Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pizza varia

Not a recipe here, this was just some random pizza action that happened on Saturday night that I wanted to share with y'all. I was feeling cheap, overworked and lazy--a magical combination that usually results in refrigerator roulette. I made some pizza dough (takes about 1 hour to rise, using about 5 cents worth of flour, salt and yeast) and scrounged the fridge for leftovers to stick on top. Funny thing was, there really wasn't enough of any one thing to make a whole pizza so I ended up splitting the dough into 4 small pieces for 4 incredibly eclectic pizzas. There was just enough pizza sauce leftover from last week to cover 3 of them so the last one ended up being a white pizza. That one was spectacular--I plan to make it again soon for a party appetizer. Figs soaked in brown sugar and balsamic vinegar with a thin layer of prosciutto plus goat cheese and rosemary scattered all over the top. Yes.Another one had small cubes of teriyaki flavored tofu...I covered it with cheese and pickled jalapenos. It baked alongside the goat cheese one and came out pretty awesome.Another one was pretty normal: pepperoni, chopped stuffed green olives and sundried tomatoes. Here's my pizza stone in action.And I wanted a pineapple one, but all I had was about a 1/2 cup of leftover pineapple-cheese casserole from my office Thanksgiving potluck. You may recall this involves Ritz crackers, butter and cheddar cheese. Did I put it on my pizza? Yes I did. Avec prosciutto and hot red pepper flakes. So in conclusion: don't leave the house ever again! No need! Just make pizza out of everything languishing in the fridge. As long as you have some beer on hand, you, too, can embrace the hermit/law school final exams lifestyle! This now concludes today's Il Piatto PSA.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Happy mama granola

Last summer I made a huge batch of this olive oil granola when Betsy was in town and staying at my house. She was pregnant at the time and was totally capable of destroying several bowls with yogurt per day (as was I, but I didn't have the pregnancy excuse). It's just the yummiest granola: sweet, a little salty, and perfectly crispy from baking in the olive oil. About a month ago baby Grant came into the world, and I figured if there's anyone hungrier than a pregnant lady, it's a new mom. So I made a big batch to send on up to Wisconsin. Welcome to your first winter, little guy! This recipe is based on the New York Times olive oil granola from summer 2009. Combine 3 cups rolled oats with 1 cup dried coconut pieces (I used small chunks) and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Add in 1 cup each shelled pumpkin seeds and pistachios.I also chopped up about 1/2 cup pecans and added those in, as well as about 1/4 cup of leftover banana chips (clearly this is a pretty flexible recipe and a great place to use up odds and ends of things you may have in your pantry).Mix it all up well...And add in 1 1/2 teaspoons salt...Plus 1/2 teaspoon each cinnamon and cardamom. Mix everything up well and add in 3/4 - 1 cup maple syrup and 1/2 cup olive oil. And stir!This is a good time to point out my awesome Respect Your Mother tshirt. Take note, baby Grant!This is what your mixture should be looking like:Spread it out on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven at 325 for at least an hour. Stir often to evenly dry things out.Meanwhile, chop up 3/4 cup of dried fruit. I used apricots because I still had them in the pantry from the last time I made granola. But this is a good place to experiment with different additions if there are other dried fruits you like!When the granola is crisp and smelling heavenly (and this may take longer than 1 hour, depending on your oven--just keep a good eye on it so it doesn't burn!), take it out and try to slap people away from it. It smells amazing, so this resistance is NOT easy. Be ready with a wooden spoon, a fierce expression and a sad story about how this is for a brand-new mother. Also, now you can stir in your dried fruit. I packed it up with a cute label listing all the ingredients...And something for Dad too, because Ryan doesn't like to be left out. Congratulations, you guys!***UPDATE: Erin BS made this over the weekend and reports back that shredded coconut is not the way to go, as it easily burns. Stick with chunks or large flakes. And for those whose ovens run hot (or perhaps for those ovens that simply run true), try setting to 300 degrees. And stir often.

Pork with golden beets and black apples

This is perfect for a beautiful fall dinner, when it's cold outside and you want something pretty to look at on your plate. The golden beets are mildly sweet and nutty--perfect with crisp-cooked black apple slices. The whole thing is kind of like applesauce with porkchops but slightly more sophisticated, like it got dressed up for company. I put it all over a bed of wild rice but you can skip that or use something else you like--quinoa, couscous, brown rice, etc.Start with one golden beetroot. Red beets will make everything pink so you may want to avoid that type. You only need to use half of a big one so do that or just get one small one. In this case I just roasted the whole big one and saved half the quantity for a beet-goat cheese salad the next day.Peel and slice the beet into half moons about 1/2" thick...Add salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast in the oven at 400 for about 40 minutes, or until soft. Here's half the beet, after cooking:Now find some really nice apples. These are Arkansas black apples, one of the crispiest types available. Aren't they gorgeous?You can use any type you like, as long as they're pretty crisp so that they don't fall apart into mush while cooking and are able to provide a nice textural counterpoint to the softer beets. Slice up one apple and set aside.Also cut one small onion into paper thin slices. You should now be ready to go with cooked beets, apple slices, and onion all prepared.Now get two boneless porkchops and season well with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat until sizzly and add your chops to the pan. Give them about 3 minutes per side--you want them to be nice and browned. Don't worry about cooking them through--they'll finish up later on. Just try to get them a nice golden brown. Remove the chops to a plate, add your onion and begin to saute.After it is soft and a nice golden color from all the delicious pork goodness (about 5 minutes), add in your apple slices and 1 tablespoon butter. Turn them around so they get well cooked throughout.Add in your beets.Doesn't this just say "fall" to you? It does to me. Something about the colors, I guess.Add in 1/2 cup of white wine, stir well, then place your chops on top of the vegetables to finish cooking, or simply to reheat, if they are already done inside.Beautiful. Place each chop on a nest of the apples and beets over a small scoop of wild rice.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The best banana bread ever. Full stop, call it a day.

You may think this is hyperbole, especially if your past banana bread experiences have been of the gummy, leaden loaf variety. But this one is a one-way ticket to fluffy, delicate and ridiculously delicious quick bread heaven. Like my last banana bread variation, this one has its roots in Mark Bittman's base recipe. Unlike my last banana bread variation (although it was perfectly serviceable), this one is legitimately transcendental. Enjoy!Grease up a loaf pan with plenty of butter and preheat the oven at 350. While you have the butter out, leave 1 stick of it out to get soft because you'll be creaming it and it's annoying to try to cream cold butter. Mix together 2 cups white flour 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 3/4 cups sugar, and 1 teaspoon each cinnamon and cardamon. Add in 1/4 cup of flax seeds. These are key. Now get your stick of butter together with 2 eggs...And add in 3 large, very ripe bananas. Get these all beat up well together. Mix in 1/2 cup of almond butter. This is also key. Between this and the flax seeds, we're talking secret ingredients here. The most recent time I tested this recipe I used peanut butter because I was out of almond butter, and it's good too. Almond butter is absolutely preferable, but if you don't happen to have it on hand but are just dying to make banana bread, go ahead and use peanut instead. It will still be awesome.Once you've incorporated the almond butter into the banana-egg-butter mixture, pour it all into the dry ingredients. Stir it well to combine but do not mix more than necessary. Add vanilla or almond extract (I used a combination of both, actually) and 1/2 cup chopped pecans. I used almonds this time but I think pecans bake up better. Now pour your batter into your buttered loaf pan. Sprinkle a layer of turbinado sugar over the top of the loaf and bake for about 1 hour. Test it with a wooden toothpick--it should come out clean. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then remove from pan.Allow to more or less cool before slicing unless you are very very hungry.