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September 2009

Grilled Pizza, Part Two


I am shocked by how all consuming Patrick has been, post-tonsillectomy. Technically only one out of the six of us (my mother is visiting) is surviving on popsicles, buttered noodles, soggy french toast and tiny sips of blue Gatorade but somehow all normal meal planning has gone flying out the window. My poor mother had to make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich today for lunch when it became obvious I was not going to rally; and Caroline and Edward had a packaged Dal Bukhara (lentil and tomato curry) on toast that I finished - I am  not proud of this - with my fingers when the effort of heating up frozen naan seemed beyond me.

So this is what I made for dinner when I had no time to cook* and this is what I post when I have no time to post.

I had five leftover pizza dough balls the other day and a goodly quantity of sauce. We rolled out and grilled the dough, then let it cool for a couple of hours before putting the crusts into a ziploc bag. Meanwhile, I had put about 1.5 T of pizza sauce into each cup of a silicon mini muffin pan and put the pan in the freezer. The next day I popped the sauce rounds out of the pan and threw them into another freezer bag.

To make the pizza straight out of the freezer I put the crusts on top of the (unlit) stove burners to thaw without condensation making the bottoms gummy. It took less than ten minutes. Then I microwaved a few pizza sauce portions. Topped the crusts with a little olive oil, the sauce, cheese and whatever else we liked and put them under the broiler just until the cheese melted.

Notes: The crust was flabby after it was frozen and then defrosted and broiled. Sad but true. However, as a dinner that took almost no effort and was ready in less than fifteen minutes it was more than adequate.

Any protein ideas for a kid who can only eat soft foods but who hates scrambled eggs?   

*Patrick feels so bad he didn't even care that we had his favorite dinner without him. Poor kid.

Chocolate Chip Cookies


These are Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies. You don't need me to tell you how to make them - just get a package of chips, read the recipe and put your butter out to soften. Or use your own recipe, which is just as good or better (is it? want to share it?)

I did, however, think it might be helpful to tell you what I do to maximize my homemade chocolate chip cookieness while minimizing my access to eating, say, twenty cookies in the course of a single afternoon.

Double the recipe. Get a cookie sheet and a spring-loaded, two tablespoon sized ice cream scooper (if you're feeling fancy; otherwise a spoon and your thumb work just fine.) Create as many dough balls as you can and then put the cookie sheets into the freezer for an hour or two. Pop the now frozen cookies off the sheet and store together in a ziploc bag in the freezer for a month or two.

To bake, preheat oven to 350°. Place cookie dough balls (make a couple at a time or make a bunch) with plenty of room between them because they spread a lot when you bake them frozen. Bake 14-16 minutes until the bottoms are just beginning to brown and the tops are no longer wet.     

Notes: I should be ashamed of myself for posting this but it's what I did today and who knows? Maybe it never occurred to you to freeze the dough pre-clumped. Besides, last night we had fried egg sandwiches for dinner: toast, dijon mustard, sliced tomato, egg over easy topped with swiss cheese and then put under the broiler for a minute - delicious but you wouldn't want a picture of it.

Grilled Pizza, Part One


Fifteen  Minute Pizza Sauce

2 T olive oil
2 clove of garlic, minced
8 oz can tomato sauce
6 oz can tomato paste
1 t sugar
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried basil

In a saucepan heat olive oil. Add garlic and saute three minutes. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar, oregano and garlic. Stir and then simmer for ten minutes.


One Hour (Give or Take) Pizza Dough

2 1/4 t active yeast (I buy a jar and keep it in the fridge; otherwise, use  1 packet)
1 1/4 c 106° water (for years I failed to make sure it was hot enough, now I use an oven thermometer)
4 c all purpose flour
1 T salt
1/4 c olive oil

Dissolve yeast in warm water. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine flour and salt. Using the dough hook attachment gradually stir in olive or and yeast/water mixture, alternating between the two. Increase the speed to medium and stir dough for seven minutes, stopping every so often to scrape dough from the sides and bottom of the bowl. If you do not have a stand mixer just use a spoon and beat the beejeezums out of it until it is elastic and just a little sticky. Flour and water are moody. Sometimes these amounts are perfect; some times they are not. Use your judgment and add water or flour by the tablespoon until the dough feels right.

Put the dough into a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Give it an hour or so to double in size. Then punch it down (I love that part) and divide into eight equal portions. Cover the eight balls with plastic wrap and let them rise again for ten minutes. Then roll or stretch each one until it is very very thin (wafer thin) and about 8-10 inches around.

Heat the grill to medium-low. Oil one side of one dough round and place on the grill oiled side down. Grill 1-2 minutes. Remove from the grill, oil the other side, and then add sauce (if desired) and other toppings lightly. Too much stuff on a grilled pizza is a problem. So scatter cheese, spinach, basil, pepperoni, what have you with a sparing hand and then return the pizza to the grill for another 2-3 minutes.

Depending upon the size of your grill you can do a few pizzas at once.  

Notes: I cut the dough into eight slices like a pie. When I went to roll them out they maintained their triangularity. Oh well. Pizza doesn't HAVE TO be round, you know. We made three pizzas this way (which was a mistake since Steve ate one, Patrick ate one and Caroline and Edward ate one together - hellloooo? no wonder I am always hungry at bed time) which left five balls of dough. We decide to grill them and then freeze the pre-grilled crusts for another day. I also froze the leftover sauce. My plan is to report back on how the freezer pizza components fared in Grilled Pizza Part Two.  

Patrick likes pepperoni and kalamata olives. Caroline and Edward liked (although they didn't have much choice in the matter) baby spinach and olives. I like black olives, fresh tomato, spinach and fresh basil. Steve prefers sausage when he can get it but seemed happy enough with spinach, olives and a few of the fifty billion chanterelle mushrooms he and Patrick have gathered this week. They are, like, I don't even know what... gnomes. And we are all tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese people. 

What do you put on yours?

Green Bean Corn and Tomato Salad


Green Bean, Corn and Tomato Salad

1 cube Dorot frozen garlic (I get it at Trader Joes) or 1 clove garlic, pounded to paste
1/2 t salt
2 T white wine vinegar
1/3 c olive oil

3 c corn (cut off 4-5 ears, blanched or 2 15oz cans, drained)
1.5 lb green beans, halved and then blanched
2 pt cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small red onion, sliced very thinly
1/2 c fresh basil, coarsely chopped

In a small bowl (or jar. I use a jelly jar for vinaigrette because I can put the lid on and then shake it) put garlic, salt and vinegar. Let it sit for fifteen minutes. Then add olive oil and whisk together (or, you know, shake it.)

Put sliced red onion in a bowl of ice water and let it soak for at least five minutes. This removes much of the raw onion's sharpness and keeps it crisp.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. If you are using fresh corn, add kernels to water and blanch for one minute. Scoop out and place in a large bowl. Add 2 T salt to the water and return to boil. Add green beans and blanch for three minutes. Remove from water and spread out the beans to cool.

Stir corn and green beans together. Then add red onion, tomatoes and basil. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to coat everything thoroughly with dressing. Finish with black pepper.

Serves 8

Notes: Fine Cooking (again with the Fine Cooking - I'm a fan) ran a spread on summer salads a few years ago (issue 72, June/July 2005) that included something similar. I liked the vegetable combination but I thought the original recipe was too heavy on the vinegar basil and onion, which conspired to overwhelm the more delicate corn and green bean flavors. So I altered the ratios.

Green beans are perfect right now. I intended to make this with fresh corn but I must have arrived at the grocery between stock times and the corn had been picked over to the point that there was nothing worth buying. So... ho ho ho Green Giant. Properly done, however, this is made fresh out of the garden with just a hint of dressing. I serve it a lot when we have company in the summer (you can double, triple, quadruple it... no problem) and it is delicious. The only caveat is not to make it too far in advance because it gets limp after an hour. It most definitely does not keep overnight.

Couscous Cakes


It is hard not to like couscous. Each serving packs 5 grams of protein and it can go from sitting in the pantry to filling up your mouth in less than seven minutes. However, as my friend Julie observed the other day, feeding couscous to a child is like putting a sequoia through a wood-chipper in the middle of your dining room. Archeologists will sift through the ruins of your home one day and theorize as to the purpose of all those tiny pellets... .

So I was excited to see a recipe for couscous cakes in Fine Cooking (issue 99, May/June 2009.) All the joy of couscous (albeit slightly more slowly; true) but with a much lower potential for carnage.  

This is a version I came up with the other night:

Couscous Cakes with Sundried Tomatoes & Feta

1 c couscous
1 c water
1 t salt

1 garlic clove
1/2 c chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 T fresh basil, chopped

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
1/2 c crumbled feta

2 T olive oil for frying, divided

In a saucepan bring water and salt to a boil. Stir in couscous, remove from heat and let sit for five minutes. Fluff with a fork to separate grains.

In the bowl of a food processor (I used my Cuisinart mini-prep which I got for $25) chop garlic. Then add chickpeas and basil and process until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a medium bowl and add couscous. Then add eggs and stir until well blended. Add tomatoes and feta. Salt and pepper to taste.

Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, press mixture into cup. Then invert over a plate and release cake. It sounds like it would get stuck in there but it does slide out prettily easily. You should have eight cakes.

In a ten inch skillet (or two if you are feeling efficient) heat 1 T of olive oil until it is very hot but not smoking. Put four cakes into oil and press down gently on each one to flatten slightly. Cover skillet with lid and cook for about four minutes. Flip cakes and cook another 3-4 minutes on the other side.

Notes: I made this to augment some skimpy pork chops. The chops were terrible but the couscous cakes are something I could eat every week. They would be great as an entree with a salad. I had both feta and sundried tomatoes on hand (and basil. lordy I have basil coming out of my ears this year) so that is what I used but the possibilities as to what you can add are endless.

In the spirit of full disclosure I should admit that the raison d'etre's for making couscous more complicated - namely Caroline and Edward and, to a lesser degree, Patrick - all refused to eat these. Patrick on sight, Caroline after a thoughtful lick-and-spit, and Edward after about six bites. I'll try again, though, because I LOVED them.       

Tomato-Balsamic Marinated Chicken


While I was in the process of trying to make grocery store grape tomatoes taste like something I went through a few iterations of tomato-balsamic reduction. In the end I had a dressing I liked for the tomatoes and three pans full of a sort of glaze/marinade leftover. I put it all into an empty jelly jar and let it sit on the counter while I figured out what to do with it. Then Steve graciously volunteered to go grocery shopping for us and he came home with an item I have never purchased before, chicken wing drummies.

What the... ? I like a buffaloed wing as much as the next person but without a deep-fat fryer it just isn't the same. So for a lack of anything better to do I threw the drummies into my tomato-balsamic marinade and we grilled them for dinner.

Patrick said, "THIS is delicious." And it was.

Tomato-Balsamic Marinated Chicken   

24 chicken wing drummies

1.5 c tomato juice
3 T balsamic vinegar
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

6 T olive oil

In a saucepan combine tomato juice, vinegar and garlic. Bring to a low boil/rapid simmer and cook until it reduces by about a third. Off the heat whisk in olive oil. Let cool.

Pour half of the marinade into a large bowl, add the chicken and toss thoroughly to coat. Refrigerate for two hours (or less if you have less time.)

Grill over medium heat for 12-15 minutes, turning three or four times as they cook.

Edited to add: oh damn it! I forgot to say, after grilling pour the reserved marinade over the chicken and serve. The serve part is probably intuitive but the marinade as sauce thing was not.

Chilled Corn Soup


 Chilled Corn Soup

6 ears fresh corn, cooked, kernels removed and set aside

6 c water

2 T butter

2 c diced celery

1 medium onion, diced

2 c diced carrot

2 T minced garlic

1 t salt

1 lb red potatoes, diced

2 c corn stock

2 c chicken broth

stalk of fresh basil (stem with a bunch of leaves attached)

Snap corn cobs in half and place them in a stock pot. Cover with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about two hours. Let cool and then refrigerate (cobs and all) overnight.

The next day remove corn cobs from stock. Scrape cobs with a spoon to remove any remaining pulp (I held them directly over the reserved corn kernels) and then discard cobs. Strain stock into medium bowl. Melt butter in stock pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, and salt and cook over medium heat until vegetables soften. Add garlic and cook another three minutes. Then add 2 cups of corn stock, 2 cups of chicken broth, potatoes, basil and 2/3 of the reserved corn. Cook over medium heat until potatoes are soft.  

Let cool. Remove basil. Then use an immersion blender (or a regular blender, working in batches) to carefully puree soup. Finally, push soup through a fine-mesh sieve held over a large bowl and refrigerate until cold.

To serve garnish with the reserved corn, fresh basil, black pepper and (if you have any on hand) coarsely chopped roasted tomatoes.

Notes: I took your advice and triaged the CSA box. Corn definitely had to be used first so we grilled all twelve ears. Ate half with dinner that night, used the rest in this soup. Technically there was enough corn stock to skip the addition of chicken broth but I am sort of a chicken broth junkie. Swanson's Natural Goodness reduced sodium being my aseptic package of choice. This was not quick - especially the final straining which I did with the back of a wooden spoon - but if you have some time and are feeling fussy it was really lovely. I saved the leftover solids and gave them to Caroline and Edward; nothing like a little potato carrot corn mush for lunch. They were skeptical but it tasted good so they overlooked the potential insult inherent in something that looked like baby food for babies. 

CSA Challenge


Our friends are out of town and generously bequeathed us their CSA box for the week. We forgot to pick it up - we're like that - but sorted it out by this morning.

When I was around four years old my mother belonged to a vegetable co-op. When it was her turn to shop we got up at dawn and went to a big wholesale market to buy vegetables. Then she divvied up what she had purchased and filled a dozen boxes to be picked up from our garage. When it wasn't her turn we would drive through the maze-like alleys of DC every week trying to locate the garage du jour. I remember that it was always sort of exciting to see what we got, like opening a present. I haven't thought about my mom's vegetable co-op in at least two decades but when we opened the CSA box this morning I had that Proustian jolt as the smell of fresh vegetables in waxed cardboard hit me between the eyes.

I think we'll have to sign up with this CSA ourselves next summer.

Today's haul is comprised of a dozen ears of corn, a pound of green beans, a bunch of carrots, two pounds of new potatoes, six smallish cucumbers, four white onions, a bunch of dill, a bunch of watercress that has unfortunately seen better days, a big bunch of swiss chard, five yellow squash and a big zucchini.   

The challenge is: what would you do with any/all of these things? Please be as vague or specific as you like. 

[Oh, and swiss chard specifically? Help? The only thing I can think to do with it is smother it in cheese and bread crumbs and bake it as the snow swirls outside the window. Not very summery.]

Minty Limey Goodness


Minty Limey Goodness

12 oz can limeade
1/2 c fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
9 oz vodka
4 1/2 c ice cubes

Put into a blender and blend.

Notes: I cannot convey to you how good this is other than to say that everyone we have ever served it to has come back to us, usually weeks later, smacking their lips and asking how we made that lime-mint thing. Our blender cannot hold all of the ice cubes all at once so we add about half, blend, then add more ice, blend... you get the idea. The desired consistency is fairly thick.

We got this from Bon Appetit magazine years ago but their original recipe had silly quantities - what on earth were we supposed to do with the rest of an open, half-empty can of limeade? So we changed it. If you don't feel up to downing over a cup of vodka in one sitting this keeps for a few days in the freezer. Pour it into two (very important, otherwise it will leak) Ziploc bags .

My friend Noelle made it with gin. I think that might be pretty good too.

Serves nine (I suppose.)

Grilled Salmon with Basil Cucumber Cream


Grilled Salmon with Basil Cucumber Cream

1/3 c orange juice
1/3 c soy sauce
1/3 cup water (or white wine, if you have some open - a dry one)

1 lb salmon fillet, intact and about one inch at its thickest

5 large basil leaves
1 c loosely packed baby spinach, stems removed
1/3 c sour cream
1 t dijon mustard 1/2 c finely diced cucumber, seeds removed

Combine orange juice, soy sauce and water in a shallow baking pan. Add salmon, skin side up. Marinate for as long as you can (up to three hours - two hours would be nice but ten minutes is ok too.) Heat grill to medium high. Grill salmon skin side down for 5-6 minutes. Flip and grill for another 2 minutes.

Meanwhile, place spinach and basil in bowl of mini food processor (or chop it yourself, very very fine) and pulse for a few seconds. Add sour cream and mustard, pulse until just blended. Stir in cucumber. Salt and pepper to taste.   

Notes: There is something overwhelmingly 80s about this, isn't there? I almost spelled it Creme. But I had the salmon and half a cucumber and I went from there.

I think it is marginally easier to grill one piece of fish than multiple smaller pieces and (as with beef) Steve prefers salmon rarer than I do. So a big fillet that is thick on one end and thin on the other works fine for us. By the time my end is cooked the way I like it his is perfect for him. If you run a less Jack Sprat household then you can either tuck the skinny end underneath or cut smaller fillets and cook accordingly. Or just buy equal sized pieces I guess.

Everyone ate all of this with the exception of Caroline who thought the salmon was weird and who subsequently ate only a few bites. Also I noticed that the tips of Patrick's asparagus were traded to Steve for some reason. But apart from that... .