Pizza is one of those foods I have always loved. For me, that generally means tomato sauce, cheese, and crust (gluten-free of course.), and sometimes I will add some sausage. I know it isn’t all that exciting, but sometimes it really is good.
I decided to do something a little more interesting, and lighter since it is now pretty hot here. No sauce of any kind, and just sliced pear, chevre, and a little bit of parmesan. Then about a minute before it comes out of the oven I tossed a handful of arugula on it! Thinking about it, a nice gorgonzola could also work very well in a pizza like this.
I’ve been on a bit of a quest for pizza crust. So far, the winner in terms of taste, texture, and relative ease of making it happen is from Emeril Lagasse. I know, weird, right? Apparently, he has daughters who have some gluten issues. He came up with this pizza crust for their gluten-free cookbook, and it is great! It makes enough crust for four pizzas for two people. You can pop the leftover par-baked crusts in the freezer, and pull them out for a quick dinner. Just top them and bake.
Obviously, if you have a pizza crust that works well for you, go ahead and use it. Amy was a bit skeptical of this at first, but it is a fantastic flavor combo! It is always fun to try things that may not immediately spring to mind when you have a dish as iconic as pizza.
Amy and I didn’t really get a chance to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Valentine’s Day. We went to lunch for my birthday, but I never had a chance to make her a really spectacular dinner that night. I told her that she should figure out what she wants, and I would make it for her. She decided that she wanted cheese ravioli. I never really liked cheese ravioli, so I asked Mario Batali(via Twitter) what would be the best blend of cheeses. He replied, potato, ricotta, and parmesan. Who am I to argue with Mario Batali?First I made the filling:
1 T oil
2 T butter
2 cups Yukon gold potatoes cubed and boiled
1 small onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic cut in half
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup ricotta
1/8 cup parmesan
1/8 cup pecorino romano
salt and pepper
herbes de provence
Boil the potatoes until the are tender in salted water. Saute the onions until they are tender. Place the milk, butter and garlic in a small pot, and bring up to a simmer over low heat. Place the cooked potatoes and onions in a bowl and add the milk mixture and mash the potatoes. Add the remaining ingredients. Place in the fridge to chill while you make your pasta.
As far as the pasta goes, I pretty much used the same recipe and method as I used a while back for my butternut squash ravioli, and it worked great. I did use a different flour blend this time. I used Andrea’s flour blend. It works well for anything I have tried it for. Other blends will work fine too. Amy bought me a very nice French rolling pin for Christmas, and it works wonderfully! I was able to roll the dough out thinner this time. (I used an empty wine bottle last time, and it worked ok. The rolling pin worked much better. Although I grew up using the roller style I really like using the tapered type. It is more comfortable for me.)
I let the dough rest for a little while, although it wasn’t strictly necessary. Then I rolled out the dough. Each ravioli gets less than a tablespoon of the filling, and then is sealed up with a little water along the edge of one piece. You will also want to crimp the edges with a fork. You don’t want your filling coming out of the ravioli you worked so hard to make! I find it easier to work with half of the dough at a time. This means that I can work with fewer ravioli at once. Get them filled and roll out the next set. If you wrap the dough in plastic it won’t dry out.
By now you should have a large pot of boiling salted water ready.
Once all of your ravioli are filled drop them in the pot. You want to be gentle, they are delicate. Slide them in one at a time, making sure not to crowd the pot. I got ten ravioli in at once with no problem. When the ravioli float they are done. The filling is already cooked, and there is not very much so they don’t take long to heat through. I’d guess they took about 4 minutes, tops.
While the ravioli were cooking I melted some butter in a skillet, and when the ravioli were done I drained them well, and transferred them to the skillet. I poured in a little white wine, and let it reduce a bit. Next, I added a couple of tablespoons of pesto. (I’ll talk about making pesto soon, but this was pre-made.) I gently stirred the pasta to distribute the pesto, and added about half cup of heavy cream, and as soon as that came up to a boil I added parmesan to the sauce. I added it slowly, and mixed it in until the sauce had thickened nicely. All that was left was to get them onto a plate! I had some asparagus, a salad, and a glass of wine. It was a nice way to celebrate Valentine’s Day!
There are some flavor combinations that just work. Carrot and ginger are two flavors that really go well together. In this pureed soup, you’ll get the spicy ginger flavor complimenting the sweetness of the carrots. When you add the amazing orange color of this soup to the flavor, this is sure to be a big hit with everyone!
This is a very easy soup.
1 medium onion diced
1 stalk celery diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2″ long piece of ginger minced
1 pound carrots cubed
1/2 pound potatoes cubed (The carrots and potato should be about the same size so they cook evenly)
water, chicken or veggie stock to cover
2 bay leaves
1 pint heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil. Put in the onions and celery, sweat until tender, and then add a little salt. Add the garlic and ginger and sweat until fragrant. Lastly, add the carrots, potatoes and bay leaves and cover with stock or water. Bring it up to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. Simmer until the carrots and potatoes are tender.
When the vegetables are tender, remove the bay leaves and discard. Now puree the soup. How you do this depends on what you have on hand. If you have a food processor drain all of the liquid, and puree just the solids. If you use a blender you will need some of the liquid to make everything go. The last way would be to run the soup through a food mill, but most people probably don’t have one.
Once you have everything pureed, put it all back in the pot, and return to a boil. Whisk in the cream, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. If you wanted a vegetarian option you could very easily use coconut milk, or soy milk.
Ok, so this dinner has its genesis in a couple of places. The first was a truly disappointing tamale pie I had from a well known manufacturer of organic foods. I don’t have a big problem with the fact that it was vegan, but it didn’t taste like anything at all. I really liked the idea, but the execution didn’t do anything for me. Then, I had some leftover chicken. I had cut up a chicken to make dinner a couple of nights ago, and we only ate the breasts. This left wings, thighs, and legs to use. Amy doesn’t care for them much, so they needed to be handled in a way that would make it less obvious what we were eating. The truth is this would be a great way to use up leftover beans, and rice as well as chicken. On the other hand since I was cooking the chicken, beans and rice I could season everything exactly the way I wanted it for this dish. I guess what you do will depend on what you have laying around, and what state it is in.
1/2 cup dry black beans soaked over night
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 large onion finely diced
2 chicken leg quarters, cut into leg and thigh
salt and pepper
1/2 cup rice (uncooked)
1/2 large onion finely diced (yes, the other half!)
2 cloves garlic
1 poblano pepper finely diced
1 red bell pepper finely diced
1 can enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso. They have a very strict policy on labeling for gluten containing ingredients)
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free corn bread mix
1 1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup canola oil or melted butter
Obviously you should soak your beans ahead of time to cut down on the cooking time. Combine the first half of the onion and garlic with the black beans and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until tender. Just fish one out and try it. If it is not tender give it a little longer.
While the beans are cooking, preheat the oven to 350F. Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, ground cumin, and paprika, and bake until cooked through. Allow the chicken to cool a bit, and pull the meat off the bone, and chop into small pieces.
Cook your rice. This is a fairly easy step, I just made some plain white rice for this.
In a large skillet sweat the second half of the onions and garlic until tender, add a little salt to draw out moisture, and help move this along. Then add the poblano and bell peppers, and sweat until they are tender. Add the chicken, beans, rice and enchilada sauce, and bring the mix up to a boil, and then simmer for a few minutes. Stir frequently. Pour this mixture into a 13×9 inch pan. Turn the oven up to 375F.
Prepare the cornbread mix according to the directions on the package, and then spread on top of the chicken and bean mixture. Try to spread it as thinly and evenly as possible. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes until the cornbread is golden brown on top and the filling of the pie is bubbling, and hot.
I ate mine topped with a bit of shredded cheddar cheese, and a nice gluten-free beer! It was a great dinner, and the kind of thing that is even better the next day!
Now of course if you wanted to make this vegetarian you could just leave out the chicken, there is protein already with the beans, and you could even add some squash and zucchini or whatever other veggies you wanted to. This kind of dish gives you lots of options to make things your own. Hope you enjoy it!
A lot of people say that they can’t cook because they have to use a recipe to make anything. They seem to be under the impression that a real cook can just throw things in a pot, and have it taste good. In truth you should be able to do both. Very often you will see people who for whatever reason are unable to follow a recipe, but can cook very well. Learning to use a recipe can help you learn to just throw things in a pot and end up with something that tastes good. Pay attention to what flavors work together and use that knowledge to help you with your own dishes.
Throwing things in a pot and making it taste great takes practice, and being willing to fail often. Eventually you will learn that some things just don’t work together. Using a recipe on the other hand is pretty easy, because everything you need to know is right there in front of you. All you have to do is follow directions. Of course, as we learned in grade school sometimes following the directions is the hard part.
With a recipe you can make anything. It really doesn’t make a lot of difference if you have ever eaten it before. The first thing to do is to read through the entire recipe. There may be ingredients or techniques that you are not familiar with. Now is the time to find out what you need to know, and not while you have things burning in a pot . While you read through the recipe you can determine that you have everything you need, or decide what to substitute for something that you are missing. Once you have made the recipe a few times you will probably feel pretty comfortable with it, and be able add or subtract things, or use it as a base for making up your own dishes.
Recipes can come in a lot of formats. The format will depend on the source. The recipes that you see most often on the internet, and in cook books generally list ingredients and quantities. This is followed by a description of the methods used to prepare each component, and the how to assemble them.
In some older cookbooks you may find a very different format:
If you pick up a copy of Escoffier you will find the same format. These books assume a certain level of knowledge and understanding. (I won’t tell you that I am always up to the challenge of these recipes. Some of them are very complex, and may require things that are not used frequently any more.) Although Escoffier and Larousse are old they are very interesting reference books. Some of the recipes you will be able to use, for instance coq au vin. Of course you can find recipes that are in the format we all know for coq au vin in lots of cook books.
Interestingly,you can also see recipes in a similar format to those in Escoffier and Larousse on Twitter. Both Eric Ripert, and Rick Bayless have posted recipes on Twitter. Rick Bayless even ran a contest using recipes in a single tweet. There is very little information given, but in many ways that is freeing. When you have a recipe that is that stripped down, you are free to make it whatever you envision the dish as being.
In a restaurant kitchen you may see recipes that are in a similar format to what you are accustomed to seeing, but often they leave out the directions. So you might get something that looks like my recipe for Shrimp and Basil soup.
Shrimp and Basil Soup
4 large onions large dice
½ cup garlic minced
1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 Tablespoons dry thyme
3 cups fresh basil chiffonade
1 #10 can diced tomatoes
½ bottle white wine
1.5 Gallon vegetable stock
2# frozen peas
2.5# 21-25 shrimp
salt and pepper to taste
That is the extent of the recipe. Since this is used in a restaurant a certain level of knowledge is assumed, just like Escoffier and Larousse. Obviously, this is not really a complicated recipe, but makes a lot of soup! If you have the rest of the information you will have no problem making this soup.
In a large pot sweat the onions, garlic, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until the onions are clear. Add the thyme and basil. Sweat until fragrant, about one minute. Add the tomatoes, and wine, mix well, and bring to a boil. Add the vegetable stock, and return to a boil. Add the frozen peas, and shrimp. Bring back to a boil, and turn the heat down to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 10 to fifteen minutes until the shrimp are cooked through. Taste, and season with salt and pepper.
Assuming you had a pot large enough to make this recipe, lets look at it since we now have it in a format you are familiar with. First, look at the ingredients, is there anything that you don’t have? Anything you don’t understand? Now is the time to find out this kind of thing. It is a lot easier to solve problems before you have food in a pot. Do you know what chiffonade means? Do you have white wine? Do you know what 21-25 shrimp are? Do you know what sweating is? Whatever issues you may need to resolve should be done now.
Only after you know exactly what you need and what you need to do should you even start to do anything that remotely resembles cooking. This hopefully will only add a few minutes to the time it takes you to prepare your dish. Although, if you need to run to the store for something it may have added a little time, but nowhere near as long as if you had started, and realized too late that you needed a crucial ingredient, and then need to start over.
Once you know what you need to do start gathering ingredients, and then prepping them. If you have containers large enough to hold a single step’s ingredients put them together, and once you have everything ready to go into the pot, turn on the heat, and cook!
Some people have trouble with terms used in recipes such as “cook until tender,” “al dente,” “season to taste.” With phrases like this pretty much what you will have to do is fish something out, put it in your mouth, and see if it is tender, al dente, or if it is seasoned properly. These are things that may be hard to specify in a recipe, but are very important. They are pretty easy to check once you realize that all you need to do is taste your food. You should be doing that anyway!
Cooking is very easy once you realize that tasting and adjusting things is part of the fun. If you follow a few very easy principals you’ll have no problem. When you are eating you can take your time, and evaluate things that didn’t turn out quite as well as you would have liked, and remember them for later. The next time you make the dish you can make the changes you noticed. It can be helpful to take notes, and leave them with the recipe to refer to next time you make it.
From time to time I decide I need a challenge. Sometimes this comes in the form of trying to learn a language for which I have no reasonable expectation of ever speaking conversationally with another human being. That is not entirely true, I know one person who speaks Irish. That isn’t really the point. The challenge I have been rolling around in my head is brewing mead. It is possibly the oldest fermented beverage. It is very simple. It has three ingredients. Water, honey, and yeast. That is all.
Your biggest task in this whole endeavor is sanitizing everything that will come in contact with the must. Must is the term for the unfermented honey and water. There are a number of ways to sanitize. Bleach and water is probably the least expensive. At a concentration of 1 TBSP per gallon of water it doesn’t need to be rinsed. It needs to soak for 20 minutes. If you decide to rinse, you should use boiled water to make sure that you’re not adding new life forms to your sanitized items. I didn’t rinse, but I did give it plenty of time to dry. Hopefully it won’t cause any problems. Once you have sanitized do not touch the surfaces that will be in contact with your mead.
Once you have everything clean, and sanitized you can begin. The recipe I am trying is pretty straightforward. Boil 1 quart of honey, and 3 quarts of water for 5 minutes. Cool to about body temperature, and add the yeast. Stir. Pour into a container to ferment. In seven days refrigerate, until the sediment settles in about 2 days. Strain, and bottle. It should be drinkable, but it is supposed to be better when aged for several months.
I’ve been thinking about how to do this, and I’ve decided that I am going to do the fermentation phase of this recipe a little differently. Rather than refrigerate after a week I am going to let the yeast do what it does. I’ve done a bit of reading about this, and as the yeasts die, the air lock will stop bubbling and then the sediment will settle out. Once it is settled I will bottle it, and allow it to age. I’m not sure how long this will take. I started Tuesday night, and I’ve still got bubbles every few seconds on Saturday. I’m keeping it in a box, and have a second box that is on top of it to keep it in the dark. Mead ferments best at room temperatures. Depending on the style beer does better in cooler temperatures.
Obviously at this point I have a ways to go before I have anything I can drink, but it is interesting to think that it is possible to make our own beverage. Is it something we all need to do? Of course not, but it is kind of interesting to try once. Besides if it turns out to be something you enjoy drinking and enjoy doing, why not?
Now, from the title I would imagine that there are at least a couple of you looking at the screen, and thinking “WTF??” This is the kind of thing that I sometimes come up with when I am facing a seemingly random assortment of things on my shelf, and need to come up with a seafood soup for Friday lunch at work. It isn’t really chili, being short on beef, and having lentils, but don’t really know what to call it. It was very tasty (I have been told.), and could have been made gluten-free very easily!
This all started with a container of roasted poblano peppers that were sitting on my shelf next to a container of diced tomatoes. I have no idea how much precedence for a soup like this there is, but I’ve used similar things together before, and had great results.
You’ll want to cut down the size of this recipe… I tend to make large batches of soups. This one was roughly 4 gallons.
I had eight poblanos that had been roasted, but I had to peel them. This is easy to do, but it is easier to do when they are still warm from roasting. If you’ve never roasted a pepper, you’ll be surprised how easy it is. Simply hold your pepper over the flame on your stove, and when it starts to turn black on the side, turn it. Once the skin is blackened and bubbly all over put it into a sealed container of some kind for about 15 to 20 minutes, and the steam will make it easy to just rub most of the blackened skin right off. Then pull off the top of the pepper, and scoop any seeds out. Done.
1 #10 can diced tomatoes, divided in half (At home: 2 14 oz cans of diced tomatoes
8 roasted poblanos (2 peppers)
2 large onions chopped roughly (1 regular sized onion)
1 cup garlic cloves (4-5 cloves)
3 pounds of 26/30* shrimp tail off, deveined and peeled. You could also use smaller shrimp if you want. (1 pound)
1 gallon vegetable stock (1 quart)
4 bay leaves (1 or 2)
ground cumin, corriander, and oregano
salt and pepper
honey (if it is too spicy honey is a great way to balance things out)
Once you have your peppers roasted put them in your food processor with the onions, garlic, and half of the tomatoes, and process until smooth. You’ll have just made a very tasty salsa! .
Place the salsa in a large pot , and bring it up to a boil. You’ll want to be careful doing this, between the peppers and tomatoes there is plenty of sugar to burn. Keep it moving. Once it is up to a boil, add the shrimp. I just sort of sautéed the shrimp until they started to cook a bit. Then I added the beer, the rest of the diced tomatoes, the cumin, coriander, oregano, bay leaves, and the stock. Bring it up to a boil, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. If it is too spicy add a bit of honey to balance it out. Let it simmer for a little while, and serve.
This kind of thing is quite easy to make, and tastes great! Its great if you are abstaining from meat during lent, or are looking for a nice seafood soup that isn’t they typical clam chowder!
* When buying shrimp you’ll often see numbers like 26/30 or 21/25, or U10. These numbers tell you how many shrimp are in a pound. The U10 means that there are less than 10 shrimp per pound!