Archive for February, 2010

Pizza with garlic, feta, and calamata olives

Dear Erin and Willie,

     I have been really hungry for homemade pizza lately, a staple in our household when you guys were still at home.  I’ve made so much homemade pizza in my lifetime, I could whip it up in my sleep.  This version is one I first tasted in California many years ago; I only make it when Dad won’t be home for dinner because he is not an olive fan.  The olives and feta are a natural combination but the garlic helps pull it all together.  I used a semolina pizza dough which I think has a nutty flavor and gets so deliciously crispy. Oh, and I almost forgot:  this pizza has potatoes on it; I won’t get into the starch on starch discussion that would likely ensue from Dad but I think you know what I mean!  While the pizza cooked I finished writing up my seed orders and dreamed of spring…  Love, mom
Semolina Pizza Dough
1 1/2 cups water
1 pkg instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon  olive oil
1 cup semolina flour
4-5 cups unbleached white flour
While you can easily make this dough by hand, I used my mixer:  Combine 1 cup of unbleached flour and 1 cup of semolina flour in a mixing bowl; stir in the dry yeast and the sugar.  Add the warm water (warmed to specifications on the yeast package) and beat well until the yeast is fully dissolved.  Add the olive oil and salt and continue to beat for a minute.  Gradually stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft, smooth dough;  when you have added enough flour it will be soft but not sticky.  Oil a container, oil the surface of the dough, cover and chill until needed.  This will make 1 thin crust, 13″ pizzas.
Pizza Toppings
(for 1 pizza)
4 cloves of garlic minced,warmed and softened in 4 tablespoons olive oil
3 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup fresh grated parmensan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
2 thinly sliced cooked potatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper and tossed with 1 tablespoon of the garlic oil
1/2 cup sliced calamata olives
2 teaspoons crumbled italian oregano
(any oregano will do but I grow this delightful herb in my garden in the summer and dry it; it has a very distinctive taste)
Roll out a pizza dough and drizzle the top with the remaining garlic/oil.  Layer the potatoes in a single layer and top with cheeses, olives, and oregano.  Bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes, until the crust is crispy and the cheeses are melted.

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Dear Mom and Willie,

I don’t cook with potatoes a lot. I know, I know – mother, you raised me in a home where we learned to love carbs and starch of all kinds…and boy, do I love them. I could eat potatoes constantly, without a problem. One of my favorite dishes is potato curry, which is creamy and delicious with all it’s starchy goodness in each bite – but if I tried to make that in my house, I would be most certainly frowned upon.

That’s right – you may have taught me well, but my lovely resident taste tester, Matt, does not share my general love of carbohydrates. This continues to startle and alarm others, but I’ve gotten used to it. In fact, his lips pursed a little bit when I told him this week’s ingredient was potatoes. He figured I would take the first excuse to make a dish with that ingredient who is usually such a stranger in my kitchen.

But I chose to pleasantly surprise him, and made the one variety of the potato he adores: sweet potatoes. Though they may have an equal amount of starch, their delicious taste and many nutritional benefits outweigh any negatives he might see.

Rather than simply roast or bake the sweet potatoes (as we usually do), I decided to make a sweet potato mash. First, I diced the potatoes and tossed them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then I roasted them until they were tender and slightly caramelized, which really boosted their flavor. Then I used a hand mixer to whip the potatoes with some Greek yogurt, and when it was all done, I topped it with a rosemary butter.

It was as decadent and delicious as regular mashed potatoes, but with some fabulously different flavors. It would be great with steak or chicken, but we had it alongside grilled sausages – yum!

Here’s what you’ll need to make 4 servings of Mashed Sweet Potatoes:

3 large sweet potatoes
6 cloves garlic
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, as needed
3/4 cup Greek yogurt

5 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped

-Toss the potatoes and garlic with the oil, salt, and pepper. Spread into an even layer on a baking sheet and roast in a 375 degree oven until tender and caramelized, about 30-45 minutes. Transfer the potatoes and garlic to a large bowl, and use a handheld mixer to whip them with the Greek yogurt until smooth.
-Melt the butter in a small saucepan, and add the rosemary. Let the butter rest until it is set. Top the warm potatoes with the butter.

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Steak Sandwich ala Banh Mi

Steak Sandwich ala Banh Mi

Dear Erin and Willie,

     There is just a hint of spring in the air.  Skunks are beginning to roam… how do I know that, you might ask?  For some reason we are plagued with skunks at our house and they find some reason to spray their lovely scent right outside our bedroom window on a frequent basis.  During the depth of winter, we were odor free but recently the clean night air has been fragrant with skunk.  But that is a whole nother story.  We were feeling springy and a warmish day inspired us to grill steaks.  Unfortunately, there was still a drift of snow in front of the grill so I ended up pan frying the steak.  Like Willie’s recipe, this definitely would have been better grilled.  Like you, we were hungry for something satisfying, but quick so we opted for Vietnamese inspired flavors on a Wheatfield’s baguette.  I made up a big jar of Vietnamese table sauce and marinated both the vegies and the steak in the table sauce.  When the sandwich was assembled, we poured more table sauce over everything.  This was definitely a juicy sandwich!   This made enough for 3 generous sandwiches.  Love, mom
  • Vietnamese Table Sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1-2 teaspoons chili garlic paste
  • 1 minced serrano chili
  • 1/4 cup asian fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup hot water
  • Combine all ingredients in a jar and mix well.
  • Sandwich Ingredients:      
  • 1 K.C. strip or sirloin steak
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup thinly sliced cucumber
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onion
  • fresh mint and cilantro leaves
  • 1 baguette  
Marinate the steak in about 1/3 cup of the table sauce; add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.  Grill the steak to desired doneness, let rest and then slice thinly.  Meanwhile marinate the carrots, bell  pepper, cucumber and green onions in a few tablspoons of the table sauce.  Slice the baguette into 3 sandwich portions and layer sandwiches with steak, marinated vegies, bibb lettuce, cilantro, and mint.  Top with more table sauce if desired.                                                                          

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Dear Mom and Erin,

After reading about her one lazy afternoon in one of Mom’s many cooking magazines,  I decided to get a cookbook by Harumi Kurihara.  The magazine referred to her as the Japanese Martha Stewart.  As someone who gets a lot of ideas from Martha’s Everyday Food I though the idea of Harumi’s Everday Japanese sounded pretty great and, after a trip to the giant Asian super market to stock up on bonito flakes, mirin, and miso, I’ve been cooking from it regularly.

When I was visiting Mom this weekend I mentioned that this week I was going to make Sirloin Steak in a Miso Marinade.  Since this was already your theme for the week I clearly had no excuse not to join in on the blog.  I made the steaks tonight as well as roasting some veggies to go along with them.  I took the leftover marinade to use as a base for a bit of an impromptu pan sauce.  Overall it turned out quite delicous- though next time I would grill the meat.   It’s hard to remove enough of the miso Marinade to really sear the steaks well in a pan.  The steaks would have even better if I could have gotten them nice and crusty.


Sirloin Steaks in a Miso Marinade

4 sirloin steaks, about an inch thick

13oz awase miso paste
1/2 cup sake
1 cup mirin
1/3 cup superfine sugar

Combine the last 4 ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat and cook until sauce thickens stirring regularly.  Slather steaks with marinade and put in large sealable bag with any remaining marinade overnight.  Let steaks warm to room temp, remove excess marinade and cook.  After I finished cooking the steaks I made a quick pan sauce by dumping the rest of the marinade into the pan.  I added about a 1/3rd of a cup of sake and a splash of rice wine vinegar.  I also added some cloves of roasted garlic from the roasted vegetables I made and smashed them into the sauce.  I briefly cooked this, scraping the bottom of the pan, until it had reduced a bit.

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Dear Mom,

Every Saturday, Matt wakes up around 6:00 am and heads to work. Unfortunately, I am rotten at going back to sleep after I have been awoken, so I usually get up too. After perusing through the recipes and inspiration I have collected over the week, I usually feel inspired to make a big meal – something special and more involved than we have time for during the week). It’s usually something like slow cooked meats, or something with multiple elaborate side dishes, or with an accompaniment of fresh bread or other baked goods. But on Sundays, we usually sleep in, get up feeling groggy and lazy, and we’re ready to enjoy our day off. No matter what, it usually ends up being a casual eating day.

Initially when you and I discussed cooking with steak this week, I thought I would use it for our fancy Saturday night meal. But Saturday came and went and I was left with a good amount of strip steak in the fridge to do something with on Sunday afternoon. In the end, nothing sounded better than a good steak sandwich. We cooked the steak and sandwiched it between soft, fluffy bread with mustard, cheese, caramelized onions, and arugula. It was perfect – simple, easy, delicious, but still very special.

Here’s what you need to make four Steak, Cheese, Onion, and Arugula Sandwiches with Mustard:

2 Tbsp oil
4 strip steaks
salt and pepper, as needed

    – Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and cook until desired doneness (mine were pretty thin so I did just 1-2 minutes per side). Let the steaks rest, then slice and set aside.

    2 Tbsp oil
    1 onion, thinly sliced
    2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    2 tsp apple cider vinegar

      – In a small saute pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic until tender and caramelized, bout 6-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Set aside.

      4 buns
      4 slices fresh mozzarella
      spicy brown mustard, as needed
      arugula, as needed

        – Slice the buns in half, and place a piece of fresh mozzarella on half. Place the buns onto a baking sheet and run under the broiled until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted, about 3-4 minutes. Spread mustard on the other side of the buns, and top with a handful of arugula. Place a spoonful of caramelized onions on top of the cheese and top with the warm sliced steak. Yum!

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        Winter Soup

        Chicken vegetable soup with spinach and cabbage

        Dear Erin,   Mmmmmm … I love the looks of your pasta dish; simple food with fresh ingredients is hard to top.  I can always make room for pasta!  We are still suffering with cold, gray days here… makes me want to hunker down, sit by the fire, and eat soup of course.  You know how much dad and I love our soup!!  We make a pot of soup and will eat it all week, adding some crusty bread or a salad to diversify it a bit.  There is nothing like a rich, flavorful broth to warm you up!  I like using homemade stock for soups but can’t always keep enough on hand and I find that chicken stock from the store works just fine if you add other flavor components to perk it up.  I made this soup using some leftover roasted chicken and adding lots of vegies to make is hearty and healthy.  I did have homemade chicken stock to use and added canned roma tomatoes from our garden which added a burst of flavor.  After the vegies had simmered for about thirty minutes, I added the shredded roasted chicken and lots of fresh spinach.  I served the soup when the spinach was just barely wilted and it was a nice contrast to the sweet simmered cabbage and carrots.  With later warmings, the spinach melded more into the soup and while it did not have its own distinct flavor, you knew it was there adding some great nutrition.  It’s a great way to get your greens if you are just learning to cook with them because the spinach picks up  a lot of flavor from the broth.  I think that this soup would easily adapt to vegetarian soup by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth and tofu for the roasted chicken.  It didn’t take long to put it all together and it made a huge pot.  Here is what I used to make about a gallon of soup:  

        • 2 stalks celery diced
        • 4 carrots sliced
        • 1 onion diced
        • 1 leek chopped
        • few tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon crumbled dry marjoram
        • 1 bay leaf
        • 1/2 head cabbage, chopped
        • 2 cloves garlic, minced
        • 2 Tablespoons oil
        • 1 quart tomatoes, chopped
        • 2 quarts chicken broth
        • salt and pepper to taste
        • 1 large bag fresh spinach
        • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken

        Begin by sautéing the celery, carrots, onion, and cabbage in the oil.  Don’t brown them, just cook them slowly until wilted, about ten minutes.  Add the garlic and the chopped parsley or marjoram, then sauté briefly before adding the tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, and salt and pepper.   Simmer this mixture about 30 minutes until  all the vegies are soft and cooked through (add  more water or broth if needed).  Now add in the fresh spinach and cooked chicken, simmering just until heated through.  Serve in big bowls to warm your soul!  I guess I’ll finish off this batch of soup for my lunch.  It is so much fun cooking with you, even though we aren’t in the same kitchen when we do it!  Love, mom

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        Dear Mom,

        Threats of snow made me worried I wouldn’t get to the store today, but we didn’t get a single flake. After a fabulous lunch in New York City on Friday, I was a little unsure of what to cook back in my own kitchen. Yes, I had course after course beginning with foie gras, moving on to mushroom veloute (with parmesan foam), then seared sea scallops, deliciously crispy pork belly, and three kinds of tarts for dessert. Plus, they sent us off with a rainbow of macaroons and a box full of citrus-flavored pate de fuit.

        Wow, that was a mouthful (and a stomach full). How do I top that at home? Sometimes after a meal like that, it’s almost like I doubt my own abilities rather than feel inspired. But luckily, you and I had already picked a theme for this week: cooking with greens. This thought kept me on track, and when I was on the train ride back home, I played with ideas in my head.

        I decided, in the end, on a pasta dish. (One thing I rarely order at restaurants is pasta, because I know I can make it just how I like it at home – plus it’s always quick and always easy. It seemed like the perfect thing to make to come out of a food coma.) I love tossing greens with warm pasta, because it makes the greens wilt just slightly. It brings out their flavor and cooks them just a tad, until they are tender and soft.

        I wanted the spicy mustard greens I chose to be the star, so I tried to complement it with other flavors – acidic but sweet roasted cherry tomatoes, salty bacon and parmesan cheese, plus lots of onions, garlic, and good olive oil. The result was like a warm, comforting salad. The greens were fragrant and strong, but the pasta balanced their spicy flavor. I ate it on the porch, wrapped in a blanket.

        As it turns out, it felt deliciously good to be home, eating my own food. The table settings may have been lacking (as was the table), the decor left something to be desired, but my stomach was happy to be home.

        Here’s what I used to make 2 portions of Pasta with Bacon, Roasted Tomatoes, Wilted Mustard Greens, and Parmesan:

        First I prepped the following:
        1 large handful of pasta
        (I cooked the pasta in salted boiling water until tender, about 6-9 minutes)
        1 cup cherry tomatoes
        (I seasoned the tomatoes with salt and pepper and roasted them in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes)
        5 strips bacon
        (I cooked the bacon in a skillet until crispy, about 3-4 minutes)

        Then I finished the dish:
        2 Tbsp olive oil
        1 onion, diced
        2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
        3 cups mustard greens, roughly chopped
        salt and pepper, to taste
        shaved parmesan cheese, to taste

        – Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the pasta, tomatoes, bacon, and mustard greens. Toss until the greens are wilted and the mixture is heated through, about 2-3 minutes. Season well with salt and pepper, and finish with shaved parmesan cheese.

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