Every family has its holiday traditions. Please enjoy one of ours…
Rated “R” for “Really Delicious,” and for some violent scenes involving lobsters.
Friends, if you are not already following the blog of my friend, Brad (aka, “The Pasta Man”), you should. He is an expert in starch-based Italian cuisine, and has, to my mind, an elaborate, delectable pizza recipe that he has yet to post on his excellent blog: http://thepastamanblog.com/
This is not that recipe.
Brad and I have had philosophical debates about the lengths to which one should go to create delicious pizza at home, and what is “easy” vs. “too much work.” To my mind, buying a pizza stone, letting dough rise the night before, etc. is “too much work.” Brad begs to differ.
I will say, Brad’s pizzas look delicious, and, at some point, I will invest in a pizza stone and plan ahead accordingly. However, if you are, like me, not yet at that phase of life, and are instead in the phase of life in which it is worth it to make pizza from scratch but not worth it to buy specialized equipment or start the dough the night before, this is the recipe for you. You don’t need any pizza-specific equipment, and the dough rises in 60-90 minutes. It keeps well in the freezer, and you can top it any which way you like.
Here is the recipe, with the crust adapted from an Epicurious recipe. This makes enough dough for two pizzas, each the size of a cookie sheet (photo from a long-ago pizza making session above). You may want to double the dough recipe so that you have extra dough left over to refrigerate or freeze for another time.
2/3 cup (5 fl oz/160 ml) water
1 package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 cups (10 oz/315 g) flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Cornmeal (for dusting the baking sheets)
One can crushed tomatoes
~3 garlic cloves, coarsely diced lengthwise
~1 teaspoon of sugar
Drizzle of olive oil
Shredded basil, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Toppings – Note: the imagination is the limit here. I have also added crispy prosciutto (crisped by a quick trip in sizzling olive oil), and have done white pizzas with gruyère, caramelized onions and crisp bacon.
Mozzarella cheese (I like to use ~1 “log” per pizza, but it’s a lot of cheese. I bet half a “log” would also work. You can also get away with shredded mozzarella if it is what you have on hand).
~1/2 cup fresh basil, diced
Fresh parmesan cheese (optional)
Begin by warming the water for ~30-45 seconds in the microwave. Note: If you warm the water too long (as I have done), it will kill the yeast, and the water/sugar mixture won’t foam. Don’t use non-foamy mixture. It means that your dough won’t rise, and you will be very disappointed 60-90 minutes later. Once the water is warm, mix together the water, yeast, and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper (you can go easier on the pepper if you don’t want its noticeable taste). Stir until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead a few times, either in the bowl or on a floured surface, then form into a ball. Oil a second bowl, put the ball in the bowl, and turn to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free area. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1–1 1/2 hours.
Dice and sauté the onion. Add crushed tomatoes. Add coarsely diced garlic (pro tip: smash the garlic gloves with the side of your knife to loosen and then peel the skin. This will make the peeling easier, and the dish tastier since smashing the garlic helps release the flavor). Add a small bit of sugar to taste. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. The end taste should be a tomatoe-y mixture that you would enjoy on its own. Note: you will have leftover sauce from this recipe. Use it to top pasta or eat it as a soup with grilled cheese.
Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees Farenheit (be sure you let it get to this temperature).
Sprinkle a surface with flour and sprinkle a rolling instrument (rolling pin, full wine bottle, etc) with flour. Sprinkle a cookie sheet pan with cornmeal (this will be tasty and will keep the pizza from sticking). Roll out your pizza dough and put it on the cookie sheet. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil on the dough.
Lightly coat the dough with sauce. It is very important to only lightly coat, as too much sauce will make the pizza soggy. Note that too little sauce will make the pizza bland, so it is a delicate balance.
Top with mozzarrella. Make mozzarella evenly or lumpily distributed, depending on your taste. Sprinkle a little bit of the basil, and some freshly grated parmesan or a little bit of salt on top, to your taste.
Bake ~12-16 minutes, until cheese is golden and bubbling in spots. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes and sprinkle with the remaining shredded basil. Cut into slices and serve!
Now, you don’t have to make this for a baby shower, but, let me tell you, it is a crowd pleaser. Women at a baby shower love them some quiche! Particularly with bacon, Swiss cheese, and just enough diced spinach and onions for it to feel healthy. Also, you will love being a host with quiche because it gives an “I made something delicious” smell that everyone will notice as soon as they come in, you can make it ahead of time, and it serves lots of people without you having to think about it once an event begins.
First, let me dispel a few Quiche Crust Myths:
You have to pre-bake crusts False! I’ve never pre-baked a quiche crust, and it comes out crisp and delicious nonetheless.
Your butter has to be a very specific temperature False! While I’m sure the “perfect” crust needs butter at a certain temperature, the “very delicious and still impressive” crust is much more flexible. I like to use butter that’s just a bit below room temperature so that it’s not so cold that it won’t hold the flour together, but not so warm that it it’s melting and hard to deal with. But if you have to thaw a frozen stick of butter in the microwave and it gets a little melty, it is truly not the end of the world.
You need a special quiche pan False! In the photo, you can see my one nice pie dish, but I also made additional quiches in Pyrex and porcelain. Really anything that has tall edges for the crust and is safe to put in an oven for an extended period of time is good to go.
You need special tools to roll out your quiche False! I rolled mine out with a full wine bottle sprinkled with flour to prevent sticking. The only special tool I strongly recommend for this recipe is a Cuisinart since it blends together the butter and flour in a quick and even way that’s hard but not impossible to reproduce by mashing with a fork and your hands (I’ve tried. The butter has to be very near room temperature for it to work).
It’s a big disaster if your quiche crust falls apart when you try to put it in the pan False! Who sees the bottom of a quiche crust? No one. You can fill in and pat down chunks of crust that don’t transition gracefully initially. You can extend and crimp the edges that are visible by adding extra bits of dough. As long as all the bottom and sides of the pan are fully covered, you are in good shape.
And so, with those Quiche Crust Myths dispelled, here is my recipe, adapted from a recipe from my Mom:
For 2 Crusts
Note: You can keep the extra crust rolled in Saran wrap in your fridge if you aren’t ready for 2 quiches, though I will say, quiche makes for great leftovers.
3 cups flour
A pinch of salt
A pinch of sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 to 2 T ice water (you may need extra ice water if your crust mixture looks really dry and isn’t sticking together)
GREASE PIE PAN(S). This is so important. This is the key to being able to easily eat your quiche, which is the best part of making quiche. I like to use butter to grease my pans.
PRE-HEAT OVEN TO 375 DEGREES FARENHEIT For the sake of timing, it’s important that you pre-heat the oven before the quiches are assembled so that you can just pop the assembled quiches into the oven and bake.
Next, mix dry ingredients, then pulse the rest in a Cuisinart. Add additional water if the crust is not sticking together. The dough should form a ball when you press it together. It’s ok if the ball is slightly crumbly, but it should hold its shape.
To roll out, either A) sprinkle a cutting board heavily with flour or B) put down Saran wrap and sprinkle that a bit with flour. I don’t like using Saran wrap, by my mom does, and her crusts transfer from the cutting board to the pie tin much more cleanly because she just picks up the Saran wrap, flips it over, puts it down in the pan, and removes the plastic.
Note: you could use any number of ingredients; just be sure to cook them thoroughly so that almost all the fluid is evaporated so that it doesn’t leak into your quiche and make it soggy. I strongly recommend that one of your ingredients be a firm but slightly melting cheese. I love Swiss.
Onion (one big one or a few small ones, diced fairly small)
Spinach, chopped into small slivers (so that it easily releases moisture as it cooks)
Half a slab of bacon, cut into small pieces (this will ensure that bacon gets both crispy and sprinkled into every bite)
1 large Swiss cheese
Heat frying pan and add diced bacon. Once enough fat has rendered so that the pan is oiled, add onions. Cook until bacon is crisp and onions are almost completely cooked down. Add spinach and cook until almost all the water is removed. Add salt and pepper to taste (note: due to diffusion and osmosis, the salt will prompt the spinach and onion to release additional water, so be sure that evaporates before you finish cooking the filling).
Dice cheese into ample and tasty chunks, ~1″ cubed. Generously proportioned and evenly distributed units of cheese is one of the secrets of a great quiche. Scatter cheese into baking dish. Scramble eggs in a fairly large bowl. Add bacon, onions, and spinach to eggs and scramble (be sure they’re no longer very hot or they will cook the eggs too soon). Pour mixture into crust on top of cheese.
Bake for 20-45 minutes, checking every 5-10 minutes after 20 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy! Consider serving with additional tasty sides such as those pictured.
A trip to Brooklyn brought together former Yes We Cook stars and enthusiasts for a one-night-only (until next time) taping of Yes We Cook.
We created Thai green shrimp curry adapted from this recipe, which we found from Tastespotting.com, an excellent location for visual recipe inspiration. We also made coconut jasmine rice thanks to our good friends at Epicurious.com.
Please enjoy the video, and please give the recipes below a try. They were great!
Green Shrimp Curry
Ingredients ( serves 6-7 very hungry people )
- 3 jars of Red or Green Curry Paste
- 4 Cans of regular coconut milk (though light is not a disaster)
- 1.5lb Shrimp and/or Scallops and/or chicken
- 2 Cans of water chestnuts, diced
- 2 Bunches Spinach
- Green beans
- Coconut oil
- 1.5 Tablespoons brown sugar
De-vein and peel shrimp (if needed). Saute onions until soft. Add carrots, ginger, and green beans. Add coconut milk (start with 2 cans) and brown sugar. Add green curry paste (2 jars). Add more coconut milk and curry paste to taste. Make the taste a big stronger than you want since the shrimp and spinach will dilute the taste. Add water chestnuts. Add spinach and cook until it is wilted. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp are just barely cooked through everywhere. Eat served on top of coconut Jasmine rice.
Coconut Jasmine Rice
Ingredients ( serves 8 )
- 3 cups jasmine rice
- 1 cup coconut cream (or the solid top layer from 2 cans of regular coconut milk, which is what we did)
- 1.5 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Rinse rice in a large bowl with cool water until water runs clear. Drain rice.
Combine rice, coconut cream, sugar, salt, and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring just to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar, then cover and reduce heat to low. (Alternatively, cook rice in an electric rice steamer, which is what we did) Cook until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, 40–45 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork; cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
I made these some time ago thanks to The Ambitious Kitchen. The author does a great job of giving step-by-step directions and photos, including the one to the left and the one below, which just beg you to make these cookies.
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt
- 1 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1 jar of Nutella, chilled in refrigerator
- Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
- Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
- With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined. Gently fold in all of the chocolate chips.
- Chill your dough for 2 hours in the refrigerator, or place in freezer for 30 minutes (or outdoors in Chicago, which is what I personally did, and it worked surprisingly well)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once dough is chilled measure about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the dough ball very thinly into the palm of your hand. Place 1 teaspoon of chilled nutella in the middle and fold dough around it; gently roll into a ball — it doesn’t have to be perfectly rolled! Make sure that the nutella is not seeping out of the dough. Add more dough if necessary. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and flatten with your hand VERY gently. (Really only the tops need to be flattened a bit!)
- Bake the cookies 9-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Cool the cookies on the sheets at least 2 minutes. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.
There are three things I love about this recipe:
1. You can eat it any time. I ate it for brunch and topped it with fried eggs, but you can make it for dinner as a main course or drop the eggs and have it as a side dish.
2. You can make it in bulk. This recipe makes for excellent leftovers. It’s great for work lunches and late-night dinners at home.
3. It’s flexible. Don’t like cauliflower? Fuggedaboutit. Want to add some chickpeas? By all means! You can add or remove pretty much all ingredients based on your tastes and and whatever happens to be in your pantry.
And so, without further adieu, a recipe that I adapted from Talena’s winning Epicurean Club recipe.
- olive oil
- 2 onions
- Cinnamon, ginger, curry powder, cumin, turmeric
- Israeli couscous (or regular couscous)
- Chicken broth
- Fresh parsley
- 2 eggs
1) Sauté two onions in olive until softened, about 5 minutes
2) Add spices (1.5 tsp ground cinnamon, .5 tsp ground ginger, 1.5 tsp curry powder, .5 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground turmeric) and sauté for another 1-2 minutes
3) Add half a head of diced cauliflower, and a small bunch of diced lacinato kale. Sauté 2-5 minutes
4) Add 2 cups Israeli couscous
3) Add 2.5 cups chicken broth (or any broth), mix, cover, bring to a boil and reduce heat
4) Heat olive oil on medium-high in a separate pan. Crack and fry eggs
5) Chop fresh parsley and add once all the broth has been absorbed into the couscous. Add salt to taste
6) Put couscous in a bowl, top with eggs, and stir up. Enjoy!
You know that friend of yours who you already think is awesome? Remember when you learned that they had this amazing, unexpected, hobby? Pomegranate guacamole is kind of like that. You’re like, “Wow, guac, you were already great. And you grow bonsai trees from seed on the weekends? Incredible. Thanks for sharing.”
I made this dish yesterday, and it was a hit. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photograph. But here’s someone else‘s much classier photo of a similar recipe:
My recipe is as follows:
- 6 small avocados (or three big avocados)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1-2 limes
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 pomegranate
Cut up and mash avocados. Big thanks to Tian for dicing and mashing the avocados!
Leave 1-2 pits in with the mashed avocado (the pits prevent the avocado from turning brown. Also, it makes it look like you’ve made more guacamole than you have, which is a bittersweet illusion).
Dice cilantro and mix in.
Dice and add garlic cloves (If you have any doubt at all, start by adding less garlic than you think you need).
Add salt (again, start by adding less salt than you think you need).
Cut one lime into quarters and squeeze in juice.
Stir all ingredients.
Taste for flavor! This is important. You will probably need to add more garlic, salt, and/or lime juice. Adding more is easy! But taking out an ingredient is virtually impossible. Also, you probably can’t ruin this recipe by having too much lime juice. You can ruin it by having too much garlic or salt (I’ve learned both these things the hard way).
Once you’re happy with the balance of avocado/cilantro/garlic/lime/salt, cut open the pomegranate and add seeds. Stir again. Serve!
Last spring, a friend alerted me to a great Kickstarter campaign for a self-cleaning fish tank that grows food (thank you, Mike!). I bought the kit, but between graduating, starting work, and moving apartments, I’ve only now gotten around to setting it up.
For months, the tank sat around in this cool box:
Now that I’m relatively moved, I went to a pet store and bought the one thing the tank did not have: a betta fish. But, once I bought a fish, I couldn’t resist getting him some company. Unfortunately, male betta fish companions are very limited because 1) male betta fish kill other male betta fish and 2) betta fish live in stagnant water that most other fish don’t like. So, I got what company I could: a snail, a plant, and a ceramic castle. The friendly staff at Petco told me my fish would either “reject” the castle it by knocking it over, or would embrace the castle by letting it stand and swimming through it.
It was a risk, but I bought the castle because if I were a fish, and I was stuck in a tank with only a snail and an aquatic plant for company, I would want some sort of castle to compensate.
I followed the detailed instructions on the inside of the box, and within two hours had a functioning fish tank:
As you can see, the castle stands! Priscilla, as I’ve come to call my fish, has embraced the castle, the aquatic plant, and the surprisingly active snail, which is hard to see in this photo and does not yet have a name. If you have name ideas, feel free to weigh in.
I am very fond of Priscilla and his companions, and am also excited to report that, in only a week, the seeds I planted in the rock beds on top of the fish tank have started to sprout:
So far, only the lettuce seeds have sprouted, while the two cylinders of basil seeds remain dormant. But I’m hopeful that Priscilla and his friends will pull through and coax the basil seeds to bloom. Will keep you posted…
I had the pleasure of inaugurating our apartment this past weekend with an urban farm-to-table dinner party. It was a lot of fun, and it reminded me that I have lessons learned in the dinner party planning department that I have yet to share.
So, for anyone looking for free advice in the dinner party department, my top 5 list of dinner party tips are as follows:
1. Grocery shop the day before.
2. Grocery shop the day before. This is perhaps the most important of the Dinner Party Commandments, and so it bears repeating. Cooking a multi-course meal for for upwards of 10 people in one day takes a lot of time. Grocery shopping also takes several hours of time, particularly if you make multiple stops, as I did. You want to be sure you have the energy left to enjoy the party once it starts, so don’t wear yourself out. Get your groceries the day before.
3. Get great groceries! For me, a big part of the fun in dinner parties is getting to splurge and cook with ingredients I wouldn’t otherwise buy. But, trust me, you won’t have regrets since you not only get to cook with fun new groceries, you get to eat them, as well. In your home. With your friends. It’s pretty great.
So, yes, buy that enormous cauliflower.
And buy those purple cauliflowers.
Finally, if you’re insanely lucky, pick fresh produce.
I lucked out in getting to pick produce fresh from an urban garden plot (thank you, Dan!). I’m well versed in eating, but not in gardening, so I was blown away by how much better everything tasted the moment after picking it. It’s a special experience. Seek it out. But if farm-to-table is off the table, so to speak, don’t let that stop you from taking the dinner party as a reason to splurge on products that get you excited. When else are you going to have a reason to buy two organic, free-range chickens or 12 perfectly ripe peaches? Yep. That’s what I thought.
4. Choose recipes that you can make ahead. What do two roasted chickens, two quiches, four heads of roasted cauliflower, a pot of soup, and an un-photographed bowl of arugula and heirloom cherry tomato salsa all have in common? If you said that all these dishes can be made before guests arrive, then you are right!
It can feel really fun to have an appetizer or a main course that you finish off just as guests are arriving. It can be even more fun to organize yourself out of the kitchen and “empower” your guests to do the final leg of cooking. But, when you do this, you risk getting absorbed by cooking when you could be enjoying time with your guests. So, if you want a more relaxed approach, choose recipes you can make before people come over.
5. Plan backwards. How many people are you expecting? What time are your guests arriving? What dishes should be fresh-off-the-oven when they arrive? What dishes should be re-warmed? How long does it take to chop everything up, cook it on the stove, or bake it in the oven? You don’t need a minute-by-minute tick-tock, but you do need a sense of how much food you will need and a plan for when you’re going to cook it.
Those are the top five points for Dinner Party 101. I’m sure I’ll add more as I think of it, and as I inevitably make some mistakes. Have some advice of your own? Weigh in via the comments below.
Friends, it’s been some time since I have written my last post. I live in a new apartment, have new roommates, and a new advanced degree. Many other things in my life have changed.
But many things remain the same, particularly my love for food and for sharing meals with others. Tonight, after a long day in the office, I made a stir fry with chard, apple chicken sausage, onions, walnuts, raisins, and a side of couscous boiled in chicken broth. Couscous is the best of the late night, home cooked starches because it cooks in 5 minutes or less. I had the pleasure of sharing this meal with one of my new roommates and look forward to documenting many meals ahead.
I’ve decided I will both do photo and video posts. It’s too hard to only do video. A photo and rough recipe for tonight’s meal is as follows:
Late-night stir fry
(Serves 2, makes good leftovers for 1)
For stir fry
2 apple chicken sausages
5-10 stems of Swiss chard
1 small handful of raisins
1 small handful of walnuts (chopped)
1 small can chicken stock
~1 can water
Heat olive oil in pan (~upper medium heat)
Heat chicken stock and water in a pot (however much chicken stock and water corresponds to the amount of couscous you want to make. Don’t worry about making too much couscous. You’ll eat more than you think you will and can use leftovers as a side dish in many ways)
Dice and add onion
Dice and add apple chicken sausage. Allow sausage to brown.
Dice and add chard (Cut stems into smaller pieces than you cut the leaves. don’t use the bottom 4″ or so of chard stems. They’re tough). Add stems and saute.
Add couscous to water and broth. Reduce heat and cover. Turn off heat in a ~5 minutes or less when the water’s absorbed.
Add chopped walnuts to frying pan
Add raisins to frying pan
Serve in a bowl with couscous on the bottom.