Monday, January 2, 2012

Spinach and Mozzarella Pizza

Because going out on New Year’s Eve in New York—or really anywhere—is such a nightmare, my boyfriend and I decided to stay in. I stumbled upon a recipe on Serious Eats for a Sicilian pizza made especially for New Years. This got my food-obsessed brain cranking, and I decided that this must be our New Year’s dinner. Best laid plans and all that. One of the things I struggle with in my corner of Brooklyn is a lack of comprehensive grocery options. The C-Town by me is by far the worst stocked one I have ever been to—the produce section is literally two metal carts in front of the freezer cases. On the other end of the spectrum I am fortunate enough to have three neighborhood butchers a block from my house as well as Brooklyn Kitchen two blocks away.

 I tell you all this to illustrate the problem I have trying to track down something that’s more complicated than ketchup but less artisanal than rendered duck fat. The recipe called for rapid-rise yeast—now since the better-stocked C-Town in my old neighborhood kept the yeast up by the cash registers with the tabloids and Snickers bars, I figured that the probability of this one having it at all was close to nil. So, I headed to Brooklyn Kitchen…where of course they had yeast, but fresh cake yeast, not the usual packets of dried yeast the recipe called for. Assured that the yeast company’s website had handy instructions for swapping out fresh for dried yeast, I bought it.
Well, the most helpful website in all of the internet cannot help you if your yeast is dead, as I unhappily discovered when I checked on my dough the following morning. The dough still looked exactly as it had when I put it in the fridge at 4:30 the previous afternoon. Since the dough needed a rise time of 12 hours, I didn’t have time to make another, and I had to change gears. Goodbye carefully considered recipe. For the crust I used the pizza dough from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, always my go-to source when I am in unfamiliar territory or the recipe I am using takes an unfortunate turn. The pasta sauce is a very basic one since the toppings are really the stars here. For toppings, I used spinach and mozzarella.

However, pizza is a really great way to use up whatever you have going on in your fridge, so feel free to get creative. When I was throwing this together I was searching all over the internet for a guide on how to make pizza in the oven since the dough recipe then went on to describe how to grill your pizza as did many of the others I found. Yes, of course I have a grill in my tiny apartment! Don’t you? I hope this can be for you the step-by-step guide for inside pizza I couldn’t find. Happy pizzaing!
1. Make the dough and let rise
2. Turn out dough for second rise
3. Make sauce and prepare toppings
4. Preheat oven to 500º F, inserting pizza stone, if using, onto cold oven floor
5. Roll out dough to desired size and dress
6. Using pizza peel slide pizza onto pizza stone. Otherwise, carefully place dressed dough onto pizza     stone or oiled baking sheet and return to floor of oven
7. Bake for about 12 minutes until toppings are bubbly and serve immediately

From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything
Makes one large or two small pies

1tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 c. all-purpose or bread flour
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 to 1 ¼ cups water (I had to use 1 ¼ cups)
2 TB. olive oil

Combine the yeast, flour and salt in the container of a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup of water and olive oil. Process for 30 seconds, slowly adding more water if necessary, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. Turn the dough onto a floured workspace and knead by hand for a few seconds to form a smooth dough ball. Grease a bowl with some olive oil and put in the dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until it doubles in size—about 1 to 2 hours. Once the dough rises, if you are making two small pizzas now is the time to divide it. Then put the dough back onto the floured surface and knead lightly. Cover with a towel and let it puff back up for about 20 minutes. Stretch by hand or with rolling pin to desired size and add toppings.

Makes more than enough, leftovers can be used over pasta, etc.
3 TB olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28oz. can pureed tomatoes
¼ cup red wine
pinches of oregano, rosemary and red pepper flakes 

Heat olive oil in medium saucepan and add garlic. Stir until fragrant and add tomatoes, wine and seasoning. Simmer until flavors combine and alcohol burns off, about 12 minutes.

About 7 c. fresh spinach 5 oz. mozzarella in ½ inch slices

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Vegetarian Fajitas

It's Cinco de Mayo! Let's go loco! Just kidding. I made these a few weeks ago. Also, someone once told me that Cinco de Mayo is not such a big deal in Mexico, so just sit on your sombrero until September 16th.

I made these fajitas sort of on a whim (which explains my lack of authentic photos), but I feel the need to post them because there are no really good, simple vegetarian fajita recipes out there in internet land. All of them have got something weird and complicated going on, whereas I feel like fajitas should be a really easy and fuss-free dinner, not something that involves roasting and weird vegetables.

I didn't include any green peppers because I find them too bitter, but feel free to throw them in if you want. I also didn't get too fancy with the toppings since the whole point was quick and easy with limited chopping. If you find yourself with extra time on your hands, these would be even better with chopped tomatoes, tomatillos (which are apparently in the nightshade family--cool!), and/or cilantro.

Update: Apparently making vegetarian fajitas makes me a "terrorist" in the eyes of my aforementioned Mexican history expert. Recipe redacted.

Vegetarian Fajitas
serves about 3

2 TB vegetable oil
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 orange pepper, sliced
2 portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 head broccoli florets
1 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
sour cream
black bean salsa (I used Newman's)
1 pkg smallish tortillas

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In large saucepan heat oil until shimmery. Add broccoli and saute, about 2 minutes. Add all other vegetables and saute until crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Add curry powder, chili powder cumin and allow to cook to desired tenderness. In the meantime, wrap tortillas in aluminum foil and stick in the oven to warm.

Fill each tortilla with veggie filling and top with shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Easy, Delicious, Cheap Carrot Soup

I made this soup on Tuesday night for dinner after experiencing a strong craving for carrot soup that afternoon. All the carrot soups I have had and made before involve ginger, which means peeling it and grating: kind of an annoying and time-consuming process.

This soup was different! Pure carrots, onion, and broth (plus spices). It's seriously a no hassle dinner, and you may even be able to make it from your pantry/veg drawer--you know, if you have carrots. Also, if you have an immersion blender (which, if you don't, Go get one, crazy!) you can just blend it up right in the pan. So, so easy.

Also, the soup tastes like it has cream in it because it is so rich and...well...creamy. It doesn't. Seriously, these are all the ingredients:

(minus the beer. That was my "to drink while cooking" beer.)

This is called Moroccan Carrot soup and is from the most current issue of Bon Appetit. I guess the spices are what makes it Moroccan? Eh, who cares. It's yummy.

Moroccan Carrot Soup
Bon Appetit April 2010

makes 4 [small] servings

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1 cup chopped white onion
1 pound large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 2/3 cups)
2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred to loosen

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes. Mix in carrots. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes; cool. Finely grind in spice mill.

Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. Return to same pan. Whisk in honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over; sprinkle generously with cumin.

Belated: Irish Soda Bread

I'm starting a drunken brawl with the first person today who stereotypes the Irish

I've been making soda bread for as long as I've been baking. I still remember idly searching through my mother's recipe box and stumbling upon "Mary Cuthbert's Soda Bread." Mary was a neighbor of my grandparents: both sets--my parents grew up catty-corner to each other...awww. Mary's bread was a success the first time I made it and really delicious. My family gobbled it up immediately and then broke into rousing renditions of Danny Boy and The Fields of Athenry. Or something. When my mother mentioned to my grandmother that I had made it--and that it was good--my grandmother was amazed because "whenever she tried to make soda bread the only thing it was good for was throwing against a wall."

This Paddy's day I decided to try another recipe, one that, because it used whole wheat flour, is closer to the brown bread I ate and loved and miss in Ireland. This one is Mrs. O'Callaghan's (also a Mary, no joke) and is from the March issue guessed it...Bon Appetit. The other reason I had for using this recipe is that the one from Mary Cuthbert has you turn the dough out into a cask-iron skillet in order to get the right shape. I, ashamedly, do not have a cask-iron skillet. (My birthday is October 4th, but I accept gifts year-round.)

The one from BA turned out pretty well, but it didn't really cook all the way through, even though my oven is really hot and I left it in for about 15 minutes more than the recommended baking time. I could eat the edges, however, and they were very good and pretty damn close to Irish Brown Bread. I'll definitely make it again, but next time I might try leaving it in for about an hour. One weird thing about the recipe is that it tells you to stir until the dough is "shaggy." I'm not sure what that means, but I think mine was more Scooby, or Scrappy.

For your baking pleasure, here are both the Irish-American Soda Bread (with raisins and caraway seeds) from Mary Cuthbert and the Irish Brown Bread from BA.

Mrs. O'Callaghan's Irish Brown Bread
Bon Appetit March 2010

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled margarine or butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray heavy baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk both flours, sugar, and baking soda in medium bowl to blend. Add margarine and cut in until margarine is reduced to pea-size pieces. Add buttermilk; stir until shaggy dough forms. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together, about 10 turns. Shape dough into 7-inch round. Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut large X, 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough.

Bake bread until deep brown and bottom sounds hollow when firmly tapped, about 40 minutes [check it at 40, but be prepared to keep going]. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.

Mary Cuthbert's Irish [American] Soda Bread

3 TABLESPOON BUTTER, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Mix flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in large bowl. Using pastry cutter or your hands, blend in butter until the dough resembles corn meal. Add rest of ingredients and stir until a dough forms, adding more flour or buttermilk if necessary.

Turn out into cask-iron skillet, that has been greased with either butter or vegetable oil spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fettuccine di Vino with Beets

I've been craving beets lately, which seems like a strange thing to crave. I had never even had anything but canned beets until a few years ago. When I was growing up, my mom almost never used canned vegetables...except for beets. I think she justified it because they take a long time to cook and the canned ones have a similar taste and texture to the fresh ones, in a way that canned green beans or carrots don't (mush city).

Beets are also kind of a weird vegetable because people don't usually think to put them alongside dinner in the same way they might with asparagus or corn. Their flavor is pretty distinct, so they're a little harder to pair with a main dish. They're also purple, which makes them seem a little bit like something you might be served at the mess hall of the Yellow Submarine. Which is possibly a little too psychedelic for some.

The following recipe is from The Spirited Vegetarian by Paulette Mitchell, a cookbook I bought shortly after my 21st birthday and, unfortunately for the book, right before I started eating meat again. So, shamefully, I haven't really made that many recipes from it. I've had, however, great and delicious success with the ones I have tried.

All the recipes have booze in them, which is a good excuse for buying wine on Monday night. And, like this one, many of the recipes are easily made vegan (useful if you're feeling like you need to balance out the naughtiness of pouring booze into your saucepan and, let's be honest, mouth).

The original recipe uses spaghetti instead of fettuccine. I swapped it out because I have a longstanding and inexplicable hatred of spaghetti. Feel free to use whatever long pasta you prefer.

Fettuccine di Vino with Beets
from Paulette Mitchell's The Spirited

makes 4 servings (or 3 if you're hungry)

3 medium red or yellow beets, scrubbed, with 1 inch of stem still on (set aside greens)
8 oz. Fettuccine
2 TB olive oil
1 large sweet onion
2 cups finely chopped reserved beet greens
4 garlic cloves
3/4 c. Merlot or other full-bodied, plummy red wine, with medium tannins
1/4 c. dried currants (don't skip these if you can! they add an interesting sweetness)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 TB lemon juice (from 1 juicy or 1 1/2 lemons)
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts
Feta cheese for garnish (I also added pecorino romano because I love cheese)

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to boil over high heat. Add the beets and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the beets can be pierced with a knife, about 30 to 45 minutes. When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove the skins (you can score the skin with a paring knife if you need to). Cut the beets into 2" x 1/4" strips, placing wax paper on your cutting board to protect it from purple fever.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the fettuccine 2 to 3 minutes less than the package directions suggest. (The pasta should be slightly undercooked, but not crunchy.)

While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the beet greens and garlic and stir constantly until the greens are wilted, about 1 minute.

Stir in the beets, wine, dried currants, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. The wine should be reduced but not totally evaporated. Stir in the lemon juice.

When the pasta is cooked according to the above instructions, drain it well. Add it to the beet mixture. Stir over medium heat until it absorbs the wine and turns red. Remove from the heat. Add the pine nuts and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning. (Remember that the feta will add saltiness.)

Garnish plated servings with pepper and feta cheese.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pear-Raspberry Heart Pies: Sweets for your Sweet

So, every once in a while, I completely loose my mind and decide to make a Martha Stewart recipe, despite the fact that I do have plans at some point during the next week. This very thing happened the night Mike was getting back from Ecuador, and which just so happened to be the Wednesday after Valentines Day. For whatever reason, I decided that I was not only going to spend all day running errands in Manhattan, something that usually exhausts me to the point of collapse, but I was also going to spend the evening making pesto, kimchi pancakes, and heart-shaped pies. Obviously, something had short-circuited in my brain.

Further, it's worth noting that these were not a regular old Martha Stewart Everyday Food deal. Oh no. These are from Martha Stewart Living (for which I got a free subscription from my JetBlue miles. What?). The "Living" in MSL means that in order to make anything from the magazine you must commit your life to making your own flower pots, infusing your own tea, and making pies in shapes other than "round"; i.e. you do not have a job. Luckily for me, I do not have a job. Well, one that pays me, anyway.

To make these pies I toiled away for five hours pain-stakingly rolling dough I cut by hand, tenderizing each individual raspberry with a gentle squeeze, and carefully positioning each granule of finishing sugar. Okay, okay. I'm bluffing. These were not all that hard to make; they're just time-consuming because you have to fridge the dough a couple of different times.

In addition to being relatively easy, these pies could also work with any larger-sized cookie cutter you have, so don't worry if you don't feel like getting all mushy and nummy with your snookums. As you can see, I also made an owl, which came out just as well and will not cause you to say something with pie you're not ready to say with your words. Or something.

As a testament to their deliciousness, I didn't get to eat even one of these! So, apparently, they are good. The recipe is pretty straight-forward, though I might make a bit more of the filling next time, just to make them extra plump and lovely.

Pear-Raspberry Heart Pies
From Martha Stewart Living, February 2010
Makes 10 (or 9 and 1 owl)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water
2 firm, ripe pears (1 pound), such as Anjou or Bartlett, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup fresh raspberries, coarsely chopped
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash
sanding sugar, for sprinkling


1. Make the pastry: Pulse flour, salt, and granulated sugar in a food processor until combined. Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining, about 5 seconds.
2. Evenly drizzle ice water over mixture. Pulse until mixture just begins to hold together, about 10 seconds. Turn out dough onto plastic wrap, and wrap. Shape into a disk. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight.
3. Make the filling: Toss pears with lemon juice. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears, and toss to coat. Cook, adding granulated sugar a little at a time, until pears begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in nutmeg. Transfer to a bowl, and mix in raspberries.
4. Divide dough in half, and roll out each piece to 1/8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain pear-raspberry filling in a sieve. Cut out 20 hearts from dough using a 4-inch cutter (I found mine at Sur La Table), transferring them to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly brush rims of half the hearts with egg wash, and top each with 4 heaping teaspoons filling. Top with remaining hearts, and gently press around sides to seal.
6. Brush pie tops with egg wash, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Kimchi Pancakes: A Qualified Success

I grew up in a house with a considerable taste for all things pickled and salty. We always had a jar of spicy pepperoncini in the fridge, and on holidays Mum's family, especially, always had an elaborate spread of pickled watermelon rinds, olives, cornichons, etc. So I guess it's no wonder that I took to kimchi (Korean pickled cabbage) like white on paper. The first few times I had it, I ate it plain along with dinner at Korean restaurants. My love grew when, about a year ago, I made the Amateur Gourmet's fabulous Kimchi Fried Rice on one especially monetarily desperate evening.

Recently, at the Greenpoint Food Market, I had the good fortune to try Kimchi Pancakes from Bing Means Pancakes. These were very similar to scallion pancakes--light and chewy pancakes with a delightful crunch from the handmade kimchi. Afterward, I couldn't stop thinking about them, and, on my next visit, I was sorely disappointed that Bing had either packed up early or had not come at all. My craving was in high gear and getting desperate, so, as you can imagine, I was excited to see this blog feature a NYTimes recipe for them.

I was a little put off by the inclusion of potato starch in the ingredient list. What was it? Would I have to trek all over hell and creation to find it? Would I ever use it again? Or would it sit on my shelf for years, only to be picked up during cabinet clean-outs, accompanied by the question: "What in God's Name did I buy this for?" Well, I don't know if it was luck, or if Polish people use a lot of potato starch, but, just as I was giving up on finding it, and was even looking up a different recipe on my phone, I took one last look at the baking shelf--and there it was. Eye Level. Srsly. Right in front of me, in very nifty packaging that should have caught my eye right away.

I can't tell if this is sincerely retro or faux retro, but I don't care. Love. Oh, and just in case you were wondering, potato starch smells like potatoes but looks like cornstrach. And no, I don't have any idea what else to do with it.

Ultimately, this recipe was a little weird. Once I had all the ingredients mixed together, except for the kimchi, I had a very, very dry looking batter. I was really concerned that I was about to have a giant fail. But, almost magically adding the kimchi and its juices made the batter just as goopy as I wanted it to be. Bizarre.

My pancakes, while yummy and craving-dampening, did not come out as uniform as the blogger's, nor were they even close to the heaven of the GFM ones. The level of satisfaction I gained from them would, normally, encourage me to add them to my "oh shit it's 9pm on a Sunday and only the bodega is open" dinner arsenal. However, though my corner store has very good kimchi, I feel like expecting them to carry potato starch is a little far-fetched. So, I probably won't be making these again. The search for a good kimchi pancake recipe continues....

Here is the NYTimes recipe, if you're interested:


1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon vinegar

1/4 teaspoon minced scallion

1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds


1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup potato starch

1 egg

2 scallions, cut into 1 1/2-inch-long pieces

1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, sliced thinly

1 1/2 tablespoons Korean red pepper powder or 1/2 tablespoon cayenne

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup prepared cabbage kimchi, cut in 3-inch-long pieces

2 tablespoons kimchi juice

6 tablespoons vegetable oil.

1. Make dipping sauce: In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, scallion, sesame seeds and one-half tablespoon water. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, potato starch and egg until smooth. Add scallions, garlic, red pepper powder, salt, kimchi and its juice. Mix well. Batter will be pale pink.

3. Place an 8- or 9-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. When oil is hot, pour in one-third of the pancake batter. Fry until golden and crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes. Lift pancake with a spatula, add 1 tablespoon oil to pan and swirl it. Flip pancake and fry other side until golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip again, without adding oil, and fry for 1 minute. Flip one more time and fry 1 to 2 minutes. Pancake should be dark gold.

4. Repeat with remaining batter and oil, making 3 pancakes. Remove to a large round plate and cut each pancake into 6 wedges. Serve with dipping sauce.

Yield: 3 pancakes.