Saturday, November 22, 2008

Three Vegetarian Pizzas

INGREDIENTS:

This dough recipe makes 2 pizza crusts; for four, make two separate batches in the food processor. We didn't bother to buy a pizza peel--instead, find a rimless cookie sheet, and be careful about pulling the pizza off the stone, since the cookie sheet lacks a handle.

FOR THE DOUGH (loosely adapted from Cook's Illustrated, March 2007):
1 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 cup water, room temperature
2 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp. table salt
2 tsp. sugar
Cornmeal, for dusting

1) Whisk the yeast into the water until dissolved.
2) In a food processor, blend sugar, flour, and salt until combined, about 5 seconds.
3) With machine running, slowly add liquid through feed tube, processing until dough forms a sticky, satiny ball that clears the sides of the workbowl, about 2 minutes or less. If dough remains too dry, add 1-2 tbsp. extra water.
4) Divide dough in half and form into smooth, tight balls. Place on floured surface at least 3 inches apart, and cover loosely with plastic wrap sprayed with olive oil or nonstick cooking oil. Let rise until doubled in volume, approx. 1 hour.
5) Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position. Set a pizza stone (they're 20 bucks at Bed, Bath and Beyond) on the rack, and heat the oven to 500 degrees, allowing stone to heat through, at least 40 minutes.
6) When dough has doubled, dust with flour and move to smooth work surface dusted with the cornmeal. Press one ball into an 8-inch disc, then gently stretch it with flattened palms into a 12-inch circle. Sprinkle the rimless cookie sheet with more cornmeal and transfer dough circle to cookie sheet.
7) Add toppings of choice.
8) Slide pizza onto hot stone and bake until edges are crisp and brown, 12-18 minutes depending on your oven. Peek at them, and when they look right, remove from the oven with the cookie sheet and place on a breadboard to slice.

FOR THE TOPPINGS:

Pizza con Verdure:

1) Tomato sauce, simmered until relatively dry and spread thinly.
2) Four-cheese blend, sprinkled evenly.
3) Sliced red bell pepper.
4) Sliced sweet white onion.
5) Quartered fresh yellow cherry tomatoes.
6) Red pepper flake, to taste.
7) Sliced fresh basil, added after baking and just before slicing.




Pizza with Pumpkin, Shittake, and Thai Choo-Chee Sauce:

1) A cup of coconut milk, simmered with Thai Choo-Chee paste curry base (according to package or to taste). After curry paste is blended into coconut milk, add 1 tbsp. fish sauce, 1 tsp. sugar, and salt if necessary. Cook curry on low until it thickens into sauce consistency, and spread over pizza.
2) Sliced pumpkin, sauteed with butter until cooked through.
3) Sliced shittakes, sauteed with butter until wilted and tender.
4) Sliced green onion.
5) Chopped toasted peanuts.
6) Fresh beans sprouts, if desired.
7) Chopped fresh cilantro, added after baking.

Pizza with Pecans, Gorgonzola, Dates, and Rosemary:

1) 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese.
2) 6 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola or other blue cheese.
3) 6 ounces minced dates.
4) 3 springs of fresh rosemary, minced fine.
5) 2/3 cup toasted pecans, minced.
6) Fresh grated nutmeg.
7) Cracked sea salt.

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Southern Tier Krampus Imperial Helles Lager; Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron Malt Beverage; Elysian Bifrost Winter Ale

THE RULE:
If you're cooking pizza, you best be drinking some beer.

THE BEERS:
Where to start? It was a party, so the usual tasting rules don't apply. The Krampus is a beautiful amber-colored, deep, hoppy lager, with 9% alcohol that you quite simply can't taste, this beer is so smooth. Strong grapefruit (not too bitter, though) caramel, and pine. The Palo Santo is a crazy rich, brown concoction with 12% abv. brewed in handmade Paruguayan Palo Santo wooden vessels--vanilla, dark malt, and toffee. Bifrost is a very drinkable winter brew, with a heavy body and a nice orange peel/coffee lingering bitterness. Tasty stuff. All three are good beers, and we drank them with pizza. No further pairing explanation necessary.

THE REVELERS:
This here is Gabe and his co-worker Brady, testing the acidity of the tomato sauce (or something like that). And to their right is One-Punch Hernandez, alias DeathLisa, who can break your spine just by looking at it. Her fist really is that big compared to her face, by the way--you might think it's depth of field in this shot, but that's an optical illusion. Her fist is on an even plane with her jaw. She has hands the size of Les Grossman from Tropic Thunder, which she brought to the party to prove to us that she isn't the only one with meat paws of this heft. There are others.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Croque Madame

INGREDIENTS (for four people):

3 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, warm
3 tbsp. flour
2 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh black pepper
1/8 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated white cheddar cheese
8 slices sandwich bread
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried oregano
4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 pound thinly sliced honey or maple turkey
4 large eggs
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Mimosas

(Salad is optional, but did you know your main course contains fewer calories when accompanied by a small salad or side of greens? Well, it does. That's science. This recipe is *liberally* adapted from a March, 2007 offering in Gourmet magazine.)

1) To make the sauce, melt 3 tbsp. of the butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, then whisk in the flour and cook roux until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Whisking constantly, slowly add milk and bring to a boil; continue to whisk occasionally at reduced heat for 5 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and 1/2 a cup of cheese and whisk until cheese has melted into sauce.
2) Remove sauce from heat and cover directly with wax paper to prevent it forming a skin.
3) Spread 1 1/2 tbsp. of the sauce over 4 slices of bread, then sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese.
4) Spread mustard on other 4 bread slices, topping with the turkey. Combine both kinds of bread to form sandwiches.
5) Spread half the warm butter on the top of the sandwiches, adding half the garlic powder, thyme and oregano. Toast the sandwiches butter-side down in a warm skillet while spreading the remaining butter and spices on the other side. Flip and toast until golden on both sides, 3-4 minutes total.
6) Preheat the broiler. Spread remaining sauce on top of the sandwiches, coating evenly. Broil for 2-3 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and golden in spots.
7) Crack eggs into a heated skillet and season them with salt and pepper. Fry eggs, covered, until the whites are set but the yolks still runny, about 3 minutes. Top sandwiches with eggs, and serve with a light salad to reduce the calories in the sauce.
8) Open bottle of champagne and pour into flutes with 2 oz. orange juice. Enjoy together.

THE BEVERAGE:
All right, all right, it isn't a beer. But you know something? We're a big fan of beverages in general, particularly effervescent beverages, and those belonging to the category our friend Mark terms "sauce." Mimosa is one hell of a tasty sauce, and since we were having brunch, after all, the usual beer evaluation was deferred for next time. (I should point out here that Gabe will readily tell you, if you ask him, that the ideal brunch pairing of all time is a draft glass of Leffe Brun and a plate of blueberry pancakes.)

THE GUEST:
We happened to be entertaining a Canadian diplomat when this brunch took place; there's Nicole Joy-Frasier (wife of Jeff Teerlink, if you follow Longview, Washington's Flemish exchange student culture) on the couch. She had a very successful week at the Native Theater Festival downtown at the Public, and here we feature her in slippies, sipping a hot and comforting beverage. The back of Lisa Hernandez's head is showcased to great advantage by her teal v-neck, as I smugly anticipate the moment when she realizes Gabe is about to swing onto her back from the chandelier.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sesame Chicken Salad with Napa Cabbage

INGREDIENTS:

1 small head of Napa cabbage, sliced thin
3 spring onions, white and green parts, sliced thin
1 large chicken breast, cubed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp. sherry
1 package of Top Ramen (chicken flavor)
1 tbsp. tahini
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. brown sugar
Black pepper to taste
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Rogue Double Dead Guy

1) Toast the Ramen noodles, crumbled into small pieces, until golden brown and combine with the cabbage and spring onions in a large salad bowl.
2) Heat the olive oil in the same skillet and add minced ginger and chicken. Saute until browned and chicken is tender and cooked through. While skillet is still very hot, add the sherry to the pan to scrape up any browned bits and ginger remaining. Reserve this liquid in a small bowl.
3) Add to the sherry and ginger the last 6 ingredients listed, and whisk into a dressing along with the chicken seasoning from the Ramen package. Toss with the salad and serve.
4) Open Rogue Double Dead Guy.
5) Enjoy together.

THE BEER:
Double Dead Guy is a "strong ale" from Rogue, and interestingly enough, despite their reputation for extreme beers, this is a pretty mellow copper ale. It has a nice, floral and honey nose with very low bitterness. It's drinkable, not memorable, and despite its marketing it's certainly not a doppelbock style. The taste is good, but it didn't stand up to the bright flavors of the salad ideally. Drink this beer with the knowledge you'll get a smooth, chill brew and not much else to say about it.

video
THE ELECTION:

We are so proud of our country, and so proud to be Americans. This video is footage of our neighborhood, on 160th and Amsterdam, just after the major networks announced Obama's victory. Everyone grabbed their biggest pots and loudest spoons and poured out of their apartments to dance in the streets. All the cars going past were rolling down their windows, honking and cheering, while a bunch of Dominican schoolkids raced up and down the street waving American flags. The resolution isn't so hot, but I'm in the hat and the yellow dress.

Then this morning I was flipping through a slideshow on Huffington Post about reactions to the election and I found this picture. It's a shot of the Obama campaign site on 52nd and Spruce in West Philadelphia, where I canvassed all day last Saturday. I tell you something--when you knock on somebody's door in an all-black suburb, and the next house down is abandoned because sometime in the last week it was strafed in a drive-by, and they're giddy at the prospect of voting--that's powerful. Yes, we can, people. Yes, we did.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Winter Risotto with Sweet Potato, Brussels Sprouts, and Blue Cheese

INGREDIENTS:

1 large sweet potato, cubed small
10 oz. Brussels sprouts, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
6 oz. Danish blue cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup Arborio, Carnaroli, or other risotto rice
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 shallot, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Approx. 2 cups chicken stock, more if needed
Salt and pepper
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Bear Republic Brewing Co. Hop Rod Rye

1) Heat olive oil in a medium pot. Sweat shallot, carrot and garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2) Add sweet potato and rice to the pot and toast for 2-3 minutes until rice is slightly translucent.
3) Add chopped rosemary and half a cup of chicken stock and stir constantly until the stock is absorbed.
4) Continue to add stock, half a cup at a time, stirring constantly and adding more when the liquid is nearly absorbed into the rice. It should take approx. 13-15 minutes for the rice to be cooked as the liquid is incorporated; if more liquid is needed, add more stock or water.
5) When the rice and sweet potato are nearly cooked (after about 10 minutes), add the chopped Brussels sprouts.
6) When rice is tender but still slightly firm in the center, add blue cheese and season to taste. After the cheese has melted in, spoon into bowls.
7) Open Hop Rod Rye.
8) Enjoy together.

THE BEER:
Oh, yum. Caraway and dark, sticky notes from the 20% rye used in the malt, a very well-balanced caramel sweetness against bitter orange rind hops, and a hint of fresh bread yeast. Bear Republic is in Healdsburg, California, and damn do they ever make a fine beer. If you're a fan of the rye IPA style (and when it's well done, it's one of our favorite beers of all time), this brew gets it exactly right. There's a reason this beer has won major gold and silver medals in festivals and competitions. Pairing a rye IPA (especially one of this magnitude and bittersweetness) with ANYTHING to do with blue cheese is a very, very good idea.

THE ADVENTURE:
You know what? Risotto is Italian comfort food, and comfort food is what's needed when the weather turns all crispy, and the leaves begin to fall, and you start grabbing a pashmina on your way out the door. No adventure here, kids. Predictably delicious, toothy, wholesome, and all around good. I (Lyndsay) used to work at a great Italian place called Osteria Laguna, and that's where I learned of the glories of risotto. Our chef Christina (an eighty-pound Venetian with a Rambo-style hair kerchief) made glorious risotto--beet and gorgonzola risotto, smoked mozzarella risotto, shellfish and tomato risotto, and it was always giddily perfect. The woman makes freaking beautiful food. I can't cook risotto like she can (I also can't yell nearly as loudly or project her levels of utter scorn), and so I salute her! She lives in Berkeley now with her wife and baby, but here she is posing like a rock star by our pizza oven and antipasto bar.