Posts filed under ‘Entres’

Hummus, sun-dried tomatoes and capers pita sandwhich

I’ve been on a sun-dried tomatoes and capers kick lately. It all started with a baked avocado with blue cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, capers and pancetta. Then they started showing up in salads (with fresh lettuce from the garden!) Today they snuck into a pita sandwich. When I say snuck, they more so rolled in like Panzers. Let’s face it, neither sun-dried tomatoes nor capers are subtle. The creaminess of the yogurt balances the explosions of flavor created by the capers and sun-dried tomatoes. If you have labneh, you might try using that. (I’m in the process of making labneh right now, actually, using some homemade yogurt. I’ll post about my yogurty exploits soon).

Ingredients:

1 pita
1/4 c hummus
4 sun-dried tomatoes
1 T capers
1/4 c plain yogurt
Olive oil
Pepper to taste

Instructions:

Cut the pita in half and open it up. Spread the hummus evenly on the inside. Cut the sun-dried tomatoes into thin, 1/8″ strips. Sprinkle the tomatoes and capers so that they’re evenly distributed across the hummus. Drizzle a little olive oil and pepper over it. Finally, spread the yogurt over the top of it all.

July 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm 1 comment

Thin, Crispy Pizza Done Right

About once a week we make homemade pizza from a batch of homemade whole wheat pizza dough recipe. After much experimentation, I think I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out the perfect way to do thin-crust pizza. Here’s a hint: high heat is the key. (Note: if you like deep-dish, high heat is probably a horrible idea. Nothing like uncooked dough and soggy pizza).

Yes. High heat is all you need, but I’ll break my technique down a little further. First, defrost the dough if it was in the freezer. (When I make a batch of dough, I usually double the recipe and divide it into 4 portions. Eating pizza once a week, a batch lasts us a month). Next, let it rest somewhere warm and dark for at least 30 minutes. This helps the glutens relax and makes it easier to roll out. It will rise a bit during this time. Begin rolling out the dough. When I roll mine to about the edges of our pizza pan, it ends up being about 1/4″ thick or less. If you like bubbly pizza, let the dough rest again for another 30 minutes or so. Doing this allows the yeast to keep eat, and as they do so, the release carbon dioxide.

Preheat the oven to 350. Stick the dough in for 5-10 min. so that it cooks slightly, just until the outside looks dry instead of doughy. (You make skip this step if you want. However, I’ve had a couple pizzas turn out doughy. Since I started pre-cooking the crust, I’ve never had it burn, so I don’t think there’s any risk with this method). Meanwhile, start preparing the trimmings. Chop and cook anything that needs chopped or cooked before it goes on the pizza (like onions usually do, in my experience).

Once the dough has cooked for a few minutes, remove it from the oven and crank up the heat to the highest your oven will go. I mean that. Get it as hot as possible. Mine goes up to 550. I’ve heard that in Italy, some restaurants crank the heat up to 700. (If you’re really hardcore, get a couple dozen unglazed quarry tiles from the hardware store. Stick them in the oven and bake them at your highest heat for 15-20 minutes. They’ll absorb it, and allow you to get much higher temperatures out of your oven.)

While you’re waiting for things to heat up, top your pizza with whatever ingredients you decided on. I can’t say enough about adding minced garlic and rosemary to the sauce. It’s really the best thing that’s ever happened to my pizza. If you’re using fresh basil, remember to put it on right after the sauce, under the cheese and other toppings. Otherwise, it will come as nothing more than like crispy, black flakes. Once the oven is hot, put it in and bake until it’s done. When is it done? Up to you but I have three criteria. 1) A good portion of the cheese is a warm, golden brown on top. 2) The ends/edges of any toppings sticking up too far out of the cheese are shriveled and burnt. 3) The crust is a nice, medium-heading-towards-dark, toasty brown color.

Experiment all you want with this method, but it’s been consistently turning out quality results for us.

April 30, 2011 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

Gnocchi with Sage Baked on a Portobella

Last night’s meal unexpectedly went down as “the best thing you’ve made in a long time” according to wifey. “I’ve got goosebumps!” she exclaimed at one point. I mean, while I expected it to be tasty, it went a little beyond that. OK, a lot beyond that. Best of all, it didn’t dirty many dishes or take a long time. (I know that’s a rare occurrence for a lot of my recipes. Sorry, dish-doing-haters). I only cooked for 2, but this should serve about 4. Remember that gnocchi is a gut-buster.

Ingredients:

Gnocchi
The largest portobellas you can find (1 per person)
3-4 stalks of sage
1 handful of chives
2 shallots
1T caraway seeds
6 cloves of garlic
1/4 c flour
1-2 c milk
6T olive oil/butter
Salt & pepper to taste
Feta to crumble over top
Additional oil for frying (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375. Reserve 15-20 of the largest sage leaves for frying later. Chop the rest of the sage and the chives. Set aside. Finely chop the onions and garlic. Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onions and garlic and cook for 5-6 minutes. Add the caraway, and cook until the onions are golden (another 3 minutes or so). Sprinkle the flour in a little at a time so that the fat/oil can absorb it. Let this cook another 10-15 minutes until it’s a toasty, golden color, stirring semi-frequently. Begin adding milk a little at a time, whisking vigorously until it dissolves. Once you have a thick roux, add the chopped sage and chives. Salt & pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and let the flavors meld, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, remove the stems from the portobellas, and put them gills-up on a large baking sheet. Bake for 10-15min until their juices are just starting to run. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and cook the gnocchi. They’re done when the float. Drain them and set aside. Once the mushrooms are done pre-cooking, remove them. Spoon a little bit of sauce onto the mushroom, and spread it around on the gills. Pile as many gnocchi as you can possibly fit onto each mushroom. Smother in sauce and top with crumbled feta. Put in the oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes. While it’s baking, pour 1/4″ of oil into a small frying pan and heat. Take the large sage leaves that you reserved at the beginning into the hot oil bottom-side-up (the way the leaf curls when it fries, it just works better upside-down). Fry for 1-2 minutes until deep green. Remove from oil and let drain on a paper towel or clean dish rag. Sprinkle a little salt on the leaves while they’re still hot, so that it sticks to them.

Remove the mushrooms from the oven, and carefully move them to serving plates using a large spatula. (I used two spatulas. The cooked mushrooms will not longer be firm enough to support the weight of the gnocchi, and you don’t want the gnocchi to slide off the mushroom caps when you serve them.) Garnish with 4-5 fried sage leaves.

April 9, 2011 at 9:46 am Leave a comment

Homemade Gnocchi with Spinach & Roasted Garlic White Sauce Recipe

Last night we made gnocchi for the first time. It was actually relatively easy, except that something with the recipe was a little screwy. Basically, you’re supposed to mix a little flour in with the potatoes, until it gets to a dough consistency that is slightly sticky to touch, but doesn’t doesn’t stick to you. The recipe calls for two cups. I used close to eight, and it still was too sticky. We just made sure our hands were well floured before handling it. So anyhow, I’m including the original recipe in the hopes that there was something goofy with my batch. Just be sure you have plenty of flour on hand just in case. Otherwise things went well. We made ours a little too big, but it wasn’t too bad. I would say the ideal size would be oblong balls as long as a quarter and as thick as a dime.

Gnocchi can be gut busters, and this recipe (adapted from Mario Batali and the Smitten Kitchen) makes plenty. We fed 5 people with it, and had enough left over to freeze an entire gallon Ziploc bag of them.

Ingredients for gnocchi:

1.5 kg (3 lbs.) russet potatoes
2 c flour (or 8 if you’re me)
1 egg
1 tsp salt

Ingredients for sauce:

1 bulb of garlic (yes… bulb, not clove)
1 lb spinach
1 c of milk (or cream, if you’re feeling caloric)
4 T olive oil, butter, or a mixture of the two
4 T white flour
1+ c white wine or chicken broth (I used broth)
1/2 c grated mozzarella
1/8 c grated parmesan
Dash of nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

Prick the potatoes with a fork. Place them in a large pot of water, bring it to a boil, and cook for 45 minutes until the potatoes are soft when pierced. (It’s important to both prick the potatoes with a fork and to bring the pot of water to a boil with them already inside–rather than adding them to a pot of boiling water. If you don’t follow these two steps, the potato skins may split open causing soggy potatoes. And soggy potatoes may have been my problem). Once the potatoes are finished, remove them from the pot.

Preheat the oven to 375. Take a sharp knife, and cut the top the garlic bulb. A tiny bit of the top of each bulb should be exposed. Place the bulb in the center of a square of a aluminum foil. Sprinkle the top of the exposed cloves with salt and pepper. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over the bulb. Wrap the foil over the bulb, and twiste it at the top. Place the bulb on a baking sheet in the oven, and bake for 45 minutes. Remove it when it’s done and let it cool while you make the gnocchi dough.

If you have gloves specifically made for playing Hot Potato, get them now. As I understand it, you want the dough to stay warm while you’re making it, so grab a clean towel (if you don’t have Hot Potato gloves) for handling them. Peel the potatoes, and mash them in a large bowl. (Ideally, pass them through a food mill. I didn’t have one, so I grated them. You could use a food processor, too, or mash them the old fashioned way). Form a volcano hole in the middle of the potatoes, and sprinkle 2 cups of flour over the top. Add the salt and egg to the volcano. Quickly mix them all together so that the egg mixes before it gets cooked by the potatoes. Knead for an additional 4-5 min until the mixture is dough, and slightly sticky to the touch. (This is where my attempt bordered on disastrous. It was super sticky even after an additional 6 cups of flour. Better luck to you).

Take the garlic bulb, and squeeze it from the base towards the top. The roasted cloves should pop out. Take a fork and mash these into a smooth paste. In a large skillet, melt the butter (or add the oil) and heat. Sprinkle the flour a bit at a time, whisking it into the hot oil until it dissolves. Mix in the garlic paste at this time, too. Add the milk a bit at a time, whisking vigorously to make a roux. Add wine/broth until you have a thick sauce, then bring the mixture to a simmer. Sprinkle the cheese on top and mix it into the roux. Add nutmeg, salt & pepper. Reduce heat to low, and stir sparingly. Add more liquid if it’s starts getting to thick. Remove any thick stems from the spinach and roughly chop. Add a tiny bit of water to a pot and heat. Wilt the spinach, drain it and squeeze as much liquid from it as you can. Set it aside to be added at the end.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Take a fist-sized chunk of dough and roll it out kindergarten-style into a snake about the thickness of a dime. Cut the snake into one-inch bits. Roll them briefly in your hands to round any pointy edges, then roll them long-ways along the tines of a fork to create ridges. (Traditionally gnocchi has ridges; we skipped this step). Place them on an oiled baking sheet and rub them around or spray them with oil to prevent sticking. Break off another piece of dough and repeat.

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and stir once to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. Cook about 2 minutes until it floats up to the surface. With a slotted spoon, scoop up the cooked gnocchi and plop them into the sauce. (Alternately, transfer them to an oiled baking sheet and put them in the freezer. Once they’ve frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag. This prevents them from freezing into a large gnocchish lump). Add the spinach to the sauce, and mix them all together.

March 27, 2011 at 5:24 pm Leave a comment

Wild Mushroom Soup Recipe

After getting some chanterelle mushrooms and Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child for my birthday, I decided to try out Julia’s mushroom soup recipe. I didn’t follow her recipe exactly, but the basic premise is there. We used chanterelle–which give off a feint aroma of apricots–shiitake, oyster, crimini (a.k.a. baby portobella, baby bella, brown) and white mushrooms for this. It turned out excellently for what it was. However, upon eating it wifey and I realized a fatal mistake we made.

A thick slice of crusty artisan bread with a slice of swiss cheese toasted under a broiler is absolutely essential to this recipe. DO NOT MAKE IT WITHOUT IT!!!

Ingredients:

1 1/2 -2 lbs mushrooms, stems removed but reserved and chopped roughly
1/4 c finely chopped onions
2 T butter
6-8 T flour
8 c veggie broth (I used mushroom bullion)
1/4 c cream (I used milk)
2 egg yolks
1 bay leaf, pepper, chopped parsley

Instructions:

Melt the butter in a soup pot. When foaming, add the onions for 6-8 minutes until tender but not browning. Mix in the flour until it forms a paste. Slowly add broth to make a roux. (See directions below if you don’t know how to make a roux). Keep adding broth until it’s all added, then toss in the mushroom stems, bay leaf, pepper and parsley. Let the stems simmer for 20-30 min. If you have dried mushrooms, place them in a bowl, pour boiling water over them, and let soak for 20-30 minutes. Do not discard of the liquid! Meanwhile, finely chop the mushrooms tops. You can saute them before adding them to the soup if you want. I sauted everything but the oyster mushrooms. (I’m not a big fan of crimini unless they’re sauted. Too slippery. Yech!)

Once they’re done simmering, remove the mushroom stems, squeeze the juice out of them, and throw them away. Put all but 1/4 c of the mushroom tops in a food processor, add a little liquid from the soup, and mince–not puree. Add all of the mushrooms to the soup, and let them simmer for another 15 min. Reduce the heat to low. Take two egg yolks, and beat them in a bowl for a minute. Add the cream and beat for another couple minutes. Scoop a cup of soup, and beat it very slowly to the egg mixture. Don’t add it too fast, or you’ll curdle the yolk. Once the entire cup has been added, stir the egg mixture back into the soup. Cook for a 5 more minutes to thicken slightly, being careful not to let it come up to a simmer.

Serve with broiled artisan bread with swiss. Garnish with a little chopped parsley.

How to make a roux:

Add a couple tablespoons of broth, stirring vigorously. Once the broth is absorbed by flour/butter mixture, add a little more. Keep adding more liquid once the previous addition has been absorbed until you’ve added all of the liquid. You will be able to add liquid more quickly towards the end. Do this too quickly, the flour won’t absorb the liquid, and you’ll end up with clumps and lumps that are nearly impossible to dissolve. I don’t think it’s possible to add liquid too slowly, but you don’t to add 8 cups of broth 2 T at a time!

March 18, 2011 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

Homemade Tomato Soup Recipe

This recipe was passed to my mom while I was in high school. We had recently moved to the Czech Republic and were desperately missing some good ol’ Campbell’s tomato soup to got along with our grilled cheese on winter Sundays after church. I live in the States now and can buy Campbells whenever I want. Truth be told, this recipe is good enough to overcome my childhood nostalgia. For those of you know me well, this is no small feat. I hold rigidly (obnoxiously?) to some of my childhood traditions.

Ingredients:

2 T butter
2 T finely chopped onions (I usually puree in the food processor)
1 clove garlic, minced (again, I food processor it)
2 T flour
6 oz can tomato paste
2 c milk
2 c water
2 t sugar
Dash of oregano, thyme and basil
Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

Saute the onion and garlic in the butter until golden. Add the flour a little at a time, stirring quickly until it forms a thick paste. Add the tomato paste and mix well. Add water in small amounts, stirring vigorously until it is absorbed by the flour. Add the milk and heat but do not boil. Add sugar, herbs and salt & pepper.

Variation:

Add 1 T of curry powder. This is how Wifey’s mom always prepared it growing up. For years, Wifey couldn’t figure out why Campbells tasted so much better when her mom made it instead of her friend’s mom. They both came out of the can, so why did her mom’s taste so much better? She found out years later about the addition of curry.

January 17, 2011 at 10:18 am Leave a comment

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough Recipe

Wifey and I decided to hold a cooking extravaganza this weekend. On Saturday we cooked and froze enough food to feed us for more than two weeks. Since she’s in grad school and I work full time plus freelance, these frozen meals should be a lifesaver for us. All total, we made 2 lasagnas, 4 calzone pizza doughs, 4 batches of homemade tomato soup, 3 pizza doughs, and homemade pasta noodles. (We also ate a calzone).

In order to accomplish this, I made a quadruple batch of whole wheat pizza dough. I want to share the recipe because we were sorely disappointed by the first 5 recipes we tried. They were all tasted like crumbly cardboard, were hard to difficult to work with, and generally resembled partially set-up cement more than pizza dough. Then we tried this recipe. It decimates the competition. I’d even argue that it can hold its own against white dough.

This is–hands down–the best whole wheat pizza dough.

Ingredients:

2 c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c white flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2c warm water (110˚F)
1 tsp sugar
1 pkg dry yeast

Instructions:

Dissolve the sugar and the yeast in the warm water. In a large bowl, mix the whole wheat and white flour and the salt. Once the yeast is activated and starts foaming, mix it into the dry ingredients. Knead 10-15 min. Transfer to a large, greased bowl, cover with a clean, dry towel, and set in a warm, dark place to rise. After doubled in size (usually 45 min. – 1 hr.), punch down and cut the dough in half with a sharp knife. (If I’m planning on freezing the dough. I just pop them in a Tupperware at this point and toss it in the freezer). Reform the halves into balls, place on a floured surface, cover and let rise once more. Once doubled in size again, roll the dough out on a well-floured surface and start making your pizza.

Makes 2 large, thin pizzas.

January 16, 2011 at 11:18 pm 1 comment

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