Sunday, September 30, 2012

pizza love

pizza love, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
In "Breaking News" I've found myself with a new job in a neighborhood brew pub/pizzeria/sports bar. It was all very sudden. One day, I'm making my own pizza and perusing craigslist, then, two days later, I'm behind the bar making Screaming Orgasm's. 
It really couldn't be a more perfect fit and it can only inspire my love of pizza...I hope. What's not to love about a pizza called the Kinky Cow or the Swingers Shrimp. What kind of place is this? you might ask. Pizza Orgasmica & Brewing Company.
The best part is: it's only a 10 minute bike ride from the little kitchen!
This pizza is one of my favorites to make at home. I've become a big fan of this No Knead pizza dough. I topped this one with Parmesan, Mozzarella, tomato, red onions, basil and goat cheese. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Tomato & Corn Pie

Tomato & Corn Pie, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
This is the Pie That Started It All. In honor of Smitten Kitchen's 6th birthday here is  the first recipe I ever made.
The day I stumbled upon Smitten, I was looking for a Mac & Cheese recipe. From the moment I opened up that page and read that post I was hooked . She had posted her adaption of a Martha Stewart recipe, one that I had actually made back when I didn't know any better.  I had cursed it for its excessiveness. It was enormous and cost a small fortune. It was so Martha.
It was delicious of course.
The best thing about Smittens post that day was her link to her previous attempt at Mac & Cheese, a simpler, back to basics macaroni and cheese.
I didn't make that.
Instead, I surfed...and surfed, which, come to think of it, may have been the moment my kitchen ocd/add became apparent...ogleing all the pretty pictures, reading her charming and laugh out loud prose, tap tap tapping at the "Surprise Me" feature...until I hit upon Tomato and Corn Pie. I was essentially instructed to stop what I was doing and go to the store immediately to purchase whatever ingredients the little kitchen was missing and get to making this. Now.
I did that.
It sounded a little crazy at the time, not as crazy as Cauliflower Cake...which turned out to be crazy good by the way, but I'd not yet been introduced to savory tarts (save for the occasional quiche or frittata), galettes and pies.
Now that I have a marble table top of my very own...pie dough?!? Bring it On!
This pie is crazygood too.

Friday, September 14, 2012

pesto potato salad or little kitchen 911

Pesto potato salad, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
HOW do you screw up potato salad for cryin' out loud? This had such high hopes and aspirations when it started the day as a newly printed Smitten Kitchen recipe, all snug in its shiny new sheet protector, but at the end of the day, even though I dressed it up all nice and pretty, you can see it looks nothing like its inspiration.
It was refrigerator rescue time, starting with the last of a ginormous plastic jar of Costco pesto (this was my first mistake as SK strongly advises to make the fresh pesto or "you'll really be missing out"...), too many potatoes, the addition of greek yogurt (thought it needed a little creaminess) and ending with my accidental dump of waaaay too much white wine vinegar (I forgot that I'd just  taken off the little plastic sprinkle top). I'm hoping that my uncharacteristic purchase awhile back, of an $8.00 bottle of artisanal Napa Valley Organic White Wine Vinegar, saved it from what could have been a total loss. I paid more for that vinegar than I do for a bottle of wine. <insert sniffle > In a moment of panic and denial I'm at a loss to remember exactly what I did to try to save it. A little more salt? a drizzle of agave nectar? I even cooked up the last of my bacon to feed to this monster. Avocado? Why not?
It didn't suck. It wasn't a brilliant blunder by any means, but made it's way into my lunch box 3 days in a row.
The reason why I even bring this up at all is this: I attempted to save it. That's monumental. If I'd done something this misguided and clumsy even a year ago (or during that brief time I'd run out all-natural mood enhancers), it would have ended with me curled up on  the floor in a weeping puddle...only after I'd heaved the whole rotten mess into the trash can. I would have marched it, bowl and all, down the rickety back stairwell disposing all evidence and then a thorough clean-up the crime scene. Potato Salad ? I don't know anything about it.
End of story.

Monday, September 10, 2012

avocado bacon & tomato tartine

The little kitchen was a hotbed of activity this weekend. There's nothing like a tidy kitchen to make me want to mess it up all over again. A clean kitchen is my blank canvas. I perused the possibilities.
I started out by reining in the wildly out of control stacks of photo-copied & printed recipes...things I've yanked out of magazines and the Chronicle Food & Wine section, recipes I've copied from stacks and stacks of cookbooks I've lugged back and forth from the library, those freebie recipe cards from the grocery store and the farmers market info table. I flipped through each and every one, evaluating the who's, what's, where's, why's, and when's.
As much as it pained me I did toss away a good third of the mass accumulation. Some were easy, like the quarter pound beet burger. The photo was gorgeous and all the ingredients seemed managable and it would have fullfilled my adventurous quest at meeting new vegetables but in the end it had to go, so many recipes so little time.
I can not believe how close I came to tossing this one: Dieters Tartine. The title of the recipe turned me off. I hate anything that labels anything as "Diet" food. It immediately sounds restrictive, even if it did come from my guru, Dorie Greenspan's gorgeous "Around My French Table", a gorgeously written and beautifully photographic inspiration of French cookery. I've marched this book back and forth from the library probably 6 or 7 times in the last year.
The ingredient list was small and I had every thing on hand, including a half of a large cucumber that was teetering on the edge of the trash can, two plum tomatoes and about a third of an Italian loaf that was definitely ready for toast.
I chopped up the tomato, cucumber and basil and tossed it with a little salt and pepper. The recipe called for some kind of fancy spreadable french cheese I'd never heard of, but what I did have was a big log of goat cheese that I ended up mixing in with a little greek yogurt to make it spreadable.
The slices of french bread are toasted in the broiler on one side only. My tweak was to rub some garlic on the hot toasted side.
I then spread the cheese and yogurt mix all over the toast, spooned the diced vegetables on top and finishing with a touch of white pepper, sea salt and a few strips of basil.
Super simple, waaay de-lish and kinda elegant.
I tweaked it the next day, adding avocado and bacon crumbles to my leftover vegetable mix from the day before. A Dieters Tartine? not so much.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lasagne Bolognese

Lasagne Bolognese, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
I fully realise that I would be stirring the bolognese pot here by even calling this a "bolognese", but I doubt that my readership (of 2 or is it 3 now?) is gonna call me on any liberties and artistic license I take here in the little kitchen.
In the past, I've  noodled away  many, many hours into the next day, preparing and simmering a bolognese sauce made with chuck, pancetta and pork sausage meats in a wine, milk, broth and tomato paste reduction. I am aware that traditionally, a bolognese or ragu surprizingly does not contain garlic, seasoning (besides salt and pepper) or any herbs (perhaps a bay leaf).
This is not that bolognese. What this is, is another happy refrigerator rescue.
Lately, my weekends tend to start this way: Spend a couple of hours at my favorite coffee house OCD'ing on my favorite blogs and foodie websites to inspire my weekend cooking ventures and shopping list. There's usually a stack of library cookbooks and magazines waiting to be perused and tagged. then head to my the little kitchen and cook or reheat something for lunch before I head to the store with my shopping list.
Last weekend, I tagged along to Costco with my friend and neighbor Sheena. I go to Costco maybe once a year, because in general, it's pretty impractical for me and my little apartment.
I did go with a very small list: bread (I wanted to try freezing it), bacon (you can never have too much bacon), pesto and parmesan cheese (I had big plans for pasta and pesto chicken sandwiches).
I didn't get any of those things.
What I did end up with, amongst new underwear, vitamins, chapstick (most of which I'll manage to lose within 2 months) and a 2 year supply of Cetaphil lotion, was a giant box of baby spinach and a 2 pound container of cremini mushrooms. I had visions of stratas, tarts and quiches dancing in my head, wanting to make something pastry based.
I never did that. 
I made salads and wrap sandwiches every day this past week yet the box of baby spinach appeared untouched and not much of a dent in the mushrooms either.
Lasagne seemed like a fine finish to my Costco bounty. I dug through the pantry to come up with two half empty boxes of no-boil lasagne noodles, one of which was whole wheat.
In addition to my giant box of spinach and 2 pounds of mushrooms, this is what I pulled out of my fridge:
the remains of a 2lb container of ground chuck
3 left-over spinach and feta chicken sausage links
half a pound of bacon
about a cup of caramelized onions
about a 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers
about a cup of sauteed fresh corn with caramelized onions
a half quart of skim ricotta

then thanks god for a fairly well stocked pantry: 
2 cloves of garlic smashed
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of coriander
1 tablespoon each of dried oregano, thyme and tarragon
tomato sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
32 oz can of crushed tomatoes
into the ricotta:
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
1 cup grated mozzarella
I started to saute the mushrooms in butter and olive oil and a pinch of sea salt in one pan and in another pan, started cooking the diced bacon just until it started to crisp. This is a personal thing for me. I don't like the texture of chewy bacon (anything less than well done). Then in went the garlic for about 30 seconds. I added the cumin and coriander at this point and stirred it all around until fragrant, about a minute.
I added the beef, sausage (squeezed out of the casing) and dried herbs and while that was all cooking through I tossed around the mushrooms and added about a tablespoon of dried tarragon to them once they'd released their moisture. I love tarragon.
At this point I added all of the rescued pre-cooked condiments to the meat: roasted peppers, caramelized onions and sauteed corn. While that was all heating through I went back to the mushrooms and deglazed with a little sherry. Then I added the spinach and let that all wilt down.
I started the 5 minute tomato sauce: heat up olive oil over medium heat, add garlic, salt and red pepper flakes until it sizzles then add the can of crushed tomatoes. This will take about 3 minutes to heat through. Add about 3/4 to the meat mixture,  leaving enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish the top layer of noodles.
Commence to layering:
spread some sauce over the bottom of the dish, lay down the first layer of noodles, then 1/3 of the meat, 1/3 of the mushrooms, then cheese layer. Repeat until you run out of ingredients. After I layed down the top layer of noodles I spread the last of the sauce over the top then added more shredded parmesan and grated mozzarella on top. I sprayed a sheet of aluminum foil with non-stick spray covered it and refrigerated.
The next day I pre-heated the oven to 450 degrees and baked the covered lasagne for 30 minutes. Decreased the oven temperture to 350 degrees, removed the cover and baked for 30 minutes more.
Make sure there's a baking sheet on the rack below, because this will surely bubble over.
This tasted pretty amazing. The first bites elicited the hint of anise from the tarragon. Loved that...but my favorite thing was the intermittent tiny crunches and heavenly flavor of bacon.
I will happily be eating this for lunch this week.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

little kitchen still life

little kitchen still life, originally uploaded by riptideredsf.
A couple of posts ago, I shared my enlightening experience preparing pastry and fresh pasta dough in my friends kitchen atop their marble pastry board.
Last weekend, with those verysame friends, we were headed to the Alemany Flea Market when I mentioned that I was in search of my own slab of marble. Rick says "oh! I know a much better place to find that". Within 5 minutes we'd pulled up to a bay side salvage yard and 5 minutes after that we were loading up my very own, big ol' slab of pink marble here.Yay Building REsources!
I've been waiting all week to make my first pastry on it. I snapped the above picture just before getting my chilled pie dough out for chicken pot pie. The roasted tomatoes would eventually end up in the pot pie.
The great news is that the pastry rolled out beautifully and I shall fear it no more! The bad news is I fear I may have wasted it.
After spending the majority of the day roasting the chicken, making stock and preparing the chicken pot pie filling, I took a Tia Margarita break and a trip to Fresh and Easy. Whilst engaged in a very long, long-distance phone conversation once I got back home, I decided to assemble the chicken pot pie. The bottom pastry had been chilling in the pie plate and the top layer was in the freezer, crimped, cut out and ready for assembly. It wasn't until about an hour later I realized I'd forgotten 2 crucial steps: I didn't prick the bottom crust with a fork and I didn't partially bake it. Waaah!
I still haven't baked it, so I sit here procrastinating. Do I just go ahead and bake it anyway or take it all apart and mix up a batch of herb biscuits?
It IS about the journey after all...sigh...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

chicken pot pie: a journey to the ultimate

I'm fairly obsessed with Chicken Pot Pie. I've loved it ever since I was a small child and my mom would heat up a couple of those frozen Swanson's for a Friday night treat for me and my sister. My favorite part was the crust. I would eat that first, cracking off pieces of the crusty edge first, then sliding my fork between the crust and aluminum pie tin to pull out pieces of soggy crust, moving around the filling until every bit of gravy soaked pastry was consumed, then I would gingerly pick around what was going on inside. Only the bits of white meat and peas interested me. I have always been highly suspect of stews and soups shrouding shredded chicken and mysterious bits of dark meat, stringy tendons and cartilege that sometimes managed to sneak their way into my mouth.
Fast forward to the ironic bit: in the last year and a half, I've made about 20 chicken pot pies  using everything but pastry and only using the dark meat (but picked over very meticulously for stringy bits and fatty bits). No two pies ever turn out the same.
My go-to finish is an herb biscuit topping, with polenta and puff pastry on occasion, but I've never made it the old fashioned way because pastry vexes me at every turn. I have yet to process cold butter, ice water and flour/salt/sugar until it resembles peas in 3-5 pulses, then as I manage it into discs there's the anxiety that maybe I didn't add enough water "...until pastry is the desired consistency". Whatever that means. All that butter. Did I pulse too much? Will the pastry be tough?...Sigh...
Then, of course, comes the really vexing part: rolling out the pastry. Flouring, rolling, sticking, to re-chill or not? and yet more sticking and cracking, layers of plastic wrap. Gah! Why bother?
Here's what happened:
I was house sitting a little while back, enjoying the adventure of a new and well-outfitted kitchen. My friends were returning from Paris the following day and I had to work. I wanted to leave them with some good old American comfort food that could be reheated easily.
Whilst perusing some back issues of Cooks Illustrated I came across this pretty pie crust. Then I looked at the big slab  of green marble on the counter and the marble rolling pin and thought: " Why not?"
I had a pound of pre-cooked chicken breast pieces I'd originally purchased for lunch box sandwiches (but went all OCD on the fried rice) that needed to find it's greater purpose. I had potatoes, onions , garlic and white wine on hand as well as some leftover bacon crumbles. I sauteed the vegetables in olive oil and a mixture of spices and dried herbs. Cumin, coriander and cayenne then added dried oregano and tarragon. I bought a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, a box of chicken stock, and a carton of heavy cream and this pie came together (once the pastry was rolled and chilling) in about 30 minutes. The last thing added to the giant pot of stewy-ness (after the butter and flour roux) was several dollops of dijon mustard, tasting after each dollop was stirred in and finding the taste improved after each addition. I think I ended up somewhere around 5 tablespoons.
The key is to roll the top layer of pastry on a piece of parchment then transfer the whole thing onto a baking sheet. Cut out the 4 leaf shapes and crimp the edges (making sure your finished top is the same diameter as your pie dish. Then put it in the freezer while you cook up the pie filling for about 30 minutes. Once the mix is in the baking dish (there was no bottom crust), transfer the solid pie crust to the top of your dish and bake until the crust begins to brown, about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
Success without pastry anxiety! Note to self: acquire a marble slab Stat!