October 29, 2010

Herblicious Pizza Dough

Who doesn't love pizza night? A couple years ago, we discovered that it's way more fun- not to mention cheap and healthful- to make pizzas at home than to order in. It started out more as an assembly than actual cooking: we bought fresh dough and toppings at Trader Joe's, and could have dinner on the table in 15 minutes. Brilliant. Pizza night quickly became my favorite night. 

But. Trader Joe's broke my heart when they discontinued the Whole-Wheat Garlic Herb crust last year, and we've been making due with sad substitutes ever since. How could I go back to just plain crust after being spoiled for so long?

Turns out, pizza dough really takes very little active prep time to pull together, and zero ingredients that aren't normally already in my kitchen. You do have to plan ahead to give it time to rise, but  it really only takes about 15 minutes of actual attention. Also, it helps to have a boy on hand to clean up the kitchen afterwards.

I'm a huge proponent of the I-cook-you-clean rule.

Cleanup aside, though, this recipe's a cinch. Not counting seasoning (which you can adjust based on what's in your kitchen right this very minute), you're looking at four ingredients. 

This, plus flour and water

Side not: The purple in that herb dish is actually basil. According to the man at the farmer's market, most people use it just as a garnish. And it is lovely: deep, dark purple with green-tipped leaves. However, I live with boys. So at my house, food is usually being consumed before the plate has a chance to touch a single surface. Not a lot of time for garnishing, so I cook with my purple basil.

Combined with a liberal dose of dill, a dash of garlic, and some freshly snipped rosemary, and you end up with a  rich, savory crust that doesn't need a a ton of toppings. I don't know if you're like me, but my tendency is to go a little nuts with the veggies on top. I'm talking roasted garlic, artichoke hearts, back olives, mushrooms and spinach kind of nuts. I'm trying to learn to be more restrained. Keeping the toppings in check leaves you with a pizza that just more                  pizza-y somehow.

October 21, 2010

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

Ah, bright and sunny southern California. Erik and I spent the weekend visiting the fam in San Diego, which was... well, it was gloomy and grey all weekend. SO, the apple-picking fell through, but there was plenty of beer and delicious food to make up for it. Most of it fried and cheesy, just how vacation food should be.

The good thing about dreary, drizzly weekends is that they give you a foolproof excuse for a lazy Sunday morning brunch (essential after a long Saturday night). The snuggly-sweater weather and my cousin's adorable kitchen were the perfect opportunity to try out a quintessential fall breakfast recipe I've been sitting on (not literally): pumpkin pancakes.

No adventures this time around, though, as canned pumpkin is much more readily available in San Diego than in Leesiana. This recipe is quick and easy, ideal for feeding a hungry (hungover) crowd.

Screw you, real pumpkins.

Nope, no adventures, just a hearty, perfectly sweet breakfast, best eaten with friends and family
(Mostly because pancakes don't keep well, so I didn't feel the urge to hide them for later. Other things I prefer to cook alone, so I can ration it out and stash some just for me! See last week's recipe for an example).

Made with whole-wheat flour, these guys are like a normal pancake's outgoing older brother: less light and fluffy, more substantial and bursting with flavor. They're not too heavy, though, and the autumn spices still let the pumpkin shine through. I'm a firm believer that you can tell how delicious something will be by how close everyone stays to the kitchen, and my crowd was parked right in front of the stove. Apparently no one was disappointed, because these things disappeared almost as quickly as they could be flipped from the pan to the plates.

October 11, 2010

Cheesy Onion and Potato Tart

Picture this: I'm at the library to pick up a cookbook written by a local author. The librarian (who has some kind of vaguely British accent, which always makes someone's opinions seem more legit) tells me that she didn't find much she could use from that book, and she recommends this one, instead:

It doesn't have any pictures, so I would normally pass it right by. I guess I'm still a picture book kind of girl.
BUT, if there's one thing librarians know, it's books. So I take it home, look it over, and fall in love a little. It has fairly simple recipes that are chock full of seasonal produce and beautifully-written, appetizing descriptions. Plus, it's based on Italian recipes, so almost every recipe, from breakfast to dessert, involves some kind of cheese. That's my kind of cooking.

I tweaked the onion tart recipe a bit to make it reminiscent of a Spanish tortilla, with the addition of thinly sliced red potatoes. Be careful to keep the heat pretty low as you sauté the onions and potatoes: you want them soft, but not browned or crispy. If they do crisp, though, don't worry. It will still be delicious, just in a different way.

With a touch of sweetness from the onion and the bright flavor of fresh basil, this tart is ooey-gooey comfort food served warm, but it's just as delicious room temperature the next morning. It's substantial and filling but not too heavy, and the richness of the cheeses nudges it into the realm of decadence. Seriously, this is really good stuff. Like, have a piece for dinner, another for breakfast, and hide another to save for lunch good. 

My ricotta involved goats.
Yours doesn't have to.

It's busy-weeknight easy, too. The ingredients come together in a flash, and then you're free to (fill in your chores of choice) while it hangs out in the oven for an hour.

October 4, 2010

Pumpkin Butter and Sweet Potato Wedges

We're finally having a bit of fall weather here. Fall means so many exciting things! Jeans and jackets and not feeling like an obese, asthmatic 90-year-old when I run!

It also means a whole new lineup of delicious ingredients are appropriate. I love berries and tomatoes, but I am ready for a change. I had a couple friends over and went a little nuts with the fall-themed cooking this weekend. I made last week's soup again (sans okra. Erik rebelled against "the weird wheels."). I also fell in love with a butternut squash at the farmer's market, and I got it back home before I realized I didn't know what to do with it.

After consulting the Internet and The Flavor Bible (which is amazing, by the way), I made a baked butternut squash dessert with a layer of crunchy, almost-burned brown sugar on top. Add a dollop of cinnamon-vanilla whipped cream, and you have the perfect fall dessert. Unfortunately, I was in a bit of a rush cooking, so I didn't measure anything or take any pictures. I promise to make it again and get it on here!

Butternut is the most metal of the squashes.

I didn't forget you, though: I was hoping the jelly lady at the market would have apple butter. No such luck, but she did have pumpkin butter. I tried it. It was amazing. I had to have it in my life. It was also six dollars, and I had exactly four left in my wallet.