You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2011.

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I have very fond memories of Pizza Night.  Specifically, I remember the local Greek pizza restaurant we frequented when I was a kid. I’m not talking about the renovated, expanded version that moved in when I was in high school. I’m talking about the small, dark, tv on in the corner variety, complete with booths and a counter seating three.

Take out was fun because I, the awkward 10 year old as tall as most 14 year olds, would always get a wink from one of the two brothers who owned the shop. There was Tony and there was Paul…one of them was the front-of-the-house charmer and the other was always slinging pizzas in the kitchen.

Eat-in was fun because the Greek salad would arrive on a huge white platter with a giant slice of salty feta cheese on top. All of you from big families know what it’s like to be staring down a beautiful platter of food and wondering who’s going to get the first (and biggest) serving. Oh man does my mouth water just thinking about sneaking bites of that feta. A shake of oil and red wine vinegar on top was all it needed. Delish.

Today, pizza has a whole new meaning in our family. My honey runs the local pizza shop, started by his dad over 20 years ago.

“Do you ever get tired of pizza?”, you ask.

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Heck no!  Thin crust, Sicilian, pan pizza, pizza by the slice, New York style, Greek, Italian – and don’t get me started on toppings – who could get tired of pizza?

Sure, everyone is ready to go home at the end of the workday. But Pizza Night is here to stay.

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Last night’s pizza was made from store-bought dough in a seriously-well-seasoned pizza pan from the restaurant, topped with fresh pineapple, crispy turkey bacon, and a blend of cheddar and provolone cheeses.  H’s personally decorated mini cheese pizza was made on a lightly oiled piece of foil.  Both were heavily loaded with cheesy goodness this time.  And we like our pizza extra crispy!

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Ever sprouted lentils?

Let’s just say, back in February someone was a little desperate for spring. Lentils, water, shallow dish, done! 

Sprouted lentils are also one of the Haft Sin, seven traditional items served at the table in celebration of Nowruz (the Persian New Year or first day of spring).

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In just a few days, hope was alive for a future with some green in it.  Several weeks later, we have this beautiful bounty on our window sill.

Yesterday, I actually saw lentil sprouts in the produce section of our local grocery store…four ounces for four dollars.  They were about 3-5 days into the sprouting process (no green yet in sight). 

A new family tradition has sprung – happy spring!

A month or so ago I tried scallion pancakes for the first time (while on a day trip for work).  Suffice it to say that lunch with colleagues was the highlight.  They were DELICIOUS.  Crispy on the outside, chewy and layered on the inside…how did they DO that?

A few weeks later, the fabulous Dining Divas set a date for a long-overdue potluck gathering with a theme, as luck would have it, of Dim Sum. And worlds collide…

So I started searching. I found several great recipes from The Cooking of Joy (a great blog that sadly seems to have been abandoned), Ming Tsai, and The Kitchn, as well as a few how-to videos on YouTube.

In the end, I combined several recipes into one. They are best eaten right away but I also reheated them for the Dining Divas in a pan with a little oil and the whole platter disappeared! 

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1 large bunch scallions, thinly sliced
Salt
Vegetable oil for cooking

Technique

Slowly add the water to the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon until it starts to come together. Knead with your hands, adding more water as needed until the dough forms a nice smooth ball. Brush the dough ball with oil, place in a bowl, and cover with cling wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (I did the first batch overnight and then decided to do a second batch at the last minute…I couldn’t tell the difference).

Knead the dough for a minute or two and then let rest for another 30 minutes, if you have time.

Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Cover the ones you aren’t using right away so they don’t dry out.

Roll out one ball of dough until it is super thin…you can almost see through it! It’s really amazing how resilient this simple dough is. I used the back of a jelly roll pan, very lightly oiled.

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Brush the dough lightly with oil, then sprinkle with salt and scallions (try one first and see how it goes…my first one was too salty so I adjusted the others). Starting on the long edge, roll the dough into a log.

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Cut the log into two shorter logs.

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Take one piece and twist it a few times, then coil it up. Flatten it slightly with your hand, then let it rest for a few minutes while you do the others. Roll each one into a pancake, about 1/4″ thick. Some scallions might poke through, but that’s okay!

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Put about a tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat. The oil should be shimmery and it will sizzle when you put the pancake in. When you cook the first side, you’ll start to see the dough turn a little bit transparent after 3-5 minutes…almost a light grey color. It will be nice and brown on the bottom…then flip it and cook for another 2-3 minutes on the second side.

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Cut into wedges and serve right away with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce
Adapted from Ming Tsai’s Ginger Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup sliced scallions
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sugar

Combine ingredients and dip!

If only I had discovered the glory of Gourmet magazine a little bit sooner. But, no. I had to subscribe precisely nine months before Conde Nast decided to pull the plug. The inequity!

Two consolations followed.

First, a subscription to Bon Appetit arrived in place of the last few issues of my Gourmet subscription. Pretty and entertaining but, let’s face it, just not the same.

Second, Rob’s dad bought himself an iPad, which I borrowed for just enough time to discover the Gourmet Live app…another less than equal publication, but a substitute nonetheless.

This next recipe comes from the latest issue of Gourmet Live (whose content still expires despite having a paid subscription – robbed, I tell you! – but, I digress).

It’s pretty quick, it’s definitely easy, and it is wholly satisfying in the my-body-is-thanking-me-for-this kind of way.

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I actually took this photo the next morning while packing leftovers for Grandpa’s lunch…not quite as vibrant looking as the night before, but you get the idea!  It was amazing to see such rich colors become muted during the cooking process.

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Curried Red Lentil Stew

Serve with basmati rice (and plain yogurt if you wish, though it is quite saucy on its own)

Ingredients

6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 2×1″ piece peeled ginger, quartered
5 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
5 cups water (plus a little extra)
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
3/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 cup red lentils (they really look orange)
3 medium carrots, quartered and chopped roughly
3 cups chopped trimmed spinach (we used 3 oz. frozen)
1 cup frozen peas (we were all out so we left them out!)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes

Accompaniments

Steamed basmati rice, roasted cauliflower (salt, EVOO, roast at 450 until tender), fresh cilantro, plain yogurt.

Instructions

Heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat in a heavy pot.  Saute onion with a little salt until golden (8-10 minutes).

Puree garlic and ginger with a little water in a spice grinder or food processor until very smooth.  Add to onion and cook until water evaporates and the onion begins to fry a bit in the oil.  Add spices and stir for one minute.  Stir in lentils and 5 cups water, then simmer covered while stirring occassionally for 30 minutes.  Add carrots and remaining salt and simmer another 15-20 minutes, covered.

Stir in spinach and peas and cook another 3 minutes, uncovered.  Stir in cilantro, salt and pepper to taste.  Add a little water if needed to achieve desired consistency.

Heat remaining 2 tbsp. oil in a small saute pan until shimmering.  Add cumin seed and pepper flakes and fry for one minute, then add this mixture to the stew before serving.

After watching many Cook’s Illustrated test recipes come and go from my email inbox, I finally received one that interested me enough to give it a try. I have mixed feelings about the experience, but judging by how quickly these ginger snaps disappeared, I’d say it was a success.

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The recipe called for lightly browned butter with spices added to bring out their flavor. And flavor they do have!

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A little thicker and darker than I would like, but perhaps that’s a problem with our oven temperature…note to self: pickup an oven thermometer for future accuracy.

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Ginger Snaps

2 ½ cups (12 ½ ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½  teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups packed (8 ¾ ounces) dark brown sugar
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Pinch cayenne
1 large egg, plus 1 large yolk
½ cup granulated sugar
 
Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in bowl.

Place brown sugar, molasses, and fresh ginger in second bowl.

Heat butter in 10-inch skillet over medium heat until melted. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to cook, swirling pan frequently, until foaming subsides and butter is just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and cayenne. Cool slightly, about 2 minutes.

Add butter mixture to bowl with brown sugar and whisk to combine. Add egg and egg yolk add whisk to combine. Add flour mixture and stir until just combined (use a wooden spoon and be prepared to work for it!). Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to two days, or frozen for up to a month.)

Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place granulated sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate. Divide dough into heaping teaspoon portions; roll dough into balls about the size of small walnuts. Working in batches of 10, roll balls in sugar to coat. Evenly space dough balls on prepared baking sheets, 20 dough balls per sheet.

Place one sheet on upper rack and bake for 15 minutes. Transfer partially baked top sheet to lower rack, rotating 180 degrees, and place second sheet of cookies on upper rack. Continue to bake until lower tray of cookies just begin to darken around edges, 10 to 12 minutes longer. Remove lower sheet of cookies and shift upper sheet to lower rack and continue to bake until beginning to darken around edges, 15 to 17 minutes. Slide baked cookies, still on parchment, to wire rack and cool completely. Cool baking sheets slightly and repeat step 3 with remaining dough balls.

(Note: After reading this through again, I just realized that I completed messed this last part up – I put both sheets in then rotated and swapped them after 15 minutes…much less complicated but could account for the very dark edges on half of my cookies.  I guess I just have to try again!).