Pizza Bread

Yes, this is pretty much as far from CSA-inspired food as you can get, while still cooking something at home. It’s not really what this blog is about, but since we’ve been getting home at 9pm or so each night for the last week, it’s going to have to do. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s cheap, and it’s tasty.

Ingredients:
French bread, sliced in half (top half & bottom half, not left & right halves)
Pizza sauce (our favorite is leftover pasta sauce, but you can used jarred sauce that you’ve put through the food processor as well).
Shredded Mozzarella cheese
Pepperoni slices
Shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

Turn oven on to broil (we use the low setting, with racks in the medium/low area).

Spread sauce on the cut sides of the bread, and stick them in the oven for a minute or two (this step is important if you’re taking sauce straight out of the fridge to cook the meal). Remove the bread from the oven and sprinkle with mozzarella. Spread pepperoni slices over the surface and sprinkle with parmesan.

Put the pizza bread back in the oven and cook until the cheese is all gooey and melty (yes, those are the technical terms). If you like your pizza a little more well-done, leave it in the oven until the cheese is bubbly and begins to turn golden brown.

Don’t forget to let the cheese rest a little before you take your first bite, otherwise you’ll end up with those awful burns on the roof of your mouth.

For times when you just don’t have time to cook, this is an awesome recipe to keep on hand. I find that all of the ingredients will also keep well in the freezer for a month or so, althougth you’ll need to take the bread out in time to thaw for dinner that night (the cheese & pepperoni you can spread while frozen, and you can thaw the sauce in the microwave if necessary). Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Ravioli Reprise

Tonight, Trav & I tried a new version of the pumpkin ravioli from Monday. Trav briefly boiled the lasagne noodles before making the raviolis, and they seemed to stick together better than they previously had. Additionally, Travis is not as scared of reducing sauces as I am. I really don’t have any of the skills necessary to reduce a sauce. I can’t estimate what 1/2 cup of chicken broth will look like once it’s reduced from 2 cups. I can’t imagine what the cream and broth mixture will look like when it then reaches the correct volume. Add to that my tendancy to get distracted when cooking and forget that I should be watching a sauce, and you’re looking at an embarrassing possibility for mistakes. So Travis is now in charge of all sauces that need to be reduced. Maybe I’ll one day be able to accomplish this, but right now it just fills me with anxiety – if I look away for a moment, will the saucepan evaporate all the liquid and leave me with a charred mess of shallots? I’ll leave the tasty sauces to Trav until I can handle a little more technical cooking.

Monday: Pumpkin Ravioli

Pumpkin Ravioli

Recipe courtesy Wolfgang Puck, The Wolfgang Puck Cookbook, Random House, 1986

Show: Wolfgang Puck Episode: Celebrity Food and Wine Charity Event

Ingredients:

  • 10 8 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1 pound fresh frozen pumpkin purée , peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups heavy cream (well, 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, filled out with whole milk)
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage, plus 6 small leaves for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 packages fresh lasagna noodles 1/2 recipe Spinach Pasta Dough or Regular Pasta Dough
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly, for egg wash
  • 2 cups chicken stock or light duck stock
  • 2 4 shallots, chopped
  • shredded parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat a sauté pan over low heat and add 4 3 tablespoons of the butter. When the butter is foamy, add the pureed cubed pumpkin and cook, stirring often to stop it from sticking and burning, until it defrosts softens and falls into a purée.
  2. Turn the pumpkin into a saucepan, add 1/2 of the cream and half the herbs and cook over a low heat for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the purée is thick and the liquid has evaporated. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Remove from the heat and beat in an additional 2 tablespoons of butter. Whisk in the beaten eggs, season, to taste, with salt and pepper and set a side to cool.
  3. On a floured surface, roll spread out the pasta as thin as possible. Cut into 2 sheets and brush 1/2 of them with egg wash. Using a teaspoon, place 24 equal mounds of the pumpkin purée on the egg-washed dough, about 2 inches apart. Cover the mounded dough with the second sheet of pasta and press around the mounds of pumpkin to seal the dough.
  4. Using a ravioli cutter or a sharp knife cut the ravioli. Dust a tray with semolina and place the ravioli on it.
  5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, while you make the sauce.
  6. Prepare the sauce: In a saucepan, reduce the stock with the shallots to 1/2 cup. Add the remaining cream and reduce by half. Over a low heat, whisk in the remaining 4 3 tablespoons butter, a little at a time, over low heat. Strain the sauce into a clean saucepan and add the remaining sage and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  7. Add the ravioli to the rapidly boiling water and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain. Add the ravioli to the sauce and bring just to a boil. Correct the seasonings.
  8. Divide the ravioli among preheated soup dishes and spoon the sauce over them. Garnish each serving with parmesan a fresh sage leaf. Serve immediately.

The Verdict:

The ravioli were a little explosive.  Meaning that some of them fell apart in the boiling water.  This is something ALL the recipes I looked at warned would happen.  It’s possible they’ll hold together better if we make our own pasta, but that’s a little outside the realm of weeknight dinner for us.  Maybe there’s another option for fresh pasta I haven’t found yet that will work better.  it was almost like those lasagna noodles were dusted with flour & designed not to stick together  (which makes sense from a packaging standpoint).  Maybe it would work better if we brushed the lasagna noodles with water prior to working with them – get rid of that nonstick surface?

In all, this was a really good dinner.  Of course, with a full stick of butter & two cups of heavy cream(ish), it had to be good, right?  I think it would be really good with a garnish of chopped hazelnuts.  I think we’ll try this again – we do still have one more pumpkin, after all (plus more purée in the freezer).  We also have some leftover filling, which I think I’ll try in a quesadilla for lunch sometime this week.

Menu February 8th-14th

In all honesty, I don’t know how much cooking will get done this week.  We have several social plans (why does everyone get born in February?) which will entail us going out more than normal.  One thing I do want to try this week (although don’t ask me which day we’ll have time!) is Pumpkin Ravioli.  I have homemade pumpkin purée in the freezer, and our one remaining squash is of the pumpkin variety, so I haven’t decided if I want to do it fresh from scratch (as Wolfgang Puck suggests) or to start with a pureed pumpkin and go from there.  I also have NEVER made pasta from scratch.  I’m not sure this week is the week to try it, since the schedule looks so busy already.  I may try to find some fresh pasta I can buy by the sheet and make my raviolis with that.  Travis has been telling me for years (longer than we’ve been together) that he would make me fresh ravioli or tortellini or some such.  I think it’s time he puts the pasta where the promises are!

We still have leftover Mexican Rice for tacos, more cheese and tortillas, more rice to stir-fry, and more pasta and sauce.  We’ll see how the week unfolds as we also make trips to The Parkway, Moctezuma’s and an unknown bar over the next 5 days.

Friday: Tacos with Mexican Rice, Corn & Beans, Squash Candy & Limey Cabbage

I searched through past blog entries, and no where do I find a recipe for Mexican Rice.  Since I’m fairly certain I’ve referenced it pretty much every week, this needs to be fixed!  I got the original recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  It’s a pretty good recipe, but I’ve made it so often now that I’ve tweaked it a bit (for example, I no longer rinse the rice in the first step – so I didn’t write that into the recipe below).

Squash Candy is a delightful preparation for delicata squash that was shown to me by my good friend, Josh.  Thank you to Amanda for supporting details in the recipe! 

Mexican Rice

Ingredients:

  • fresh tomatoes
  • onion
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 4 cloves garlic, put through a press
  • 3 jalapeño chiles, minced and separated
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth, if I’m cooking for true vegetarians)
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Preparation:

  1. Move an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Heat oil in 12-inch oven-safe frying pan over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add rice and stir.  Toast rice until it begins to turn golden brown (5-10 minutes).
  3. Meanwhile, purée the tomatoes and onions in the food processor until smooth.  You’ll need exactly 2 cups of the purée, but it’s virtually impossible to figure out how many tomatoes (1? 2? 1 1/2?) and what portion of an onion this will require.  I usually do about two tomatoes and 1/2 a large onion, and see what I get.  In the summer (when I have tons of fresh tomatoes from the CSA), I tend to make several batches of this onion/tomato mixture and freeze it in muffin tins, so that I can just defrost it when it’s rice time.  Anyway – put 2 cups of the mixture in a measuring cup and reserve the rest in the freezer for next time.
  4. Once rice begins to turn golden, add the garlic and 1/3 of the jalapeño.  Cook until fragrant (30 seconds or so) and stir to combine.
  5. Add tomato mixture, broth, and tomato paste.  Stir to combine (sometimes it’s really hard to get that tomato paste to combine at all), cover, and bring to a boil. Note: if you are using any kind of glass lid on your frying pan, it is VERY important to cover the pan as you bring the rice to a boil.  Otherwise, the heat shock from transferring a cold lid to a hot oven can shatter your lid.  When that happens, you’ve lost the lid AND your precious Mexican Rice.  No matter how tasty the rice smells, it’s just not safe to pick glass shards out of your rice in order to eat it.
  6. Transfer pan to the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes.  When the timer goes off, stir the rice to reincorporate the tomato mixture.  Return the rice to the oven and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes (until done).
  7. Add the remaining jalapeño and all of the cilantro and stir to incorporate. Yum!

Squash Candy

Ingredients:

  • 1 delicata squash
  • olive oil
  • salt & ground black pepper to taste
  • crushed red pepper flakes

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 (if I’m making this the same night as Mexican Rice, like tonight, I just do it at 350).
  2. Cut squash in half and remove seeds and stringy flesh.  Place cut-side down on the chopping board and slice 1/2″ thick.  I sometimes then cut those slices in half to make shorter slices – it depends on what I plan to do with it.
  3. Place squash in a medium bowl and drizzle with olive oil.  Add a bit of salt and plenty of pepper.  Sprinkle generously with red pepper flakes.  Toss to coat.
  4. Spread squash slices out on a cookie sheet (I often cover the sheet with foil to make clean-up easier).  Bake for 10-15 minutes and flip slices over.  Bake another 10-15 minutes, until squash has started to caramelize.  The sweetness from the caramalized squash is a wonderful counterpoint to the red pepper flakes’ spice.

The Verdict:

We had friends over to enjoy this feast, which we served on tortillas with melted Monterey Jack cheese, sour cream, and a chopped avocado.  Everyone seemed happy with the meal, and we enjoyed hours of revelry and beer.  Too much beer.  I keep telling the keyboard it’s too noisy, but it just won’t get any quieter…

Thursday: Carnival Squash Soup from Cafe Lynnylu

So this time I found inspiration online, when trying to decide what to do with the carnival squash we still have left from our Fall CSA.  I stumbled upon (no, not officially using the site – just through judicious use of google) Cafe Lynnylu’s recipe, which I’ve edited below based on what we actually did:

Carnival Squash Soup

Ingredients:

  • 2 3 small to medium size Carnival Squash
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup sliced onion
  • 3-4 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)
  • parmesan cheese

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut tops off of squash and scoop out seeds, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast in oven about 45 minutes. When cool, scoop out flesh. Reserve.
  3. Saute onion in olive oil and add squash flesh and chicken broth. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Puree with hand immersion blender until smooth. Season with salt and white pepper. Add butter to smooth out soup. Stir in cream if desired. Top with parmesan cheese and fried sage leaves.

The Verdict:

Well… I’m gonna be honest: I was not in love with this soup as it was cooking.  Before we added the cream and the parmesan, it tasted like chicken broth slightly flavored with squash, or like really bad canned chicken soup.  I didn’t have high hopes for dinner at that point (PB&J was looming in our future).   Then, the miracle of dairy occurred.  I don’t understand how it works, but the heavy cream managed to smooth out the chicken broth flavor and turn it into an undertone, while bringing the squash’s earthy sweetness to the surface.  Parmesan added a counterpoint that was the perfect final touch in what ended up being a deep and complex flavor palette that I really enjoyed.  So here’s my advice: Do NOT skip the dairy.  This is not the recipe to decide to go vegan.  DO give the soup a chance – if I hadn’t been willing to try those final steps (that I really thought would just make the soup into cream of chicken with squash flavor), I would have ditched what ended up being a delightful dinner.

Wednesday: Change of plans

Isn’t it just the way that the “best laid plans” always need to get changed?  Tonight was supposed to be Tacos with Mexican Rice, which I was going to make when I got home from the Pilates section of ballet class (around 7, which would get the rice finished about the time Trav got home from work).  However, I started helping one of the ballet kids with their algebra homework (I love algebra), and ended up staying an hour and 1/2 later than I planned.  So there was not going to be any dinner that takes an hour to prep.  On my way out of the ballet school, I ran into a friend of mine that mentioned a pizza special going on at one of our go-to take out places.  $10 for a large 8-topping.  So I let Trav decide when I got home – buy cheap pizza or make the stir-fry that was scheduled for Friday (Thursday’s meal is even more time-consuming).  He was on the fence a while (it’s more frugal to eat what we have/we’re out of sesame oil & hoisin/if we don’t spend money on dinner, we’ll stay under-budget for the week/I really want pizza, etc.), but he ended up opting to order pizza, so we did.  We actually ended up ordering two extra-large pizzas, because they’re only $2 more on special, and we like different things on our pizza.  So it was one pie loaded with virtually all the veggies they offer, and one with a ton of veggies & some sausage and bacon as well.  All in all, it was tasty and was enough for multiple meals.  Now we’ll just need to plan that stir-fry for lunch one day soon.

Monday: Frozen Pizza with Lela

“Frozen Pizza?  What’s that doing on your blog?”  Yes, yes – I can hear you now.  Don’t worry; this was not grocery store frozen pizza.  This was a frozen pizza kit I’d made for friends so that they wouldn’t need to cook during the first week they had their baby home from the hospital.  Of course, between when I froze a kit for them and when the baby was born, I ended up making a new batch of pizza dough, and made a pizza for them to just heat in the oven instead of making them build it themselves.  So when it was time to babysit, out came the handmade crust, the frozen sauce, the shredded, frozen cheeses and the frozen pepperoni (although truth be told, I do just keep my pepperoni in the freezer anyway).  Frozen pepperoni lasts longer, and since we purchase in bulk at Costco, it’s beneficial for us to stick the bag in the freezer once we’ve opened it.  I’m not sure what exactly (presumably the high fat-content) makes frozen pepperoni so easy to work with, but it actually comes apart in slices better straight out of the freezer than it does at refrigerator temperatures. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 parbaked pizza crust made sometime within the last month and frozen
  • 1 cup pizza sauce made sometime within the past month and frozen
  • 1-2 oz. frozen sliced pepperoni
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella, frozen
  • 1/4-1/2 cup shredded parmesan, frozen

Note: recipes for many of the above ingredients can be found here.

Preparation:

  1. Place pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 475.
  2. Take all ingredients out of the freezer and place on work surface.
  3. Put frozen sauce into a prep bowl and microwave for 2 minutes, pausing to stir and break up semi-thawed chunks after the first minute.
  4. Meanwhile, unwrap foil and plastic wrap from pizza crust and break up any large chunks of frozen cheese by smooshing them against the counter.
  5. Once sauce is thawed, spread it evenly on frozen crust, avoiding the outside 1/2″ to make it easier to hold while eating.  Add the pepperoni, slightly overlapping, until the pizza is covered.  Sprinkle mozzarella and parmesan to cover pepperoni.
  6. Cook pizza until cheese has thoroughly melted and begins to brown in spots (begin checking after 5 minutes).
  7. Remove pizza from oven and allow it to rest for 3-5 minutes (this is the best way ever to avoid burning the top of your mouth with the first bite).
  8. Slice and serve (enjoy)!

Menu February 1st-7th

The menu this week doesn’t have many things that we haven’t done already, but it’s just that time of year for us.  Once the new CSA season begins, we’ll once again be inspired with the fresh and the novel.  For now, I’m just glad we’re not terribly tired of our old favorites!

  • Monday: Frozen Pizza with Lela
  • Tuesday: Leftovers (we’ve got to eat all these before they go bad!)
  • Wednesday: Tacos with Mexican Rice, Pinto Beans & Squash
  • Thursday: we’re going to try this recipe for Carnival Squash Soup
  • Friday: Trav’s Fried Rice
  • Saturday: Dinner with Miss Erin – she always manages to cook something wonderful!
  • Sunday: I’m teaching all day, and Travis works in the morning, so it will likely be leftovers for us again.  I’ll have to be sure to make enough taco ingredients to get us through!

We may purchase some heavy cream for the soup (the recipe says it’s optional), but other than that, we’re set with food for this menu.  We’ll likely need to do a grocery run for cat food and cereal, but I really have been feeling like we’ve got a ton of food in the house.  Granted, not a lot of it is fresh produce (although I think this brings us down to just one more of our fall CSA winter squash before I drive out to the farm to purchase more).