Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pizza Bianca

The hours spent making Pizza Bianca were tedious and fraught will concern. Nothing seemed to be going right. I probably should have halted the production when I couldn't find instant dry yeast, but once I get an idea I stick to it until the bitter end.

I halved the recipe, substituted active dry yeast decreasing the water to reflect the water used to proof the yeast, and struggled to get the dough to come together. I resorted to adding tablespoons of water until a mass formed. I think it took around four. The process is a little bit fuzzy as it was so drawn out.

In the end, I escaped a cooking disaster and the dough rose nicely, twice as required by the recipe. When the second rise finished at 1:00 am I really was not in the mood to eat Pizza Bianca, so I decided to go out on a limb and let it sit overnight. If I let dough sit overnight again, I will cover the dough with saran wrap to prevent it from drying out instead of using a clean dish towel. My Pizza Bianca looked a little like dinosaur skin, but tasted great.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Spinach and Green Garlic Soup

While making Molly's divine Spinach and Green Garlic soup, I was excited to realize everything going into the soup was fresh from Greenmarket or something I made. Last year I was busy freaking out about using chicken thighs instead of breasts, because they were so fatty. I never imagined I would handle whole chickens or make my own broth from scraps. One of the biggest pleasures I have found in cooking is knowing exactly what goes into my food...that and how methodical it is.

This soup is simple to put together and is very satisfying. It just feels fresh. I replaced the baby spinach with regular spinach as it was less expensive and easier to find. If you do this, I advise spending a bit of extra time removing the stem and veins. My only complaint is that the soup separates when refrigerated.

Next time, I plan to use more spinach so I get to get the beautiful jewel green swamp monster effect displayed in Molly's pictures.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake

I was so excited my new 9" square cake pan and juicer arrived today as it meant I finally could make this Lemon Yogurt Anything Cake. Back when I saw Smitten Kitten's post I immediately bought an organic lemon, Wyman's frozen wild blueberries, and Ronnybrook Farms Whole Milk Yogurt only to realize I was missing those crucial baking implements.

Actually my pan had rusted and was forced into early retirement. Anyway, sometimes I just get ahead of myself. Like now I'm really, really tired and I have lots of other cooking to write about, but I just have to rave about this cake this very minute before I go to sleep eagerly anticipating eating more for breakfast in morning.

Between putting it together during Gossip Girl's commercial breaks, trying to use two tablespoons of baking powder NOT two teaspoons, and scooping sugar onto the floor instead of the measuring cup I can't believe it turned out. I suppose that tells you how easy it is. As I rushed off to my room to make sure I didn't miss the (anticlimactic) big plot development, my roommate pointed out we had a tv in the living room that would have made my life easier. Why didn't I think of that?

This cake is perfect; the best cake-bread-muffin I have made to date. It is light, fluffy, moist, and delicately flavored. I already, like a glutton, ate three little slices. I can't wait to try other variations. Don't miss out. Make it now.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter

I have had this recipe for Penne with Roasted Asparagus and Balsamic Butter bookmarked since Laura found it in, oh, I don't know, 2004? I finally made it this week and I'm so glad I did. The dish took less than 45 minutes to prepare, which is a kitchen miracle in my book, and it used asparagus. In the spirit of attempting to eat locally, I am enjoying asparagus while it is in season.

One my favorite college memories was sophomore year dinners (never mind that I no longer am in touch with 2 of the 3 other participants). On occasional Fridays, Beth, Roxanne, Renee and I would cook a fabulous dinner, drink a box of Franzia, and then either go watch the free movie in the Commons or force our neighbors to have a dance party. Yeah. The guys next door loved that. Or at least they did the one night I managed to split my jeans. The food was always great and by the end everything was amusing. Anyway, Beth pointed out that asparagus makes your pee smell at one of these dinners and it is true. For a long time I avoided eating asparagus, but now I just figure it is temporary and really who else is affected by the smell? No one. Back to this dish now that I have ruined your appetite.

The flavors blend well together - the sauce is slightly sweet, the pasta is nutty, and the asparagus adds a pleasant firmness. I actually reduced the butter by half without any trouble. It reheats okay, but would be best to eat in one go.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Raspberry-Stuffed French Toast with Custard Sauce

Sunday was my second meeting with the Potluck Dinner Club and the theme was brunch. As soon as I heard the theme in March, I knew I wanted to make Raspberry-Stuffed French Toast with Custard Sauce.

At Christmas Brunch my Mom established a new family favorite by serving this dish and I was certain I could replicate her rave reviews. The good news it that even though my custard sauce did not thicken very well, my plan worked.

The recipe is by Kraft. Strange, right? I was shocked too. I made some substitutions to ensure that my cream cheese and milk wouldn't have hormones and used the Argo Corn Starch Custard recipe for the sauce per my Mom but otherwise followed the recipe. The custard, questionable if I can call mine that since it really is very liquid, tastes a lot like vanilla soymilk after you have eat all the Cinnamon Toast Crunch out of it i.e. delicious.

Actually the whole dish was just as amazing the second time. While it takes a while with the sitting and cooking, it is easy to prepare and I'm sure you will agree the results are stunning.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Soft Yogurt Sandwich Rolls

This weekend I overcame my fear of yeast and made traditional bread from scratch i.e. bread involving yeast. It wasn't nearly as hard as I thought, but it was much more time consuming. I never thought I would get out of the kitchen.

As promised this recipe for Soft Yogurt Sandwich Rolls turned out soft sandwich rolls with a nice texture that holds up to moisture. However, they were a little sour for my taste. I wouldn't rule out making them again but there might be a better roll recipe out there for me. Regardless, the rolls smell delicious while baking, which my roommates loved. The flour explosion also got me to clean behind out movable "counter" and I think they appreciated that too.

My only misstep was purchasing regular yogurt, so I had to drain it with cheesecloth into yogurt cheese to have the appropriate texture for the recipe. I recommend avoiding that step.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Crustless Spinach and Onion Quiche

I haven't tried making crust yet and was short on time, so this recipe for Crustless Spinach, Onion, and Feta seemed perfect for me. Quiches are a nice break from my typical grain heavy breakfast, but still a fairly portable option that I can rush out the door holding in my hand.

I'm not sure if I didn't cook it quite long enough, but I found it to be a bit wobbly for quick transportation. It was much better once I started taking the time to toast it, adding a bit of crisp to the outside, and put a sprinkle of salt on the top. As I was missing the Feta, I substituted a 1/2 cup of Parmesan which worked out fine but I suspect without this substitution I would not have needed the salt.