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Posts from the ‘I Cooked Something’ Category

And Then It Was Friday

The only post I have in me right now is essentially a brain dump with pictures.

Here’s what’s been happening in my life for the past week.

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I found this interesting looking vegetable? at Whole Foods this week. I snuck a little taste to decide whether I liked it enough to buy it. It was crunchy and zippy and salty, but there was no name and no price posted with it. I grabbed a small handful, and when I went to check out the cashier looked at it sideways. She had no idea what it was–neither did any one else in her area–and I was no help because I had no idea. So she just shrugged and tossed it in my bag without charging me, as if to say “if we don’t know what it is, just take it home and happy experimenting.” Score. It’s salcornia, by the way.

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I wore this earlier this week…maybe Monday? I have no idea. It’s probably my favorite dress. I bought it in August 2007 from Banana, and I wore it to my very first day of law school (for an event; I did not always dress up!). It’s stretchy and comfy and it was just what I needed. And look! Real shoes! Check out my awful face pose there. Woof. I was tired.

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When I got home on….Tuesday? (Why can’t I remember any days?!) I had a package waiting for me. I was perplexed; I hadn’t ordered anything. So I tore into it, and there was a lovely Stella and Dot necklace, engraved with my And Then line. I immediately texted my friend Hala (and my S+D Stylist, to boot): “Did you send this to me? If not, I really need to stop getting drunk and ordering things online.” It was, indeed, a surprise gift from Hala. I love it.

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I made a peach galette over the weekend, and on Tuesday [seriously contemplating renaming this post “everything I did on Tuesday”], I wrapped up a slice and ate it for breakfast. All-butter pastry dough is my downfall. So amazing.

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Oh, hey, Dad’s side of the family, circa 1957. My dad is one of 16 kids. This is just 11 of them, traveling in their Sunday best on American Airlines in 1957 (to Detroit? Chicago? no idea). My dad is the cutie on the stairs with the big grin and the sticky-out-y ears. I looked just like that as a kid.

One of the silver linings in a family death is that we all take so much more time to pore over photos and memories and things like this. Thanks to my cousin who posted this on Facebook the other day–it’s pretty amazing to share.

I know Le Pain Quotidien means The Daily Bread, but this is too much bread for one person, LPQ. TWO massive hunks of bread with gazpacho (…which includes, as an ingredient, bread), plus the world’s largest avocado tartine (which, btw, is outstanding).

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Finally, this is my super professional selfie. Back to school means orientation, and this was the calm before the storm. It was a really fun day yesterday, but I am so wiped out today (…the Molokai Mules last night didn’t help).

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I’m leaving work at 3:30pm today to hop on the shuttle to hop on the Metro to get to Union Station to hop on the MARC to get to BWI to get on a plane to fly to Boston for my uncle’s funeral tomorrow morning. A very quick trip, indeed: I’ll be back here by noon on Sunday.

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Ricotta, Squash, + Bacon Pizza, and the 8x8x8 Method

I remember being left at home as a young teenager (a tween, I suppose), with my older sister, and inevitably, we’d be left something to eat while my parents went out. Except we never wanted the left over meatloaf or lasagna. We wanted pizza. Cash-less and unable to order out, we would make our own pizza. And by we, I mean my sister. A thin, chewy crust, sweet homemade red sauce, and cheese galore. It was pretty darn good.

That is my favorite kind of pizza, almost. The kind that is thin, but strong enough to support toppings, and chewy on the inside while remaining crisp on the outside. I like it so much that I spent about a year focused on perfecting my pizza method. Give or take, I’d make about a pizza a week in the colder months, and after about 4 pizzas, I had a great idea of how to get that perfect pizza that we love. Now, I could whip this up in my sleep.

I was fully awake, though, when I made pizza for dinner last night. Sorry to disappoint you. You thought this was going to be a recipe you could actually make while asleep, huh? Well, no, not really.

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You can make part of it while you are sleeping, though, so that’s a win for you.

I vacillate between homemade dough and store-bought dough, and it all depends on how much planning I have done. Last night’s pizza was made with a store-bought whole wheat dough from Whole Foods. But those store-bought doughs all have one big problem.

Think back to the last time you tried to roll one of those out. You couldn’t, right? It was like trying to stretch out a rubber band that just keeps snapping back into its usual shape and size. Good luck rolling it out to be thinner than a focaccia dough, guys. Well, that’s why my pizza method can be made while you sleep. I’ll admit, my trick works much better with a white dough, and always better with homemade, but whole wheat store-bought yields fine results.

The night before you are going to make the pizza–or before you leave for work in the morning–dump the dough in a high sided bowl, throw a clean dishtowel over it, and stash it in a cupboard or on top of the fridge. Forget about it until pizza night/you get home. When you do get home, it will have risen and bubbled up to disgusting blob-like heights (or, if you use store-bought whole wheat dough, it will just look old and like a river rock…but bear with me!). Punch it down once, cover it again, and let it sit again for about an hour. By the time you go to roll it out on a lightly floured surface, you may not even need a rolling pin. Simply hand stretching the dough might work well enough, and chances are it will be so thin and flexible that you’ll think you have too much dough.

The overnight (or all day) rising has some great benefits, but they yield a specific kind of crust. By allowing the yeast to work that long, your dough will develop a pleasant malty, almost sour (as in sourdough, not lemonheads) flavor. It is able to be thin and crusty and chewy all at the same time, able to support loads of toppings. And by cooking this dough the right way–my 8x8x8 method–you’ll yield some pretty perfect pizza in no time.

Last night’s pizza was a vehicle for using up some ingredients in the fridge, including summer squash, part-skim ricotta, parmesan, parsley, onion, and some store-bought bacon crumbles.

Ricotta, Squash, + Bacon Pizza, 8x8x8 method

1 store-bought whole wheat pizza dough (I used WFM, but you can use any brand, or make your own)
1 small yellow summer squash
1 small white or sweet onion
1 c. part-skim ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 tsp. fresh flat parsley
3 tsp. roasted garlic or lemon (or plain!) olive oil, divided
1/4c. parmesan cheese grated
1/4c. cooked crumbled bacon (I used store-bought, in the salad section, because I had it on hand)
salt and pepper to taste throughout

The night before/morning of pizza day, dump the dough in a high sided bowl, throw a clean dishtowel over it, and stash it in a cupboard or on top of the fridge. Forget about your dough until pizza night/you get home. Punch it down once, cover it again, and let it sit again for about an hour.

Pre-heat your over to 450F. Line a heavy-gauge half sheet pan–not a flimsy cookie sheet–with parchment and set aside.

Hand-stretch the dough on a lightly floured surface/roll it out to fit the half sheet pan, and gently place the rolled out dough on the parchment lined pan. Any tears should be patched, but don’t worry too much about how pretty the patches look.

Brush the dough with 1 tsp. of the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Load the pan into the oven for 8 minutes.

While the dough is blind baking, combine the ricotta, lemon juice and zest, 1 tsp. of the olive oil, 2 tsp. of the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl; set aside.

Using a mandoline on the thinnest setting, slice the summer squash and onion, and set each aside in a separate bowl. Toss each in the remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper each to taste.

When the first 8 minutes is over, the dough should be bubbly and golden brown. Tapping the corner crust should produce a pleasant thumping sound, but it may still be a bit soft. Don’t worry.

Spread the ricotta mixture over the pizza evenly using an offset spatula or large spoon, leaving only a centimeter around the edge. Carefully arrange the oiled squash slices over the ricotta so they resemble fish scales. You could dump the squash on and smoosh it in, but I like my pizza to be organized and visually striking (see: pizza I once topped with mortadella in a chevron pattern).

Put the pizza back in the oven for 8 more minutes.

Pour yourself a glass of wine, snuggle your dogs, busy yourself for 8 minutes.

When the second 8 minutes is up, pull the pizza out. The squash should look dry, and it might even have ruffled up a bit around the edges. This is great.

Sprinkle the top with most of the parmesan, then sprinkle the oiled onion shreds evenly over the top of that. Then, the bacon over that.

8 more minutes in the oven.

More wine, more puppy snuggling.

Check the pizza when the 8 minutes is up: if the onions look translucent and perhaps even a bit browned, this is perfect, and you are done. If not, broil that bad boy until they are at least translucent. Keep a close eye and nose out while you broil, though.

Remove the pizza, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and parsley, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Then, transfer it to a large flat surface (my Boos board is the perfect size for pizzas on a half sheet pan).

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I wasn’t kidding about the crustiness of this…crust (duh). This can really support these heavy wet toppings.

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And these toppings were heavenly together. Light and airy, but still filling. I am a white sauce or no sauce gal these days, so most of my pizzas end up looking like this.

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One pizza yields 8 large slices.

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We usually each have 2 slices for dinner, then 2 each for lunch the next day….lunch after pizza night is always wonderful.

I hope you enjoy my 8x8x8 method for at-home pizza. It’s served me well, and frankly, it will serve you well, too. It’s a damn simple method to adapt: blind bake for 8 minutes, cheese/sauce/wet toppings for 8 minutes, then finish with the more delicate toppings for 8 minutes. Could not be simpler or more versatile.

Buen provecho!

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Blueberry + Meyer Lemon Yogurt Bread

You guys, I baked something.

Whaaaattt???!!!!

Yeah, you read that right. I mean, it was nothing fancy–a simple quick bread in a loaf pan, essentially one big muffin–but I baked it. Me. Moi.

Inspired by the two pints of amazingly gorgeous sweet-and-tart blueberries from my CSA, and a pinned recipe, I set out to make a blueberry and lemon yogurt bread. We’re traveling by car this weekend, and I wanted to have something simple and delicious that we could snack on in the car or the hotel. This bread, this weekend? Perfect.

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At present, as I type this very sentence, I am savoring a slice. It is so good. Silky and tart and creamy and sweet. Potentially messy, yes, given the massive amount of stain-prone blueberries, but so very worth the risk. This is a bread you eat with a fork.

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The original recipe at Erica’s Sweet Tooth called for a lemon syrup to be brushed over the cooling bread, and then a lemon glaze to top the slices. This sounded too sweet for us, though I would try the glaze at a later point, when I’m not traveling with the bread. I also prefer meyer lemon to regular lemon when it comes to baked goods, so I made that substitution as well.

Blueberry + Meyer Lemon Yogurt Bread

(adapted from Erica’s Sweet Tooth)

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1-1/2 cups + 1 tbsp all purpose flour, divided
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup yogurt–I did 1/2c. Stonyfield Fat Free lemon and 1/2c. WFM vanilla greek yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp meyer lemon zest (from 2 meyer lemons)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups blueberries, fresh
1 pat of butter to grease the loaf pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9×5″ loaf pan and dust with a bit of the reserved flour. Tap out the excess, and set this aside.

Bowl 1:  combine flour, baking powder, and salt.

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Bowl 2: whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and oil

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Slowly add the dry ingredients (Bowl 1) to the wet (Bowl 2), whisking out any big lumps or streaks.

With Bowl 1 now empty, fill it with the blueberries (pick out the bigger seeds, stems, and tiny sour green berries…unpleasant to find later!) and toss with some of the reserved flour. This helps the blueberries stay suspended in the batter and keeps them from all sinking to the bottom of the loaf. Don’t skip this step. Fold the floured blueberries into the batter in Bowl 2.

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Pour the batter into the pan and bake for at least 55 minutes, or until a skewer or piece of spaghetti comes out clean. When I baked it, I tested at 50 minutes, and my skewer was nowhere near clean…wet batter. I ended up cooking for a total of 65 minutes, and it was perfect then. The top was a little dark but not burned.

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Let bread cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cut into slices, wrap in parchment, and enjoy later.

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Enjoy!

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