Tag Archives: cheese

Spring oven hash

This is what the light looks like in my dining room at dinner time. That is, this is what it looks like since I broke the cheap plastic blinds and can no longer open them. Little slits of light come through the west-facing window and cast magical shadows on dinner plates. I photograph dinner so rarely (What’s the point when it’s usually a not-so-pretty meal eaten in the half-light?) but I couldn’t let this one go.

At first I was disappointed in my pictures of this glorious meal. Who wants to drool over shadowy potatoes and dimly-lit avocado? I guess I do because when I uploaded my pictures the day after taking them I really, really wanted there to be more potatoes and lima beans in my fridge. The memory of how they tasted was still vivid and I could taste the fresh parsley and melty goat cheese just looking at the photographs.

Sometimes things we throw together on a Sunday night just work. Often they don’t but it’s those bullseye dishes that make cooking a worthwhile endeavor for me. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I love the plain, “boring” comfort foods that I make all the time with whatever is lying around too.

Back to the potatoes. I would like to thank Mariquita Farm for including little, red, new potatoes and a grocery bag full of fresh lima beans in my veggie box last week. I’ve never been much of a potato person but when I eat them I prefer the crisp, new potatoes or sweet potatoes baked to the point of caramalization. Yum.

The potatoes and lima beans worked so well with the fresh herbs in this dish and something about this combination of foods roasting in the oven is the perfect transitional spring meal. I served it for dinner but it would make a perfect bed for eggs at breakfast. When I’m combining a lot of different elements for one meal, it’s nice to have at least one of them in the oven. That makes for fewer pans to manage on the stove.

Spring Oven Hash

Ingredients

  • All your potatoes (I had about 10 small, red ones), cut into halves or quarters so that all pieces are about the same size.
  • 1 cup shelled lima beans
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Lightly oil a roasting pan or baking sheet, or use a Silpat
  3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or plastic bag and toss to evenly coat everything with oil+herbs
  4. Spread mixture on baking sheet and place in the oven.
  5. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring 1-2 times part way though.
  6. Remove from oven and stir in parsley. You can serve the hash now or place is back in the turned-off oven to wilt the parsley a bit more.
  7. Serve with goat cheese (or another creamy, flavorful cheese) and maybe an egg or two.
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Filed under CSA, other goodies

The best thing in my oven

Can you guess what it is? Is it a pizza? A flatbread?

I cannot resist watching things bake through the oven door.

The best thing to grace my oven for a long time is Ancient Greco-Roman Pizza with Feta, Honey, and Sesame Seeds from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day. Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François have done it again. They’ve won my heart with bread and filled my home with the smell of baking dough and hot cheese.

The authors handed out their latest book in person at the Foodbuzz blogger festival. I think receiving this treasure trove of baking inspiration was the highlight of the conference for me.

The Ancient Greco-Roman Pizza was the clear choice for my first go at a recipe from Artisan Pizza. I’m a history geek, what can I say. According to Hertzberg and François, this pizza is modeled after the oldest known recorded pizza recipe and uses ingredients the ancient Mediterranean civilizations would have had. The whole spelt dough is wonderful to work with and bakes into a dreamily crispy-chewy crust. I never would have thought to combine feta cheese, honey, and sesame seeds on a pizza but it tastes even better than it sounds, believe me.

This post will join in the World Wide Pizza Party on Twitter tomorrow. Join in by baking a pizza from Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day and tweeting about it using the hashtag #PizzaPartyIn5.

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Filed under Bread

Sweet Pumpkin Pickles

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Who cares about candy. I want pickles!

I am often guilty of foisting my tastes on other people. When it comes to gifts, I forget that I can only shop for my mom by picking out things that I like. With food, I rant and rave about ingredients I love before pausing to ask if my audience shares my enthusiasm for such things. What? You say you don’t like goat cheese? You can’t stand spicy food? You won’t touch oat bran with a ten-foot pole?
I’m afraid my food obsessions made their way into the birthday gift I gave my aunt this past weekend. I thought what what to get her all month, waffling between making something and buying something. Eventually I settled on homemade jams and jellies. I picked out a couple of jars that I already had but I wanted to make one more thing. A canning recipe had been high on my to-make list for weeks and this was the perfect time to try it. Who wouldn’t want pumpkin pickles for their birthday?

Ummm, probably a lot of people. I considered the possibility that my aunt might not share my love for unusual pickles and all things pumpkin. The recipe won, though. I had to make it and once I had, I had to share the delicious thing I’d discovered.

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I don’t really know what my aunt thought of the squat pint jar of deep-orange pumpkin cubes when she pulled it out of the gift bag. I think she guessed that it was cheese. She thanked me for the homemade jams and pickles and I do think they were the right gift. I can’t help but wonder when she will open the jar of pickles and breathe that sweet, spicy hit of vinegar.

I know when I opened one of my remaining jars, that sweet scent brought the sights, smells, and sounds of fall to mind. Cinnamon, allspice, and cloves tickled memories of Halloweens past when everything was orange, black, and ghostly white. I tasted gingerbread, felt the custard of pumpkin pie on my tongue, and saw my mom stirring spiced cider on the stove. I heard candy wrappers and crunchy leaves rustle.

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A few hunks of pickled pumpkin went into a green salad for my lunch today. Another went straight to my mouth or a taste test and I was blown away. The pickling process seemed too simple and quick to have produced something so delicious. If my first bite of pickle was an explosion of fall flavor, then every bite of salad was a complete fall extravaganza in my mouth. All I can say is make these pickles and then make some version of this salad – at least something including the pickles, pears, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds. I don’t want to be the only one out here enjoying sweet pumpkin pickles this fall!

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Sweet Pumpkin Pickles
From Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Makes about 6 pint (500 ml) jars

2 cinnamon sticks
12 whole allspice
10 whole cloves
1 lemon
6 cups (1.5 L) granulated sugar
4 cups (1 L) white vinegar
24 cups (6 L) seeded peeled pie pumpkin or butternut squash (3/4 in cubes)

  1. Prepare canner(large pot that will hold all your jars covered with water), jars, and lids. (heat the water and sanitize jars if you are reusing them. Then place jars in warm oven)

Place cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cloves in a small cheesecloth sack or tea ball
Zest lemon into a large saucepan that you will use to cook the pickles. Remove lemon segments from the white pith and surrounding membrane, discarding the membrane and pith (like you would grapefruit). Coarsely chop the remaining pulp. Add this and any juice from the lemon to the saucepan as well.
Add sugar, vinegar, and the spice bag to the lemon rind, pulp, and juice in the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Cover, reduce heat, and boil gently for 10 minutes.
Add pumpkin cubes, return to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes (till heated through). Discard spice bag.
Pack hot pumpkin into hot jars with a generous 1/2 inch (1 cm) of headspace.
Ladle hot syrup into jar to cover pumpkin, maintaining 1/2 and inch of headspace.
Remove air bubbles if necessary.
Wipe jar rim, center lid on jar, and screw band on until resistance is met, then tighten to fingertip-tight.
Place jars in canner, making sure they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 20 minutes. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars.
Leave jars out to cool before storing. The center of each lid should be suctioned down so they don’t “pop” when you press on the lid.

For more information on canning, see the USDA Complete Guide to Home Preserving. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is also a great instructional and recipe resource.

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Chez Panisse Calzone (Recipe File Project #3)

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My new special celebration dinner: I just found out that I got an internship at a museum!

Lee laughed when I told him what this recipe calls for. “ Three kinds of cheese and prosciutto.” I said. I should have known he’d find that funny. You see, Lee doesn’t eat cheese and I don’t eat meat. Why did I choose to make a recipe from my grandmother’s file that calls for both?

1) I wanted to make something savory rather than sweet.
2) The calzones sounded delicious
3) How could I resist Alice Waters?
4) I thought I could easily adapt the recipe to our diets while remaining faithful to it’s flavors.

See, I’m not so crazy. I also think I succeeded in accomplishing #4, although it took some thought. I replaced most of the cheese with chopped, roasted cauliflower, adding some veggie cheese to the filling for Lee’s calzone and goat’s milk ricotta salata to mine. The cauliflower made up the bulk of the filling and it’s earthy flavor blended beautifully with all the fresh herbs called for in the original recipe. I guess you could say I replaced the prosciutto with roasted red peppers, mostly for color.

As a baker, the crust was definitely the most exciting part of this recipe for me. I resisted the temptation to mess with it, using all-purpose flour as called for rather than substituting some whole wheat pastry for some of it. The dough began with a rye flour sponge, a technique I’ve never used for pizza crust before. The dough was so, so silky and light! It was incredibly easy to worth with and crisped up beautifully around the calzone filling. Best of all, it did not tear on the chunk cauliflower as I feared it might. This could become my go-to pizza crust!

I made two calzones – or calzoni, as Water’s calls them – a slightly larger one for Lee and smaller one for myself. They were perfect for a special dinner without making us feel stuffed. I’m sure the cheese-filled originals would be outstandingly delicious and much richer.

Why did my grandmother tear this recipe out of The Denver Post’s Sunday Empire magazine? My guess is that she was drawn to the novelty of calzones and the renowned Alice Waters of Chez Panisse, a restaurant she visited in Berkeley while my dad was at school there in the 70’s. Helen liked to make new and different things and these would have been right up her ally.

I wonder if she ever made them, or if the clipping sat in her file all these years without her getting a taste of Chez Panisse Calzone?

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Chez Panisse Calzone
from Pasta, Pizza & Calzones by Alice Waters, reprinted in The Denver Post Sunday Empire magazine

(Filling)
2 oz fresh California goat cheese, crumbled
2 oz French goat cheese, such as Bucheron or Lezay, crumbled
7 oz mozzarella, grated
2 slices prosciutto, cut about twice as thick as you would for a sandwich or salad, then into a julienne
2 tablespoons fresh, finely cut chives
2 tablespoons fresh, minced parsley
1 sprig fresh thyme, chopped
1 sprig fresh marjoram, chopped
2 small cloves garlic, minced
Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

Blend all ingredients together in a large bowl.

(Dough)
Lukewarm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup rye flour
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Make a sponge by mixing together 1/4 cup lukewarm water, yeast, and rye flour. Let it rise 20-30 minutes.
With a wooden spoon, mix together 1/2 cup lukewarm water, milk, olive oil, salt, and all-purpose flour. Add to sponge.
Knead dough on a floured board, adding flour to the board as needed but no more than necessary.
The dough will be light and a little sticky. A soft, light dough makes a light and very crispy crust.
Knead for 10-15 minutes to develop strength and elasticity.
Put dough in a bowl rubbed with olive oil and oil the surface of the dough to prevent a crust from forming.
Cover with a towel and put in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and let it rise for another 40 minutes.

Place a baking stone, if you have one, in your oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.
On a floured board, roll dough into 1 circle, about 14 inches in diameter, or divide into 2 or 3 circles for small calzoni.
Have the filling ready, at room temperature, and work quickly putting it on half of the dough circle(s).
Moisten the edges with water and fold dough over filling. Fold the dough at the end up onto itself, pinching it together.
Transfer calzones to a heavily floured pizza peel, the back of a baking sheet, or a sheet or parchment paper.
Slide calzones quickly into a preheated, 450 degree oven with a baking stone on a rack close to the bottom.
Bake 15-18 minutes or until brown and crisp.
Remove from oven, brush calzone tops with olive oil, and serve.

My notes and changes: Instead of most of the cheese, I used 1 medium-sized head of cauliflower, roasted at 400 degrees for about half an hour, and then chopped. The soft goat’s milk ricotta salata I used in addition was just what I had on hand and it was delicious! (1/4 cup or so for my calzone) I was able to cut down on the rising times for the dough since I was running short on time. I gave the first rise about 45 minutes and the second 20-30 and it worked fine. You can use a parchment-lined baking sheet if you don’t have a baking stone! (But get a baking stone, it really helps and there are inexpensive ones out there that work fine.)

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