Crazy kitchen madness and jonesin' for my lost pizza stone. I finally bought a new one last night, but I have to say that the foccacia pizzas were remarkable if for only one thing-I inspired me!
Thursday, June 30, 2011
I've got two new toys. Picnik on flickr (photo editing and creativity) and wi-fi in da house. I have no reason to leave the apartment. Oh! except to go to work so I can afford to buy groceries and pay for my wifi.
So this morning I'm thinking about breakfast and all the stuff in my fridge that needs to be consumed....soonish...and I've got the corn wrapped and ready. I pop it in the oven and out it comes all gorgeous and steamy. It was beautiful...especially in a vintage crystal corn cradle.
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Oh my!Spicy buttery Summertime bliss...would be even more blissful if I had a grill to throw these babies down onto. Alas, these will just go into the oven wrapped in foil to bask in all its glorious buttery goodness. I've always been crazy about corn whether it be cobbed, creamed or kerneled and slathered in butter. As a kid, it was pretty much the only vegetable I'd eat. Yet as an adult I rarely, if never, left to my own, previously uninspired attempts in the kitchen, ever prepared corn on the cob. That's all changed.
A few months ago, a non-cook friend of mine asked me if I'd ever seen those dishes that were made for serving corn on the cob, ceramic troughs, textured and painted to look like corn that usually came with matching skewers. Not since the seventies, I told her. Of course the minute something like that is planted in my head, I see them everywhere.
Two days later, I came across a set at Goodwill, a brand-new-still-in-the-box set of Vintage Crystal Corn Cradles. forked over the five bucks and split them with my friend. Like me, she cooks for one and didn't want or need the whole set of six. She was ecstatic. She bought me some corn skewers and I was off on my my corn tangent, remembering a gorgeous photo from Heidi Swansons first book, Super Natural Cooking for Yucatan Street Corn. I didn't make that. I made Bobby Flay's Chipotle Cilantro Butter. I pull back the husks and remove the silks and cut of the tip. I slather on the butter mixture and lay back a layer or two of husks, tying the tops with a thin strip of discarded husk, wrap it in foil and bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes. Done and de-lish
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
This will be the start of something very special. I broke my pizza stone a couple of weeks ago and it made me very sad. I tried making pizza on a cookie sheet, a perfectly acceptable approach not so long ago, and it truly broke my heart, the crust was so soft and floppy. I cut it into bite sized squares and choked it down. Truth be told it tasted fine but that damn crust just made me so sad. Until I can finagle a new pizza stone onto the back of my bike I'll let my creative juices flow.
The foccacia base is perfect! It's lovely on its own but seeing as I can never leave well enough alone, I concocted a different pizza on each slab. I started with the shaved asparagus, mozzarella and parmesan. Then I did a white pizza with mushrooms and broccoli, and finally a tomato and basil pizza with goat cheese. That was gorgeous and way de-lish.
The inspiration came from an attempt to come up with transportable food. There are a lot of birthdays in June and July so I've been trying to come up with foodie gifts. One of my friends doesn't do sweets so I came up with the pizza pack for him. I have a feeling that the white pizza might not have been the best idea. I didn't think about the crust getting soggy. Oooops!
Monday, June 27, 2011
At the risk of saturating my market of cookies, I've been on a little bit of a cookie tear over the past few months. What used to be a once a year Christmas Holiday one-off has recently morphed into other holiday foodie/cookie related artistic endeavors. Gay Pride is a holiday that speaks to me on a personal level, not only because it means a lot to people who mean a lot, but for the past several years I've been pretty much smack dab in the middle of it all, working in a bar that just sits on the edge the Civic Center. It's good business, everyone is on shift and there's a lot of high energy and a great vibe. Before I knew it I had visions of sugary rainbows dancing in my head. How would I make a rainbow fondant? Where to find a rainbow cookie cutter? Rainbow sugars? Then I considered the audience...the lucky receptacles of my cookie making inspirational spirt...my co-workers and it all became clear. Keep it simple. They're vultures. I'm still thinking about that rainbow fondant though...
Saturday, June 25, 2011
The Little Kitchen seems to be growing quite fond of shaving unsuspecting vegetables...or recipes with the word "shaved" in them. Since the asparagus, I'm really liking how much I love a vegetable consumed in delicate ribbons bathed in a little marinade of dressing.
Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks posted this intriguing salad other day. The photo was stunning as usual and then reading into the post, it was about recipes without photos not getting any love. Sigh....so true. I'm still guilty of it. Sure enough all of the recipes I'd tagged in Super Natural Everyday (a book-btw- I not only paid full retail for once- but twice ) this recipe was not one of them.
The salad starts with mandolined slivers of fennel and zucchini coins tossed with fresh dill and marinated in lemon juice, olive oil and salt then dumped on a bed of arugula and topped with toasted pine nuts and feta.This salad was such a delight, and having discovered these new textures and tastes, I'm inspired to go back and read the book with more attention and imagination and determination.
This is also a stark reminder of why I started doing all this cooking and subsequently writing about it to begin with. It seems as good a time as any to recapture the roots of this blog and it's sense of adventure and purpose: expansion of my food view. Thusly, notes on this dish would have to include a growing fondness for fennel. This was only the second time I've ever tried fennel. I grilled it once inspired by an episode of Everyday Italian and an indoor grill at my disposal whilst house sitting. I did ponder its purchase though-I was perplexed by what to do with it and its odd and somewhat disturbing shape. It looks like a ventriculated heart and it's pricey...around $3-5 a pound. The grilled fennel was ok. I've never been a fan of anise and the flavor of licorice. It didn't suck but I wasn't all that into it either yet, in this salad, the thin slivers are really perfect. The anise flavor is balanced by the lemony marinade. I made this salad twice this week and used some of the marinated vegetables on a pizza bread with goat cheese that was pretty damn good.Arugula is also new to the Little Kitchen. I like it's peppery flavor and it's pretty too. The only problem is it's hard to find in my local markets.
Zucchini is the veg that I really took the biggest journey with. It conjures up disturbing childhood memories and I'm really making the effort. There is a little irony in this part of the story. Back in the day (60's -70's San Francisco) my mother, an otherwise good cook used to plop down plates with tepid, soggy canned vegetables all the time. She grew two fresh vegetables in a backyard corner our rented flat, tomatoes and zucchini. She liked to let the zucchini grow. And grow. And grow. It was like she was planning to enter it in the county fair. I can still see myself grimacing at of those pale green soggy triangles of zucchini sitting on my plate. We've come so far.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I don't think I've ever met a mac 'n cheese I didn't like...well not entirely true...the mac 'n cheese at Fresh Choice is pretty dreadful. I've definitely had some great ones, Virgils and Good 'n Plenty in NYC come to mind. I've had some good ones and I've made some good ones. I've had a version made with Velveeta and canned cream of mushroom soup that is as creamy and delicious as all get out. Yet, I am always looking to make the ultimate mac 'n cheese. This was not it. But that's okay because it was a means to an end.
The essential purpose of this blog is to chronicle my adventures in the kitchen. That's what is at the heart of all of this. Trying new foods, new recipes and taking that to a new level in my own way. Noting the satisfaction of a success yet knowing this: the truth is in the attempt.
Mac 'n Cheese seems like the perfect way to get back to the basics. This was inspired by another refigerator rescue. I have this gigantic block of swiss cheese I foolishly bought at Costco because it was only $6 when I was all churned up to make a Julia Child quiche a few weeks ago...may have been more like a month come to think of it, and there were two precarious remnants of blue cheese to use up as well, at least I think they were iffy, it's hard to tell with blue cheese. There was a lesson learned after the quesadilla debacle...a little blue cheese packs a big punch and might make this interesting along with the last bit of onion jam. I made this up as I went along. A can of cream of mushroom soup always works well, some chopped fresh rosemary, garlic, nutmeg then I slowly started adding some milk then the cheeses. I got it to the consistency that seemed right and I was very judicious with the blue cheese and tasted frequently.
This did not suck...has potential but there were some problems. Ratio was one. I used the whole bag of macaroni so in the end the cheese mixture needed about a cup to a pint more volume, so it's a little dry. It also lost a little of it's cheeziness once mixed with the mac. What tasted flavorful in the pot, diminished in the bigger picture.Yet has that stopped me from eating it morning noon and night since yesterday? uhmn no. Though I'm all for a mac 'n cheese that's a little healthier, and this one is not swimming in cheese...it is Mac 'n Cheese after all...it's about comfort over calories in the end. This definitely begs another attempt sooner rather than later.
These are good. They are best when eaten fresh from the oven. I reheated some this morning and I found that reheating in the microwave soggies them and reheating in the oven dries them out even more.
If I hadn't broken my pizza stone I'd have tossed them onto a preheated stone for 2 minutes and that probably would have been just perfect. Waaaaahhhh!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
It seems weird to admit that I never roasted a chicken until I was 50. That first time was thanks to America's Test Kitchen. It was an epiphany (yes...I do use that word a lot in my kitchen discoveries). It's not an easy task, but the results bring me a tremendous amount of satisfaction. First thing I do is dive into that juicy chicken breast. I slice it off and just stand there over the cutting board eating it with a fork.
I'm in the white meat camp, from childhood asking for my portion of the Thanksgiving turkey doused with mashed potatoes and gravy. Fans of the dark meat trash the white meat as dry and tasteless.
The trick to juicy white poultry meat is in the brining. Letting your bird submerge in a loooonnnnnnnng cold bath of salt, sugar and water for at least an hour or so. I"m a big fan of the overnight brine.
Next plan for the bird is chicken salad for sandwiches. This time I used a Simply Ming Asian Pesto and tossed it with the chicken topped onto some toasted multi grain boulot from La Boulange and was good to go for a couple of days. Then the rest of the chicken gets cut up and tossed into a pot cooking up all kinds of refigerator rescues including the rest of the pesto, leftover roasted potatoes, asparagus, carrots, onions, garlic, roasted peppers and frozen corn. Then I stir in some chicken broth and sherry, let that cook down a bit and done.
The mix is turned into a casserole dish and topped with and herb biscuit topping that I load on by the ice-cream scoop full and then bake away.
This seriously rocks! Next day nuke some in a bowl, top it off a poached egg, S 'n P then some shaved parm and breakfast is done!
Today was the Little Kitchen version of Iron Chef. Challenge: Refrigerator Rescue. Various and sundry items teetering on the edge of the trash can were: 2 red peppers, a forgotten half bundle of asparagus-dang! I just made pizza yesterday with a brand new fresh bunch, a whole basket of strawberries-how the hell did that happen?!?, a half bunch of scallions-pssss there's a surprise, 2 fuji apples, a half bunch of mint-it was a full bunch before I picked off all the black leaves, 2 half peeled heads of cabbage-meh...these'll go for another couple of days if I peel off the manky layers and then the Barefoot Contessa Cole Slaw will be mine-by then the remaining blue cheese will be nice and ripe.
I roasted the peppers, then tossed them into a marinated salad with the shaved asparagus, scallions and tossed it with some shaved parmesean and wait!... a chiffonade of mint you say? (I had Simply Ming on the dvd and heard those exact words inspiring me from the other room). The shrooms got sauteed and went into a chicken pot pie and the fruit all went into a crisp.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
A couple of days ago I bought the ingredients to do it again. I wasn't planning to make it this morning but just as I was getting ready to get ready for work I noticed that the sun was shining into my kitchen window onto my basil in such an inspiring way and I got to thinking of the pesto waiting to be made and decided I had to have a Pesto Chicken Sandwich for lunch TODAY...and of course I'd just spent a good part of the morning cleaning the disaster that was my kitchen from last nights kitchen madness and the polenta and poached egg I'd just made for breakfast...and well, I cannot keep my kitchen clean for long. My kitchen cleaning strategy is to clean my kitchen just before I leave for work, so when I get home I'm ready for all sorts of activity. A clean kitchen inspires me. Ming inspires me. Basil inspires me. I did have to pedal as if my feet were on fire, but I did manage to make it to work with 10 minutes to spare. Now I'm looking for all new ways to procrastinate going home because the Little Kitchen is surely strewn with bowls and oily spatulas and spoons with crusty green paste stuck to everything.
Oh and the new photo editing tool on flickr inspires me.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Welcome to my latest obsession~Blue Cheese. It started with cole slaw. Smitten Kitchen posted Not Your Mamas Cole Slaw (via Ina Garten) a while back, that had dijon mustard and blue cheese in the dressing. It was the best slaw I've ever had and it opened up a new world of both Dijon mustard and blue cheese, two flavors I'd never really cared for....way too much flavor, yet here they were together in one mouthful and it was beautiful...I was converted. Suddenly I was all about blue cheese.
Blue Cheese and Onion Scones? Yes please. This was one of the first recipes I made from Good to the Grain. It starts with Onion Jam. Onion Jam you say? Seriously good.
The onion jam would be perfect in Onion and Blue Cheese Quesadillas, inspired by my new favorite, Sam the Cooking Guy. Sam keeps it simple and totally de-LISH. He caramelizes red onions with brown sugar, a quickie process, but since I already had the onion jam in place I went with it .Since I became so obsessed I cook up a batch of caramelized onions at least once a week. Last time I was at Rainbow, my favorite natural foods co-op, I picked up a French blue cheese, then a couple of days later I picked up another one at Whole Foods stocking up for the inevitable quesadilla, scone, cole slaw attack. I get the craving for a quesadilla a few nights later and bust out the French Blue D'Auvergne feelin' all fancy and load a bit on to the onions and nuke away. I couldn't wait to tear into that quesadilla, I took a healthy mouthful and jeez! I practically gagged. I was not expecting the punch of pungence that hit my taste buds.
Lesson 1: a little goes a loooooong way. Lesson 2: I can't believe I didn't taste it first! What was I thinking? Lesson 3: a blue cheese right out of the fridge is not the same as a blue cheese at room temperature is not the same as a blue cheese that has been warmed. After the shock tempered down a little I slowly tasted and tried to understand the flavors that were assaulting my mouth. Strong, salty and pungent yet not neccesarily bad. It was just too much. I wasn't ready.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
I decided to make cookies and White Bean Spread with Baked Wonton Chips. My new favorite version of hummus is now a Little Kitchen staple. It couldn't be easier to prepare and it tastes gorgeous.
It started a couple of weeks ago as I was tooling around the Ferry Building Farmers Market and the surrounding chichi fooderies, looking for inspiration and basically killing time. I always end up at my favorite store Sur la Table. I can waste hours in there looking at EVERY thing and end up buying a $5 spatula. For what ever reason I was drawn to a hideous looking display, a big battleship grey metal multi-level lazy-susan the size and shape of a Christmas tree, generously offering up piles and piles of cookie cutters, and at only $1 each?! Wheeeeee! I started off looking for hearts, though I loved the little lopsided hand shaped heart Sables I made up after Valentines Day, yet I'm thinking something a little more symetrical might have a place too. Then I saw the baseball mitt and the mind starts churning...yes! a special ballgame butter/sugar bomb would be just the ticket... and well once the OCD kicked in the rest was history.
What I didn't plan on was going all fondant & food coloring crazy. Everyone would have been perfectly happy with some ATK sables topped with a dusting of coarse orange sugar...yet I end up spending countless hours
..they didn't suck. I would like to find a base that was a little crumblier and a fondant that didn't make my teeth ache. At the end of the day it's just a cookie.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
A Little Kitchen Pizzapalooza struck the other night. It started with an industrial sized jar of yeast that's been in the fridge for months now, convinced it had outlived its shelf life when I'd set some pizza dough to rise last week and nothing happened. I proofed it one more time just to be sure, before tossing it and sure enough it foamed and ended up rising like the dead. Before I knew what was happening I had 3 bowls of dough set to rise, testing various locations (fridge, oven, stove-top dutch oven) for optimal rising conditions. In an attempt to venture out of my Asparagus Pizza comfort zone I revisited this White Pizza with Mushrooms and Broccoli. This was the pizza that actually started it all. Once upon a time I was at the library perusing a copy of Vegetarian Times, why? I really don't know, but the picture looked really good and with a stop at my local produce market I had it on the table that very same night and it was wonderful, a bechamel based bliss! Next thing I knew, I was all about pizza, I went off on an ADD tangent and ventured off in search of the Next Best Thing. I found it.
Shaved Asparagus Pizza came in to my life. Smitten Kitchen mentioned pizza stone in the post so I went out and bought a pizza stone. The old lady who sold it to me asked "Do you use '00' pizza flour?" uhmnn no..."Oh! you must try it, it's what all the gourmet pizza shops use" uhmnnn.... ok. I found it in bulk at Rainbow and have produced some pretty awesome crispy crust pizzas that rock and as it turns out the pizza stone is crucial to the crust as well. Sadly I found that out when I broke my pizza stone last week and had to go back to the cookie sheet. Gah! what a waste.
The pizza was ok...totally edible but a complete dud when compared to my previous attempts.
To illustrate, a couple of weeks ago I called on a friend to give me some advice on constructing a shelf in my kitchen. I was looking at having something custom cut to fit into a specific space as opposed to buying something pre-made that might sorta fit. I'm perfectly capable of DIY. Mostly I just wanted a ride to Home Depot and back. I was not attempting any kind of bribe or coersion to get this friend to do my dirty work, it was just a coincidence that I had a pizza in the oven when he showed up with his tape measure. Long story short my custom made and installed shelf (untouched by me) only cost me a pizza.
If I can't seduce with my feminine wiles at least I've got a back-up plan.
In the last several months I've seen Olive Oil Cake recipes popping up all over. First on Smitten Kitchen, who got her inspiration from Melissa Clark's Good Appetite, who got her inspiration from Dorie Greenspan, and so on....this recipe came from Good to the Grain. It includes bittersweet chocolate and rosemary....hhhmmmnnnnnnn....
I was leery yet intrigued, Olive Oil Cake? It doesn't fuel the imagination in the same way as say, Summer Strawberry Cake, more along the lines of Cauliflower Cake...so weird that it must be brilliant. SK's photos always look great and that can be inspiration enough and since I have developed unconditional trust of these here cooking divas, I'll try anything once.
Yesterday, faced with a day off and a half-baked plan to bake, I realized I was out of butter and it was pouring rain. I was not inclined to either get dressed or leave the house so the Olive Oil Cake made it's Little Kitchen debut...and Yes! it was pretty damn brilliant.