Jen’s Grilled Pizza

This is a tribute to an awesome dinner put together by Jen (and a really nice evening).  It included 4 kinds of grilled pizza, a big leafy salad, and vanilla coconut ice cream with homemade chocolate sables and strawberries for dessert.  It was really, really good, which I think is pretty well reflected in these photos.  It made me consider getting a grill, just for making pizza.  I like my crust really crispy, and on the thin side, and this was really perfect.  At the bottom is the recipe for the dough that Jen has kindly provided.

I would also like to express my sadness that Jen is leaving us for Texas shortly.  I will miss my cooking buddy, but I’m excited to see how the region incorporates itself into her culinary repertoire.

Here are the recipe and comments provided by Jen.

Pizza Dough  Adapted from The Olive Harvest Cookbook: Olive Oil Lore and Recipes from the McEvoy Ranch

Sponge:
½ C lukewarm water
2 tsp active dry yeast
½ rye flour or whole-wheat (I used whole-wheat)

Place ingredients for sponge in a large deep bowl. Mix well. Cover and leave in a
warm place until very bubbly, 20-30 min.

Then add to sponge:
¾ C lukewarm water
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
3 ¼ C unbleached all-purpose flour (plus extra if needed)

Knead until smooth and elastic (I did this with my kitchen-aid dough-hook for about 5 minutes). The dough should be moist, but not sticky. Put in oiled bowl and let rise until doubled in a warm place ( about 1 hr).

Punch down the dough and let rest for about 20 min. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and divide in half. Make 2 smooth balls. Let rest about 15 min.

Roll out thinly and put on a baking sheet covered in cornmeal. Slide onto grill (on low flame) and let cook until you can pick the dough up with tongs. Flip the crust at this point and put your toppings on. Close the grill lid until the cheese has melted.

Let cool a few minutes off the grill before cutting.

My modification to this recipe was to subtract 2 Tbsp water and add 2 Tbsp olive oil so that the dough doesn’t stick to the grill!  The recipe here includes this modification.

Spring Onion and Yellow Squash Galette

Last week, I was trying to come up with an appetizer to bring to dinner at Jen and Zack’s.  I was at the Nugget and the typical almost-too-friendly bagger starting gleefully naming things he would make now that cherry season has begun.  One of the things was a galette (the first time I heard it spoken aloud, though I’ve been seeing recipes for them for a while).  This inspired me, and I looked for a recipe.  I found one in Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food.  It describes in beautiful, simple language the intricacies of creating a perfect tart crust.

So the trick to proper tart dough is to handle it as little as possible.  For one galette, I started with 1 cup of all-purpose flour, and cut in 3/4 of a stick of butter.  The butter needs to be cold.  I used a pastry cutter, but if you combine with your fingers, use the tips of your fingers and not the warm palms of your hand.  You don’t want the butter to melt in the flour.  Combine until the mix is crumbly, with large-ish pieces of butter left in.  Mix in about 1/4 cup of ice water, slowly, and push the dough together with a fork.  Add just enough water for the dough to form large clumps.  Bring the dough together and form a ball.  The dough should not be too moist or sticky.  Wrap the dough in plastic and flatten into a disc.  Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

When ready to prepare, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/8 inch, rolling from the center of the circle outward.  Fill it with pretty much anything you like.  It is best to use a layer of filling that is about twice as thick as the crust.  Spread (or arrange) your filling on the dough, leaving half an inch or so around the edges.  Fold the dough over the filling as pictured.

I decided to fill mine with spring onions and grated yellow squash, sauteed in butter with fresh thyme sprigs until soft.  Brian grated the squash, as documented above.

Bake the galette at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes.  I think I took mine out at 47 minutes.  The crust should look golden and flaky.

I have to say, this galette was pretty awesome.  However, it is not at its best as an appetizer for tons and tons of amazing grilled pizza (which will be the topic of my next post, coming shortly).  I suggest serving it with something light, like salad, because it is not light itself.  I’m excited to fill this crust with other lovely spring things, and perhaps some cheese.  Or fruit.  You should too.

Little Cheesecakes

I made these mini cheesecakes to bring to an Easter dinner.  I like them because they are really easy to make (if you have a food processor) and cook really quickly.  They also encourage you to eat a more reasonable amount of cheesecake than you otherwise might.

You blend up some graham crackers with chocolate chips and butter…

Zest some orange for the cheesecake filling…

Line cupcake tins with crust, add filling, and bake.

I didn’t make these perfectly.  I think perhaps the recipe is meant for larger cupcake tins; I ended up with twice the crust and filling expected, and didn’t get the proportions right.  These don’t work as well with too much crust; make sure the crust is thick enough to hold the cupcake together, but not so thick that it will be tough to get a fork through when baked.

The strawberry sauce makes for a beautiful presentation and is very tasty, but I can see these cheesecakes working with an endless number of other toppings.  Fresh berries of any kind would be really good, or some kind of chocolate situation.

*I am updating this post to clarify that Brian did a lot of the work in creating these cheesecakes.  He blended, he stirred, and he reacted really well when I yelled at him for whacking his fist into the cupcake tins instead of gently patting the crusts into place.

Little Cheesecakes with Strawberry Sauce from Food Network Kitchens Favorite Recipes

10 chocolate graham crackers, broken (do these exist?  I’ve never found chocolate ones, so I just use regular)
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 lb cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup frozen strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar

Process graham crackers and chocolate chips in a food processor until finely ground.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is sandy and moist.  Divide among 6 jumbo muffin cups, then press evenly over the bottoms and about two-thirds of the way up the sides.  Bake until the crusts are set, about 8 minutes.

Pulse the cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and orange zest in a food processor until smooth.  Divide evenly among muffin cups.  Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cool the cheesecakes and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 2 hours.

For the sauce, puree the strawberries with the sugar in the food processor.  When ready to serve, run a knife around the cheesecakes and lift out of pan.  Spoon some sauce over them.

Passover

It’s been a while.  Last quarter was hectic, and it culminated in a trip to Montreal for a conference that was both exhausting and energizing.  Since this is a food blog, I want to mention the amazing panini, croissant and brioche discovered here, which made the trip worthwhile all on their own.

My purpose in blogging today is to describe a passover seder that took place at my house last week.  I can claim no credit for it’s success, as it was entirely orchestrated by Laura, but I thought it was maybe the best passover meal I have eaten.

Laura made 9 pounds of brisket, Emily O. made matzo ball soup from a family recipe, and I made potato kugel and salad.  I had never even tried potato kugel before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from it.  I always feel sort of insecure trying to cook something when I don’t know what the end product should be like, but I think this is a hard dish to mess up.

I used this recipe from Bon Appetit, for a potato, zucchini and carrot kugel.  It was really easy with a food processor.  I forgot to take a photo of the final product, but it wasn’t much more attractive than the batter, so maybe it’s for the best.  Anyways, it got positive reviews, and made a nice compliment to the brisket.  First potato kugel ever: a success.

My other contribution to the meal was a salad inspired by this one from Jen’s blog.  I changed it up a bit based on what I had, so this is what went in it:

arugula
purple cabbage, cut into 1/4 inch shreds
broccoli, cut into small trees and steamed for 2 minutes, still crunchy
edamame
bit of red onion
toasted slivered almonds

dressing:
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 tbsp honey
3 tbsp dijon mustard

dash of sesame oil

I really liked this salad, as did others.  The dressing is especially delicious.  Sadly, I failed to get a photo of the salad as well.  

Really though, those dishes were nothing compared to what Laura and Emily produced.  Neither of them had ever attempted either dish, but they turned out great.  Hoping halfie passover becomes a tradition!

I leave you with Jimmy, finding the afikomen.

Veggie Samosas

For the last two Fridays, I tried making something completely new.  On the first Friday, I made ravioli from a cookbook that my parents brought back from Sicily.  It was kind of a disaster.  I don’t want to talk about it.  But thank you, dinner guests, for being so polite.  I’ll try again soon, when I have more time to spend on it.

Then, last night, Brian and I made samosas to bring as an appetizer for dinner at Jen and Zack’s.  They were pretty simple to make, and very delicious.  We used filo dough, and baked rather than fried them.  I didn’t follow any recipe in particular, but looked at a ton of them on various blogs to get a sense for ingredients, spices and cooking times.  I thought they turned out really delicious.  I didn’t really measure things precisely, but I’ll give estimates below.

Veggie Samosas (makes about 30 samosas)

  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups frozen peas
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt
  • pepper
  • dried red chile pepper, minced (we used about 1/3 of the pepper- depends on how much spice you can take)
  • filo (phyllo) dough
  • butter, melted

Begin by boiling the potatoes, skin on, for about 20 minutes until they are somewhat soft but don’t fall apart.  While potatoes are boiling, heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok, and add the onions.  Saute until onions are slightly browned.

Add the peas and spices, and cook for another 5 minutes.

Let the boiled potatoes cool, then peel them and chop into 1/4 inch squares.  Add to the saute, and continue cooking mixture until all ingredients are soft.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and let cool before forming the samosas.

I think this site has excellent instructions for forming the samosas.  We followed them, and it worked nicely (despite some frustration with the filo dough).

Fit the samosas into an oiled pan, and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes.

Beef Bourguignon

I have frequently heard my mom tell the story of one of her early cooking misadventures, in which she invited friends over for dinner (including my father), and served beef bourguignon.  The recipe called for three cloves of garlic.  She was not an experienced cook, and did not know what a “clove” referred to, so she added 3 entire heads of garlic to the stew.  She realized her mistake, and tried unsuccessfully to fish out the garlic.  She ended up nervously serving the dish anyways, to a group of friends who politely complimented it.

Her birthday was yesterday, and she requested that I make beef bourguignon for dinner. I started searching for recipes, and found that most were pretty complicated. Then, I came across an article and recipe from the New York Times, addressing this very issue.  The article explains that the recipe popularized by Julia Child is the boeuf bourguignon of French chefs, not the dish that most French home cooks would make. They offer a simpler version, from Ginette Mathiot’s “Je Sais Cuisiner” (“I Know How to Cook”), which they describe as a more sensible alternative for the everyday cook.

I rarely cook meat, so this represented somewhat of an adventure for me, even with the simpler recipe.  It takes a good chunk of the day, with about 30 minutes of preparation and 2 1/2 hours of simmering time.  The result is rich and flavorful and perfect for this rainy weather that will not end.  The recipe I used did not call for carrots, which the others did, but I wanted to include them anyway.  I steamed the carrots until they were just tender, and then sauteed them in olive oil, and served them on top of the stew.  I served it with a french baguette, and it was wonderful.

Beef Bourguignon
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 3 ounces onions or shallots, chopped
  • 3 1/2 ounces thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 1 1/2 pounds stewing beef, cut into 1 1/2 -inch pieces, patted dry
  • Scant 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cups any type of stock, hot
  • 1 1/4 cups red wine
  • 1 bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 3 sprigs fresh thyme and 3 sprigs parsley, tied together)
  • Black pepper
  • 3 1/2 ounces mushrooms, diced
  • Salt
  • bunch small carrots or 2 large carrots (optional)

In a heavy pan over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions and bacon and cook, stirring, until browned. Remove them and set aside; leave fat in pan.

Add beef and brown on all sides (work in two batches if needed to avoid crowding).

Sprinkle browned beef with flour, stir until browned and add stock. Stir, scraping bottom of pan, then add reserved bacon and onions, the wine and bouquet garni. Season with pepper.

Simmer very gently for 2 hours.

Add mushrooms and cook 30 minutes more.

While stew is simmering, steam or sauté carrots.  Season stew with salt, top with carrots, and serve.

Coffee-Pistachio Toffee

In my first ever experiment with a candy thermometer, I made toffee yesterday.  I saw the recipe, among other wonderful-looking ones, on NPR’s Kitchen Window column this week.  It was suggested as a good gift solution and my mom needed gifts for coworkers; it worked out.  I was attracted to this one because of the coffee, chocolate and pistachio combination.  Pistachios make me think of Christmas, and they are beautiful.  I love the purple and bright green hues in the shelled nut.

It honestly has not stopped raining since I arrived in Los Angeles four days ago.  Yesterday, as I was making the toffee, the power went out for over an hour.  I ended up making the candy by candle-light, which was quaint but not really ideal.  The end product is really, really good, but I don’t think the toffee achieved the appropriate consistency.  It is less chewy-brittle, and more soft to the tooth.  I’m not sure how else to describe it.  Perhaps I misjudged the temperature of the syrup before pouring it out.

Anyways, here is a recipe for something truly delicious and not terribly difficult, as long as you have a candy thermometer (and tough fingers for shelling pistachios).

Coffee-Pistachio Toffee From Nicole Spiridakas, on NPR’s Kitchen Window

  • 2 cups shelled pistachio nuts
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon dark unsulfured molasses
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 4 1/2 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread pistachios on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes, making sure they don’t burn. Cool for 10 minutes, then coarsely chop. Put in a bowl. (Note: I bought roasted, salted pistachios because I could not find the raw kind, and it worked fine).

In a medium bowl, combine sugars, espresso powder and cinnamon. In another small bowl or measuring cup, combine water and molasses.

Butter a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Melt butter in a heavy 2 1/2-quart saucepan over low heat. Add the mixture of sugars, espresso powder and cinnamon, and the mixture of water and molasses, and stir until sugar dissolves.

Increase heat to medium and, using a candy thermometer, cook until thermometer registers 290 degrees, stirring occasionally and scraping bottom of pan for about 15 minutes.

Remove pan from heat, and quickly stir in 1 1/2 cups chopped nuts. Immediately pour mixture onto prepared pan. With a spatula, spread toffee to 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle chocolate by generous tablespoonfuls atop toffee, alternating bittersweet and milk chocolates. Let stand for 1 minute to melt the chocolate. Using the back of a spoon or spatula, spread chocolate slightly to coat the toffee. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup chopped nuts.

Refrigerate until toffee is firm, about 1 hour. With a sharp knife, slice the toffee evenly, or break into pieces.