Saturday, March 26, 2011

Out Like a (Really Angry) Lamb?

Hold on a minute. Where in the Sam Hill did Spring go? I swear, last weekend as I was lying in bed moaning a soft warm breeze gently wafted through the room. And of course, now that I'm mostly recuperated, it's back to bleeping cold. It SNOWED Friday. It didn't stick of course, but I reserve the right to be hostile. I'm not unfamiliar with the whole warm up-cool down phenomenon. The year I turned 25 it was 45 degrees on my birthday which falls smack in the middle of June - not exactly ideal for the pool party I had planned. But I no longer live in the frozen tundra that is Boston and I expect my weather to be a bit kinder here. Do you hear that March? Also, if I'm not mistaken the month started with some roaring blustering winds. Where's the damn lamb I was promised?

For anyone who's feeling the cold as much as I am, here's one more wintry recipe to get you through these last chilly days: A nice toasty sausage and cheese calzone. All the oozy goodness of the pizza parlor, none of the leaving the house.

makes 2 calzone

1/3 recipe dough
1/2 lb sausage, casing removed
1 C ricotta
1/4 C Parmiggiano-Reggiano Cheese
pinch of salt and pepper
1/8 t nutmeg
2 cloves garlic
1 C shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat your oven to 475 F. Place the sausage in a warm pan and break it up with a wooden spoon. Cook for 5-7 minutes until crumbly and nicely browned. Remove to a plate covered with a paper towel so that the grease drains off.

In a large bowl, combine the cup of ricotta with the parm, a pinch of salt and pepper and the nutmeg. Then use a microplane and shave the garlic cloves into the mixture. If you don't own one, you can mince the garlic. Mix well. Then add in the sausage bits and again mix well.

Divide the dough in half. Roll out each piece in a circle, roughly 8" round. Spread half of the ricotta mixture on top then cover with half of the mozzarella cheese.

Fold the top down over the bottom to form a semicircle, then fold and twist the edges to seal.
Repeat with the second circle of dough. Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on a baking sheet and place the calzone on the sheet.
You can brush with olive oil if you like, or just pop in the oven. Bake at 475 for 10-12 minutes, until nicely browned. The crust should be hard and the middle should be deliciously gooey.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Close Are We?

People. Are we close enough yet that I can just post this recipe with no story? I'd like to think we are. I certainly hope we are anyway, because at this point I feel lucky that I can string two words together much less put together something that is coherent, much less interesting. It's been a long few days, highlighted by 10 hours in the ER and losing 7 pounds. I'm on the mend, but just barely, and of course am being stubborn and delusional about what I can actually do. Not so delusional that I think I can either cook or eat, but delusional enough to think I can just type a bunch of crap up with some pictures and a recipe and call it a blog post. So that's what we've got folks. And I hope at this point we're close enough that you won't mind.


1/3 recipe dough from here (again, make a full recipe, and freeze the other 2 thirds)
1 C frozen artichokes (defrosted)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 t salt (you could start at 1/2 t and then sprinkle more if needed, 1 t was liberal)
1 T olive oil
1/4 C Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1-2 t lemon juice
4 strips bacon
1/2 - 1 C ricotta cheese
sprinkle of cornmeal

Preheat your oven to 475 F.
In a cuisinart like device, whir up the artichokes, garlic cloves, salt and pepper, and parm. If you have a handy-dandy, spot in the top where you can pour liquids whilst it blends, please, add the olive oil this way. Taste. Overcome the urge to find things in your kitchen you can spread it on, so that you'll have some left to put on the pizza crust. Slice the bacon into smallish bits, and cook it in a non-stick pan for about 5 minutes or until delicious and crispy. Roll out the dough. Sprinkle a giant cookie sheet with the cornmeal and then place the rolled out dough on top. Spoon the artichoke deliciousness over the top. Then sprinkle the bacon on top of that. Finally, Add rounded tablespoons of ricotta all over for extra creamy goodness. Pop into the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes (you want cooked crust and warmed toppings).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Barter System

As far as I know there are two types of people in the world. Those who can be bribed with cookies, and those of us who are very relieved to find out cookies will be accepted as a bribe.
At work, this cookie-bribing thing has developed into a whole barter system.

The woman who works next to me is one of those people who has everything you would never think to have, but always somehow need. So far this year I've gone to her for pain medication, a serated knife, tin foil and popsicle sticks. I don't even think to ask anyone else. I know that somewhere in the insane miscellany of her world she will have anything I desire. And she comes cheap. All I do is pay her in cookies, usually just a few, not even a whole batch. (Or at least I haven't asked for anything major enough to warrant a whole batch yet; I'll let you know if I do!)

Just this week I had to ante up. This time it was my NEW! chocolate crinkle cookies.
So just in case you're looking to bribe someone sometime soon...

adapted from William-Sonoma, I was going to try Betty Crocker's recipe but do I have 3 hours? No, I damn well don't.

1 2/3 C flour
1/2 C unsweeted cocoa powder, I used Ghiradelli
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt (I omitted because I use salted butter)
1 stick butter
1 1/2 C sugar + 1/4 - 1/2 C extra for rolling (I'm not a big confectioner's sugar person).
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350F.
Cream together your butter and sugar (I use a stand mixer). In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt(if you're using the salt). Return to your stand mixer and your light and fluffy butter. Now add the eggs, one at a time, mixing in between. Then add your vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix carefully. When everything is incorporated you're ready to roll! I prepared to pans by covering them with silpat but you could just grease them. Then get a small bowl and put in regular sugar (remember I think confectioner's is kind of nasty anyway). Form smallish balls, I did probably about walnut sized balls and place on the baking sheets, leaving some room for spreading. Bake for 8-10 minutes then remove to cool on a wire baking rack.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Home is Where the Bread Is

Two weeks ago, I went to visit one of my dearest friends and her darling daughter. It could not have been more delightful. I gleefully indulged the baby by picking up anything she threw off her jumper and giving it back to her, just to hear her say "uh-oh" when she tossed it back over the side. (You should know that I'm pretty much a "yeah, sorry about that kid" person when it comes to the man overboard game, but "uh-oh" instead of wailing like a banshee goes a long way to melt my cold, cold heart.)

Also, there were delicious foods, including home baked bread. So it broke my heart more than a little to leave them all and come back here. Since there's nothing I can really do about missing the baby, I focused on something more concrete and solvable - the bread. Blessed with a completely unexpected (and frankly unnecessary) snow day, I had a chance to bake up my new favorite bread, James Beard's Basic Homestyle Bread. So good. It's made with milk which just makes it extra delicious in my opinion. Also it bakes up two loaves, which means if I can manage to shove one in the freezer I have a treat for later. I will admit that sometimes I lack the self-control to do this and then Ryan and I eat basically two loaves in 3 days. Shut up.

1. If you'd like to make bread, and you don't own Beard on Bread, you probably should. I stole my mother's copy which she later demanded back despite the fact that she never bakes bread. Fine, I've got my own copy now dammit. Interestingly enough, you can order it for your Kindle, in case you ever wanted to see how well sticky dough covered fingers and an expensive electronic device get along.
2. James Beard spends a lot of time supposing I have things that I do not now, nor will ever have, like caraway seeds and graham flour and empty one pound coffee tins. This recipe requires none of that nonsense.

1 package dry yeast
2 C warm milk (100-115F) - I use my candy thermometer here, because I don't want my yeast to be killed
2 T sugar
1/4 C melted butter (Beard means unsalted but he doesn't tell you that, no, no.)
2 t of salt (Beard wants you to use 1 T, but I found that to be way too salty).
5-6 C all purpose flour

Heat the milk, I use the stove so I can gauge the temperature properly. Once it reaches the proper temperature, add 1/2 C of it to the yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Let it sit (and the yeast proof) while you get the other things ready. Put the rest of the milk, the salt and the melted butter (now that I do in the microwave) in the bowl of your stand mixer. Use a spatula to mix it about. Fit the mixer with your bread hook and start adding the flour, one cup at a time. After each cup, give it a good stir, scraping down the sides with a spatula as needed to make sure the flour part is in with the dough part. Once you've added the third cup of flour, add the yeast mixture. Again, run the mixer for a minute, then continue adding flour a cup at a time. The goal is to get something firmish. While the texture of the bread ends up slightly different in the end depending on how much flour you add, I liked it very well both ways. You'll end up needing between 4 and 5 cups total. Let the mixer to the main work of kneading for you, running it on a fairly high speed for a few minutes until it's holding together well. I usually finish up with a quick hand knead, just to make sure I like the texture. You want your dough to be soft, not sticky and sort of satiny. Put it in a large buttered bowl, cover with a dish towel and set in a warm draft free place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in bulk. I have a gas oven so I pop it in there (ON OFF) for the first rise.

When the dough has risen, punch it down and give it a quick knead. Then slice it in half and shape it for two well buttered loaf pans. I don't own two loaf pans, so I used a casserole dish and a loaf pan (I might even like the round better!) Don't feel sad that it looks too small for the pans, time will take care of this. Again, cover the dough and set it to rise in a warm draft-free place. In 1 1/2 to 2 hours it should look nice and puffy (fine, doubled in bulk). Like so:
If you'd been housing them in your oven, take the out and preheat your oven to 400F. If you hadn't been storing them there, you could start preheating earlier. So, while the oven's warming up, use a sharp knife to slice the loaf pan loaf down the middle and to make and x in the top of the round loaf. Then give the top a little brush over with some milk so it's shiny and browned after baking. You could do the same thing with egg white, but it's too much of a hassle for me.
Bake at 400 F for 40-45 minutes (35 in my super fast oven). The bread is done when it's beautifully golden and sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom. Remove the bread from the pans and try to wait for it to cool before you start eating. This bread is most delicious on the first day, but makes excellent toast so will hold up a bit longer if you are a master of self-control.


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