Thursday, January 24, 2013
I saw a poster once that said “You are what you eat, so I am pizza.” I immediately made secret plans to emblazon that phrase onto a tee shirt because it was maybe the best thing I’ve ever seen on the internet. I LOVE pizza. Not like that makes me unique or special in any way shape or form, but I truly adore it in a major way. Even if I had just eaten Thanksgiving dinner, if someone walked in with a pie, I’d do a slice. Luckily, my husband is almost as equally obsessed and we occasionally toss around the idea of eating only pizza for two weeks straight just to see if we could get sick of it. But then we realize that’s such a silly idea, because the answer is obviously no. No we would not.
In college, I ate enough pizza to kill a weaker woman. It was a) extraordinarily cheap; b) available almost 24 hours a day; c) absolutely everywhere and d) I didn’t really care about a “balanced diet” in those doughy college years. I only supplemented my nutritional intake by occasionally getting chicken rolls (for the protein). You know what these are if you grew up in the New York metropolitan area. If you didn’t and you don’t know what they are, well, I feel deeply sorry for you, because they are really something else. They are essentially just personal sized chicken parm calzones. And by “personal sized”, I mean, at least four adult servings of chicken parm, wrapped in pizza dough, topped with additional mozzarella and served with sauce on the side. The “personal” part of the serving portion was only that I, one single person, would toss back one in a single sitting and then calculate the time until it was acceptable to get another one (usually at least two days, but in some cases, one).
Ah, those gluttonous, glorious, pizza-filled days. I had two girlfriends, Laura and Nicole, who were, unlike me, taken to eating salad a lot and into vegetables. They also went to this place called “the gym” that I think was in a building adjacent to the student auditorium, but I can’t be quite sure because I never saw it with my own eyes. When I ate with these two homies, it was somewhat tougher to get them on the Chicken Roll Express. However, one night, those two gym-going, salad eating geniuses turned me on to one of my favorite discoveries ever: Mike’s Sicilian Salad Pizza. Mike’s made, for the record, the greatest Sicilian style slices I’ve ever had. One single slice would do you good for about 5 hours, they were dense and gigantic and thick and then yet somehow still crisp on the bottom, with the perfect amount of cheese. Mike’s was also located in a pretty dicey section of off campus. On the corner of Webster Avenue and Let’s Murder Some College Idiots Blvd.; fortunately, they delivered.
The Salad Pizza was a giant Sicilian crust, topped with sauce and baked. Then, once crisped to perfection, they tossed a well dressed house salad on top. Just a simple blend of ice berg lettuce, tomatoes, onion and green pepper, with Italian dressing. It was transcendent. Especially if you’re one of those people, like myself, my mother or my sister, who like to use our slices of pizza to pinch and pick up our side salad, combining the two into one perfect bite. This pizza was the premade equivalent of this, all on a make-your-eyes-roll-back-in-your-head chewy thick crust. Obviously it left its mark, since I just wrote one thousand words about it and the last time I had one was 12 years ago. But then again, would you expect any less here?
1 ball pizza dough, or pre-made, store bought shell
1 small can crushed tomatoes
Small head romaine or iceberg lettuce, chopped
White or purple onion, thinly sliced
Feta cheese, crumbled
Red wine vinegar
1 small clove garlic, peeled and left whole (milder flavor) or minced (more potent)
Pinch dried oregano
Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Less a recipe so much as it is an idea, you can feel free to make the Salad Pizza as complicated or simple as you like. I was making this for lunch the other day, which meant I was hungry and in a hurry. I hacked it using a store bought whole wheat crust, and I made the salad more of a Greek with the addition of feta. Next time- and I can assure there will be one- I’m going to make my own dough and try and do a thick Sicilian style crust. Not sure if I will be able to pull it off without having an industrial grade pizza oven (ahem, gift idea!) but I think it will be worth a try.
Lightly brush pizza dough or crust with olive oil. Spread a thin layer of crushed tomatoes on and sprinkle with garlic salt, and a pinch each of oregano and basil (you can use chunky or smooth tomatoes, just make sure to use them raw- that’s how pizza places do it and they know best now don’t they?). Set to bake in the oven, heeding the package instructions if using a premade shell and on the highest heat you can if baking your own dough (like 500). The crust, regardless of which you are using, should bake up in about 10 minutes, maybe 12. While the pizza bakes, assemble your salad. Feel free to use whatever your go-to salad dressing is here. I tossed together a quick Italian-style vinaigrette, combining 1 part red wine vinegar with 2 parts olive oil, salt, pepper, a pinch of dried oregano, a minced clove of garlic and a few spoonfuls of parmesan. I put everything into a jar and shook it like crazy. Once the pizza crust is baked, remove from oven, toss salad on top and devour immediately, with a fork nearby in case you should need assistance.
Thursday, January 17, 2013
I have a tempestuous history with carrots. People that know me well may even be shocked to see a carrot-centered recipe featured here. But when they say to me, “oh right, you don’t like carrots” or the even more extreme “Jess hates carrots” I do defend my stance. It’s not that I don’t like them, you see. It’s just that I don’t prefer them. Like Deniro said in Taxi Driver “It’s not that I don’t like him. It’s just, I think he’s silly.” I think carrots are a little silly. I think it’s silly how every house salad in these United States comes with a pile of sad, dried out julienned carrots a top, mucking up the whole entire thing.
And then there’s the abomination that is baby carrots. Don’t. Get. Me. Started. I mean don’t EVEN get me started. While I hate to rip on something titled “baby” because it feels like borderline bullying, I must say that I think baby carrots are the skeeviest thing out there. To me, they taste like they are washed with bleach and it terrifies me that they have a shelf life longer than some breakfast cereals despite, by all appearances, being a produce item. They are just something I really won’t eat. And trust, there aren’t many things on that list. But to be clear: I wouldn’t go so far as to pick carrots out of a chicken pot pie or anything so particular as that, I just think that they need to be cooked well, treated appropriately and used in dishes where they really belong.
Like this creamy, sweet and smoky Roasted Carrot Hummus, which is exactly the kind of place where they not only belong, but they SING. Like most hearty root vegetables, carrots take well to a high heat roasting in the oven. Then, they get even dreamier when paired with mellow, roasted garlic, smoky Spanish paprika and nutty sesame tahini. This hummus was good out the gate, but I have to admit, I’ve fallen deeper in love with it all week long, using it as a spread on sandwiches and snacking on it by the scoopful with tortilla chips. Packed with antioxidants and rich flavors it is both deeply sweet and perfectly savory. Textured and creamy, this hummus has me feeling like they’re pretty silly alright, but silly in a good way, because it’s stupid good.
SWEET and SMOKY ROASTED CARROT HUMMUS
(altered slightly from this recipe)
1-2 lbs. carrots (about 6 large)- I used yellow and orange “Rainbow” carrots
3 cloves garlic (whole with skin)
¼ cup olive oil, divided (plus more if needed)
1 tsp. ground cumin
¼ cup sesame tahini *
1- 1 ½ tsp. smoked paprika*
Juice and zest from one lemon
A few splashes of milk or half and half (about 2-3 tbs.)
Flaked sea salt, or kosher salt
*You can usually find tahini in the ethnic food section of most grocery stores and certainly in any gourmet grocery store worth its shakes. Smoked paprika can be found in most spice shops and gourmet food stores, but may be difficult to locate in your everyday grocer. If you live in the Boston area I cannot recommend Christina’s in Inman Square, Cambridge enough. They have every spice you could ever want and some salts that you didn’t even know existed and they are SO reasonably priced. Plus, they also own the ice cream shop next door and it is the best ice cream in the state of Massachusetts (yes, even better than Toscanini’s or J.P. Licks).
Heat your oven to 450. Peel and slice carrots into ½ - ¾ inch rounds. No need to get the ruler out, just eyeball it. Drizzle carrots and garlic cloves with olive oil (about 1-2 tbs. here, saving the remainder), salt and pepper generously, and scatter on a baking sheet. Set to roast in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, until carrots are completely tender and a bit caramelized on the bottom; stirring and rotating the pan once during the cook time.
Remove carrots from oven and let cool. Squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins and add garlic and carrots to the bowl of your food processor. Add tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest, cumin, smoked paprika, a big pinch of salt and about half your remaining olive oil to the bowl and puree for at least a minute, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Assess your moisture level and drizzle in a bit more oil and approximately half of your milk or half and half.
Salt and pepper once more and puree again for at least a minute, scraping the sides of the bowl down as needed. Take another peek in and taste. Adjust the seasonings if necessary and add another drizzle of oil and the remainder of your dairy if it’s still too thick for your liking. Then puree again for another solid minute or so. I believe the extra time you take to really wizz the crap out of this stuff in your food processor makes the resulting hummus light and fluffy, with great texture. Don’t be too scared to add even a touch more oil or half and half if you want a thinner end result. I know, it seems like a lot of oil but this recipe makes a large amount of carrot hummus (upwards of two cups) and I do believe the extra moisture helps it come together.
Do ahead: The hummus tastes great day of, but even improves with a day or two in the fridge, so feel free to make it ahead of time. An optional step would be to let it come up to room temperature before serving. Not necessary, but I just like to do that. To serve: scoop into a bowl and drizzle with a touch more of good quality olive oil. Your everyday oil will work here as well, but if you have any fancy ones lying around, hit the hummus with a touch of that, it will be worth it. Dust the top with another pinch of smoked paprika and sea salt. Serve with pita chips (a simple homemade version can be found in this old post), tortilla chips or cut vegetables (but not carrots, ‘cause that would just be weird). Keeps for about a week in the fridge. Yields: about two cups.
Saturday, January 12, 2013
I was speaking with a student at my yoga class Tuesday night and as we exchanged pleasantries and Happy New Years and all that jazz she said to me that she was feeling “super pumped about 2013.” I was excited to hear it because she was the very first person I’ve encountered that was actually greeting the New Year with unbridled enthusiasm and energy, myself included.
It’s not that I have any particular beef with 2013, I mean, we’re just getting to know each other after all. I just haven’t yet taken the year by its collar and roughed it up a bit. Maybe it’s because of the way I welcomed it: on my couch after a delicious dinner, a bottle of red wine and a long day at work. I would have been super pumped; but I was semi unconscious as the clock struck 12. However, when Dorothy came in the other night hyping on 2013, I jumped on board. I just like the idea of saying with complete confidence that yeah, “THIS is the YEAR”. The year that we do “IT”, whatever “it” is. As I said on Tuesday, “Who cares what ‘IT’ is? I say: enthusiasm first, specifics later!”
So THIS is the year that we do it, guys. This is the year that we branch out. This is the year that we maybe do crazy things, like drop coconut milk into our soup and try and cook like we’re from Thailand. I wasn’t super confident about this soup as it came together, but I just kind of rolled forward with the knowledge of what I kind of sort of wanted it to taste like, the fact that I knew a few select spices I wanted to jam in there, and that I kind of wanted a sort of vegetarian soup that was the soup-like equivalent of creamy, savory Massaman curry. The resulting soup was exactly that, only with lots of yummy root veggies and bright yellow hue, thanks to a heaping bit of turmeric. It really exceeded expectations. Dudes, this is totally our year.
COCONUT CURRY SPICED SOUP with
ACORN SQUASH, SWEET POTATO and CHICKPEAS
1 small acorn squash, peeled and diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 one inch knob ginger, peeled and grated
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½-2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk (I used light)
1 heaping teaspoon turmeric
3 cardamom pods, cracked open
2 tablespoons curry powder
½ teaspoon cayenne
Juice from half a lemon or lime (I think lime would be better, but I only had lemon, no big whoop)
Sliced almonds or cashews, chopped and roasted
Farro, rice or cous cous for serving, cooked according to package directions
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until fragrant softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, and ginger, stirring together for another minute. Add spices and stir everything together to coat onion, garlic and ginger in spices. Salt and pepper generously and add the squash and sweet potato, stirring well to coat with spices, adding a drizzle more oil at any point if it seems too dry. Cover with stock, enough to submerge all the vegetables: I used about 2 cups. Bring up to a boil and reduce to a hearty simmer, stir in the coconut milk and let everything simmer until the squash and sweet potatoes are tender (about 15-20 minutes).
Add the chickpeas to the pot along with more salt and pepper. Taste and adjust other seasonings as well. I really like a lot of flavor and my curry powder is not super fresh (i.e. it’s been open for quite some time), so I added another spoonful of that as well as a bit more cayenne, because I like-a the spice. Add the lemon or lime juice and if you’d like a squeeze of Sriracha. Taste and adjust seasonings again if necessary.
Prepare some basmati rice, cous cous or even pearl (sometimes called Israeli) cous cous to serve the soup over. Because I had some in my pantry that I was dying to eat, I used farro. Farro is kind of hard to find. I got mine at an Italian speciality store. If you ever see some grab it. It’s so yummy and cooks much faster than it’s cousin, the wheat berry (which you can readily find at Whole Foods and other health stores). While you prep your grain, toast the almonds in a 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes, until fragrant.
To serve: spoon rice, cous cous or farro into a large bowl. Ladle soup over. Garnish with sliced, roasted almonds and freshly chopped scallions. Serve immediately. (yields: 4 generous servings).
Do ahead: to make this soup ahead of time, follow all steps through adding the lemon/lime juice. When ready to serve: prepare your rice or grains as you reheat soup on the stove top. Stir the citrus juice in just before serving, taste and adjust spices if necessary.
This is one of those soups that takes very well to a day in the fridge. It was tasty right out the gate, but even tastier three hours later at dinner, still tastier the next day reheated for lunch and even tastier still three days later for an afternoon snack. I think the reheating compounds the spices and the nuttiness of the coconut milk.
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Well, well, well…look who finally decided to show her face around here. If it isn’t your very own totally MIA author, the Dickens herself. I feel sort of awkward showing up like this. I didn’t even bring any food. Wait; don’t go….please….while I will admit I am thoroughly unprepared: I am here.
I’m sorry I strayed for so long and now I’m coming around here talking jive and dropping pictures of my cats and Christmas tree as fuzzy and shiny (respectively) distractions. I have no excuse other than the fact that the holidays truly got the best of me and that’s that. I wasn’t even sick- so I don’t have that as an excuse…no, I just was unable to manage my time in order to get my isht together enough to share some deliciousness here. Or even say Merry Christmas- I mean really, I am a jerk and I don’t blame you if you are not speaking to me. Just don’t be too cold for too long, dear. Because I promise the next time I come here I will have food and you will like it.
And so welcome 2013. Happy New Year to you and Happy (belated) Holidays to yours and happy Thursday to me- because today is the first day in almost a month that I’ve had enough time to tap out a few sentences worthy of a post over here (please stretch your sense of “worthy” just to give me a little help, here). 2012 was quite a year and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Posted by Jess at 3:01 PM