28 October 2009

Mighty fine

In my house, there is no sound more horrendous than the smoke alarm. By all accounts, though, the smoke alarm in the new house is heads and shoulders above the one in the old place. The old one, after shrieking for a few beeps, said in a woman's automated voice, "FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!" It would also beep, every three seconds, when it was low on battery. Take the time that we went to Denver for Thanksgiving and came back, and it had been beeping for god knows how long. Or the time that it started at three in the morning and couldn't figure out how to remove the battery until four thirty.

Undoubtedly, we were not our building's preferred neighbors.

Part of the problem of a triggered alarm is that a lot of the things that get shoved in the oven are overfull and slightly liquidy.

Liquidy + heat + rising agents = bubbling over that gets stuck at the bottom of the oven and burns off whenever the temperature surpasses 350 degrees (F).

This would be the case at the present moment. Pizza, for which I have had an unnatural craving for the past three weeks, is causing my smoke alarm to sound, thus making me a little less happy with it. That really isn't saying much, though, since this pizza is delicious. The crust is good: bready, chewy, and a little sour. It might even rival Mark Bittman's, which has been my standby for the past few years. You don't even need to roll it out--just a little poking and prodding does the trick. Topped with sautéed vegetables and a little crumbled sausage, it's a mighty fine thing. Mighty fine, indeed.

Basic Pizza Dough, from Jim Lahey's my bread

Jim Lahey is best known around these parts for his magnificent, easy-peasy no-knead bread. You remember when that recipe came out. It seemed as though the entire foodie community was suddenly in the kitchen, stirring a few magic ingredients together to make the easiest rustic loaf in the world. (Recipe here). This pizza dough takes after the bread--totally easy, and totally worth it.

Yield: two baking pan-sized pizza crusts

3 3/4 cups (500 grams) bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons (10 grams) instant or active dry yeast
3/4 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
3/4 teaspoon plus a pinch (approx 3 grams) sugar
1 1/3 cups (300 grams) room temperature water (body temperature or cool to the touch)
olive oil, for the pans

1. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Add the water and, using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until blended, at least 30 seconds. (I found this took a little longer--more like a minute or two.) Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough has more than doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

2. Oil two 13 x 18-inch rimmed baking sheets. Use a bowl scraper or a rubber spatula to scrape half of the dough onto an oiled pan in one piece. Gently pull and stretch the dough across the surface of the pan, and use your hands to press it evenly out to the edges. If the dough sticks to your fingers, lightly dust it with flour or coat your hands with oil. Pinch any holes together. Repeat with the second piece. Use as you like.

*One note: this dough takes a few minutes longer to cook all the way through than does regular pizza dough. Bake accordingly.

Eating my words

So. The other night. I did make that soup after all. And you know what? It was good. Really really good, actually--full of satiny onions and carrots, dimply pasta, and loaded with beans. I may have gone overboard with the beans. By double the amount. They were so nice, though--thick and starchy and satisfyingly creamy. If you ever get a chance to try some beans from Rancho Gordo--do it. (Even though they are absurdly expensive. I tell you, they are worth it.)

Really, though, I needn't have worried. It was a perfect soup for the chilly days that have engulfed us here in New York. It was so good, even, that I didn't... take any pictures. I ate it all first. Sorry about that. I will, though, someday. Hopefully someday soon. In the meantime, make a batch for yourself. You'll see.

White Bean and Pasta Soup, adapted from Bon Appétit

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2/3 cup chopped carrot
2/3 chopped celery (I peeled it--a fussy step, for sure, but there was no stringyness)
3 1/2 to 4 cups water
1 Parmesan rind (I save mine whenever I run out of a chunk, wrapped, in the freezer)
4 cups cooked white beans, with 3/4 cups reserved cooking liquid
1 large tomato, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup small pasta (I used dittalini)

1. Heat the olive oil in a heavy arge pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrot, and celery. Sauté until all vegetables are soft, about 12 minutes. Add 3 1/2 cups water, beans and cooking liquid, tomato, and Parmesan rind; bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 25 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally.

2. Mix in pasta and bring to a boil. Cook until pasta is just tender but still firm to bite, adding more water to the soup if the the mixture is very thick. Season with salt and pepper.

26 October 2009


There are a few things in life that are more frustrating than having a plan and then not wanting to execute when the moment arrives. Take that outfit the other night--you know the one. The one over which you had hemmed and hawed, set out the night before, picked out the shoes, the necklace. And then, ten minutes before your date? OH MAN WHAT A TERRIBLE OUTFIT. Who would want to wear that? What were you thinking??? And then you have nothing to wear. Nothing looks good. All clothes are suddenly offensive. But you can't go back to the carefully planned outfit, no sirreee Bob you absolutely cannot.

Now what?

This is how I feel about dinner, maybe two days out of five. It happens all the time. Example: tonight, I am supposed to make a bean soup. Yesterday, I went to the store--I have everything I need, I have enough time, and I'm 82% certain that it will be good. I am also 82% certain that bean soup, no matter how tasty or nice, is definitely not what I want to eat.

Let's make a list of things I would rather eat:

Chinese stir fry (beef/broccoli/onions/red peppers)
Boeuf bourguinon
Ramen noodle soup
Italian Sausage Sauce with pasta

We might need a serious change of plan.

18 October 2009

More often

It would appear as if I will not, in fact, be reporting for rice month.


Where did the time go? No, seriously--I feel like the beginning of September was last week or something. But then I think about all the stuff I've been up to--going to class and attempting to be student number one, going back to work, going to Denver for an AWESOME wedding, hosting Jeff's parents--it's been a little chargé, as they say.

So today I took the day off. Off from hosting, off from cleaning, off from working on school stuff. I'm listening to music Jeff doesn't like and baking things NOT in my curriculum. (Ok, tha'ts not exactly true--I'm working on a batch of pains au chocolat, but can you really count that as WORK?? I didn't think so.)

I really should do this more often.

Honeyed Goat Cheese Tart with Pistachio Crust, adapted from Food and Wine

1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups AP flour
11 ounces soft goat cheese
2 cups full-fat Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup honey

1. In a food processor, pulse the pistachios and 2 tablespoons of the sugar until finely ground. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle atachment, beat the butter with the granulated sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the pistachio/sugar mixture, almond extract and salt and beat until combined. Add the flour and beat at low speed until incorporated and the dough is crumbly.

2. Scrape the dough into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removeable bottom. Press the dough until it is evenly spread out along the bottom and up the sides of the pan. The heel of your hand works well, as does a glass. Refrigerate until well-chilled, about 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Bake the crust for abotu 45 minutes, until lightly golden. Transfer to a rack and let cook completely.

4. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the goat cheese, yogurt, lime juice and lime zest until combined. Add the confectioner's sugar and beat until smooth. Scrape the filling into the crust and refrigerate for 2 hours.

5. Just before serving, in a small sauce pan, cook the honey over moderatly high heat until it reaches 236 degrees F on a thermometer, about 2 minutes. Remove the honey and stir until slightly cooled, about 2 minutes more. Drizzle the honey over the tart and let stand until the honey firms up, about 5 minutes. Cut and serve.