Thursday, April 17, 2014

grape tomato, kale pesto and goat cheese pizza

The sweet tomatoes blend nicely with this spin on a traditional pesto and the creamy goat cheese mounds. A perfect way to welcome spring.


Being called to jury duty was never so complicated. I thought I was smart postponing it until my son's Easter break, but then what if I am on a ury that lasts more than a week? Who will take him to school then?

Being allowed to postpone a second time didn't make things any easier. Between school, a planned visit form the in-laws and going up to our country house, never mind working in year end inventory at my job, it has become problematic.

And I generally like jury duty.

So, I will see how it pans out in June, when I am now scheduled to serve. At least I wont have to worry about ferrying my son around before I go.

Here is a way to lighten your dinner in expectation of warmer weather - it will be here eventually, right?

The pizza dough recipe has never failed me. Not once. It is the best thing around and after reading this article, about how pizza is so easy, no one should be buying it out, especially at Roberta's, where a 12 inch pie can set you back $17, plus tip and tax.

Grape Tomato, Kale Pesto and Goat Cheese Pizza
Makes one 10 inch thin crust pizza pie, dough recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Dough Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (can replace up to half of this with whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water (may need up to 1 or 2 tablespoons more)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Kale Pesto Ingredients
  • 8 fresh kale leave, torn to small bits
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
Pesto Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until well blended. Taste frequently and add more of what is needed.
 Dough Instructions
  1. Stir dry ingredients, including yeast, in a large bowl. Add water and olive oil, stirring mixture into as close to a ball as you can. Knead everything into a homogeneous ball, incorporating all bits in the bowl.
  2. Knead it for just a minute or two, inside the bowl. Lightly oil the bowl, turn the dough over so all sides are coated, cover bowl in plastic wrap and an opaque towel and leave it undisturbed for an hour or two, until it has doubled in size.
  3. Dump it on a lightly floured counter and gently press the air out of the dough with the palm of your hands, beginning in the center and working your way out to the edge. Fold the piece into an approximate ball shape, and let it sit under the same plastic wrap for 20 more minutes.
  4. Sprinkle a pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and preheat your oven to its top temperature. Roll out the pizza, toss on whatever topping and seasonings you like. I like my pizza cheesy so I tend to go heavy on the cheese. This can make the dough more soggy, so be careful about putting too much stuff on top.
  5. Bake it for about 10 minutes until it’s lightly blistered.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

peanut butter banana bread


Well, wasn't expecting snow this morning, that's for sure. Were you?

I've never been very good at checking the weather. I am always the one without an umbrella when it is pouring. Or the one who is wearing shear stocking and a skirt when it is snowing. You'd think I'd learn!

This banana bread will warming you up on those unexpected snow shower days. Or cool you down when it is 80 and you're in your parka. It works both ways. Like magic!

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Makes on 5x9 inch loaf, adapted from Joy the Baker
 
Ingredients
  • 2 mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek
  • 1/3 cup chunky all-natural peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, flaxseed meal, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon and ground allspice.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together  mashed bananas, yogurt, peanut butter, rum and melted butter.  Whisk in eggs and sugars.  Blend mixture until no sugar lumps remain.
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the larger bowl with the dry ingredients.  Fold together with a spatula until no more flour bits remain.  Fold in the chocolate chips as well.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and cake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before running a butter knife along the edges of the pan and inverting the bread onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. This bread lasts, well wrapped at room temperature,for up to 4 days.  It is also great to store, well wrapped, in the freezer. 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

spring!!!





Last weekend was glorious! When the trees start to flower my mood lightens. I am a true Spring baby!

I organized an Easter Egg Hunt for a bunch of my son's friends and their families and was granted perfect weather.

I made several paper-mâché eggs from plastic egg templates, so that we had twice the amount I'd bought. I ended up with about 5 eggs per child and that worked out just fine.

I used this tutorial to make the eggs. It worked out pretty well, except I made them extra thick and therefore the eggs took a lot longer to dry than I'd anticipated. If you're planning to try this, leave at least two days for the paper to dry out. I used washi tape to hold them together, instead of bow and ribbons.

I hope you have an egg-ful, happy, springy Easter!

Note: The cat in the plastic bag was her idea, not mine... I couldn't resist snapping her picture in there. No animals were harmed in the making of this post.



Monday, April 14, 2014

green bean fritters and homemade mayo




After making macarons a question is bound to come up.

What do I do with all those extra egg yolks?

I asked a friend and she said she always makes mayonnaise.

The image that came to my mind was that gloppy white substance that is the ubiquitous in American fridges and never found in ours.

But, when I decided to try out her recipe, what I got was a fabulously rich, creamy, flavorful sauce that perfectly complimented my green bean fritters. I imagine it would go well on any number of vegetable dishes, especially roasted asparagus.

So don't turn away out of hand. Check it out. It may the best thing you've had in a long time.

Green Bean Fritters
Makes 8-9 fritters, adapted from Nikki's Yum

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 4-5 dried sage leaves, crushed
  • 3 cups green beans, steamed and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup goat cheese, finely crumbled
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs (I used the leftovers from a cumin bread I made prior - it added a nice flavor to the fritters)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder (optional)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Saute onion in oil until fragrant and slightly wilted.
  2. Make sure all the water has been squeezed out of the green beans. I wrapped it in a cloth towel and squeezed out all the excess water.
  3. Once onion is cooled a bit mix all ingredients in a bowl. Scoop out in ice cream scooper or similar spoon into a hot non stick pan or add oil to a regular pan and fry the fritters.
  4. Cook for 5 minutes on each side. Until they are golden brown.
Homemade Mayo

Ingredients
  • 3 egg yolks
  • Olive oil
  • Mustard, to taste
Instructions
  1.  Whisk the egg yolk until creamy. Whisk in oil until the consistency you like. Add mustard to taste.

Friday, April 11, 2014

mint mango salad



While waiting for the doctor, and trying to read my book, my attention was diverted to the Rachel Ray Show that was playing on the waiting room TV. Ever watch Rachel Ray? This was my first time. I was impressed by how she whipped up that recipe in no time flat. It explained why she was interviewing people in a set that was basically a kitchen.

She made a Thai Chicken dish which she garnished with a cucumber mixture of salt, sugar and cucumbers. So simple and yet full of potential. I knew I was bound to repeat it. And repeat it I did. I made it that very night.

I added it to this mango salad. Delicious.

Mint Mango Salad
Serves 1-2

Ingredients
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced into match sticks
  • Dash salt
  • Dash fine granulated sugar
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and sliced
  • 10-15 mint leaves, larger ones sliced
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
Instructions
  1. Toss cucumber slices with sugar and salt. Set aside.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients. Toss again and serve. 
  3. Time adds flavor. Keep refrigerated over night.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

delicious failed macarons



I was wary from the start. A French macaron recipe that requires no sifting, no carefully timed beating of egg whites, no gently folding of ingredients, no tapping of pans, in fact nothing special at all.

For those of you who don't know, French macarons are one of the test recipes to determine a good pastry chef from your average run of the mill pastry chef. It makes or breaks you.

But I set aside my disbelief and made the recipe. It was just too easy to pass up. Although, once made, the batter appeared too thin to pipe onto a cookie sheet so I poured it into mini muffin tins, and voila: mini muffin macarons. I then had the audacity to bring them as a gift to some of my French friends. What did they say, you ask. They said that each region of France has its own version of the French macaron and my squashed mushroom looking ones resembled some from a region in the south west.

Regardless of the shape or texture of these creations, they taste pretty darn good. No matter what region they come from.

Failed French Macarons
Makes 18 cookies, adapted from All Recipes

Ingredients
  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 egg whites, beaten lightly
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Instructions
  1. Preheat an oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the almonds, sugar, egg whites, and vanilla extract in a food processor and pulse the mixture until it has taken on the texture of a very coarse paste. Turn the food processor on high speed and blend the paste for 2 minutes, until it is very smooth and thick.
  2. Spoon the batter into mini muffin tins
  3. Allow the batter to rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
  4. Bake the macaroons for 12 minutes. Remove the hot macaroons to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

indian chickpea soup



Today I toured the public school NESTm, located on Houston Street and Avenue D. It is a school that is only available to children who scored 97% or higher on the G&T test. My son did not, but I tagged along with some friends whose child did. It was an interesting experience.

Basically I was trying to see what makes this school so special. How does it compare to my son's current school? How can I make his current school comparable?

The students did not appear stressed or overly taxed. They have nice facilities including a cafeteria that overlooks the playground outside. The differences are mostly what they expect from the children. For example, buy the end of kindergarten they should be able to write five sentences, read at G level (whatever that is) and be able to sold word problems in math.

It made me feel better about our current situation. And about ways we can make a positive difference for our own school.

Serves 4-6, adapted from Good Food

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh root ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala*
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 2 celery stalks, cut lengthways and chopped
  • 490g chickpeas (250 grams dry chickpeas soaked in water over night)
  • 150g green beans, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
*Garam Masala is a mixture of spices which can include the following: turmeric cinnamon, clove, cumin seeds or ground, black peppercorn, cardamom in pods or ground, nutmeg, ground ginger, coriander seeds or ground. Look in your spice rack and choose what you have. I just tossed in a bit of each spice I had on hand - it didn't equal a tablespoon but that doesn't really matter.

Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, then add the onion, ginger and garlic. Fry for 2 minutes, then add the garam masala, give it 1 minute more, then add the stock or water and celery. 
  2. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the chickpeas and simmer for 30 minutes, or until chickpeas are tender.
  3. Use a stick blender to blender the soup a little, while leaving most of the chickpeas intact. Stir in the green beans and simmer for 3 minutes.