27 September 2011

broiler pizza

Left/upper: balsamic & olive oil with goat cheese, garlic, onion, and pear. Right/bottom: basil pesto with feta, parm, onion, and artichoke hearts.
Guess what I did? I made dinner with our broiler! So I guess this means... it's baking season! Yaaay!!! Oh how I have missed using our oven and not making everyone miserable for it.

We're a pizza loving household. I don't really judge, as long as it isn't the microwavable kind that comes with the shiny cardboard disk that costs less than a dollar. Gross. But there is a certain satisfaction that comes from making your own pizza from start to finish. We always aspire to learn how to make our pizza on the grill, but we have yet to muster up the courage to give it a go. What if the toppings are lukewarm? What if I burn the crust? That would be tragedy for sure.

So here's our preferred method. It's pretty genius. Honestly, this is the main reason we began to really love our giant cast iron skillet. I knew I'd love it, but I hadn't figured out how one really takes advantage of a cast iron skillet. And now I know... it's good for everything! From cookies to cornbread to risotto. If you are also a little nervous about how to really use your cast iron skillet, I recommend this tutorial on how to care for it. It is all about the seasoning, folks. Don't be so thorough with the scrubbing, mmkay?

As far as the crust goes, we follow the directions for whole wheat pizza dough out of Baking Illustrated (but I am totally considering a pre-order for this lovely looking new pizza cookbook -- I know I know, you can decorate a pizza yourself, but hey, I'm not always so innovative! And fancy crusts! And they're from Minnesota! How can I resist such a thing?). The book says this will make you three medium pizzas, but we get four full skillet sized pies out of it. And the more pizzas you make at once, the more fun it is to decorate them! I like to make wacky pizzas and my husband is more of a red sauce traditionalist (also delicious, of course!). This way we both get what we like and are happy about leftovers the next day. Plus then I can be all vegetarian with my selections and he can enjoy a carnivorous meal. We are also a household that encourages leftovers. I swear I don't even remember how to make a PB&J anymore, I'm that addicted to making sure we've got leftovers for the next day. Sometimes that's what motivates me to get dinner made, not gonna lie to you.

So! Here's the crust recipe:

1/2 c. warm water (110 F)
2 1/4 t. instant yeast
1 1/4 c. water (room temp)
2 T. olive oil
11 oz. all purpose flour, unbleached (weigh it if you can for best accuracy!)
11 oz. whole wheat flour (weigh it if you can for best accuracy!)
1 1/2 t. salt

1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add to the room-temp water and oil and stir to combine.
2. Process the flour and salt in a large food processor bowl, pulsing to combine. Continue pulsing (long pulses!) while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube. If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.
3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled bowl and cover. Let rise until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
4. Punch down the dough. Cut into four pieces. Flour a work surface and roll the dough out as thinly as possible.
(Follow instructions from the Crepes of Wrath, embedded above, to proceed with making some awesome broiler pizza! Go nuts with your toppings, and don't forget to report back with some smashing combinations!)

24 September 2011

hot cocoa mix

I'm not going to lie to you. When the temperatures begin to drop in Minnesota, my husband and I have been known to grab a giant family sized tub of hot cocoa mix to get us through the colder months. You know, the cheap kind. For shame.

But at least it isn't those ultra-shamefully wasteful individual packets of cocoa mix. Come on Nestle, how do you know how much cocoa I need?! It is totally a matter of personal opinion, and probably also my mood. At work, we have a lovely off-site storage facility that does not have running water. Generally working out at that site involves a lot of thirst-generating activities of hauling stuff around. In our efforts to be cheap and green, we've installed a water cooler out there. It turns out there's a spigot for hot water too... which means tea and hot cocoa in the colder months (oh right, and it isn't heated either)! I decided that in the spirit of bulk goods that I would make a batch of cocoa mix for the lab.

Of course, I had to have a mug for myself at home first (just to make sure it worked out okay, right?).

So I made a tweaked version of Alton Brown's hot cocoa mix for starters. I'd say it worked out quite nicely! The only bummer is that the grocery store only sells one brand of dry milk, and it is nonfat. I think I'd go for something a little more... luxurious (?) if I could find it.
A mere serving suggestion. :)

Here's what I used:

1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/4 cup powdered milk
3/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup dark cocoa
1/2 t. salt
1 t. cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne
1 pinch cinnamon

Whisk ingredients together in a bowl until you are convinced it is homogenous (science buzzword!). Store in a pretty glass container with a tight fitting lid in the pantry. I would say 2-3 spoonfuls are fine for a standard mug, but that is totally your call, not mine!

14 September 2011

curried pumpkin risotto with chorizo spinach hash

I think this might be a first for me. I made something for dinner that required not one, but two whole components! At this rate, maybe I'll learn to appreciate side dishes or something. But I guess I shouldn't get too carried away here...

Given that this post includes pumpkin and butternut squash, I suppose this will suffice as my entrance into autumnal cooking. Not gonna lie, when I started seeing posts like this one and this one popping up, I thought folks were being a bit preemptive. It was the first week of September! And sure enough, we had one more 87 F day (okay, and yes, in contrast, it is currently 45 F outside this morning), which proves that we weren't quite there yet. After all, the first day of fall is actually September 23rd.  So if you'd like to follow suit, get yourself some hot chocolate, bake some bread, or at the very least, make something with cinnamon and/or nutmeg in it. :)

So check out this recipe. It is pretty intense, and probably hits my uppermost limit of seasoning. But I have to admit, adding pumpkin to risotto is a great idea. If I made the risotto by itself (this probably will happen someday!), I'd add some blue cheese at the end.  By the way, you really only need half of the butter they call for. 4T. for 1 c. of arborio rice is totally excessive, so 2 T. butter and maybe 1 T. olive oil will do the trick. Also, I used veggie chorizo here and a giant bag of spinach because that's what I had. I hope to try this with kale or chard sometime. Or really, I'd just like to learn to appreciate kale. And beets. Maybe together someday? Any suggestions out there? I'd love to hear about them.

04 September 2011

marbled nutella banana bread

Well this just makes sense: why make an entire Nutella and banana sandwich when you can have all those things at once? Perfection.  Many thanks to my buddy who posted this recipe. You know who you are, and I'd love to hear some more awesome recipes that require Nutella anytime!

This was pretty fun to put together really. I think it would be really fun to make with kids -- you can let them do the swirling part! I don't think I did a very good job. I was a hesitant swirler. But it's not like it came out poorly or anything. So if you like the way mine turned out, don't swirl it up much.

Enough about swirling! This is the last time I type the word swirl in this post! Ahem. So. I did in fact go to the Great Minnesota Get-Together on my 27th birthday, and I sure did try that sweet corn ice cream. It was marvelous! The texture was perfect and custardy, but there were little crunchy roasted corn nuts (or something) every once in a while and that made it even more interesting. I really liked that it was mainly a smooth ice cream. I will try to recreate it one of these days before fresh corn season goes bye-bye, but it will be hard to top!

I was also a total girl and got the Northwoods salad on a stick. I had to fulfill all the state fair food groups (fried, dairy, sugar, on-a-stick) somehow! It was basically a caprese salad on kebabs served over a wild rice and orzo salad. Not bad though!