October 2010

pizza, pizza, pizza

Posted on October 6, 2010

Friday night we had a couple friends over to our place for dinner.  Emily and I discussed a dinner menu; we knew we wanted something casual that would be a crowd pleaser.  Obviously, the perfect answer was pizza.  (On a more personal note, I think pizza is one of the two perfect foods in the universe.  Maybe I’ll discuss the other later, but for now, I’ll keep you in suspense).  When making homemade pizza, I usually assume one pizza per two people.  It seems like a lot, but it’s really difficult to make large pizza at home (more than 12″) and I make pretty thin crust, so it’s not too filling.

I’m going to make a confession right away.  I bought the dough from Whole Foods.  I know it’s a terrible thing to do, but to be perfectly honest, their dough is really good.  I’ve made my own before and it only comes out okay in my opinion.  As an added bonus, they only cost $1.30 each.  I’ve also heard that Trader Joe’s dough is tasty too, but I’ve never tried it.

To make up for my store bought dough, I did make the sauce from scratch.  This is something I highly recommend because it’s super easy, cheap, it tastes better than jarred sauce, and you can make a batch as large as you want and just freeze it for at least a year.  I made a very basic version where I simply sautéed an onion, a carrot and a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic.  Then I deglazed with some red wine vinegar (probably about 1/4 cup) and added two 28oz. cans of whole tomatoes.  Let that simmer for a couple hours and puree to your desired consistency.  Season with salt, pepper, chile flake, and a couple tablespoons of sugar (to cut the acidity).

Now for the fun part.  Preheat your oven as high as it will go (If you have a pizza stone, which is highly recommended, preheat for about an hour so the stone gets good and hot).  I like to take the dough out of the fridge about a half hour before baking to make it a bit easier to work with.  Stretch it out with some flour on the counter and get it to a nice thin disc about 12″ in diameter.  Put some cornmeal on your pizza peel and lay the dough on it (I leave about an inch hanging over the edge of the peel as the dough seems to slide off more easily that way, that could just be me though).  Then you just throw on your toppings.  The only advice I can really give here is that less is more.  Just use a little bit of sauce, a good quality cheese (I like fresh mozzarella) and no more than 4-5 toppings.  We made three pizzas: one was sausage (pork of course), olives, and cherry tomatoes; basic mozzarella and basil; and bacon, sautéed chanterelles, goat cheese, garlic, and onion (I also threw some fresh tarragon on after it came out).

Conclusions:  We’ve done this before and we will do it again.  It’s super fun and not too difficult (your friends will love you for it too).  If you’ve never made homemade pizza before then just give it a try; it seems really hard at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.

P.S. We had a salad too.  Just spinach and arugula with more cherry tomatoes and a balsamic vinaigrette.  Tasty.


quick chick(en)

Posted on October 6, 2010

Last night dinner had to be easy, and preferably quick. Why? Well, because I’ve neglected all of my chores in favor of baking and butter making. Hard to believe, I know.

I also have this problem at the butcher counter where if all of the young, corporate women in front of me (I am one now, sort of) ask for boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I have to break the mold by asking for an entire chicken, and 3 lbs of lamb shanks. Yep. And I was making a dinner for two.

These two issues (mountain of chores and whole chicken) collided last night and  … I made easy roast chicken thighs and legs.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.

Break down the chicken into appropriate sized pieces for two people (or don’t go crazy at the butcher counter). Salt and pepper both sides.

Place chicken in an oven safe baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, toss in some sliced onion, carrot, and whole garlic cloves. I forgot to, but you could also throw in some rosemary or thyme to jazz the bird up a bit.

Bake for 45 minutes (or until the meatiest part feels like the fatty palm of your hand when you press it — Jordan’s trick).

While this is cooking you can start a load of laundry, throughly clean the bathroom, and scrub the kitchen floor, assuming your home is less than 500 square feet.

Conclusions: The chicken was delightful, as roast chicken always is, especially the juices in the bottom of the pan, and super easy. I tossed it in the oven, and forgot about it for 45 minutes and it still turned out just fine. My perfect bite … roasted garlic clove, dark meat, crispy skin, dunked in chicken juice. Try it, you won’t be disappointed.


P.S. Throwing the chicken under the broiler at the last minute makes the skin nice and extra crispy as well.


butter! homemade butter!

Posted on October 4, 2010

Last night laying in bed, Jordan and I had a serious discussion. It went something like this …

“If you had to live the rest of your life without bacon or butter, which would it be?” “Ummmm, that’s a tough one. But as much as I love pork, especially bacon, I’m going to have to say butter.”

Then …

“If you had to live the rest of your life without coffee or butter, which would it be?” “Oh! Now that is just not fair. Ummmmm. Butter. A life without coffee is cruel, but butter just makes everything better. ” “So, butter?” “Yes, butter.”

Although the final decisions were hard to come to, the clear winner in these match-ups is butter, which brings us to today’s culinary experiment …

Heavy whipping cream -> Homemade butter! from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking 
1 pint heavy whipping cream
Salt (optional)
Garlic, herbs, pepper (optional)

Start with a pint of heavy whipping cream. I poured it into my kitchen aid stand mixer and set the dial to high speed (6-8). You could also use a hand mixer, or put the cream in a jar and shake that sucker for 20 minutes. I took the easy way out and it took about 8 minutes to get from cream to butter.

Beat the cream for several minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. The cream will go through several stages. The transformation is pretty incredible. When the cream has turned into butter and buttermilk, you’ll know.

Stage 1: cream

Stage 2: whipped cream

Stage 3: extra-thick whipped cream

Stage 4: broken whipped cream (crumbly looking little bits)

Stage 5: separation of cream into butter and buttermilk!

Note: You may want to drape a kitchen towel over the mixer as to prevent splattering cream all over your kitchen. I realized this about half way through the process, and had a little extra cleaning up to do afterward.

Once the cream has separated into butter and buttermilk, strain the buttermilk out with a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Place the butter in a separate bowl and press out more of the buttermilk with a wooden spoon. Pour off the buttermilk. Put the buttermilk aside and brainstorm a recipe using buttermilk.

Note: It is very important to get all of the buttermilk out of the butter. If you don’t remove all of the buttermilk from the butter, it will go rancid very quickly.  And that would be very, very sad.

After you’ve squeezed most of the buttermilk, pour a cup or two ice-cold water over the butter. Using the back of a wooden spoon, smash the butter around. Washing the butter with water helps to remove the last of the buttermilk. Pour off the water. Repeat this process until the water you pour off is clear. I did it three times.

Note: the water must be ice-cold as to not melt the butter solids.

Add salt to taste and mix throughly with a wooden spoon.

The final product! Salted butter (about 1/2 cup) and buttermilk (about 1 cup)!  YUM!

As an accompaniment to tonight’s dinner (Jordan will bring us more on that later), I decide to make Beurre d’ Ail garlic herb butter from Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.  I’ve reduced her recipe to a one meal for two serving size.

4 T fresh, salted butter

1 clove garlic

1 T  parsley (or other green herb), minced

Set the unpeeled clove of garlic in boiling water. Bring to a boil for 5 seconds. Remove from pot, rinse and peel. Bring to a boil again for 30 seconds more. Pound to a smooth paste in a mortar and pestle (or garlic press, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle).

Pound or cream the butter and garlic  together. Season with additional salt, pepper, and herbs.

Conclusions: The salted butter is divine! I can’t be more thrilled to have it on hand. Plus, making it was a fun (and quick!) science experiment. I highly recommend it! When the cream shifted into butter and buttermilk, Jordan could hear me shouting from the kitchen, “It worked! It really worked!” I’m also pretty happy to have a back-up plan for the next time I over-whip whipped cream. Lastly, the garlic herb butter was terrific on bread at dinner. The garlic flavor was strong so if you don’t love garlic like we do, scale back a bit. Homemade butter is the best!


baking therapy: chocolate chip banana bread with cinnamon crumble topping

Posted on October 4, 2010

This week’s baking therapy was inspired by a bunch of over-ripe bananas languishing in the kitchen at work. I poked around the internet searching for a recipe and found several at Orangette, Molly Wizenburg’s delightful food blog. I read over her recipes and, keeping her tips and tricks in mind, decided to take this bread into my own hands.

As I creamed butter with sugar and then added chocolate chips, Jordan asked, “Isn’t the point of banana bread that it’s healthier because you use bananas instead of lots of butter and sugar?” …  I always thought the point of banana bread was to make use of  those gross, black, slug-like bananas that inevitably end up on your kitchen counter instead of throwing them away. Here is my recipe for a decadent banana bread, I make no apologies.

For the bread
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
3 medium bananas, mashed
3 T milk
2 cup all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1 cup chocolate chips

For the topping:
1 T butter, room temperature
2 T sugar
2 T brown sugar
1 t cinnamon
1/4 cup rolled oats

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with butter, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mash bananas. Mix them with the milk.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

Add the flour mixture and banana mixture to the butter mixture in two parts, alternating, until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour into greased loaf pan and smooth top.

Combine topping ingredients by cutting in the butter. Sprinkle the bread evenly with topping.

Bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes and then turn loaf out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Conclusions: This is a serious bread …  the sucker weighs in at about two pounds! And I wasn’t kidding when I said it was decadent. The banana flavor is present, but not overpowering and the chocolate chips bring it into dessert level.  Jordan agreed with me that the cinnamon crumble topping was the best part. Most definitely will make again.  Yum!


tartine bakery

Posted on October 3, 2010

Oh Tartine Bakery, how I love thee. Let me count the ways …

… pain au chocolat, pain au jambon, eclair, lemon cream tart, chocolate pudding.

I’ve yet to consume a pastry or dessert that I did not like. Many I have loved. Loved so much that Jordan and I make an almost weekly pilgrimage to consume their perfect treats. We even wait in a line that wraps out the door and down the block. Yes, it is that good.

Their coffee, roasted by Four Barrel Coffee of San Francisco, is also delicious – balanced and strong, but not bitter. I’d also recommend fresh fruit or orange juice to cut the decadence of their pastries.  And lastly, ditch the crowds, walk down the block to Dolores Park, eat in the sunshine and watch the parade of dogs go by. Ahhhh, a perfect morning.


special delivery

Posted on October 1, 2010

Yesterday in the mail I received one of the best gifts I’ve probably ever received … this beautiful cookbook complete with several of my dear friend Katie Norton’s favorite recipes.

Not only is it adorable, it’s pages allow you to insert standard-sized notecards thereby making it super functional! Katie’s recipes look delicious and I’m sure you’ll be seeing more of them here pretty soon. And lastly, what perfect timing with the start of this blog or, maybe more importantly, mine and Jordan’s new little home together!


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