepper
garlic powder
Italian Seasoning

2 - 3 garlic cloves to taste

one large bunch arugula, washed
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt and pepper

Toss the squash with the salt and pepper, Italian seasoning and garlic powder and oil. Bake on a lined cookie sheet in 400 deg oven about 40 minutes, turning after about 20 minutes, until cooked and starting to crisp.


Meanwhile prepare the pesto. Place the garlic and a pinch of salt in a food processor, blend until the garlic is chopped


Roughly chop the arugula and add to the garlic. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides as needed.


Add in enough oil to make a smooth paste (pesto means paste), season with salt and pepper and add the Parm. Mix one last time to combine.


Once the squash is finished cooking, place in a small bowl and toss with a spoon or two of the pesto. I served it on top of arugula, dressed with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic, and seasoned with salt and pepper. Top the dish with more cheese and a drizzle of Balsamic Glaze.


Along with the squash salad, I made pizza sandwiches. I had seen this in Martha Stewart and thought it would be another fun adaptation of the calzone. Essentially, its a calzone where you do not seal the rim. This creates a nice sandwich appearance. I had some left over pizza dough, and with the addition of some broccoli made a great dinner.

Prepare the filling as you normally would for a calzone, laying them on only half the rolled out dough. Here I made one with fresh garlic, broccoli (I thinly sliced so that it would no get to bulky), mozzarella, and a sprinkle of pizza seasoning.


Fold over the top, leaving a small gap. (Next time I would have the ingredients poke out a little more for a better appearance.) You can brush the top with a little oil, as well.


Bake in 500 deg oven about 15 minutes.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

More Experiments in pizza

Lest there be any concern that I am backing off my pizza making, I am not (although I am spending more time making bread, in order to learn more about the chemistry, and because its yummy). And last night was another great round.
I have been playing with the Varasano recipe using a culture from Italy and a touch of yeast. I used KA Organic Bread flour at 65% hydration, meaning for 1 part flour I used 0.65 parts water, with about 9% culture. This was a nice soft dough that stretched out well after 5 days of cold fermenting in the fridge and about 3 hours of proofing at room temperature.

I have also been playing with toppings, inspired by what has been showing up on My Pie Monday an Slice.

I made a French onion soup inspired pie, this in part came from a new cheese I picked up at Trader Joe's that is part Gruyere and part cheddar.

I caramelized the onions with a touch of thyme. (Ok technically the onions do not caramelize, that only happens to sugar but they undergo a Maillard reaction.)


Along with the onion, I topped the pie with the Gruyere/cheddar and a touch of Parm, salt and pepper and a touch of oil.

I once again tried the cast skillet method, instead of the pizza stone. In the end, I ended up moving it back to the stone, this may have partially been because I was cooking other pies at the same time.



I also made a red pie, with a cooked tomato sauce.


And a white, with fresh garlic and lots of hot peppers.