How to season a wok

I’m very good at destroying things. It’s true. I’ve had two woks in the past. I followed the directions that came with these inexpensive carbon steel pans. Both times, no matter how well I cared for them, the seasoning came off and I rusted them most of the way through.

I love a good wok. A wok is so deep that you can pile the veggies into it and then crank up the heat and get a good sear on them. I’ve been wok-less for years and it’s been a major frustration.

A few years back, Gourmet did an article on the classic $15 wok. I saved the issue because the owner of the store that was profiled had instructions on how to season a wok and the instructions made so much more sense than the usual stove top method. I bought a wok and then forgot about it. Until today. Today was the day that a wok came back into my life.

I went hunting around the Gourmet website thinking that the instructions would be there, but of course I couldn’t find them so I’ll let you know what I did:

First, gather up what you will need:

A carbon steel wok

Steel wool

Dish soap

Vegetable oil

Paper towels

An old dish towel or wash cloth that you don’t mind damaging

Aluminum foil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Your wok will have some sort of coating on the inside to keep it from rusting. Using some steel wool and dish soap, scrub the inside of the wok thoroughly to clean off this coating. Dry the wok with a dish cloth.

Now look at your wok. Does it have a wood or plastic handle? Plastic? Sorry, these instructions aren’t for you unless you can remove the handle. If you can remove the handle please do so now. If it is a wooden handle and the handle cannot be removed, wrap the handle in a wet dish cloth and wrap the cloth completely in aluminum foil.

Using a paper towel and some vegetable oil. Wipe oil all over the inside and outside of the wok. (If you like the look of the steel you can leave the outside surface unseasoned but I don’t recommend it, an unseasoned bottom was the source of my rust problems with the other woks). Put the wok in the hot oven and allow it to bake for 20 minutes. Make sure your room is well ventilated and run the range fan. This will cause smoke! After 20 minutes, remove the wok and let it cool for at least five minutes or until cool enough to handle. Using an oven mitt, grab the wok by the handle (the wok will be cool, but the handle will still be warm, be careful!) and take it to the sink. Scrub the inside of the wok with the steel wool, using hot water only, no soap. Don’t scrub enough to remove the layer of seasoning, you just want to scratch the surface up a little.

Repeat the oiling, baking cooling and scrubbing three or four more times until the wok is bronze colored. It’s now fully seasoned.

So what did I make with my newly seasoned wok? Tofu and Broccoli Stir fry from the June issue of Eating Well Magazine. Click here for the recipe, the only thing I changed was to double the garlic (I so love garlic!) and substitute honey for the sugar which I recommend. The honey made the sauce sweet but also so very flavorful. This was a delicious and easy recipe that used a lot of pantry items.

If you don’t already have a carbon steel wok, go out and get one! They are very cheap and a great addition to your kitchen. And…now you know how to properly season it! Oh and by the way… never use soap on your wok. A little kosher salt and a sponge are all you need to clean it up and keep it’s non-stick surface in great shape!

The definition of delicious

I don’t know why I haven’t tried quinoa before today. I love whole grains. I try to eat a varied diet. So many people have told me how much they like quinoa. I even bought a bag of it several months ago and then… forgot about it. I decided to try it today and I’m so glad I did.

I knew I had quinoa. I knew I had a can of black beans so I went in search of inspiration. I had to look no further than Epicurious. The recipe for Quinoa with Black Beans and Cilantro looked really tasty. I was ready to go for it and then I noticed that there were over fifty comments in the review section. Most people loved the recipe but each person had a suggestion on how to make it even better. I decided most of these suggestions sounded great so I went ahead and made many, many changes. One accidental change that I’ll recommend is to use Aleppo pepper for part of the chili powder. I ran out of chili powder and improvised. The Aleppo pepper flavor with the feta? Not at all southwestern but very, very great.

When I ate my first bites of this meal in a bowl, the word sumptuous came to my mind. The creaminess of the sheep’s milk feta and avocado was so wonderful against the spiciness and texture of the grains. I don’t often call vegetarian food decadent, but this was certainly over the top!

Southwestern style quinoa

Adapted from Quinoa with Black Beans & Cilantro, Sept 2008 Bon Appétit

This recipe serves 4 -6.

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup quinoa, rinsed, drained*

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp Aleppo pepper (if you can’t find this, substitute a second tsp chili powder).

½ tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp salt

1 ½ cups vegetable stock

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained

1 15-ounce can corn, drained

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Juice of 1 lime

Garnish with:

Chopped cilantro (about a ¼ cup, divided)

Chopped tomato (1 large tomato, divided)

crumbled sheep’s milk feta cheese (around ¼-½ cup divided)

Avocado, cubed (1 avocado, divided)

* To rinse quinoa, pour the grain into a sieve nested in a bowl.  Run water through the grain until the bowl is full of water.  Use a spoon to mix the grains.  Lift the sieve to drain and pour water from the bowl.  The water will look viscous and a little cloudy.  Repeat this process a few more times until the water runs clear.  Quinoa is full of bitter saponins.  Rinsing well will remove the bitterness.

Heat oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and red pepper; sauté 8-10 minutes until the onions begin to brown a little. Add garlic and sauté for another minute. Stir in quinoa, chili powder, Aleppo pepper, cumin, cayenne and salt. Add vegetable stock; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until quinoa is almost tender, about 14 minutes. Add beans, corn and 1/4 cup cilantro; cook uncovered until heated through and liquid is fully absorbed, about 3 minutes. Squeeze lime juice into quinoa and mix well. Transfer to bowls; Top with everything in the garnish list.

A friendly reminder: play with your leftovers

When I was a kid, my Mom would admonish me to eat everything on my plate because there were starving kids in (the third world country of her choice for that week). I’m not sure why parents did that. Kids are a bit selfish and it’s hard to get guilty about a kid you’ve never met in some country you’ve probably never been to. Sometimes I wish I had taken the parenthood route. Why? Because now you can hit ‘em with this one: “Jimmy finish your food! You know that food waste causes global warming and we’re all going to die!!”. Now that should get little Jimmy’s attention!

Anyway, the threat of global destruction isn’t half as personal as what many of us are going through economically right now and wasting food is really wasting money, isn‘t it? I am guilty like all of us of buying food and letting some of it go to waste each week and it makes me sad to toss out perfectly good food especially as we see our grocery bills go up and up. Lately, I’ve been concentrating on finding ways to identify what is hiding in the fridge and I’ve been finding creative ways to make use of it. For instance last week when we weren’t particularly hungry for an actual dinner but we wanted something to munch while watching the Olympics, I made a veggie tray of carrots, celery and radishes (all things I buy for soups and salads and toss out a few of each week as they rot). A quickie guacamole made out of an overripe avocado, lemon juice and salt made a terrific dip. This was healthy and strangely satisfying. That same week I also turned leftover brown rice into sourdough rolls.

A couple of days ago I made the Indian Spiced Salmon from the Muir Glen cookbook that I got with the tomatoes I reviewed. The recipe is a knockout, full of garam masala and sweet from honey. The problem with this recipe is that it makes a lot of sauce since you need to braise a couple of pounds of salmon fillets. We ate a generous amount of the sauce with our four servings of salmon over two days, but when we were done, we had a full two cups of the sauce left over! Organic canned tomatoes are pricey so it seemed like a shame to waste the sauce but I didn’t really want to eat it on pasta due to the garam masala and sweet honey flavors. I saved the sauce anyway (which normally means putting off throwing it away until I find where it got pushed into the back of the fridge two weeks later). I also made a pan of homemade polenta to go with the Tuscan chicken dish we liked so much from the same book. This makes a load of polenta. Such great food but what on earth do you do with the odds and ends and things you are tired of eating?

I was so proud of myself this morning. Having a desire to try an Israeli/North African dish called Shakshouka (tomato sauce poached eggs) for a very long time, but a failure to remember to buy the ingredients, I suddenly realized I could use leftovers to make something similar. Fifteen minutes later we were eating breakfast food good enough to be served in a fine restaurant on leftovers that could have ended up in the trash next week. Here is how simple this meal was:

Mock Shakshouka (tomato poached eggs)

2 cups leftover tomato based sauce of your choice (I used leftovers from this salmon dish)

5 large eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat the sauce over medium high heat until simmering. Crack 5 eggs over the sauce, season with salt and pepper to taste and lower the heat to medium. Cover the pan and cook for 5-8 minutes to the desired doneness (5 minutes for runny yolks, longer if you like a hard poached egg). Serve eggs with a liberal amount of sauce.

Griddled Polenta

6 or more 1” thick slices of homemade or store bought cooked polenta

Olive oil spray

Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat. Spray liberally with olive oil spray. Lay polenta in pan and griddle for 3 – 4 minutes on each side, until browned and slightly crisped.

Wow! That was easy and so delicious. We got an extra high quality meal this week with little more than the effort to imagine what could be done with leftover food. Please, I encourage you to go into your kitchen today and really look hard at what is sitting in your pantry and your refrigerator. A box of macaroni and cheese, a can of tuna and frozen peas could be your next satisfying lunch with the benefit of keeping wasted food out of the trash, money savings and the end of that nasty fast food habit.

You can thank me later.

Time flies

I can’t believe how quickly that past month flew by. About an hour ago it was mid December and I posted about the no knead bread that I made. A few minutes later it was Christmas. A couple of minutes ago we rang in the new year and now it is already mid January. Before I knew it, my blog had started to gather dust. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking. I have! It’s just that I haven’t been cooking anything you haven’t already seen before.

Last week I made a frittata. I don’t know why it’s been so long since I’ve made one except for the fact that eggs give me problems. I’m a little egg impaired. It’s not my fault. The rental house we live in includes a thirty year old stove. It is so old that the burners are warped and some of them are beginning to fail. Also, I need to mention that it is electric instead of gas which poses it’s own set of challenges. I cannot make a decent fried egg in these conditions. Scrambled eggs either work or they don’t depending on how the stars are aligned that day and… I cannot make an omelet at all. Don’t even ask me to try. It is always a disaster. However, with the help of a heavy, well seasoned cast iron pan, a frittata is simple and foolproof. Why? Because I can start it on the craptastic stove and finish things off in the broiler.

To me, frittatas are a wonderful thing. Like quiche, you start with a formula and work from there. A frittata is your choice of seasoned veggies and optional meats, topped with eggs, then topped with your choice of cheese. The combinations are limitless. The other wonderful thing is that a frittata doesn’t have to be a breakfast item. Frittatas work equally as well for lunch as they do for dinner if you put a green salad on the side. Leftover frittata heats well. I had the leftovers of the one I made last week wrapped up burrito style in a whole wheat tortilla. It was scrumptious!

I usually go for veggies – no meat for my frittatas. I just like how clean tasting they are without all of the extra fat. For years I made a spinach and potato frittata. I was stuck in a rut on that one. It was so good, Greek style with a topping of broiled feta cheese. What changed things for me was a food network show where someone broiled zucchini for a frittata. I think I have a new love. Zucchini makes a very light delicious frittata. Last week I did a feta and mozzerella blend for the cheese. I used sharp cheddar and parmesan this week, delish! Go with what you like for the filling and the cheese. You won’t regret it.

Veggie frittata

Loosely adapted from Moosewood restaurant cooks at home

2 medium zucchini

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large red onion, halved and then sliced thinly

2-3 small potatoes cut in half lengthwise and then thinly sliced

2 small garlic cloves, chopped fine

½ tsp each dried dill, oregano and basil

Salt and pepper to taste

4 large eggs, beaten

Up to half a cup grated or crumbled cheese (I used ½ cup cheddar and a couple of tbsp parmesan)

Preheat the broiler. Split the zucchini in half lengthwise and then chop it in half crosswise. Broil for 8 – 10 minutes (turning it over after 5 minutes) or until tender. Cool slightly and then slice half moons. Reserve.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large cast iron or heavy broiler-proof skillet. Add onions and potatoes to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook covered over medium heat, stirring every few minutes or so for eight minutes. The onions should caramelize and the potatoes will brown. A minute or two before the veggies are done, add the garlic and spices.

Stir in the zucchini and top the veggies with the eggs. Swirl the pan a bit to make sure the eggs cover all of the veggies. Lower the heat to low and continue to cook the frittata covered for a another eight minutes. Top the frittata with the cheese. Continue to cook, the frittata, covered for two more minutes. Move the frittata to the broiler. Broil for two more minutes until the eggs are set and the cheese is lightly browned and bubbly. Let the frittata stand for a couple of minutes and then cut into slices to serve. Serves four to six people depending on their self control

Muir Glen Tomatoes: Product Review and a Giveaway!

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by the nice folks at Muir Glen tomatoes. They offered me a free sample of their 2009 Reserve Tomatoes to review on my blog. The nice folks at Muir Glen, are really nice folks: they also offered to let me give away the same nice box of goodies to one of my lucky readers. (I’ll give you more details at the end of this post).

When I was corresponding with the representative from Muir Glen, I tried to appear really casual. You know, really savvy and cool. I let her know that by sending me and my readers freebies, she was not guaranteed a good review! Little did she know  the reality of the situation:  I use their tomatoes every time I cook (so she was almost guaranteed a good review, in fact, I was trembling with anticipation about receiving this kit!). I came across their products years ago and in my opinion, the canned tomatoes are the best on the market. They taste good. They don’t taste like the can they come in. Not only do they have tomatoes of exceptional flavor, but the tomatoes are organic which is important to me. Why? Because not only am I concerned about the pesticide residues in my food and in the environment, but tomatoes have been one of those foods that have been genetically modified quite often in the past. Although there is no proof (yet) that GMO foods are harmful to us, I have a gut feeling that I should avoid them. Certified organic foods cannot contain GMOs. After the box arrived, I started pouring through the materials included in the shipment. I learned that the high quality of the tomatoes has to do with careful handling from the farm to the can. I also learned that these tomatoes are grown in California which for me, makes them a local food (yeah!).

Now, let’s talk about the box I received in the mail. It is gorgeous! You get a wooden crate filled with goodies.

Inside the box is a packet talking about the two cans of Reserve tomatoes included within. There are also two recipe cards. Now… I was promised recipe cards and at first I was a little disappointed because I saw only two recipe cards and I didn’t yet realize what the book underneath these materials was.

It turns out that the book is a gorgeous cookbook, with all of the information about how they grow and package the tomatoes, but…it includes 50 pages of delicious sounding recipes with full color photos of the food. This is a gorgeous book, and in my opinion. it is  worth as much as the tomatoes themselves if not more. After perusing this book, I decided I would use the four cans of tomatoes to make two of the recipes from the book so that you can get an idea of what the recipes are like.

Below the books, nestled away, were the four cans of tomatoes. There were the two cans of reserve tomatoes: Yolo Red diced tomatoes and Brigade whole tomatoes. Also included were Fire Roasted tomatoes and Adobo Seasoned tomatoes.

I used the reserve tomatoes to make Braised Tuscan Chicken with Fennel and White Beans. Upon opening the cans of tomatoes, I took a taste of each. I was disappointed with my choice in recipes for a minute, because the Yolo Red tomatoes where so sweet and delicious, they would have been wonderful used in something fresher such as a bruschetta or in a salsa. (If you win my contest, take note of that). The Brigade tomatoes had good acidity and tasted like they would be perfect for this slow braise. The only surprise I had, happened when I poured the Brigade tomatoes out of the can. If memory serves me right, a 15 oz can of tomatoes usually includes about 5 or 6 tomatoes. When I poured, three perfectly gorgeous round tomatoes popped out of the can. I had to laugh, I guess they didn’t want to smash them, so they only include enough tomatoes to not get smashed in transit. Luckily, the can of diced Yolo Reds where packed full, making it so that I had plenty of tomatoes for the recipe. The braised chicken came out delicious. The sauce begged for bread to sop it up and was loaded with chunks of vegetables and beans and a hint of herbs, the tomato flavor was outstanding. The chicken was falling off the bone tender. I’ll be making this chicken dish again!

The next day, anxious to taste the Adobo seasoned tomatoes, I decided to make the vegetarian chili recipe. I tasted the tomatoes upon opening the cans. The fire roasted tomatoes are familiar to me. They have a good roasted tomato flavor with a hint of smoke from the charred tomato skins you see floating among the diced tomatoes. I tasted the Adobo Seasoned tomatoes. The flavor was strange and familiar at the same time. I had to taste again before I realized that it is a light version of the super hot adobo sauce you find in a can of chipotle with adobo sauce. It is like they added just a hint of chipotle to their tomatoes. I had a really good feeling about cooking with these!! The chili turned out to be a smash hit. I followed the recipe exactly, using the prescribed amount of jalapeno and chili powder even though I knew that half my tomatoes had a good kick already. The chili came out spicy with a hint of that good chipotle flavor. It was wonderful. I’ll be looking for the Adobo Spiced tomatoes at my grocery store, I can think of many recipes that would be improved by using them.

So… you are probably wondering how you can get a box of these tomatoes and recipes for yourself.  Please leave a comment on my blog between now and Monday December 7th. I’ll hold a random drawing and one lucky Delectable Tidbits reader will receive a Reserve kit from Muir Glen.  Unfortunately, Muir Glen can only ship the reserve kit to people in the U.S., Sorry.

If you are not the winner, you can still get a Reserve kit. Muir Glen has these Reserve kits available for $7.00 at this link. By my calculation, that price barely covers the cost of the tomatoes much less the shipping and you get a crate to recycle for storing CDs and the cookbook and… Muir Glen will donate money to the charity Chefs Collaborative each time we buy a reserve kit. They are donating $2 for every Reserve kit they sell and $1 for each person who becomes a fan on their Facebook page (My friend Kevin is laughing at me right now because I am anti-Facebook, but hey, it’s for a good cause! So stop laughing Kevin!)

So, all of my friends and lurkers, leave me a comment.  Good luck everyone!!

I’ll share a little secret with you…

TurkeyBreast

It’s easy to make turkey at home and it is a thousand times better than anything you can buy at the supermarket, the deli or a restaurant. Making a half turkey breast at home is a little time consuming but it is simple. When you are done, you will have the most sublime meat ready to use for sandwiches, pastas, salads… whatever your imagination desires.

Unless it is the day after Thanksgiving, most people only consume processed turkey. Even the meat served at many restaurants identified on the menu as fresh roasted turkey is probably a little processed. It doesn’t taste the same as a fresh unprocessed bird, so I am assuming they cook a boneless turkey breast. A boneless turkey breast would also be easier for their kitchens to deal with. Here are the ingredients on a popular brand of boneless turkey breast. Not too bad, but do you really need all of the salt, sugar and additives? I don’t think you do.

The following recipe can be doubled to make a full breast but since we are a small household, I usually buy a half breast which weighs on average between two and three pounds. You will purchase a bone in, skin on breast. Like chicken breasts, having the bone in and the skin on contributes fat and flavor, giving you moist flavorful meat after the slow roasting. This recipe makes enough meat so that you will have your fill of sandwiches but you can also make a turkey tetrazzini (this one is delicious), and even a salad or two. In my opinion this is a good value for such an easy task!

Now that you know my secret, I don’t want to see you buying processed turkey meat anymore! Do you hear me? Get into that kitchen and make something delicious and healthy for yourself!

Following is the recipe for my turkey breast with soy sauce au jus. I use the au jus to make a Scotch or Jack Daniels spiked pan gravy. As a bonus, the recipe for the gravy will follow (see how much I love you? Two secrets for the price of one!). A wonderful comfort food dinner I like to make is toasted whole wheat bread, topped with roasted turkey and then smothered with the alcohol spiked gravy. Serve with steamed veggies on the side to help sop up any extra gravy. Soooooo delicious!

Turkey breast with soy sauce au jus

½ all natural or organic bone in, skin on turkey breast (approx. 2 – 3 pounds)

Juice of one small lemon or ½ large lemon

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

Freshly ground black pepper

2 ½ cups water

5 – 6 tbsp soy sauce or tamari sauce or Bragg liquid aminos

3 -5 whole cloves garlic, peeled

½ onion, quartered

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Meanwhile, place the turkey in an 8” x 8” pan. I use a square Pyrex dish, but any pan than fits the turkey breast fairly snugly will do. Squeeze the lemon over the top of the breast. Sprinkle with onion powder, garlic powder and a generous amount of fresh ground black pepper. Do not salt the turkey, we’ll be using a generous amount of soy sauce in the pan juices which we’ll use to baste the turkey. This will be plenty of salt! Arrange the garlic and onions around the turkey breast. Pour the water into the pan. Add the soy sauce into the water.

Decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Place the turkey breast in the oven and roast the breast for 45 minutes per pound. Let the meat cook for about a half an hour and then baste the meat with the pan juices every 15 to 20 minutes until the meat is cooked. A meat thermometer should read 170 degrees when poked into the thickest part of the meat. Check the meat near the end of the cooking time in case your oven runs hot.

After removing the roast from the oven, let the meat cool for at least five to ten minutes before cutting into it. This will ensure that the meat will slice evenly instead of crumbling.

The sliced meat can be dipped in the au jus as you slice it for very moist flavorful meat. The au jus can also be served on the side for dipping or use it all up to make the following gravy.

I started making this gravy using a fine single malt scotch. The scotch gives the gravy a nice smoky flavor. One day when I ran out of scotch, I used Jack Daniels whiskey instead. The whiskey gives the gravy more of a sweet flavor than the scotch but both are delicious in their own way.

Scotch spiked turkey gravy

All of the au jus from the above turkey recipe

1 – 3 tbsp unbleached white flour

2 – 3 splashes (too taste) single malt scotch or Jack Daniels whiskey

Transfer the au jus to a small sauce pan. If it is cold, warm the au jus up to a simmer, if it is fresh out of the oven, keep it heated on low. Whisk one tablespoon of flour into the au jus at a time until it just begins to thicken (depending on how much au jus you have you may not need all three tablespoons of flour). Continue to cook over low heat until thickened. Add a splash of scotch or whiskey at a time, tasting the gravy as you go until it reaches the consistency and flavor you like. Remove the gravy from the heat and use on the roasted turkey or for other goodies such as baked potatoes or biscuits.

Why don’t I feed myself?

HamPasta1

Lately I’ve been like an addict on a bender. Appearances are fine. To the outside world it looks like things go according to plan. The reality is that I have been like a ravenous maw consuming all in my many paths and nothing on the path I should tread.

There sits my kitchen. For the past couple of weeks I have been letting myself be lured by the siren sounds of other kitchens. Any excuse to eat at a restaurant and I’d jump out the door purse in hand. A shopping trip to get groceries revealed that putting those wholesome items away was a challenging obstacle course of takeout containers and plastic bags. I need it to stop.

I know how to cook. I really do. A cabinet in my pantry is full of cookbooks for guidance and inspiration. I read food magazines and cooking blogs like they are novels and short stories. I have a kitchen of drawers and cabinets full of pots, pans, utensils, gadgets and knick knacks. So why don’t I feed myself? I really don’t know.

Force myself to go in there. Into that room of food laid to waste. Odds and ends. Bits and pieces. Force myself to page through the books, see what is on the page, see what is in the drawers, on the shelves, on my mind.

HamPasta2

A trip to the yard for herbs. A grab in a drawer for a gadget. The cool feel of stainless steel in my hand. Oh so many questions: why is there always a bag of pasta with just an ounce or two of pasta missing? Why are there five mushrooms rolling around in the bottom of the crisper like orphans in a crowd? Is the sour cream off? What… is… that…

HamPasta3

I am not a drinker, yet I have bottles and bottles of alcohol. I try so hard to eat a healthy diet, yet there is always butter and cheese. Always, there are piles of vegetables and fruits neglected and sometimes scary lurking in the darker recesses. Sometimes there are treats such as black forest ham or cured olives reserved for tasting but living in that hazy place between snack and alchemy. Such a wealth. So ignored. For what? The new pasta place that served us mediocre food? The brewpub with the cabbage we suspect of making us ill? The breakfast place with the food that tastes of greasy meals past. It’s criminal. It needs to stop.

It stops here.

HamPasta4

Penne with Black forest ham and vegetables primavera

12 oz penne

Broccoli florets trimmed from two stalks

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp unsalted butter

5-6 mushrooms sliced

2 cloves garlic, diced

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 lemon, zested and halved to be squeezed for juice

1 medium zucchini, chopped

½ red bell pepper, diced

6 oz black forest ham, chopped

½ cup dry vermouth

1 cup low fat milk

½ cup reduced fat sour cream

1 -2 tbsp freshly grated parmesano reggiano, plus more for garnish

Freshly ground black pepper for garnish

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add penne and cook approx. 8 minutes until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander, return the pasta to the pot and set aside.

Steam broccoli for three minutes until just softened. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and butter. Heat until butter melts and foaming subsides. Add mushrooms and garlic. Cook for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms begin to soften. Add rosemary, lemon zest, zucchini and red peppers. Continue cooking until the veggies begin to soften. Add ham and broccoli. Cook for a minute or two until the ham begins to shrink a bit. Add vermouth. Continue to cook for a minute or two until the liquid begins to evaporate. Add milk and sour cream. Stir until the sour cream becomes smooth and incorporates itself into the sauce. Be careful with the heat at this point because you don’t want the dairy to curdle. If your stove is running hot, lower the heat a bit so that it is just at a simmer. Squeeze about a teaspoon of juice into the sauce from a lemon half. Toss in the parmesan.

Remove the sprig of rosemary from the sauce and pour the sauce over the pasta. Return the pot to the heat. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes until the sauce coats the pasta and thickens a bit. Serve with extra parmesan and a little fresh ground pepper.

More 2 for 1 Pizza Madness

2or1pizzabanner
I think I have mentioned it before but I am in love, simply in love with pizza. From the time I first tasted pizza as a tiny child it has been one of my all time favorite foods. I have eaten all sorts of pizza and this week I thought I would do my take on two gourmet restaurant favorites. Barbeque chicken pizza and a ham and fig pizza.

Before we get started, I just want to give a word of encouragement for anyone who has come to today’s post interested in pizza but intimidated by making a sourdough pizza crust. Although I think this is hands down the best pizza crust, you don’t have to go there if you don’t want to. If you bake bread and have a good recipe for a white or whole grain loaf, you can flatten that into pizza crust. Before I dabbled in sourdough, I used to make a whole grain dough in my bread machine and use it for pizza. Very simple! You don’t bake bread? If you have a Trader Joes, they sell a fabulous fresh pizza dough for pennies. Most well stocked groceries have frozen pizza dough. Better yet, there are precooked crusts such as Boboli. Pita breads, lavash breads, naan or even flour tortillas (just be frugal on toppings) can all be toasted lightly and then baked as pizza crust. But if you are with me on making the best crust, read on…

After looking back at my previous blog posts (Chicken Basil Sausage Pizza and the last 2 for 1 post about Salmon and Beet Greens Pizza and Canadian Bacon and Pineapple Pizza), I realized that my crust has slightly changed. Here is the current instructions for the crust which I am now rolling on the edges. A slight roll gives the crust a bready edge. If you just roll the crust flat, it will be more cracker-like which is also quite tasty.

Multi grain pizza crust for two pizzas:

1 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)

3/4 cup sourdough starter

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 cups unbleached white flour

1 cup stone ground whole wheat flour

1/3 cup rye flour

2 teaspoons salt

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

Cornmeal for dusting peel

Mix first 3 crust ingredients in bowl of heavy-duty mixer. Add 2 cups unbleached white flour; stir to blend. Cover bowl with a kitchen towel. Let the sponge ferment in a warm draft-free area for about 1 1/2 hours.

Using a dough hook, mix in the stone ground whole-wheat flour, rye flour and salt at lowest setting. Increase speed slightly; knead dough 5 minutes, adding more whole wheat flour by the tablespoonfuls if the dough sticks to sides of bowl. Let dough rest 15 minutes. Knead on low 5 minutes. Scrape dough from the hook into the bowl. Remove bowl from stand. Coat a rubber spatula with nonstick spray. Slide spatula under and around dough, coating dough lightly. Cover bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise until doubled in volume, about 1-2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Flatten the dough into a rectangle and then fold it like you are folding a letter (be careful not to press too hard and deflate the dough). Divide in half. Roll each half of the dough into a ¼” thick round and transfer each round to a pizza peel or baking sheet coated in cornmeal. Roll the edges over once to create a crust. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise for at least a half hour.

An hour before making pizza, place a baking stone in your oven and preheat to 450°F.

Top the crusts with the toppings of your choice.

Bake pizza one at a time for 13 minutes each. Cool for a couple of minutes before cutting into slices.

And now for the ingredients we used this week. The lists below are in order of how they should be added to the pies:

Barbeque chicken pizza

BBQChickenPizza

This pizza is the best use for the small amount of leftovers from a homemade roasted chicken or a store bought rotisserie chicken. I removed the meat from a leftover leg and the carcass of our leftover chicken. I got around a cup or slightly more of meat which I chopped and then marinated in barbeque sauce. Both pizzas were delicious but we loved this one the best with it’s south of the border flavors. Top the pizza in this order:

Muir Glen cabernet marinara or your favorite pasta sauce (approx. 4 tbsp or more)

Chopped cilantro

4 oz mozzarella

2 oz Quattro Fromaggio four cheese blend (Italian 4 shredded cheese blend)

2 oz grated sharp white cheddar

Chopped fresh garlic (about a tablespoon)

Sliced zucchini

Red onions, sliced

Thinly sliced heirloom or beefsteak tomato

1-2 fresh jalapenos, dry roasted in a cast iron pan, peeled and diced

Sliced black olives

1 cup or more diced cooked chicken marinated in a couple of tablespoons of barbeque sauce (I used Annie’s smoky maple barbeque sauce)

Black Forest Ham and Fig Pizza

HamFigPizza

 Sautéed greens, earthy mushrooms, black forest ham and figs. It’s like a grown up version of Canadian bacon and pineapple but oh so very much more subtle and delicious!  Top the pizza in this order:

Muir Glen cabernet marinara or your favorite pasta sauce (approx. 4 tbsp or more)

Half a bunch of chard, triple washed, chopped and sautéed with garlic and olive oil

4 oz mozzarella

2 oz Quattro Fromaggio four cheese blend (Italian 4 shredded cheese blend)

Chopped fresh garlic (about a tablespoon)

Sliced red onion

½ cup sliced cremini mushrooms

½ red pepper, diced

Sliced black olives

8-10 fresh mission figs, sliced in half

9-10 deli slices of black forest ham cut in thirds

There you have it. Sophisticated pizzas that are so much better than takeout and cost so much less than takeout pizza. This makes two large pizzas so that you can eat to your heart’s content the night you make them when they are fresh and delicious and you’ll still have leftovers for breakfast (I know I’m not the only one guilty of pizza for breakfast!)

Chili and cornbread are like two peas in pod

Chili

There are some classic meals that become ingrained in your life. Foods that remind you of home. Nourishing. Good.

Years ago I found a recipe. I am pretty sure I got it out of Sunset magazine although I can‘t find it on their website now. No matter. I have made key changes that make it my recipe now. It is a Turkey chili that is made with canned ingredients, comes together in a snap and tastes like it is made from scratch and simmered all day. You can eat it plain out of the pot or garnish it with a choice of many different things. The very best additions enhance the flavors and make them brighter: sharp cheddar, fresh lime juice, cilantro.

The very best thing to round out such a meal in one bowl? Cornbread made with whole grains, not too sweet. Just the clean taste of corn with a hint of honey.

I have made this meal over and over and I never tire of it. I feel good after eating it. It is healthy, low in fat and feels like pure comfort.

ChiliCondiments

Turkey chili

1 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 fresh jalapeno, diced

1 lb. ground turkey breast

3 tbsp chili powder

8 oz diced green chilies

28 oz can whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes or fire roasted whole tomatoes

Two 15 oz cans of red beans (substitute kidney or pintos is unavailable), with juice

½ cup sliced black olives, drained

1/8 tsp ground cloves

Black pepper, to taste

Garnishes: Shredded sharp cheddar, chopped cilantro, lime wedges

Optional garnish: If not making cornbread, top the chili with corn chips

In a 5 quart saucepan, sauté onions and jalapeno over medium heat in olive oil until just softened. Lower heat to medium. Add Turkey. Brown the turkey until well cooked, about 20 minutes. Stir in chili powder and cook for a minute until fragrant. Add green chilies, tomatoes and their juices, beans and their juices, drained olives and cloves. If using whole tomatoes, break them up with a spoon. Simmer for 15 – 20 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve with garnishes.

Cornbread

Whole grain cornbread

Adapted from Williams Sonoma essentials of baking

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

2 large eggs, beaten

2 – 3 tbsp honey

1 1/3 cups buttermilk

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter for greasing skillet

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, combine eggs, honey, buttermilk, and oil. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until well combined.

On the stovetop, heat a 10” cast iron skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet making sure the sides of the skillet get buttered. As soon as the butter is melted, remove the skillet from the heat. Add the batter to the skillet and put the skillet in the oven. Bake the cornbread until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This is usually about 20 minutes for me if it needs more time, add up to 5 more minutes and test again.

An old favorite with a new twist

Sourdough Quiche

If someone were to ask me what my signature dish was, I would probably have to say tomato zucchini quiche. I have been making this dish for years. It has a flaky whole grain butter crust. Sweet tomatoes cooked just until the juices flow. Zucchini sautéed in the pan juices of the tomatoes with herbs. Sharp cheese; it’s a gorgeous creation that I am always happy to serve.
 
Years ago, I wanted to bake a tart out of the Greens cookbook. It was an unusual tart with a yeasted crust. I made it once and soon forgot about it. I didn’t enjoy the crust and longed for my butter pastry. The tart itself was strangely not delicious. I went back to standard quiche and forgot about this little dalliance.
 
I planned to bake with my sourdough this week and nervously realized that it was getting late if I wanted to participate in a fun little weekly blogging event that I have become so hooked on. I knew I would need lunch the next day and started to think about that ill fated yeasted crust of the past. I am a much better cook now than I was years ago and I am now the proud owner of a tasty sourdough starter.
 
Armed the next day with my active starter, Deborah Madison’s updated olive oil yeasted tart dough recipe as my guide and my imagination, I set out to remake my favorite quiche. I wanted a flavorful crust so I added lemon zest and herbs to the dough. After my problems last week with the flaky sourdough rolls, I added the starter on top of the amount of liquid called for in the original recipe. The result was a beautiful silky soft dough flecked with goodies.

I added caramelized onions and fresh herbs to my filling. I have never been able to make my quiche in the 35 minutes called for in most recipes. The tomatoes may be the culprit so I baked the quiche for 55 minutes using a pie crust shield during the last 20 minutes of baking to protect that lovely crust.

The result? Delicious! The crust was moist and herbal under the filling and crunchy at the edges, reminiscent of the sourdough pizza crust I make which has a toothsome quality and a grainy, malted flavor.

The filling was a mélange of different flavors due to the layers of cheese, herbed veggies and custard.

I would like to submit this delicious concoction to this week’s YeastSpotting event on Wild Yeast. Susan usually posts the new submissions by Friday so click here to see what the other talented bakers decided to make this week.

 

Sourdough Quiche Slice

Tomato Zucchini Quiche with a Sourdough Crust
 
Dough:
 
½ cup active sourdough starter
 
½ cup room temperature water

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 egg, beaten

½ tsp salt

1 cup unbleached white flour

¾ cup stone ground whole wheat flour

1 tbsp minced chives

¾ tbsp minced fresh rosemary

½ tsp lemon zest

Filling:

½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup grated parmesano reggiano

1 – 2 tbsp olive oil

5 -6 chives roughly chopped

1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves minced

3-4 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves removed from stems and chopped

Dried basil, to taste

Fresh ground black pepper

¼ red onion, sliced thin

2 small heirloom tomatoes, sliced

1 medium zucchini, julienned

3 eggs beaten

1 cup milk

Paprika for garnishing

Prepare the crust:

In a large bowl, mix together the starter, water, olive oil, egg and salt. Stir in the white and whole wheat flours until combined well. When the dough feels stiff, turn it out onto a lightly floured board. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Use a bench scraper to keep the dough from sticking to the board as you knead. The dough is a little sticky. Form the dough into a smooth round and place it into a greased bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let the dough rise between an hour and an hour and fifteen minutes. Press the dough into an oiled 9 “ pie pan, making sure the sides of the dough are thicker than the bottom and that the dough fills to the top of the pan. Let the dough sit, covered until you are done making the filling.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Filling:

Heat one tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onions and a pinch of rosemary and cook until limp and beginning to caramelize (about 5 -6 minutes). Transfer the onions to a bowl. If the skillet seems dry, add a little more of the olive oil. Add the tomato slices and all the oregano, a pinch of the chives and the remaining rosemary. Cook without stirring until juicy but still firm (about 3 -4 minutes). Stir the tomatoes gently so they don’t break up, but the herbs mix in. Transfer the tomatoes to the bowl of onions, being careful not to transfer much tomato juice. The pan should be full of juices and you may not need to add more oil, add the zucchini, the remaining chives, a sprinkling of dried basil to taste and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook the zucchini until just tender but before it browns. Remove the zucchini from the pan and let it cool a little bit.

Mix the beaten eggs and milk to make your custard.

Assemble quiche:

Put the pie pan on a cookie sheet. This will keep the quiche from dripping all over the oven if it overflows and give you a tray to carry the quiche to the oven. Sprinkle cheddar and then parmesan onto the surface of the crust. Add the veggies on top of the cheese. Pour the custard over the filling. Sprinkle the surface of the custard with sweet paprika. Put the quiche still on the cookie sheet, into the oven where it will bake for 50 -55 minutes. At about 35 minutes, check the quiche. If the crust is looking nice and browned, use a pie crust shield to keep the crust from burning. Ovens vary, so keep checking the quiche every few minutes up to 55 minutes. When the quiche is firm all the way to the middle, it does not jiggle, it is time to remove it from the oven. Let the quiche cool considerably before you dig in. I was too anxious (the quiche was still pretty hot) and if you look closely at my pictures, you can tell the middle of the quiche did not set as well as I would liked it to have. So…. patience, patience!!

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