Pizza becomes flatbread

ImageEnough with the pizza dough already you say?  Needless to say, in a house of two who can’t seem to cook for less than ten there was pizza dough for days (reference my last post when I was only on day four or so). And with a request from the twittersphere (shout out to @FennelFriday) I am sharing my version of a caramelized fennel flatbread. 

After a week in the fridge my pizza dough was really nice and relaxed. So much so I could press it right into cracker thin submission. Oh, so then it’s not pizza and now flatbread so couldn’t possibly be sick of pizza – oh, sorry for sharing the chatter in my head

After going overboard with using fennel as a juice ingredient, it was time to reintroduce it to the sauté pan, to get it nice and sweet and caramelized. Team it with fav topper of the moment for moi, lemons and this is the result…

Caramelized Fennel FlatbreadImage

1 ball of pizza/flatbread dough (last post for recipe)
1 Fennel bulb, thinly slice and reserve some of the fronds for garnish
1 lemon, sliced thin, thin, thin
1/2 cup (or so) kalamata olives pitted and cut in half
1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, sliced (no strict rule here, go with goat cheese, feta, or what you fancy)
generous pinch of thyme
extra virgin olive oil to drizzle

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Heat some olive oil in a sauté pan or cast iron skillet, add sliced fennel and just let it cook low and slow until it gets nicely caramelized. Season with some salt and pepper. Remove from stove and let cool.

Roll or press out dough (round, rectangle, free-form, or whatever floats your boat shape) . Place onto baking sheet (or pizza peel if putting onto a preheated pizza stone). Scatter the fennel on the dough, followed by the lemon slices, olives, cheese, thyme and then finish with a drizzle of olive oil (if you have a lemon-infused version go that route, you won’t regret). Bake for 5-7 minutes depending on your oven and how ‘cooked’ your like your flatbread. 

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it’s flour and water and…yeast.

This winter I came to the realization (after how many years together?!?) that my husband loves pizza. Rightfully so, who doesn’t? But gotta say, for years, though I like pizza, it was not a LOVE thing that I had to have weekly or monthly for that matter. Said husband on the other hand could eat it weekly. And this girl who has spent the majority of her life in the Midwest is still a native New Yorker at heart. Yes, that means I love a New York style pizza. And if I can’t get that than Neapolitan, nice and thin and crispy, with a bit of chew is my preference. My apologies to all makers of Chicago-style, it’s just too much dough and cheese for moi.

After ordering a delivery pizza, a request by the pizza loving-mate, paying well over $30 when all is said and done, waiting for what seems like forever (hey when you are hungry an hour is eternity), and at the end being under-whelmed, thought, I need to do this myself. Yes, I can cook with the best of them (alright maybe not THE best, but I can certainly hold my own) but there has been something about making, and baking, anything that involves yeast. Quick breads, no problem (you did read my last post right?).

the beginning: flour, water, yeast

There is something about those living breathing minuscule grains (micro-organisms) that just intimidate the heck out of me. Stayed away for years. Until this winter. Paying too much for ‘za and for bread I had to get over my fear. I mean it is basically flour, water, and yeast right? I can do this. And I can do this for pennies.

The other thing about yeast, is that you have to plan ahead. There’s no, oh I feel like making pizza from scratch right now and consuming it in an hour. Yeast needs to rise. (Hum maybe it was really my lack of patience and not fear after all…well, that will be too much analysis for this post. Okay, back on track). So I started reading a lot of pizza dough recipes and trying a lot of pizza dough recipes (whole wheat still working on, but the toppings have been having some fun with. Ask my sister-in-law, who had to recover here post-op, about the short rib pizza and the broccoli rabe, brussels sprouts & lemon pizza.) And yes, unless you want to fight with the dough, give it the rest time the recipe calls for. Example: last Friday got a hankering to have pizza for dinner (darn you Mark Bittman and coming back to the NY Times Dining Guide last week to get that craving all up and going). Made the dough late morning (and honestly think it was either Wolfgang Puck’s or Peter Reinhart’s recipe, not Bittman’s that day) and yes, should have waited to make the pizza until at least the next day. Not that it does not work, it’s that the dough just does not like to work with you (note: lots of bounce back). After I won that fight, the result, a simple Margarita of roasted tomatoes & garlic, buffalo mozzarella, parmesan and basil, was pizza perfection.

margarita pre-baking

The fight

Fast forward to today (four days after making the dough), and because I keep forgetting  that I can cut the recipe in half, I still have dough in the fridge. Heck, why not make pizza for lunch? Dough ready. Ingredients at hand and ready (thank you warm Spring for arugula and rosemary already up in the garden, sunchokes roasted the other day, and a fridge that is never without lemons). Oven cranked to 500 degrees. Lunch will be ready in less time than I can make a salad. And main reason for that? Not the cooking time (minutes mind you) but that I did not have to fight with the dough. Four days of rest and it succumbed to my touch. Ha, take that!

Sunchoke, Lemon, Rosemary, Pizza
1 ball of prepared (and well rested dough), recipe here courtesy of Peter Reinhart and BHG.com
1/2 cup thinly sliced and roasted sunchokes (potatoes are a good sub)
12 paper thin slices of lemon (or as thin as your knife skills will allow)
1 teaspoon of minced fresh rosemary
1/4 -1/3 cup parmesan
olive oil, for drizzling
1 cup (more if you are like me) fresh arugula

pre-oven and cheese

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. And if you have a pizza stone in the oven all the better (get that dough nice and crisp and cooking quick). Mist baking sheet (if not using the pizza stone) with cooking spray or olive oil.  Stretch ball of dough into a thin disk (either draping over the back of your hands and using your thumbs to turn and stretch the dough, or if well-rested I found just pressing the dough flat on a floured surface works just as well.). Place disk of dough onto baking sheet.
Drizzle olive oil onto of the dough, then place the ingredients on top: sun chokes, then lemons, then rosemary, then the parmesan. Bake for about 7 minutes (again this all depends on your oven, stone, no stone, so anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes. and if you have your own outdoor woodburing pizza oven like my brother, then cooking time is about 3 minutes.). Place arugula on top of pizza once it is out of the oven and if so inclined, drizzle a bit more olive oil on top.

P.S. okay, admittedly, I am now loving pizza. perhaps too much. 

just out of the oven pre-arugula & it cost a lot less than delivery!

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The ‘Spotted Dog’ or drunken dog?

ImageNo, no, no, even though I am a dog lover this blog has not converted from one of food to all canine all the time. No, the ‘spotted dog’ I am referring to is not the one of 101 or the fireman’s best friend, but the one that most Americans would call ‘Irish soda bread.’ A straight up traditional soda bread would not be marred by ‘spots’ (dried raisins or currants) or any kind, just straight up flour, soda (of the bi-carb variety), a bit of salt, and buttermilk and you have your dough (or ‘dog, pssst, slang for dough). Or texture it up a bit and you have Irish brown bread (link to my post on brown bread and homage to soda bread). 

But guessing, cause, we humans hanker for the sweet, raisins, currants and sugar found there way into the soda bread. Some folks have gone as far as adding eggs and butter but that is taking us into cake territory so let’s try to keep it as close to the original as possible shall we? 

Now for years I have kept my recipe for ‘spotted dog’ close to the vest. And to be honest I cannot take full credit for the Tuffy spin on soda bread. No, that credit must go to my father. And like the good fellow of Irish descent that he is, booze found it’s way into our version of soda bread in the form of Irish whiskey.  Genius, right? Image

Our secret?  Macerating (ok, soaking) the currants/raisins in the Irish whiskey so they are nice and plump and drunk.  Having started this ‘secret’ recipe at least 20 years ago (give or take) I have used the same glass clamp jar to soak my raisins in and just keep topping it off year after year — now that is some age and flavor. And to be honest there are times when the raisins start soaking right after I have made the years batch of bread. A full year of bathing in the whiskey. Woo hoo!  

Now, you don’t have to go to such soaking extremes. Heck even a soak for a few hours will do the trick. And if you don’t want to use the booze (shhh, even my tetotaling mother-in-law goes for the boozy version) soak your fruit in a both of hot tea. I just think plumping up the raisins makes such a delicious difference. 

Other than soaking and baking time this is a snap to but together. And so so good with a big ole slather of butter…and maybe a shot of Paddys (insert your Irish whiskey of preference). Slainte!

Tuffy’s Spotted Dog

3 cups white flour
3 Tablespoons sugar (can go heavier to 4-5 if you like)
3 Tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 Tablespoons caraway seeds (totally optional)
1 cup macerated raisins (cover the raisins in Irish whiskey or tea for at least a couple hours)
1 1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda together twice. Then mix in the caraway seeds and raisins (drained of the liquid). Then a little at a time start incorporating the buttermilk. Give or take the 1 1/2 cups til you have a dough that is not too too sticky. Knead in the bowl and then continue to knead on a floured board. Shape into a round. Place in a pie tin or 8″ round cake pan. slice a ‘x’ on top and then brush with a bit of buttermilk. Bake for 45-50 minutes.
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Ch, chi, cha, Chia

Sorry. Could not resist. Sooooo cliche, I know. But who in the States can’t say the word ‘chia’ and, bam, that jingle pops in one’s head, along with an image of a terra cotta chia heads (am I the only one disturbed by this product?)? I do feel rather deprived as I have never been the recipient of chia head gift. Please, for the love of all that is holy, do not start now. My ‘life list’ is just fine without that line item. What I would be okay with is gifts of bags of chia seeds. Yep, all over this ‘of-the-moment’ super food that has actually been consumed for thousands of years.

A mere five weeks after New Year’s resolutions are made (many revolving around getting  healthy) and all falls apart, no thanks to this past Sunday’s big game (Superbowl for my non-football fans out there). A healthy regime of juicing, salads, whole grains, no drinking, falls by the wayside for wings, chips, dips, chili, and insert your favorite junk food and cocktail splurge of choice here. Guessing the players and Madonna did not eat and drink like that prepping for the game, so not sure why the rest of us fall to pieces and cave to the junk food frenzy that day.

Well enough is enough. Back me away from the last of the guacamole and tortilla chips (no self control when put in front of me) and get back to some better (ok healthier) food choices. Bring on the chia seed. This teeny tiny speck of a seed is a superhero (or heroine? not sure). Jam packed with Omega 3’s and 6’s, protein, antioxidants, minerals, and fiber, it blows other healthy superfoods away.  Add chia to just about anything. It is virtually flavorless, and will take on the flavor of the food you are adding it to. And if you soak the seeds in a bit of liquid, they suddenly become gelatin-like (because I really don’t like to use the word gelatinous – seriously grosses me out) helping to keep you fuller and hydrated longer. For all you athletes out there, add a tablespoon of chia ‘gel’ to your coconut water, or plain water, and yes you will stay hydrated longer and retain electrolytes longer. Take that hot weather training day.

Chia Gel

I prepped some chia ‘gel’ – stir one tablespoon of chia seeds into one cup of water and let sit for about 15 minutes. Stir again and then can store in the fridge for a week. Add a tablespoon to your morning smoothie, oatmeal, cereal, or juice. Stomach not feeling so hot? Eat a teaspoon of the chia gel. Better than a Tums. Need to thicken soup or sauce? Yep, chia ‘gel’. Trying to trim the fat in your cookie and cake recipes?  You can swap out one tablespoon of chia ‘gel’ for one egg or replace half the butter or oil for an equal amount of chia ‘gel’.

Since I do love dessert, and I do love chocolate, I of course had to try the recipe, on the back of the bag of chia seeds, for chocolate ‘mousse’ cake. Chocolate, chia and hazelnuts basically. Heart healthy, gluten-free and if I do say so, pretty tasty. The recipe suggests icing, but this cake bakes up really moist so I say why bother. And since I cannot leave a recipe well enough alone I add to tinker and add vanilla and a pinch of salt. Next time you know I am going to tinker some more…

Chia Chocolate ‘Mousse’ Cake
(adapted from the back of the Bob’s Red Mill bag of chia seeds)

ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Chia Seed
  • 1 cup Water
  • 7 oz Dark Baking Chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 cup Butter, unsalted
  • 5 large Eggs, separated
  • 2 cups Hazelnut meal or flour (ground my own, but might go with flour for finer texture next time)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line (bottom with wax or parchment paper) a 9 inch spring form pan.
Soak chia seeds in the one cup of water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile melt butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water and allow to cool.
Beat egg whites and 1/3 cup of the sugar until soft peaks form (or your arm gives out because you were too ‘lazy’ to drag the Kitchenaid out of the pantry, just saying’).

see the soft peaks?

In another bowl beat the remaining sugar with the egg yolks, vanilla and salt until pale and creamy. Fold in the cooled chocolate mixture. Then fold in the ground hazelnuts and chia ‘gel’. Gently fold in egg whites.

the chocolate, nuts and chia 'gel'

Pour into the springform pan. Bake for approximately 50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

not the prettiest cake, but sure is tasty

Ice if you must or serve with a dollop of whipped cream (or plain yoghurt — love the tang) and blackberries.

sans icing

 

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Can’t beat ’em…

Yeah, yeah, yeah jumped on the bandwagon.  The oh-so-of-the-new-year-moment juicing one. Oh say it isn’t so. It is, and have to admit that sometimes I am just lazy, and just don’t feel like cooking (there I said it), or even eating what’s good for me. But after too many rounds of antibiotics and maybe (just maybe) too many holiday cookies, and a Grupon in my ‘in-box’ for a juicer, and I caved to juicing. Hey it’s working for Martha, Dr. Oz, his daughter and we won’t even talk about Jack LaLane (Hey, he had his own branded juicer so it must have worked for him right? I mean look how long he lived.).

A visit to the produce market, which prompted the gentleman behind me to comment on the fresh contents of my cart (whose being fresh here?), back home to wash, scrub, cut-up, and into the juicer shoot. Voila my first juice combo. Then second. Then a citrus only (for the husband who insists that this is the only juice he wants. Yeah, until I snuck him some pineapple, lemon, ginger, mint, spinach, kale, cucumber. Hah, take that and like it!) and I am so on a roll. And after my first glass of fresh juice? Pretty sure I am way healthier already. And now feeling more able to justify the not so healthy choices, note the crock pot mac ‘n’ cheese I just had to make the other night (hey, I did sub some of the pasta with cauliflower so not all bad), but it’s all about balance right?

Now the part I don’t like about juicing is all the unused fruit and veg ‘mulch’. On the plus side my composting is going to go oh so much faster (making for a happy healthy garden). But if this excess mulch continues to bug me I suppose I will have to upgrade to a spendy VitaMix (that whirls and uses the whole fruit/veg) but being I “gruponed” (is that a verb yet?)for $40 bucks, composting it is. But can I use some of this scrap/mulch to make stock? Seriously, I am putting it out there and looking for some feedback.

Personally, I am digging ginger and lemon, or lime, in all my juice combos thus far. A little tip about the citrus — unlike most of the other fruit and veg where you can throw the whole thing into the juicer, I would suggest removing the peel off the citrus. Citrus rind (and it’s oils) maybe great for some dishes, and does wonders for a perfect martini, but for juice? Not so much. The peel, and it’s oil, will just make your juice too bitter, and not in a good way.

A quick web search, or a visit to Dr. Oz’s website, are a good start to great juice combos, but don’t feel obligated to following a ‘recipe’, just start experimenting with some favorite, and maybe not so favorite but feel you need to consume, fruit and veg.  Here is a juice combo that has turned into go-to for me.

3 extra large Carrots
1 small Pineapple
6 stalks of Celery
1 inch knob of Ginger
1/2 Lemon
1 Apple

So this is what virtue tastes like…

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A not so guilty pleasure?

I need me some comfort food. Really? After the over indulgence in the ultimate comfort food meal last week and the endless leftovers? And yes, I can do this in a health way: why  cauliflower of course. Again I can hear you saying ‘what?’ How can this crunchy, slightly sulphurous, and bitter veg be considered a ‘comfort food’? Roasting baby. Suddenly, okay maybe more like in 25 minutes, cauliflower is transformed into sweet and nutty deliciousness. If you were not a fan of this member of the cabbage family before, you will be after a bite of it in it’s roasted state.

Once you go roasted you might further branch out from the raw florets on a crudite platter to a velvety puree or mash, or a creamy soup. But back to that crudite platter for a moment. With such beautiful varieties like the vitamin A packed orange Cheddar, the purple varieties that are full of the antioxidant anthocyanin (see, red wine isn’t the only way to get this antioxidant), and then there is the gorgeous green Romanesco with it’s spiky curd (yeah, the ‘head’ is actually a collection of curds or underdeveloped flowers, go figure), not only will you be loading up on lots of healthy goodness (all are low-cal, high in fiber and high in vitamins C and K), but your platter will be knock out good looking.

Get to the market and look for clean compact heads (oh, I mean curds), that are spot-free and have bright color. Those that are wrapped in lots of fresh green leaves are being kept nice and fresh (and keep those leaves and stem for stock or soups-hello turkey stock!). And size? Doesn’t matter, whatever suits your needs or likes. Store your cauliflower in a plastic or paper bag, stem side down, in the fridge, for up to a week.

Typically I roast my cauliflower in just a bit of olive oil, garlic salt and pepper, but in the interest of keeping my husband healthy, I added some turmeric. Studies have shown that combining turmeric and cauliflower is a terrific way to preserve prostate health, not a lot of prostate cancer in India I am guessing.

Roasted Cauliflower
1 medium to large head of cauliflower
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & cracked black pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons ‘plumped’* golden raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Core and cut cauliflower into 1 inch florets. Toss the cauliflower with olive oil, turmeric, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread the cauliflower evenly, in a single layer, on a baking sheet with sides (jelly roll pan). Roast cauliflower until it is golden and tender, approximately 25 minutes.

*’Plumped’ = raisins soaked in hot water for 10 minutes.

 

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