Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gourmet Rice Cakes

I have a fabulous new friend who is from South Korea and has been here only 3 years now and she made me the most delicious and beautiful rice cakes! I told her they were yummy, but she told me that someday she hoped I would tell her the truth about how I liked them. I'm here to say that I genuinely liked them and wouldn't mind eating more of them someday. I could tell that they had a little sweet soy sauce, chestnuts, a mini date roll and a tiny pine nut flower on each one. One thing I love to eat is beautiful food. In fact, I heard that you can fool people into thinking something is delicious just because it is so beautiful. Not that these were the case, but just something to consider next time you pay $100 per plate at a French restaurant. I love Asian food and those darling little cakes were right up my alley. Thanks Jihye! You made my day:)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beautiful Vegetables

Someday I'm going to have these framed and put up in my home. Nature's bounty leaves me breathless sometimes...and reaching for my camera:)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pizza at your fingertips!

What you will need...

Pastry flour, yeast, water, salt, olive oil, pizza stone(optional), pizza slip(optional), If not using a pizza stone and slip a cookie sheet will suffice

toppings: fresh mozzarella, basil, San Marzano tomato puree or whatever you like

1 Tbsp yeast
2 Cups very warm water
Let activate for 5 minutes

Add 1 Tbsp salt
Turn on your mixer and slowly add about 4 cups pastry flour or "00" (as defined by the Italians) flour you can get at your local Italian market. It's the most finely ground flour you can get and can be expensive. You can grind it yourself though if you have your own grinder like I do, but then you get whole wheat pizza and you might not want it. If you use regular flour, your dough will not be soft and squishy after it's baked. It will be hard so you should just get the good stuff. Add more or less flour until you reach the desired consistency.

Okay, so then when your dough looks like it's coming together slightly in your bowl,not to runny, but not in a solid looking ball, let it mix for about 20 minutes on the lowest setting on your mixer. The dough should still be somewhat sticky to the touch, but not runny.

Put your pizza stone in the oven and turn it on at the highest setting, usually 550 degrees.

Take it out of the bowl and pour it onto a well floured surface and sprinkle with flour. You are going to be making the ball of dough which is an art in itself and key to making sure the dough doesn't get holes in it when you stretch it out. Start dividing the dough into pieces that are about as big as a clementine, or as big as a tennis ball for a larger pizza. Add just enough flour so your hands don't stick to the dough. The trick is to add as little flour as you can get away with. Start rolling the dough on the sides into the middle and then squeeze it together while you're stuffing it through your thumb and first finger(making a circle) and pinch it off to form a perfect ball with no creases. Put it on a cookie sheet with flour sprinkled on top and make as many as you can.

You may freeze the dough at this point and use some of it at a later date. This recipe makes about 10 personal pizzas.

You don't need to let the dough rise and you may use it right away if you want to. I make all the balls first and so they rise a little bit before I use them.

When you are ready roll it out, you take the dough, use the pads of your fingers to flatten it as much as you can and then start pulling at the edges and try any technique you want to stretch it out without creating a hole. You can look this up online and get better instructions than I can detail.

When your dough is pulled out to the desired size, put your pizza on a lightly floured surface or right on the pizza peel that you use to slide it onto your stone. I like to sprinkle the peel with coarse cornmeal for an easy transfer. QUICKLY add toppings to your pizza. We usually only use...

Coarsely pureed San Marzano tomatoes (Can get a giant can at Costco and freeze in individual packs for later use)
Fresh Mozzarella in chunks
Fresh Basil or pureed basil with olive oil (for winter months when basil is expensive)
Salt and a little olive oil drizzle at the end if desired

Right when you are done putting the toppings on, transfer the pizza to your pizza stone by gently shaking it to get it to glide off the peel onto the stone. If it sticks, don't shake it hard because if your toppings fall off onto the stone they will burn and set of the fire alarm. If your pizza gets a hole in it, it's ruined, so make it into a calzone or pizza roll. Also, don't load up your pizza too much. The toppings aren't finished cooking by the time the crust is done and it is really hard to slide off the slip.

Bake your pizza for about 5 minutes, until the edges turn golden brown. Your pizzas will cook better if you let the stone warm back up in between pizzas or get two stones like I have and alternate.

Take your pizza out, cut it on a DIFFERENT cutting board, not the slip, and enjoy!

Other yummy pizzas I have created are...

Goat cheese, prosciutto, and pear
Olive oil, salt, and herbs
Roasted pepper puree with roasted vegetables and green chile

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Enchilada Breakfast

Just add an egg to the recipe below. Delicious! We ate these right before we went on a 22 mile bike trip in Ohiopyle with the kids in tow in a trailer. Just what the doctor ordered!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Main stream FINALLY catching up with "alternative" nutrtiton claims

So I read in my Bon Appetite this month that science has all of a sudden "discovered" that many of the foods that the main stream media told us were bad for you are actually very, very good for you. They call the list THE TERRIFIC TEN and they are...

1 Bacon
2 Whole Milk
3 Pine Nuts
4 Duck Breast
5 Watercress
6 Cannellini beans
7 Leeks
8 Anchovies
9 Fresh Strawberries
10 Buckwheat

Okay, so many of the things on this list are already known to be good for you, but I bet you don't know why and I encourage you to read this article. The studies' findings are very interesting. BACON, for example has mostly monounsaturated fat and oleic acid which is just like olive oil and you know what that does? It LOWERS BAD CHOLESTEROL LEVELS! Also whole milk helps the absorbtion of the vitamins already present in whole, real milk (what a surprise that the vitamin supplements added to skim milk aren't absorbed very well into the body). They studied women who ate full fat cheeses and milk and discovered that they gained less weight over their lifetime. I'm sure you have also heard that drinking non-fat or low fat dairy products makes many women have fertility issues, while whole milk fat products actually boosts fertility. So you ladies out there, try whole milk and whole milk products on for size and you will be doing your body some good.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Happy Cinco De Mayo

We were invited to a Cinco de Mayo party so I sacrificed 1/3 of our weekly budget money to make two giant pans of gourmet enchiladas and then at the last minute our host family got sick so we had to eat them all. Darn. I got the recipe from Bon Appetite this month and is actually on the cover called Shrimp and Cotija Enchiladas with Salsa Verde and crema Mexicana and it's excellent. We've been eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In fact, I think I'll make myself a sunny side up egg for breakfast tomorrow and plop it down on top of one. Delicious!

Here are the instructions in a nut shell. Don't be frightened by the title. It's easier than you think!


4 Tbs oilve oil
2.5 lbs or more fresh or canned tomatillos
4 large poblano chiles, cored and seeded or canned and roasted chiles
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
2 cups packed chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup packed chopped green onions
1 1/4 cups chopped red onion plus thinly sliced rounds for garnish
2 lbs uncooked medium shrimp
2 Tbs chopped fresh oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
12 small corn tortillas
12 oz crumbled cotija or feta cheese
plus Crema Mexicana. I just used my homemade yogurt and it was delicious.
Also optional is avocados. I didn't have any but wish I did.

First make your salsa with either fresh or canned ingredients. I went canned because already roasted and canned tomatillos and chiles are way easy to work with and since they're just going to be pureed you can use canned. So I got a giant 6 lb can of tomatillos, a medium can of roasted, peeled and seeded poblano chiles(you can really use whatever chiles you want. Green chiles are fine), a couple bunches of cilantro and a couple bunches of green onions and a half a head of garlic. Basically just put them all in a blender and blend! Voila, salsa verde! If you want to go fresh, you have to roast everything and then blend.

THEN... saute red onions in olive oil for a few minutes, add shrimp, oregano, cumin, and the last cup of poblano chiles and cook for a few minutes until the shrimps are almost cooked.

Coat your corn tortillas with salsa, fill them with the shrimp mixture, add a teaspoon of cheese (I used fresh feta and it was incredible), roll up, and place them seam down in a baking dish and start stacking them together to fit as many as possible. When you are done filling and stacking, cover the enchiladas with two more cups of the salsa verde and put in the oven for 20 minutes and you're done!

Way easy and as Justin put it "the best thing you've made in months." and I cook gourmet on a regular basis so that's saying a lot!

Pasta Pasta Pasta

Can I just say how much I love pasta? I have been making the most delicious combinations lately and most of them are by accident. I usually use penne, sometimes part whole wheat, and add tons of roasted vegetables, then add in some of my puree'd basil and olive oil packs I made last year, add vinegar, salt, more olive oil, goat cheese or mozzarella, and it's the tastiest concoction ever! I even put in some left over bacon bits for flavor. The best thing about cooking is experimentation.