Thursday, September 4, 2008

Basil BLT with Havarti on Sourdough bread

Sorry it's been so long since I posted. I've been lazy and not cooking anything new. But this is Mmmmmmmmmmmm.... let me tell you! So, in honour of lovely in season garden tomatoes....

1) Cook bacon (unless your a vegetarian; then of course you'll want to skip that step) ;o)

2) Toast 2 pieces of buttered sourdough bread under the broiler

3) Add to one piece of sourdough:
  • little bit o' mayo
  • little bit of lettuce (on both sides keeps bread from sogging) i like the crunch of iceberg
  • tomatoes
  • salt & fresh ground pepper
  • LOTs of fresh basil (i like it chopped)
  • a thin slice of Havarti
Stick it under the broiler (to melt that havarti cheese)

4) Add to the other piece of sourdough:
  • little bit o' mayo
  • more fresh basil! :O)
  • bacon (if you eat it) i like to tear it into bite sized pieces
  • more lettuce
Smoosh sides together & chomp away,

Happy eating!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pizza Dough Nirvana--Ingredient of the day

This frozen beasty......or......this homemade frozen yeasty?

(Okay, these pictures suck, but we ate it too fast to photograph. YUM!)

This pizza dough recipe is astoundingly perfect.
Warning!!! joyous raving rant of riotously happy taste-buds to follow:

Without exaggeration (Well actually with a helluva LOT of exaggeration but that's still not enough exaggeration) this is awe-inspiring. I have eaten a lot of pizza in my time. I'm originally from Ontario where there were many great pizza joints--which has caused me many a sad "sighhhhhhh" since I moved to BC. Here, (near Burnaby) I couldn't find a good pizza place at all. Now, I no longer need to. All is well!

The recipe was shared by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. It was created by Peter Reinhart who wrote Bread Baker's Apprentice. The man is a genius.

Don't let the recipe's many pointers intimidate you; they are beyond handy. If I can do this, you can do this. I hadn't ever made a single pizza dough, yet it turned out so well that it was seriously the best thing I have ever eaten.

The six things you do that make it work so well:

  • Chill the flour in the fridge (I used all-purpose but purists say to get the best)
  • Chill utensils as you work (or your hand) in a bowl of cold water with an ice cube in it. SO worth the chilliness.
  • Let the dough sit in the fridge for 1/2/3 days (though after the 3 days, you need to freeze unused portions) The frozen crusts come out lovely, just defrost for a day.
  • Use a Pizza Stone & heat it first (mine is from Pampered chef & worth every penny--though I did get it free, haha from my BamBam (grandma) who got it at a garage sale.) I am considering buying a second one for entertaining though. It's a gem.
  • Fire up your oven as hot as it can go--safely ;0) 450 will work, but I like 525 degrees--I was giddy with joy when I saw that my oven goes to 550; you can't imagine!
  • Keep the fillings simple & high quality. (I'm usually a top it til it tumbles kind of girl, but great sauce, cheese, & pepperoni (or your favourite vegetarian topping) can't be beat for simple yummiousness.

One method for working with the dough, if it intimidates you (like it does me):

I'm awful at working with dough & transferring it to my hot pizza stone without calamity, so I developed this trick to get it to work. I make panzerottis instead of flat pizza.
  • Lightly flour & put pizza stone in oven (higher the better--cornmeal is awesome in place of flour) :0)
  • Use the bottom of another solid pan or large plate to build your pizza on.
  • Flour it and stretch dough out (don't be upset if your dough is very thin. The major problem with homemade they say is that the middle is tricky to get the dough to cook. The thiness doesn't burn amazingly enough (at least not in my experience) and it isn't undercooked. Nice crunch too.
  • Sauce the whole dough and build ingredients on one half
  • Fold in half to form panzerotti
  • Flatten edges of crust out well, so they'll cook evenly
  • Open oven and quickly turn the pan upside down to flop it onto your hot pizza stone
This really is way easier in practice, promise!


Friday, April 25, 2008

Sautéd Red Cabbage Salad (with tasty Greek influences)

I've made a solemn salad vow that is turning out to be scrumptious. This one was especially differently yummy.

I love cabbage and it's incredibly good for you, but sometimes when it's raw it's just too much. I wanted some colour in this salad for vitamins and cabbage keeps so well that it's a good standby. If you sauté it in a wee but of butter it makes a lovely salad topping. (Butter, I know 'bad,' but this salad is best enjoyed with a miniscule amount of salad dressing, so it's okay.) ;0) A little butter goes a long way in this: it lends the nicest creaminess to the nutty cabbage.

Sauté cabbage until it's al dente & adding sea salt helps keep the colour and pepper is wonderful with cabbage.
  • Start with your favourite green (this has romaine hearts & spinach-both organic)
  • Add the teeniest amount of finely-diced feta & spanish onions
  • Red cabbage goes on there too
  • Top with a hit of your favourite herb (I had basil on here & it was wondrously good)
Dressing suggestion: Greek. Nice. :0)

Happy eats!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ingredient of the Day: Infused Oil & Vinegar

Infusing oils & vinegars is so simple it'd be laughable if it didn't add so much to cooking. They add such a depth of flavour to salads, vegetables, or anything you use oil or vinegar for, (hahaha.) They also make lovely gifts. You can tailor your recipes to the favourite tastes of friend & loved ones.

This particular oil blend has:
  • Lots of lemon zest
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • Lemon scented thyme (crushed to release oils)
This 'recipe'--if you can call it that ;0)--was born, because I really wanted garlic flavour on some roasted potatoes, but I didn't want the burnt taste of overdone garlic pieces. If you use it right after mixing it is very subtle (garlic-wise.) If you want strong garlic flavour right away, or you aren't worried about burning, just chop the garlic cloves just mash 'em with a garlic press or fork.
You can use different oils, of course, so it's adaptable and healthful.

I've tried a spicy rendition for Christmas gifts that was very well received just by combining:
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • A few chili pepper flakes
  • Garlic cloves (peeled & crushed)
  • & Rosemary
Any herb you like is great. The woody herbs (like rosemary, thyme, sage...) seem to keep longer but tarragon, dill, cilantro, chives, green onions...and so on...impart lovely flavours. I've been salivating over the idea of an oil infused with my new curry plant (though I've read it's more fragrant than flavourful...we'll see. I'll let you know...)

Other great flavours are: ginger, lemon grass, bay leaves, kaffir lime leaves, dill seed, fennel seed, celery seed, Fenugreek, cumin, clove, cumin...well really any spice, heehee :0) Many will be best cut (lemon grass) crushed or grated.

Keeping your concoctions in the fridge ensures there's no unwanted bacterial business from the herbs...The vinegars are naturally antibacterial so they last longer unrefrigerated.

Vinegars, even the cheapest, are really improved by adding aromatics. Blends are nice too: A mix of white vinegar with red wine vinegar gives you that rosé colour, but is clear enough that it still lets the herbs show to their best advantage. I really like the flavour too. White balsamic vinegar is simply dreamy and so attractive. You can choose all kinds of pretty bottles for gifts--or for you! :0)

Happy easy culinary alchemy,

Homemade Roasted Peppers & Yogurt cheese in a Sandwich

The star of this ultra fresh-tasting sandwich is an orange roasted orange pepper. Roasted peppers are easy to make at home & they're juicier as well as sweeter than the jarred variety (the jarred ones always seem to go moldy on me.)

With fresh ones, you control the texture, since you can cook them as much or as little as you like. Plus--obviously--you can roast orange or yellow ones (or even hot peppers) for different flavours. I would find green bitter, but whatever floats your culinary boat...

It's also a great way to save those almost wrinkling peppers from certain doom. I just roasted this orange one (who was in his old age) in the oven at 500 degrees (while I was cooking turkey.)

The skin peels right off (easier when cooled-I tried it when hot, ooouch! ) You don't even need to blacken the pepper (unless you want it really roasted-- I like it just brown it in spots because it leaves the teensiest crispness to the pepper. Once roasted, they save nicely in the fridge for a day or two. You can freeze your roasted peppers, marinade them, or immerse them in a jar of oil.

This sandwich also includes another easy easy easy 'gourmet' gem:

Homemade Yogurt Cheese

Did I mention this was easy?:
  1. Just take yogurt (with no settling agents in it.) I used a natural Balkan style & it turned out lovely (smoother than other yogurts.)
  2. Put the yogurt in cheese cloth and set that in a sieve.
  3. Set the sieve over a bowl & Let the water drip out (refrigerating all the while)
  4. When the water is out and the yogurt is firm it's done (overnight is perfect, but you can check the texture & taste it
Cream cheese consistency is how like it. Yogurt cheese is great for those who like a rich tzatziki (me!) and it is a fantastic tangy but light tasting addition to wraps / dips / mashed potatoes / wraps / sandwiches...Which brings me to the actual sandwich; It's on buttered white toast (gasp!), but that's all I had, and I needed a sandwich fix. Its fillings include:
  • Yogurt cheese (herbs added to this are loverly)
  • Roasted orange pepper
  • A little mayo
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Sorrel (lemony wonder) & iceberg lettuce (or your favourite greens)
  • a sliced left-over chicken thigh
If you're a vegetarian, you could add avocado for a little richness instead of the chicken.

Happy cooking adventures!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Club sandwich Salad (a crunchy green take on the sandwich)

This picture is a cheat, because it's a bread-less version of this club salad recipe--with red pepper as a substitute for the tomatoes. Hardly the same, but kinda perty, no? It also has fresh dill and sorrel. (Sorrel is an unusually lemony perennial green that is delightful. I grow it in a pot.) :0)

Being a club sandwich fiend this is my favourite salad:
  • Lettuce (a mix of Iceberg or Romaine for crunch with organic salad greens like mescaline mix or baby spinach is scrumptious and a good way to introduce greener varieties of lettuce to kids)
  • Bacon Cooked 'til it's the crispness you like (avoid bacon bits like the plague--> they are evil! Muhahaha!)
  • Tomatoes (if you don't have fresh canned finely diced are nice)
  • Chicken or Turkey (For best results, put poultry in a ziplock bag and flatten it with a meat hammer until even. Cook 'til tender & moist, but not overdone of course!) ;0)
  • Havarti or old /medium cheddar (or your favourite cheese)
  • Green onion (fine chop)
You could use shrimp/crab/scallop as well or instead of poultry (seafood club, right?)
Avocado is awesome too (large cubes lightly salted.)

For entertaining friends who are Vegetarians: You could make a salad bar that includes the above, but also has chickpeas (Garbonzo beans--which are lovely toasted.) Other options include pine nuts, spiced pecans, pomegranate seeds...


I love this best topped with Ranch dressing (to which I add a shot of white balsamic vinegar & fresh herbs) or a with any mayonnaise-y vinaigrette. The pow of vinegar is the best! (TIP: If you can let your homemade dressings sit for at least an hour/overnight for flavours to marry.)

Homemade Sourdough croûtons:

If you hate store bought croûtons, like I do, you may be pleasantly surprised by making your own tasty morsels.

Butter & a little cooking oil
Sourdough (or other fresh bread)
Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch cayene
Paprika/other spices you like
Lemon/lime zest
Flat Leaf Italian Parsley/Cilantro/Dill or finely chopped Herb of your choice

Add the ingredients in the order above (most important is the garlic last to avoid burning it bitter.) Toast it. This makes crispy croûtons with a soft warm inside. Mmmmm....

Thanks for looking. Happy Cooking,