You wanted more pizza crust posts, right?

I should really change the name of this blog to, “Melissa writes about making pizza crust.”  I just keep coming up with new insights to the process.  And I’m a bit of a pizza crust geek.  And my friends have asked me specifically if I have my pizza crust recipe on the blog.  Add all that together, and it’s a miracle ALL the posts aren’t about pizza.  Besides, it’s so easy to turn most things into a meal just by cooking them on top of a pizza crust.  Plus, if we’ve eaten creative pizzas for a couple of days, I usually only have plates and cutting boards to wash (instead of piles of pots and pans and prep bowls).  Anyway, here’s my newest realization:  instead of using my regular recipe, I think I’ve fully converted to the slow-rising option (below).  The first time we tried it, I thought I might go crazy because the dough just wouldn’t change shape as I tossed it.  It took 5 minutes to get a dough ball ready for the oven instead of 2.  I was hungry and this was slowing up my dinner!  However, I soon realized that the crust shapes we were making were much better than normal.  The dough wasn’t getting brittle and thin in the middle, even after many minutes of tossing.  And then the flavor was lovely as well.  I read somewhere that recipes using less yeast with a longer rising time develop a more complex flavor.  Add to that the fact that the dough rises for 6-8 hours on the counter and can rest in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours before that.  This means that I can start the dough up to 24 hours before I’m ready to make pizza!  Plus, yeast is one of the most expensive ingredients in my pizza crust.  This recipe cuts the yeast from 2 1/4 teaspoons to just 1/2 a teaspoon.  I’d been toying with a cost break-down post idea, and I’m pretty certain that’s coming soon.  Here’s the updated recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for oiling the bowl and brushing the top)
  • 4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface and hands
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh basil
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces pepperoni, peeled and sliced thin (it sounds like they expect you to buy pepperoni from the sausage store and peel and slice it yourself, but I usually buy a huge bag of pepperoni slices at Costco and keep it in the freezer for use as necessary.)
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup) or more, to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese or more, to taste

Preparation:

  1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes.  Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.
  2. Process the flour and salt in a large food processor, pulsing to combine.  Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube.  If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms.  Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.
  3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball.  Put the dough in an 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. At this point, you can put your dough in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours.  When you’re ready to proceed, continue with step 5.
  5. Leave covered dough on the counter and let rise until doubled in size, 6 to 8 hours.  I use the 8-cup measuring cup because it’s really easy for me to see when the dough is done rising.  Press the dough to deflate.
  6. While the dough rises, prepare the pizza sauce (or go to work, or get a massage, or sleep through the night – your time is your own!).  Heat the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the garlic is sizzling, about 40 seconds.  Add the basil and cook untilo fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the sauce thickens enough to coat a wooden spoon, about 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Heat the oven to 475 degrees for at least 30 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Use a chef’s knife or dough scraper to divide the dough into four pieces.  From each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.
  8. Spread a large piece of parchment paper on the counter for shaping and transporting the crust.  Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, flatten the dough ball into a disk (thicker at the center) using the palms of your hands.  Using a combination of stretching the dough on the counter and tossing the dough, shape each of your dough rounds into a flattened pizza shape (more detailed instructions here).  Prick the dough in several paces with a dinner fork.
  9. Lightly brush the dough round with olive oil.  Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce over the dough round, leaving a 1/2-inch border uncovered.  Scatter a third of the pepperoni slices over the sauced dough round.
  10. Slide the dough onto the heated stone.  Bake the pizza until the crust edge starts to brown, 6 to 12 minutes.  Sprinkle with 1/3 cup mozzarella and a third of the Parmesan and continue baking until the cheeses melt, 2 to 3 minutes more.  Remove the pizza from the oven, let rest for 5 minutes, and serve.  Repeat the topping and baking steps for the remaining two crusts.

Alternate preparation method:

  1. Follow steps 1-5 and 7-8 above, skipping step 6. 
  2. Lightly brush the dough round with olive oil.  Slide the dough onto the heated stone.  Bake the pizza for 2 minutes.  Remove the pizza from the oven, cool on the counter for 30 minutes or so, and wrap with plastic wrap to store.  While the first pizza crust is cooking, you can shape the second crust (with practice).
  3. Par-baked crusts will last for up to a day on the counter, up to a week in the refrigerator, or for up to two months in the freezer (wrapped in plastic wrap AND foil).  When you are ready to prepare a pizza, make the sauce.  Since the pizza will already be par-baked, you’ll put the sauce, pepperoni, and cheese on all at the same time, and bake until the cheese is bubbling and staring to brown.
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Asparagus, Red Pepper, and Spinach Salad

Here’s my inspiration (this time from America’s Test Kitchen The New Best Recipe), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1 by 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off and cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
  • salt & ground black pepper
  • 1 medium shallot, sliced thin
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed thorugh a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 6 ounces baby spinach (about 8 cups)
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, cut into small chunks

Preparation:

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until beginning to smoke; add the bell pepper and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes, stirring only once after 1 miniute.  Add the asparagus, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; cook until the asparagus is browned and almost tender, about 2 minutes, stirring only once after 1 minute.  Stire in the shallots and cook until softened and the asparagus is tender-crisp, about 1 minute, stirring occasionally.  Transfer to a large plate and cool 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 4 tablespoons oil, the vinegar, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper together in a medium bowl until combined.  In a large bowl, toss the spinach with 2 tablespoons of the dressing and divide the spinach among salad plates.  Toss the asparagus mixture with the remaining dressing and place a portion of it over the spinach; divide the goat cheese among the salads and serve.

The Verdict:

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Lemon, and Asparagus

Monday: Twice-Baked Potatoes and Roasted Carrots

Here’s my inspiration (found in America’s Test Kitchen’s New Best Recipe), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

Twice-Baked Potatoes

Here’s the note that they include in the recipe book:

To vary the flavor a bit, try substituting other types of cheese, such as Gruyere, fontina, or feta, for the cheddar.  Yukon Gold potatoes, though slightly more moist than our ideal, gave our twice-baked potatoes a buttery flavor and mouthfeel that everyone liked, so we recommend them as a substitution for the russets.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed, dried, and rubbed lightly with vegetable oil
  • 4 total ounces sharp white cheddar, swiss, and regular medium cheddar cheeses, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 medium scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet until the skin is crisp and deep brown and a skewer easily pierces the flesh, about 1 hour.  Setting the baking sheet aside, transfer the potatoes to a wire rack and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
  2. Using an oven mitt or a folded kitchen towel to handle the hot potatoes, cut each potato in half so that the long, blunt sides rest on a work surface.  Using a small spoon, scoop the flesh from each half into a medium bowl, leaving 1/8 to 1/4 inch of the flesh in each shell.  Arrange the shells on the lined baking sheet and return them to the oven until dry and slightly crisped, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, mash the potato flesh with a fork until smooth.  Stir in the remaining ingredients, including pepper to taste, until well combined.
  3. Remove the shells from the oven and increase the oven setting to broil.  Holding the shells steady on the baking sheet with an oven mitt or towel-protected hand, spoon the mixture into the crisped shells, mounding it slightly at the center, and return the potatoes to the oven.  Broil until spotty brown and crisp on top, 10 to 15 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes.  Serve warm.

Roasted Carrots

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds baby carrots, peeled and cut into 1″-2″ lengths
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspon salt

Preparation:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475 degrees.  Toss the carrots, oil, and salt in the broiler pan bottom.  Spread the coarrots in a single layer and roast for 12 minutes.  Shake the pan to toss the carrots.  Continue roasting, shaking the pan twice more, until the carrots are browned and tender, about 8 minutes longer.  Serve immediately.

The Verdict:

With our hectic schedules, it is common for us to arrive home from ballet at 8 or 8:30 at night.  On those  nights, we dislike having to begin cooking dinner, and we’ve started avoiding any of the meals we might want to have that involve baking for any length of time.  We have an oven that has a delayed bake function, but I never got around to learning how to use it until today.  It seems like this could pave the way towards all kinds of wonderful dinners that we could eat hot out of the oven just minutes after we arrive home.  This time, of course, I only did the pre-bake on the potatoes so they’d finish just as I was scheduled to get home from work today.  With a multi-part meal like this, it will be useful to be able to start the meal during a lunch break or when I’m home to get ready for ballet class, and finish after arriving  back at home in the evening.  Besides those good aspects, I LOVE baked potatoes, which are a super cheap, easy and filing side to several different meals.  I’ve avoided adding baked potatoes to our menu because of the hour it takes for them to bake (tried microwave recipes, but even the best of those need to be finished in the oven to give you a good potato skin).  I’m seeing whole new realms of menu possibilities opening up for us!

In order to make this meal work, I turned up the oven to 475 after I took the potato skins out of the oven, while I stuffed the skins.  Then I roasted the carrots, removed them to dinner plates, and then completed the broiling step on the twiced baked potatoes.  Although I usually love the scallions in this recipe, it’s also good without them.  So when I’d already sent Trav to the store with this week’s grocery list, I didn’t worry about the fact that we didn’t have anything green onionish.  This utilized the leftovers of a couple different kinds of cheese, and I usually like the buttermilk in the recipe, but the carton we had as bad before I got around to making this, so it was regular milk instead.

Still tasty – I really love the carrots roasted; the carmelization really adds to the sweetness of the carrot, and you can roast them to a good consistency without overcooking.  I’m naming this meal a win!

Black Bean Burgers

Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

Black-Bean Burgers

Gourmet  | February 2009 by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez

yield: Makes 4 servings – active time: 10 min – total time: 15 min

Ingredients:

  • 2 (1415-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise, or more for consistency
  • 1/3 cup plain dry bread crumbs 1 slice sandwich bread, crust removed and torn in quarters
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled tumeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 soft hamburger buns, leftover from the pack you bought for regular hamburgers earlier this week

Optional Accompaniments: sour cream; salsa; lettuce; sliced avocado; dijon mustard

Preparation:

  1. Pulse bread in the food processor until it forms crumbs.  Add Pulse 1 can beans in a food processor with mayonnaise, bread crumbs, cumin, oregano, chili powder, cilantro and cayenne until a coarse purée forms. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cilantro and remaining can beans. Form mixture into 4 patties as best you can.  The mixture will be more like burger batter than like anything that can be formed into patties.
  2. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Cook burgers until outsides are crisp and lightly browned, turning once, about 5 minutes total or possibly considerably longer, if you’re trying to wait until they’re solid enough to flip. Serve on buns with optional accompaniaments as desired.

The Verdict:

Althougth Travis balks at vegetarian versions of meat products, he will go along with using the food we have at home rather than going out to buy more meat.  He did have a good point that thinking of these as burgers will lead to a bit of dissapointment.  They’re really more “Black Bean Sloppy Joes,” but with less sauce.  I added mustard, sour cream, and avocado to mine, and I thought it was fine.  It wasn’t wonderful, and I would have rather had a real hamburger or even a gardenburger, all things being equal.  The fact that all things were not equal and that we used items entirely from our pantry and refrigerator made this a meal I was happy about.  It’s shocking how much better average food tastes when it helps you meet the challenges you’ve put in place for yourself!

I wondered why they wanted me to chop cilantro and add it in later, and decided the recipe writer was a little crazy.  After I’d made bread crumbs, I just threw the one can of beans and all the spicing/binding agents together in the food processor until I thought it looked good.  The cilantro flavor came through fine, and I had one less dirty knife and cutting board than I would have had if I’d followed the recipe.

I would forsee, since we do always have canned black beans on hand (we always stock up when they go below $1 per can at the grocery store), and since we do occasionally splurge with hamburger night purchases, we may try something like this again.  This was actually the second time for this recipe, and I wasn’t really amazed either time.  I’m the one that doesn’t mind eating vegetarian, so the fact that I’m ambivalent doesn’t bode well for the future of this recipe!  However, when Trav was pulling the epicurious app up on his phone, he said he’d found 4 other recipes as well, so maybe we’ll see what they call for and try one of them out!

Broccoli and Cheddar Chowder

Broccoli, Red Pepper, and Cheddar Chowder

Gourmet  | December 2001

yield: Makes about 6 cups or 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head broccoli (1/2 pound)
  • 1 large boiling potato (1/2 pound)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • l large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 6 oz sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (1 1/2 cups)
  • Preparation:

    1. Discard tough lower third of broccoli stem. Peel remaining stem and finely chop. Cut remaining broccoli into very small (1-inch) florets. Cook florets in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, then drain. Reserve 3 cups cooking water for chowder.
    2. Peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Cook potato, onion, bell pepper, broccoli stems, and garlic in butter in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cumin, salt, pepper, and mustard and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add reserved cooking water and simmer (partially covered), stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream and cheese and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, then season with salt and pepper.
    3. Purée about 2 cups of chowder in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot. Add florets and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.

    The Verdict:

    Delightful.  Travis said that it was good soup, we didn’t have a lump of cheese in the bottom of the pot, and it was everything I like in a winter soup: filling, thick, and full of fattening things like butter and cheese and cream!  For the dairy, I used an Australian cheese that I found at the local discount grocery store (where I was looking for inexpensive, interesting Christmas presents).  It was a lovely meal, and I’m adding it to our list of recipes to repeat.  Shockingly, I didn’t change a thing from the recipe as written.  I may try to add a bit of spice next time, but I thoroughly enjoyed it this way.

    PS… Yay for actually cooking a real meal in our home again – I thought I’d never get back on track!

    Sunday – Winter Squash Mash

    Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

    Winter Squash Mash

    Bon Appétit  | October 2004

    yield: Makes 6 servings

    Ingredients:

    • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • One  2 3/4- to 3-pound kabocha squash, halved crosswise, seeded
    • 6 4 tablespoons (3/4 stick) butter
    • 2 6 garlic cloves, minced peeled
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
    • 1 cup (or more) low-salt chicken broth
    • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided

    Preparation:

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil inside each kabocha squash half and brush to coat. Place squash halves, cut side down, on prepared baking sheet. Roast until squash is very tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Scoop out squash flesh into bowl and mash until almost smooth.

    Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and stir 1 5 minutes or until the garlic begins to caramelize. Smoosh the garlic cloves with your spatula and break it up into relatively small pieces.  Add butter mixture and 1 cup broth to squash and mash until smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Add more broth if desired and rewarm in microwave before continuing.)

    Stir 2 tablespoons parsley into squash. Sprinkle squash with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and serve.

    The Verdict:

    If you’ve been following the blog, you know that this meal was scheduled for Friday night.  I arrived home Friday to find a take-and-bake pizza sitting on the counter, and roasted squash sitting on the stove top.  Travis had followed the directions faithfully until it was time to take the squash out of the oven.  Then he thought that he’d messed something up, because the squash was collapsed on the cookie sheet.  He’d only seen the photos of 1/2 squashes still firmly keeping their shapes, so he was sure it was ruined.  Since the pizza was ready to go, we went ahead and ate that for dinner on Friday.  But the squash was fine, so we scraped it into a storage container to wait for another day, which ended up being Sunday.

    After the trauma on Saturday, I wasn’t up to cleaning the kitchen this weekend.  What with the busy schedule we had this week, everything was pretty much dirty, which is why I didn’t mince or press the garlic cloves.  Yes, I am admitting on the internets that my kitchen was dirty enough that I didn’t have any clean utensils capable of mincing garlic. And I still cooked in it.  That’s how I am (sometimes).  So I figured the mincing was really just to get the garlic into edible pieces, and cooking it to the smashing point and spreading it out would probably work fine. 

    I really liked the taste of the kabocha even before the butter and garlic were added – it is probably my favorite of all the winter squashes we’ve tried.  The CSA folks are planning a bulk sale, and here’s hoping there’s a kabocha option!  At any rate, I enjoyed my modified version of this recipe, and I can see how it might need the broth if you started with a less-moist squash, but I would recommend adding it slowly, bit by bit, and testing for texture along the way.

    Chicken Fajitas with Crunchy Lime Cabbage and Avocado

    Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

    Chicken Fajitas with Crunchy Lime Cabbage and Avocado

    Bon Appétit  | March 2008

    Tina Miller

    yield: Makes 6 servings

    Ingredients:

    • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for griddle
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 2 pounds skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
    • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch-thick strips
    • 1 large red onion, halved, sliced lengthwise
    • 3 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    • 2 teaspoons finely grated lime peel
    • 6 to 8 fajita-size flour tortillas
    • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, sliced
    • cheese, optional
    • sour cream, optional

    Preparation:

    Whisk 3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, and chili powder in large bowl. Add chicken, bell pepper, and onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature or chill up to 4 hours.

    Toss red cabbage, cilantro, lime juice, lime peel, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven until heated through, about 15 minutes.

    Meanwhile, place large griddle over 2 burners and heat over medium-high heat. Brush griddle with olive oil. Spread chicken on griddle and cook until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are browned, turning frequently with tongs, about 7 minutes Total.

    Divide chicken among warm tortillas; top with cabbage mixture and avocado slices.

    The Verdict:

    I love this recipe every time we have it, and it changes a little each time.  Sometimes it’s more taco-style, and sometimes it’s more fajita-style, and we vary the toppings depending on what we have on hand.  This is the first recipe we tried that utilizes cabbage and that I absolutely love.  It turns out that a Mexican spin and lime juice will turn most foods into something I love – maybe I should try it with turnips…

    Wednesday: Beet and Cabbage Soup

    Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

    Beet and Cabbage Soup

    Bon Appétit  | May 2003

    by Ana Garcia, Cuernavaca, Mexico

    Ingredients:

    • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
    • 3 cups coarsely chopped peeled raw beets (from 1 1/2 pounds)
    • 2 cups chopped red onions
    • 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
    • 1 cup chopped red cabbage
    • 3 tablespoons finely chopped seeded jalapeño chiles 1 cube frozen pureed jalapeno chiles, seeds included.
    • 5 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
    • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    • Tortilla chips
    • Sour cream

    Preparation:

    Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add beets, onions, celery, cabbage, and chiles; sauté until celery is soft, about 10 minutes. Add 5 cups broth and lime juice; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes.

    Optional steps: meanwhile, make the dinner you’re actually going to eat tonight, because you didn’t allow enough time for dinner prep.  Once vegetables are tender, cool the soup overnight.  The following night, resume recipe.

    Working in small batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot; season to taste with salt and pepper.  Heat the soup to serving temperature if you chose the optional steps.  Thin with more broth by 1/4 cupfuls, if desired. Ladle soup into bowls and top with tortilla chips and sour cream.

    The Verdict:

    I enjoyed this soup.  Travis pointed out that it was approximately the same idea as borscht, which I’ve never had.  However, we all know that I love Mexican cuisine, so this is like the Latin version of the Russian classic.  It had a bit of spice, but the sour cream chilled that out.  Trav fried whole tortillas in vegetable oil for the garnish, and then broke them into pieces.  He and I disagree on the term “bite-sized” and as per normal, I would have preferred a smaller “bite” of tortilla as the garnish.  The taste was perfect though.  I’m not sure if we’ll repeat this particular recipe or not, since we do both love a roasted beet.  But this was a good use of our excess beets we’d accumulated.

    Monday: Turnip Gratin

    Here’s my inspiration (as usual, found at Epicurious), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

    Turnip Gratin

    Gourmet  | October 2007

    Holly Smith

    Ingredients:

    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 2 1/2 pounds medium turnips, trimmed and left unpeeled
    • 1 tablespoon chopped dried thyme
    • 1/2 tablespoon chopped savory
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • Rounded 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (use a Microplane the small side of your box grater)
    • Equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer

    Preparation:

    Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in middle.

    Melt butter in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet, then cool.

    Slice turnips paper-thin with slicer knife, then arrange one third of slices, overlapping tightly, in skillet, keeping remaining slices covered with dampened paper towels. Sprinkle with about a third of thyme, savory, kosher salt, and cayenne. Make 2 more layers.

    Cook, covered, over medium heat until underside is browned, about 10 minutes. Add cream and cook, covered, until center is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

    Sprinkle evenly with cheese, then bake, uncovered, until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

    The Verdict:

    It’s official: I don’t like turnips.  Travis pointed out that turnips are one of the classic “dislike” vegetables from childhood, but I actually like all the others (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, asparagus, etc).  My mother used to complain about the fact that all three of us ate our veggies, since that meant there was less for the adults (reverse psychology, anyone?).  So it was actually surprising to me to find out that I don’t like turnips.  I haven’t totally closed the door, but if cream and cheese and butter don’t make me like them, what will?

    I would honestly love anything you can suggest – at this point, I’ve all but given up.

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