My old apartment has a similarly old oven that barely gets up past 500 degrees. While fine for Tombstone, it doesn’t quite cut it for really good, crispy thin crust pizza.Last weekend, I went up the Michigan for Fourth of July, and brought the pizza stuff with me. Since the oven isn’t exactly summer/Independence Day friendly (really, who bakes stuff on 4th of July? It’s un-American), I went for the grill to cook the pizza. My first attempt was pretty badly burnt. Not quite inedible, but the bottom was a very, very advanced stage of golden brown. Golden black? Regardless, the top was cooked almost perfectly — bubbly and crispy — so I was encouraged. The second round I dialed down the burners to try to get the bottom in sync with the top. Better, but still not quite what I was looking for. Still as good or a bit better than the oven. The main problem is still getting the top and bottom to be done at the same time — if you get the heat needed to do the top perfectly, the bottom is probably going to get burned. Next time, I’m going to try putting the stone in only a few minutes before the pizza. The not-entirely-hot stone will hopefully buffer the bottom for a while as the top gets blasted by the heat. I’ll report back.
On the way home from Michigan today, we passed a farmstand that had U-Pick Cherries. Since cherries are probably my all-time favorite fruit, and I’ve never picked them before, we had to stop. Not only did they have the regular kind (Bing, I suppose?), but they also had the golden Rainier cherries and tart cherries, which are great for pies. They were $2.50/lb…needless to say, I got carried away, and we walked away with 7 pounds.
I love me some delicious Indian food, and it’s one of my favorite things to cook because the spices, aromas and textures are so different from the normal American fare. Depending on what you cook, it’s also often pretty healthy.
I’ve never been very impressed by instant oatmeal. It always just seems to be oatmeal dust, robbed of any nutritional value by tons of processing and loads of overbearing flavors, mostly sugar. The only reason it has survived this long is that it’s quick and easy — pour some water into a bowl, add instant oatmeal, microwave for 2-3 minutes, and you’re done. Easy, hot breakfast.
However, great oatmeal is just as easy. Except for a very small upfront cost (about 20 minutes), the time it takes to get great oatmeal is basically the same as the time to get mediocre oatmeal. Great oatmeal is cheaper, tastes far, far better, and is much healthier. By making it in bulk at the beginning of the week and packaging it into single-serving containers, you still get the grab-and-go convenience of instant with the price, flavor and health benefits of the good stuff.
My go-to recipe combines the best stuff in granola with the palate-pleasing warmth of whole grain oatmeal. It’s fast, healthy, and something you’ll want to eat every day. The proportions are just approximations — you should definitely add more or less to fit your tastebuds.
Originally posted January 1st, 2011
My wife and I went to Argentina a few weeks ago for our honeymoon. They’re known for their beef — Argentines supposedly eat the most beef per capita of any nation in the world (Wikipedia says 122lbs/person/year!), and there’s good reason. One of our favorite parts of the trip was an excursion to an estancia (ranch) where we spent the late afternoon horseback riding and followed up with a traditional Argentinian barbeque, or asado.
The steak was amazing, but what drove me to seconds (ok, thirds…and forths) was the chimichurri sauce they whipped up to go on top of the grilled meat and crusty bread. Tangy, herby and garlicky sauce was the perfect counterpoint to the rich, grass-fed fattiness of the beef. It was a foreign flavor to my American palate, and absolutely addicting.
The sauce itself is dead simple to make — it’s basically just equal parts red wine vinegar, olive oil, cilantro, red onion, and parley with a few cloves of garlic and some red pepper flakes and black pepper thrown in. A spin of the food processor yields a colorful, rich sauce or marinade that complements beef (or chicken, or fish) in a new and interesting way.
I made it tonight with steak tacos. Forgive me the mixed cuisine (or call it fusion) — but it was delicious. The best part is the remaining uncooked steak and cup of chimichurri left over in my refrigerator. The sauce is sure to be even better tomorrow, and I’ve still got plenty of tortillas (corn, of course).
Like tomatoes and apples, asparagus is one of those foods that is incomparably better from a farmstand in spring than from a supermarket in winter. The variety (thick, thin, green, purple, greenish purple), abundance, sweetness and tenderness are far better when you can get some grown locally in May or June. It’s one of the foods, along with cherries, that I look forward to every year, because it’s the official start of the farmers market and a summer of great produce.
Finding plenty of green shoots and not much else, I walked away from the farmers market last weekend with about 3 pounds of freshly picked purple and green stalks. While I love asparagus, three pounds of it is a bit more than I typically eat, so I sought out a reliable soup recipe that could put the bounty to good use.
Cream of asparagus is the easy answer; but summer’s here and a thick cream soup didn’t really feel like the right answer. Epicurious had a recipe for roasted asparagus soup with a spring herb gremolata that seemed to be perfect for warmer days.
The prep was about as easy as could be — just chop the ends off of the stalks (I’m not really a believer in the breaking method), roughly chop, coat with olive oil and generous pepper, and bake in the oven with some leeks for about 45 minutes. I ended up using a slightly cooler oven (350 vs 425), because I typically roast veggies around there and am generally happy with the results. Per a few suggestions on the Epi comments, I added in a chopped potato to add a bit of body to the eventual soup.
Veggies, aromatics and starches roasted, the next and final step was tossing them in the blender (or food processor, if you want to do a few batches) along with some chicken stock and pureeing until smooth. Finish off with the zesty lemon garlic herb gremolata and you’ve got a filling, but not overly heavy soup. The earthly, roasted flavors of the leeks and asparagus go perfectly with the freshness of the gremolata and make for a great lunch.
Originally posted May 17th, 2011
Roasted Asparagus Soup with Spring Herb Gremolata via Epicurious
When I lived in Boston, there was an awesome Afghan restaurant called Helmand on the Cambridge side of the river. The first time I went was with a group, and the guy in charge took care of getting us some good entrees to pass around. Everything was awesome, but by far the standout was a braised pumpkin, ground beef and yogurt sauce dish called Kaddo. The combination of sweet, salty, cool and rich was unlike anything I’ve tried, and definitely worth a trip back to Cambridge.
With this in mind, when the farmers market got pie pumpkins in season, I had to try making my own. I scoured the web for recipes, and found a great version at Habeas Brulee (that actually referenced Helmand’s dish too!). It definitely takes a bit of time to make, but most of it is spent waiting for the pumpkin to get soft and good in the oven. Follow the recipe exactly, and don’t worry about the amount of sugar and oil it calls to put on the pumpkin — most of it ends up in the pan anyways. Don’t skimp on the yogurt sauce either — it’s a key flavor, texture and coolness in the dish. Serve as an appetizer or main course paired with something a bit less rich. Enjoy!
Originally posted November 13th, 2010