Category Archives: Recipes

A Tale of Two Parties: Utica Tomato Pie

Where to begin with Utica Pie…

Utica PieMy best friend in graduate school would speak about this thing called Tomato Pie in reverent tones and I was so excited to try it when she brought me to her house for my first Easter in New York.  Then I saw this under-dressed, plain, fluffy crust with just a little sauce and cheese, and was completely underwhelmed.  Jen’s face, on the other hand, lit up and she edged a bit closer to the plate.  I took a piece, not wanting to seem rude, and took a bite of what I only expected to be relatively tasteless cheese pizza… and was immediately hooked.  The crust had great texture, crispy on the bottom and fluffy but flavorful throughout.  It only needed a little of the intense sauce and cheese to round out the flavor profile, any more and it would have been cloying.  In future trips to what I would claim as my New York home, one of the things I always looked forward to was to be sent home with extra Tomato Pie… and Roma Bacon, but that’s a different story.

I have to say that as I am posting these recipes I am faced with a trepidation that I didn’t feel when making them for our party guests.  None of the guests at our party have every been to upstate New York, so I could have served up just about anything and stated that it was from upstate and no one would have been the wiser.  Now, however, I know that some of my readers are from upstate and they know what these things are supposed to look like and taste like.  I, however, am making these from memories and partial recipes that I’m piecing together as I go.  The final dishes that result from these recipes are delicious, but it is possible that some of my tweaks in the kitchen may have pulled them away from the real deal dishes.  For my family in New York, I hope you can look past any inaccuracies and just taste the love, since they were made with memories of all the love I experienced when in your homes.  Miss you!

Utica Pie
Adapted in part from Cook’s Illustrated Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
Ingredients: Makes 2 pies
For the Crust:
3 ¼ cups flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 pkg (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast
1 ¼ cups water (room temperature)
7 tbsp. butter, divided
4+ tbsp. olive oil, divided

For the Sauce and Toppings:
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ cups freshly grated parmesan

The wet and dry ingredients for the crust.

The wet and dry ingredients for the crust.

Directions:
For the Crust:

  1. Melt 3 tbsp. of the butter and set it aside. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add the water and melted butter, and mix on low speed until ingredients are combined. Then switch to medium speed (speed 2 on most models) and knead until smooth and glossy, about 4-6 minutes. Alternatively you can mix and knead the dough by hand.
  2. Shape the dough into a ball and roll it in a little olive oil in a large bowl so it’s coated with oil all around. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a towel and set it aside to rise for 45-60 minutes.
  3. Soften the remaining 4 tbsp. butter and set aside. Turn the risen dough out onto a floured surface and shape it into a 12 x 15 inch rectangle. Using an offset spatula spread the softened butter over the dough’s surface leaving a ½ inch border free around the edges.
    Rolling the dough out into a large rectangle.

    Rolling the dough out into a large rectangle.

    Coating the top of the dough with a thin layer of softened butter will result in crispy, buttery layers of dough in the final pie.

    Coating the top of the dough with a thin layer of softened butter will result in crispy, buttery layers of dough in the final pie.

  4. Starting at a short end roll the dough up into a cylinder. Place the cylinder seam side down and roll it out into a 4 x 18 inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half crosswise. Set one half aside and work with one at a time.
    The dough cylinder.

    The dough cylinder.

    The long, thin cylinder, encapsulating lovely layers of butter.

    The long, thin cylinder, encapsulating lovely layers of butter.

    Divide the cylinder in half crosswise.

    Divide the cylinder in half crosswise.

  5. Fold the rectangle into thirds. Then pinch the edges of the dough together forming a ball. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Place the balls back into the oiled bowl, covering them with plastic wrap and placing the bowl in the refrigerator to rise for 40-50 minutes, or until doubled in size.
    Folding the two halves into thirds.

    Folding the two halves into thirds.

    The folded dough is then rolled and pinched into a ball.

    The folded dough is then rolled and pinched into a ball.

    One dough ball ready to become a Utica Pie.

    One dough ball ready to become a Utica Pie.

  6. Coat two 9-inch pie pans with 2 tbsp. olive oil each. One at a time transfer each dough ball to your work surface and roll it out into a 13 inch circle. Move each dough circle to its respective pie tin by rolling it loosely around the rolling pin and then draping it into the pie tin. Using your fingers press the dough into the corners of the tin, forming it up the sides. At this point you can continue on making the Utica pies, or you can cover the dough thoroughly with two layers of plastic wrap and freeze them for up to four weeks.

 For the Sauce:

  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and garlic, sauteing until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.

    Mmmmm.... Oil and garlic...  Who needs more?

    Mmmmm…. Oil and garlic… Who needs more?  I was making a larger batch of the sauce here, so my proportions will be much larger than your’s.  I also have a lot of this in my freezer right now.

  2. Add the tomatoes and dried herbs. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Be careful, this might bubble like hot lava, and if it gets on your skin it will feel like it too! Yes, this is from personal experience…

    A flavorful sauce the cooks like hot lava.  Be ware of splashes!

    A flavorful sauce the cooks like hot lava. Be ware of splashes!

  3. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside to use with the crust, or refrigerate/freeze for use in the future.

Note: This sauce recipe makes more sauce than you will need for the two pies. The extra sauce can be frozen for use over the next couple of months. Try freezing it in ice cube trays so that you can defrost only the amount you need and keep the rest in the freezer.

 For the pies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. If using frozen dough, remove the plastic wrap and bake the crusts for 15 minutes until almost cooked through, but not yet browned. Then follow the directions as for room temperature dough.

    From frozen, this crust was baked for about 15 minutes until almost cooked through, but not browned.

    From frozen, this crust was baked for about 15 minutes until almost cooked through, but not browned.

  3. From frozen/pre-baked and room temperature dough: Spread ½ cup of sauce over the dough, then sprinkle half of the cheese over top. Repeat with the second pie.
    You should still be able to see the crust peeking through the sauce.

    You should still be able to see the crust peeking through the sauce.

    A delicious coating of parmesan cheese...  I'm lucky that Little Man was sleeping or he would have stolen the cheese from my bowl.

    A delicious coating of parmesan cheese… I’m lucky that Little Man was sleeping or he would have stolen the cheese from my bowl.

  4. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese melted, about 15 minutes.
    One hot, bubbly pie.

    One hot, bubbly pie.

    And another...

    And another…

  5. Remove the pies from their tins and cut into squares. Enjoy!
Pile them high on a serving platter, and then be sure to elbow your way to the front before they disappear.

Pile them high on a serving platter, and then be sure to elbow your way to the front before they disappear.

Click here for a printable version of Utica Pie.

I hope this recipe can make converts out of you too!  🙂

A Tale of Two Parties: Our Island Party and the Food

Now that we set the stage with the amazing party in New West… no pressure, right?  Oy…  Now I have to begin with confessing that some how, and I’m not exactly sure what happened, but we ended up with next to no pictures from Dave’s graduation party at our house.  I know…  I don’t know what happened…  I did, luckily, take pictures of the food (mostly) while I was preparing the dishes so at least that’s something.  But seriously… no pictures?  Ugh…

Here's our happy graduate!

Here’s our happy graduate!

On the brighter side, let’s talk about food.  Here’s the menu for Dave’s graduation party.

Dave’s Graduation Party Menu
Spiedies: Italian marinated pork or chicken that is skewered and grilled. Served on a bun with sauteed onions, mustard and mayonnaise.
White T-Shirt Shrimp: A Cajun spiced shrimp boil with beer and butter. Served with bread to dip.
Utica Pie: A deep dish tomato and parmesan “pie” with a Chicago-style crust.
Red, White and Blue Coleslaw: An homage to one of our favorite restaurants in Ithaca, NY, this is red cabbage, white cabbage and blue cheese slaw.
Half Moon Cookies: Made famous through Seinfeld, these Black and White cookies are claimed to have originated in Utica, NY, as Half Moons.

A fantastic blend of neighbors, family and friends.  What an amazing blessing!

A fantastic blend of neighbors, family and friends. What an amazing blessing!

It’ll take me a few posts to get all of the recipes posted, but today we are going to start with the Spiedies and White T-Shirt Shrimp, the two recipes that I don’t have images for.  This just means that you’ll have to try the recipes and send me pictures from your creations.  🙂  I’d love to see them!

Spiedies are a classic Binghamton, NY, dish.  This is the perfect festival food from Binghamton, honored yearly by the Spiedie Fest.  In fact, at my bachlorette party my fantastic ladies made a version to serve along with other bites of New York.  I hope I did them all justice with this recipe.  While the pork spiedie is the classic, we also offered a chicken version.  They were both delicious, especially with a heap of sauteed onions.

Spiedies
Ingredients
:
5 lbs. of pork loin or chicken, cubed
2 cups plus ¼ cup olive oil
½ cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. dried basil
1 tbsp. dried rosemary
1 tbsp. garlic powder
4 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine the meat with 2 cups of olive oil, the vinegar, and all the dried spices in a large, nonreactive bowl or resealable plastic bag. If using a plastic bag be sure to place it in a casserole dish or other walled dish or bowl in case of any leaks. Place the meat and marinade in the refrigerator and chill for several hours or overnight. In a pinch, 30 minutes will get you some flavor, but longer is better.
  2. Meanwhile heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the onions. Be prepared to cry a little… or a lot. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté the onions until they start to brown on the edges, then turn down the heat to medium and slowly cook them until they are soft and golden. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Put the onions into a serving bowl and set aside. If making the spiedies in advance you can refrigerate the onions for up to 2 days and then reheat them in the microwave before setting them out with the other condiments and buns.
  3. When you are ready to grill the meat, prepare the skewers. Skewer the meat, leaving some space between the cubes to ensure even cooking. If using bamboo skewers be sure to soak them according to package directions in advance. Grill the skewers over high heat to get a char on your kebabs. Depending on the size of your cubes this can happen quickly, so watch them like a hawk. Test individual skewers to ensure for doneness.
  4. Remove the meat from the skewers and place it in a serving bowl. Serve the grilled meat with torpedo buns, the delicious, golden onions, as well as mustard and mayonnaise. Enjoy!

Please click here for a printable version of the Spiedies recipe.

Our front yard was festooned with balloons... and then we spent the entire time on our fantastic new back deck.  Ah well...

Our front yard was festooned with balloons… and then we spent the entire time on our fantastic new back deck. Ah well…

I cannot believe that I don’t have a single picture of the White T-Shirt Shrimp served at the party.  Ugh!  So you’ll just have to use your great imaginations to picture a vat of spicy sauce comprised predominately of butter and beer with succulent shrimp, served in bowls with crusty bread to soak up that delicious sauce.  My mouth is already watering…  The name for this dish comes from when Dave first tried it at a wonderful cabin (aka “camp”) up on Otter Lake.  He was wearing a brand new, white t-shirt he’d received for his birthday.  He took one bite of a shrimp, and watched the tail flip down in slow motion splattering his front with bright red, spicy butter sauce.  Dave now recommends a bib when eating these shrimp, but I’d wear a trash bag if I had to just to get a bowl of that sauce with a hunk of bread.  At the party we served the White T-Shirt Shrimp on a warming tray with a platter of warmed baguettes next to it to keep them both hot throughout the party.

White T-Shirt Shrimp
Ingredients
:
4 bottles of beer
¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
½ cup Cajun spice
4 lemons, juiced
1 lb. butter
5 lbs. shrimp, shell on, uncooked

Directions:

  1. Heat all of the ingredients except for the shrimp in a large pot. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the shrimp and cook for 7-8 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
  3. Serve with bowls and lots of crusty bread to soak up the amazing boil. Enjoy!

Please click here for a printable version of the White T-Shirt Shrimp recipe.

 

New DeckStay tuned for more recipes… with pictures… from the party!  😉

 

Grilled Salmon, Fresh Off the Line

Until just a couple of days ago, the best salmon I have ever had was grilled up by Dave’s dad, Joe, at their cabin.  I should say that pretty much whenever Joe is grilling salmon, that’s my favorite.  It’s amazing.  That was the truth until a couple days ago when Dave grilled up some Lemon Garlic Salmon. This fish was incredibly tender, almost creamy in texture, but not mushy.  There wasn’t a hint of fishiness anywhere, and if you associate salmon with a fishy taste that probably means that you’ve been eating farm raised salmon.  Yuck.  Wild caught salmon from the Pacific Northwest has a fresh taste that has absolutely nothing in comparison to the muddy, fishy flavor of farm raised salmon.

The Lemon Garlic Salmon that Dave grilled up wasn’t just wild caught, it was caught by a cousin who just happened to be coming to our home for Dave’s graduation party (recipes from that party will be appearing next week).  This wonderful cousin, of whom poets should sing, showed up at the party with a large, red cooler.  He plunked it down in our kitchen and called Dave over.  As he lifted the white plastic lid I think I heard angels singing, because inside were two enormous sides of the most beautiful pink salmon I’ve ever seen. I had learned early in our relationship that one of the benefits of marrying a west coast Canadian boy was that this got me into closer proximity to some of the best salmon in the world.  I had no idea that this would also grant me family who showed up bearing gifts of fresh caught salmon.

We tightly wrapped and froze much of the salmon, but Dave saved out a large portion for the grill.  Then he went into research mode, trying to figure out the flavor profile he wanted.  In the end he chose a beautifully simple combination of lemon and garlic with just enough seasoning to highlight the amazing flavor of the salmon.  Dave adapted this recipe from an Essence of Emeril recipe tweaking it a bit here and there.  You could also use another firm fleshed fish like halibut or cod, but just be careful with the cooking time if you go for a smaller fish size.  The perfect accompaniments for the Lemon Salmon are the Cabin Grilled Potatoes and a fresh green salad…  especially if it is served with a glass of wine.  In true style of not wanting to let anything go to waste, we toasted the salmon with glasses of sparkling wine leftover from the graduation party that had gone slightly flat.  As luck would have it, the sparkling wine was so good that even the slightly flat version was still crisp with a slight effervescence that was amazing with the salmon.  It was a perfect meal on the deck with my two amazing boys.

Note: When Garlic Turns Blue…

The salmon smelled fantastic.  We brought the packet to the table and Dave did the big reveal, peeling the foil back, the delicious steam poured out revealing the perfectly cooked salmon layered with the beautiful golden lemons and studded with…  cyanide blue garlic?  What on earth had happened?  Was the salmon safe to eat?  And why on earth had turned the garlic turquoise blue?  A bit of quick internet research later and I learned that it is an interesting, but non-toxic, effect that sometimes happens with young garlic, especially when it comes in contact with other acids like lemon, onion or wine, and low heat.  So please enjoy the lovely turquoise hue of the garlic in our pictures and know that it tasted delicious.  If you are curious about the glories of blue-green garlic, here’s a NY Times article on the subject.

Lemon Garlic SalmonLemon Garlic Salmon
Ingredients
:
1 side of salmon, skin on
2 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil, divided

Directions:

  1. Preheat your grill or oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rinse the salmon under cold running water and then pat dry.
  3. Lay a long piece of foil down on the work surface. The foil should be twice the length of your salmon, or use two pieces to be sure to cover your salmon completely.
  4. Butter the foil, leaving a couple inch border around the edges for sealing later on. Drizzle a little olive oil over the foil, and then lay the salmon onto the foil skin side down. Sprinkle with the salt and white pepper.
  5. In a small bowl mix the minced garlic with a little olive oil and salt, smashing the garlic against the side of the bowl with a spoon to make it a loose paste. Smear the garlic paste all over the salmon, and sprinkle the fresh rosemary over top.
  6. Layer the lemon slices over the salmon, covering as much of the surface as you can. Then sprinkle the onions over the lemon slices, and drizzle the entire packet with the remaining olive oil.
  7. Fold the foil edges up to seal the salmon tightly on all sides in the packet. Place the foil packet on the grill and monitor it closely. The salmon should steam inside the packet, retaining all the amazing moisture and flavor of the lemon, garlic and onions.
  8. Cook the salmon packet for 15-20 minutes, or until just cooked through but still moist. The cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your salmon, thinner pieces cooking faster than thicker ones.
  9. Remove the packet to a serving plate and bring it to the table to serve from the foil. If your salmon had pin bones be careful to remove them carefully as you go, warning all diners that there could be pin bones in their portion. Enjoy!

Lemon Garlic SalmonClick here for a printable version of the Lemon Garlic Salmon recipe.

Cabin Grilled PotatoesCabin Grilled Potatoes
Ingredients
:
6 medium red skinned potatoes
1 medium onion, halved
6 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat your grill or oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Thinly slice your potatoes and set them aside. Thinly slice your onions and set them aside.
  3. Place a baking sheet on your work station and cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil that overlaps each side by an inch or two. Generously butter the foil, leaving a couple inches of border all around for when you close the packets.
  4. Layer half of the potatoes across the foil, overlapping them slightly and leaving enough foil around the edges that the packet can be sealed for the grill or oven. Dot the potatoes with thin slices of half of the butter.
  5. Layer half of the onions over top of the potatoes, and sprinkle the entire packet with salt and pepper.
  6. Layer the remaining potatoes over the onions, and dot the potatoes with thin slices of the remaining butter.
  7. Layer the remaining onions on top of the potatoes, and sprinkle the entire packet with salt and pepper.
  8. Place a second piece of foil over top of the potatoes and onions, and fold the edges up to seal the packet on all sides.
  9. Place the packet into your grill and cook for approximately 20 minutes. Monitor the heat during the cooking, adjusting as necessary. The sealed packet will steam the potatoes, but the heat should also create a golden crust on the bottom. Be careful that the bottom layer doesn’t “over caramelize” (aka burn).
  10. Remove the packet to a serving plate and bring it to the table. Rip open the foil to let the aroma of browned buttery potatoes and onions float across the table. Serve family style. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Cabin Grilled Potatoes recipe.

Cabin Grilled Potatoes

Baklava Cake: How to Use Leftover Phyllo

Phyllo is one of those ingredients that seems to be able to strike fear into the hearts of would-be-bakers.  Some recipes make phyllo sound as fragile as an explosive, and that you must cover up the sheets between additions or all is lost.  Forget all of that.  Phyllo is one of the most forgiving things you can ever work with.  A little butter or olive oil goes a long way and by the time you’ve baked your creation to a golden crisp, any imperfections in execution will only exist in your own mind since your finished beautiful dish won’t show them.

That said, every now and then there can be some phyllo left over that doesn’t make it into the final product, or perhaps a recipe only called for a partial box of phyllo and you didn’t quite get the box well sealed allowing the phyllo to dry out.  Do not despair.  There are a myriad of ways that you can use the sadly dried out and crumbly phyllo.

A bowl of phyllo shards.

A bowl of phyllo shards.

For just a few examples dried out phyllo can be toasted in the oven and used as any sort of crunchy topping on casseroles, in salads, on sundaes, and the list goes on.  Today, however, we are going to transform the brittle bits into a honey-soaked cake version of the famous Mediterranean baklava.

Baklava Cake
Filling Ingredients
:
1 cup combined walnuts and almonds
¼ tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. butter, melted
Cake Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ cup plain yogurt
¾ cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
Topping Ingredients:
1 heaping cup of phyllo dried bits
1 tbsp. butter, melted
Syrup Ingredients:
½ cup white sugar
½ cup honey
½ cup water
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 x 12 inch pan.
  2. Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. You want some texture, so don’t let it get powdery. Put the chopped nuts into a small bowl and toss with the cinnamon and butter. Set aside.
    Pulse the nuts in a food processor to chop them finely, but don't let them get powdery.

    Pulse the nuts in a food processor to chop them finely, but don’t let them get powdery.

    Add the seasoning to the chopped nuts.

    Add the seasoning to the chopped nuts.

    Toss the ingredients together to combine.

    Toss the ingredients together to combine.

  3. Whisk together all dry cake ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk the wet cake ingredients together. Add the wet to the dry and gently incorporate. Do not over mix.
    The dry ingredients.

    The dry cake ingredients.

    The dry ingredients whisked together.  I love my flat whisk for this.

    The dry ingredients whisked together. I love my flat whisk for this.

    The wet ingredients.

    The wet cake ingredients.

    The wet ingredients combined.

    The wet ingredients combined.

    The cake batter coming together.

    The cake batter coming together.

  4. Pour half of the cake batter into the prepared pan and smooth to the edges. Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter in the pan. Gently pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and then use a spatula to spread the batter over the nuts and to the edges of the pan.
    Pour half of the cake batter into the pan and spread the batter out to the corners.

    Pour half of the cake batter into the pan and spread the batter out to the corners.

    Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter.

    Sprinkle the nut filling evenly over the batter.

    Carefully pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and gently spread it out to the edges of the pan.

    Carefully pour the remaining batter over the nut filling and gently spread it out to the edges of the pan.

    The final layer of cake batter.

    The final layer of cake batter.

  5. In a medium bowl toss the dried phyllo bits with the butter. Let the phyllo bits break apart into glistening shards of dough. You don’t want them to become powdery, but let them break apart a bit. Evenly sprinkle the phyllo over the cake batter in the pan.
    A bowl of sad, dried out phyllo edges.

    A bowl of sad, dried out phyllo edges.

    A little butter to pull the phyllo shards together.

    A little butter to pull the phyllo shards together.

    A bowl of phyllo shards.

    A bowl of phyllo shards.

    The phyllo shards are sprinkled over the cake and it's ready for the oven.

    The phyllo shards are sprinkled over the cake and it’s ready for the oven.

  6. Carefully place the cake pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Loosely place a piece of foil over the cake and bake for another 35-40 minutes. The foil should protect the phyllo from over browning. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking time.
    Cover the cake with foil for much of the baking time so that the phyllo doesn't over brown (aka burn!).

    Cover the cake with foil for much of the baking time so that the phyllo doesn’t over brown (aka burn!).

    Remove the foil from the cake for the last 10 minutes or so of the baking time.  Watch the cake like a hawk at this stage, and replace the foil if you think the phyllo is getting too dark too quickly.

    Remove the foil from the cake for the last 10 minutes or so of the baking time. Watch the cake like a hawk at this stage, and replace the foil if you think the phyllo is getting too dark too quickly.

    The cake is fully baked, but not done yet...

    The cake is fully baked, but not done yet…

  7. Meanwhile combine the white sugar, honey and water for the glaze in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the syrup starts to bubble remove it from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and cinnamon.  You can gently reheat the syrup if needed to make it nicely spoonable over the warm cake.
    The syrup ingredients.

    The syrup ingredients.

    Heat the syrup until it just begins to bubble and then remove it from the heat.  If you boil it too long it will turn into candy, and that's not what you are going for here.

    Heat the syrup until it just begins to bubble and then remove it from the heat. If you boil it too long it will turn into candy, and that’s not what you are going for here.

  8. Test the cake to be sure it is cooked through. Once done remove the cake to a rack to cool. Place a piece of aluminum foil under the rack and carefully spoon the syrup over the cake. Some of the syrup will spill off of the cake, so the foil below the rack should keep your counters from becoming a tasty, but sticky mess. Try to get as even a coating as you can, and don’t forget the edges.

    The cake gets a gorgeous sheen from the honey syrup as it sticks to the phyllo, but also soaks into the cake.

    The cake gets a gorgeous sheen from the honey syrup as it sticks to the phyllo, but also soaks into the cake.

  9. Cool the cake for 15 minutes. Cut, serve and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Baklava Cake recipe.

Eat

The Long May Weekend – A Year Later

To be honest, I don’t know a lot about Queen Victoria whom the long May weekend commemorates. We still feel repercussions from the Victorian era, such as white wedding gowns and a penchant for prudery. The Queen also plays a memorable role in “The Pirates! Band Of Misfits” in which she wields a mean scimitar. I hadn’t even been aware that she had her own day in Canada until last year when I flew out to Vancouver Island on the long weekend to look for a place for our family.  I had only this one weekend and some substantial internet house browsing in which to find the home we would move to in a few short months.

Such began an epic weekend of rental house hunting with my mother-in-law, Ruth, and my sister-in-law, Erin. We would learn quickly that house hunting online is much like online dating…  Everyone lies.  The pictures are all glamor shots from years if not decades earlier, the houses all looked much cleaner online, and in the case of a couple of our visits the picture can’t quite convey the… shall we say scent… of the actual building.

We called ourselves Little Man’s Angels, an all woman team who were finally answerable to my toddler son.  Even though he was back in the States during our adventure, Little Man became our litmus test for whether or not a property was even worth considering.  Unfortunately most of the places that we visited were not viable. In fact, right after visiting one more decrepit, dirty property in a long line of decrepit, dirty properties with questionable potential for child safety I was starting to wonder if I was being too picky. I must have mumbled something positive about the house when Ruth looked me in the eye and stated that while Dave and I were welcome to live in that house, her grandson would certainly not. I almost cried from relief.

The houses we toured in the greater Nanaimo area over the course of the weekend were memorable. One was so small that it should have housed dolls, not real people. Another reeked of stale tobacco and we later learned a man had been violently killed on a nearby street a few months earlier. Another had a blind driveway that led onto a busy street, not to mention a pile of human feces on the back porch. Another had strange fabric draped from the ceiling, holes punched in the walls, and boasted that it came with an outdoor plastic play house… mind you the playhouse had been used as a chicken coop for three years, but that’s nothing that a little spray bleach can’t take care of right? Right…  The one thing that all of the properties shared was that online they looked and sounded amazing.  I started to panic about our prospects.

Then we saw the property on the farm and I think I heard angels sing as a single ray of sun broke through the clouds and lit the house.  The building itself is nice, but the biggest draw was the farm itself and the surrounding landscape.  The idea of Little Man’s first long term memories being shaped here feeding chickens, petting horses, being chased by sheep…  The three of us looked at each other and had to resist the urge to rush into a jumping group hug.

Later we would begin the pattern that would haunt us for the rest of the move.  Just as things would start to look up, something would come crashing down.  No sooner had we called to secure our rental of the farm house then the great situation fell apart almost instantly.  We almost lost the house when its occupants at the time lost the home they were bidding on, and in fact it was only a few weeks before the actual move to Canada that we learned we’d be able to move in.  Other things would happen as well, but for the purposes of this post, it wasn’t until when Dave and his dad pulled up to the house with the moving van filled with all of our belongings and pulling our car with the cats that I truly let myself believe that things would work out.

The farm house is not perfect, but it has turned out to be a great decision. Almost a year later Little Man still asks to go back to our blue house in Iowa, but I don’t think he misses the house as much as he does the proximity to his favorite zoo and his child care provider.  We’re making friends, we live in a beautiful place, and are finding favorite places that we like to go back to over and over again.

Now that we are at this Long May Weekend one year later the main thing that keeps coming to mind is gratitude.  I’m grateful for the hilarious memories from our house hunt. Grateful that Ruth and Erin were able to take the time (and insanity) of that visit with me. Grateful that we live on such a beautiful island; in such a great home; close to the sheep, pigs, Little Man’s Ladies (aka the chickens), and horses; in a place full of potential for more fantastic adventures and memories.

With the thought of gratitude in mind, I planned a simple meal for the barbeque.  My goal was for something that wouldn’t take much time, leaving more time to be with Dave and LIttle Man, but also something full of flavor that Little Man would devour without us having to focus on getting him to eat his dinner.  Thankfully I was successful.  Little Man gobbled everything up and we were all able to have a nice family dinner full of laughs and stories. It was a perfect commemoration of the House Hunt Long Weekend. I hope that one or more of these recipes can give you a similar experience with your family or friends.

Menu: Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks, Mustard Seed Rice, Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms, and Mango Lassi.

Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks

Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks
Ingredients
:
2 tbsp. Tandoori paste
¼ cup plain, fat free yogurt
3-4 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 inch fresh ginger, finely grated
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. canola oil
10 chicken drumsticks

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except for the chicken in a large bowl.
    The marinade ingredients.

    The marinade ingredients.

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    The marinade ingredients combined.

    The marinade ingredients combined.

  2. Add the drumsticks to the bowl and toss until they are evenly coated. Use your hands here to really spread the marinade over the chicken.  Cover and refrigerate the chicken for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

    Tossing the chicken in the marinade is best done with your hands.  It's a bit messy, but roll up your sleeves and dive on in.

    Tossing the chicken in the marinade is best done with your hands. It’s a bit messy, but roll up your sleeves and dive on in.

  3. Preheat your grill or grill pan over medium/medium high heat. The marinade is predominately yogurt based, so you may need to grease your grill to make sure the chicken doesn’t stick. Grill the chicken over medium heat for approximately 45 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the recipe for Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks.

 

Mustard Seed Rice

Mustard Seed Rice
Ingredients
:
1 tbsp. brown mustard seeds
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 ½ cups white basmati rice
3 cups hot water
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Gently heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. Cover the pan when the seeds start to pop, and shake it periodically to keep the seeds moving. Be careful not to burn them. When the seeds stop popping, about 30 seconds, add the rice and stir to combine. Stir the rice every now and then to let it just start to brown. This should take just a couple of minutes.
    Sizzling the mustard seeds in the oil.  When they start popping, cover the pan to prevent a mess on your stove.

    Sizzling the mustard seeds in the oil. When they start popping, cover the pan to prevent a mess on your stove.

    Popping mustard seeds.

    Popping mustard seeds.

    Sauteing the basmati rice with the mustard seeds and oil.

    Sauteing the basmati rice with the mustard seeds and oil.

    Browning the rice.

    Browning the rice.

  2. Carefully add the hot water to the pan. The pan is already hot so it will sputter and steam when you add the water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover the pan. Simmer the rice for 15 minutes, and then remove it from the heat. Let the rice sit with the lid on for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Spoon the rice into a serving bowl and enjoy.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe for Mustard Seed Rice.

 

276Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms
Ingredients
:
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1 ½ inch thick half moons
5 cremini mushrooms, cut into pieces roughly the same size as the zucchini
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves
Salt and Pepper
Directions:

  1. This recipe is more a method than anything else. Use whatever vegetables that you have at hand. I chose zucchini and mushroom because they taste great with a bit of the grill’s smokiness.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss until the vegetables are evenly coated.
  3. Skewer all of the zucchini on one or two metal skewers, leaving a little bit of room between the pieces so they can cook evenly. Set these aside on a baking sheet. Do the same with the mushrooms. Set them aside with the zucchini and drizzle any remaining marinade over them all. Let them sit for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Grill over medium to medium high heat until the vegetables start to char and are cooked through.
  5. Remove the vegetables from the skewers, being careful of the hot metal. Toss the vegetables together in a bowl and serve. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the recipe for Simple Grilled Vegetables.

 

271Mango Lassi
Ingredients
:
2 cups plain, fat free yogurt
2 cups frozen mango pieces
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. honey

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
  2. Taste to see if it needs more mango or honey. Adjust seasoning, blend again, and serve. Enjoy!

Click to get a printable recipe for Mango Lassi.

Our Victoria Day bbq dinner: Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks, Mustard Seed Rice and Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms.  Little Man already made off with his Mango Lassi, so it wasn't available for a glamor shot.

Our Victoria Day bbq dinner: Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks, Mustard Seed Rice and Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms. Little Man already made off with his Mango Lassi, so it wasn’t available for a glamor shot.

A Spring Feast: Dessert

I thought I knew a lot about food when I moved from California to New York for graduate school.  I’d lived in So Cal all of my life, regularly ate food from various cultures and thought I was pretty adventuresome.  Isn’t there something about pride going before a fall?  In this case, my “fall” was going to be in falling in love with food and cooking in a way that I’d never experienced before.

I grew up loving to cook with my family; my mom and Grammie are two of the major cooking influences in my life.  Then in New York, living alone and thousands of miles away from any friends and family, I found myself turning on the TV just to have some background noise in my cramped, but empty apartment.  More often than not the channel I left it on was food TV.  This is where I started to truly learn to cook, and thankfully I also made some of the best friends of my life in New York and they also love food.

I met my best friend, my brain twin, in graduate school within the same week that I met Dave.  And have mercy on anyone in our path; we did our best to get them caught up in our own version of crazy.  Jen and I started having dinner parties on our super tight grad school budgets, trying out recipes from Bon Appetite and (the late) Gourmet magazines that we read like novels.  Soon Jen started bringing me (later Dave too) home with her for holidays to her parents’ place in upstate.  Dave and I fell in love, with each other, but also with Jen’s family.  We claimed them for our own and they’ve been stuck with us ever since.

It was at their home where I learned about true hospitality, gained an appreciation for a good Dark and Stormy, and learned (or tried) to hold my ground under severe peer pressure for one more trip back to the food line in the kitchen.  Even if you’d already been 2-3 times before, if you were lax enough to leave an empty plate in your vicinity for a moment to lean back and groan you were charged with “what, you don’t like my wife’s cooking?”  And back in line you’d go, unbuttoning the top button of your pants as you went.  We learned that the secret was to take small portions on the first round, then it wasn’t quite so painful to go back for thirds in true Hobbit fashion.

There are many recipes (or versions of them) that I learned from this household, and the one I’m sharing here today is by far the simplest but it is one that I must have every Easter (now to be joined with Aureuil’s Ham).  It is a deceptively simple, retro-style jello salad, but one that in our household now takes the place of dessert; Deb’s Jello Salad.  In fact, when I first sat down to write this post, I did so with a bowl of the leftover jello at my side.  This too, is one of those dishes that I look forward to making because I’ll have the leftovers to look forward to as well.  My only regret is that I don’t have a nice crystal bowl to showcase it in.  I can guarantee that soon I’ll be making a trip to the local thrift store to remedy that.  Then I’ll have to make this jello salad again, just to make sure that the bowl shows it off nicely, of course.

Deb’s Jello Salad
Ingredients:
2 boxes raspberry (or other flavor) jello
2 14 oz. cans of pineapple chunks,
1 cup frozen black berries or strawberries
2 bananas, sliced
1 pt. sour cream

Directions:

  1. Drain the pineapple, reserving the juice. Set aside.
  2. Mix the jello following the package directions, but substituting the reserved pineapple juice for some of the cool water.
    An inglorious beginning...

    An inglorious beginning…

  3. Put the jello in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the pineapple, frozen berries and bananas to the jello. Divide the jello in half, putting half into a serving bowl and then into the refrigerator. Leave the other half on the counter so that it doesn’t set up as fast.
    The drained pineapple, frozen blackberries and sliced bananas.

    The drained pineapple, frozen blackberries and sliced bananas.

    Everyone into the pool...

    Everyone into the pool…

  5. When the refrigerated jello is set (start checking after 15 minutes or so), carefully spread the sour cream over that first layer.

    When I first tasted this jello salad, I assumed that the middle layer was sweetened cream, but no it's unsweetened sour cream.  It doesn't need any sugar since the surrounding jello and fruit takes care of that nicely.

    When I first tasted this jello salad, I assumed that the middle layer was sweetened cream, but no it’s unsweetened sour cream. It doesn’t need any sugar since the surrounding jello and fruit takes care of that nicely.

  6. Gently spoon the remaining jello on top of the sour cream layer and refrigerate until set. Enjoy!
    The fruit jewels suspended in delicious jello.

    The fruit jewels suspended in delicious jello.

    This is not the correct dish for the jello salad, but it's the best that I have on hand at the moment.  Just use your imagination for how stunning it is in a clear, cut crystal bowl.

    This is not the correct dish for the jello salad, but it’s the best that I have on hand at the moment. Just use your imagination for how stunning it is in a clear, cut crystal bowl.

Click here for a printable version of Deb’s Jello Salad.

A Spring Feast with a Ham To End All Hams

“This is the kind of food that you don’t even want to put on the table, but just stand by the cutting board and eat it right off the carving knife.”  This was Dave’s awesome description of an amazing ham that we made for Easter dinner this year.  We tossed it in the slow cooker on the way to an Easter egg hunt and came home later to the most delicious smelling aroma wafting through the house.  That is now the smell I always want coming out of my kitchen for Easter dinner.

Easter for me is one of those holidays that must be celebrated with family and friends.  The egg hunts are nice, but the main point for me is sharing a meal… no a feast… with friends and family.  The best case scenario ends with a slight food coma from one too many trips back to the food line, but most importantly to be sharing this experience with people that you feel comfortable in front of when you all unbutton that top button of your pants and lie back with a replete groan.

We’re still working on establishing that sort of tradition for ourselves here on the island, but we’re getting there.  We were able to be a part of a great egg hunt with a couple of other young families, and it was a blast to teach Little Man to rush around grabbing eggs.  Our hostess made adorable yarn bunny tails for the kids, and Little Man’s ended up slightly grass stained from rolling around the lawn and down their little hill in the backyard.  It was perfect!

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And while Easter dinner was small in number, just the three of us, it was certainly not small in scale.  Most of it we portioned out and froze to eat later on.  Have I mentioned how much I love our standing freezer?  LOVE!

Now, before I get into sharing the ham recipe with you, in the interest of full disclosure I must mention that neither one of the recipes I’m sharing here this week are particularly photogenic.  In fact, the photos are poor since I’m still struggling with the fact that I managed to lose our wonderful camera and am trying to cobble together other devices until the loss can be replaced.  So please don’t judge this ham recipe based on the pictures, this is something that you simply have to try.  Just for the aroma that will fill your house alone, try this recipe out for the next family dinner or night when you want something special but also need the help of a slow cooker.  For the flavor that it delivers, this ham recipe is deceptively easy.  What it lacks in the photogenic department, it makes up for it on the plate trust me.

The ham recipe was graciously shared with me by a new friend on the island, Aureuil.  Her adorable daughter is a friend of Little Man’s from swim lessons and from Strong Start.  At a park play date a week or so ago, Aureuil mentioned this ham that she’d made in her slow cooker, and for days afterward I kept thinking about how I really wanted to make a ham dinner for Easter.  The thing that sets this ham apart from others that I’ve tried is that it isn’t candy sweet.  The main sweetener for the “glaze” is coconut sugar, not brown sugar or a can of pop.  The coconut sugar gives it a definite sweetness, but it isn’t cloying and what you end up tasting is a gorgeously cooked ham, not a ton of sugar.  Just writing about this ham now has inspired me to go grab a taste from the leftovers in the fridge as soon as I get this posted.  That is my “test” for recipes that must become holiday traditions; if the thought of having them for left overs for days makes me want to make the dish even more.

Aureuil’s Ham
Ingredients
1 bone in shoulder flank ham with a thick fat cap
1 cup (plus a little extra) pineapple juice
1 cup coconut sugar
½ cup maple syrup

Directions

  1. Remove all packaging and wrapping from the ham. With a sharp knife score the fat cap down almost to the meat in a crosshatch pattern.
  2. Put the ham meat side down in the slow cooker.
    Aureiul's Ham
  3. In a small bowl combine the rest of the ingredients. Pour the glaze over the ham, rubbing it into the slashes. Add another good glug of pineapple juice to the base of the cooker and place the lid on.  Seal with aluminum foil if the ham is a little too big for your cooker, like it was for our’s.
    A simple glaze of coconut sugar, maple syrup (Oh, Canada!) and pineapple juice.

    A simple glaze of coconut sugar, maple syrup (Oh, Canada!) and pineapple juice.

    Aureuil's Ham

  4. Cook on high for 6-8 hours depending on the size of your ham. The ham is already precooked, so the issue here is not about cooking to doneness, but about getting all of that flavor into your ham.
  5. When the ham is done, remove it from the slow cooker, and remove any of the softened fat cap that still remains. Slice the ham thickly, and serve with roasted potatoes and a bright green salad. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of Aureuil’s Ham recipe.

 

Our "MacGuivered" slow cooker.  I failed to take the size of our cooker into account when I greedily chose our Easter ham.  Eventually the lid fit without the foil... eventually.

Our “MacGuivered” slow cooker. I failed to take the size of our cooker into account when I greedily chose our Easter ham. Eventually the lid fit without the foil… eventually.

A Meal for Sharing: Turkish Inspired Baked Eggs

Turkish Inspired Baked Eggs reminds me of the homey cooking I was treated to while working in Turkey.  It is a bright tomato and chick pea saucy stew in which you bake/poach eggs until they are just set.  The perfect bite should be scooped up from the pan with flat bread, catching a bit of the veg with a glorious bite of baked egg with golden, soft yolk.  You can make it a bit more fancy by baking the eggs in individual pans of sauce for a dinner party, but it is best eaten from the main skillet family style.  That is one of the best parts of eating with friends in Turkey, the shared feast placed around a central mat, everyone passing portions and plates, dipping into platters with your flat bread, and sharing the meal in a way that is more than just sitting around the table together.

This is also a recipe that was requested by some dear friends, Jill and Sean from Blue Gate Farm in Iowa.  Jill and Sean got Dave and I hooked on farm fresh eggs. In fact, they’ve ruined us forever from store bought.  We stumbled onto their farm (almost literally) from an amazing event that they organize each year called the Farm Crawl where a number of small farms highlight their wares and put together a ton of fun for anyone who wants to come by and visit.  Dave and I belonged to the Blue Gate Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) while in Iowa and “upgraded” our order to include their truly free range eggs and honey.  At the end of that first season with the CSA Dave and I bemoaned the end of the lovely weekly boxes of vegetable treasures and the eggs, and we grumbled as we had to start buying the veg from the grocery store again, but we didn’t throw a hissy fit until that first Saturday breakfast of pancakes and eggs.  Oh those despicable eggs…

One of my Eating Culture classes visiting Blue Gate Farm.  Sean and Jill are at the far left and the amazing chickens are in the background on the far right.

One of my Eating Culture classes visiting Blue Gate Farm. Sean and Jill are at the far left and the amazing chickens are in the background on the far right.

I’ve always enjoyed eggs and honestly I didn’t notice a great difference when I first switched to the farm raised eggs.  They certainly were prettier with the nice, tall standing golden yolks, and they were delicious, but they tasted like eggs to me.  My poor taste buds simply didn’t recognize the shift until I tried to go back to the grocery store version.  Dave and I took a bite and looked at each other with horror on our faces.  What was this thing we were trying to eat?  I quickly fired off an email to Jill imploring her that if there was any kindness in their souls they would still allow us to buy eggs from them over the winter.  This started a lovely tradition where every other week Jill or Sean would show up to our favorite brewery (Peacetree Brewing in Knoxville, IA) with a cooler of eggs.  We would come, buy a couple dozen eggs, eat a take out dinner from the local Chinese restaurant, and enjoy a lovely pint of our favorite frosty offerings from Peacetree.  We still miss that ritual!

Little Man playing at Blue Gate Farm. It’s nice when the place where you get your food is also a fun place to run around.

The Turkish Style Baked Eggs recipe is one that I put together to highlight those glorious eggs from Blue Gate Farm and the sense of community it inspires.  It is a dish meant to be shared with friends and loved ones, served with tons of flat bread and preferably with a couple of pints of your favorite frosty beverage (a nice sparkling cider works well here too).

Note: Small children, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems are generally discouraged from eating eggs that are not hard cooked.  For our own little one, we scramble up an egg or two on the side and then serve his scrambled egg with a liberal dousing of the stew.

Turkish Style Baked EggsTurkish Inspired Baked Eggs
Ingredients:
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chipped
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. cumin, ground
1 tsp. coriander, ground
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. tomato paste
½ cup water
4 eggs
Flat bread (see Using Frozen Pizza Dough recipe)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425º.
  2. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tbsp. olive oil. When the oil is hot, tip the onions and garlic into the pan and sauté until soft but not browned.
    Onions and Garlic
  3. Add the chick peas to the pan along with the smoked paprika, cumin, coriander and thyme. Stir to combine and sauté for a couple of minutes, or until the spices start to give off a slightly toasty aroma.
    Chickpeas and spices added to the pan.

    Chickpeas and spices added to the pan.

    Everything starts to look toasty and brown.

    Everything starts to look toasty and brown.

  4. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, tomato paste and water to the pan and stir to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and partially cover the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes. The sauce will reduce a bit and concentrate its flavors, but you still want plenty of liquid.
    Adding the diced tomatoes and tomato paste for depth.

    Adding the diced tomatoes and tomato paste for depth.

    The stew thickens, so add just a little water to loosen it up and provide the delicious sauce to bake the eggs in.

    The stew thickens, so add just a little water to loosen it up and provide the delicious sauce to bake the eggs in.

  5. While the vegetables are simmering, prepare the flat bread. See Using Frozen Pizza Dough for directions, or simply warm up store bought flat bread in the oven.
    The stew is ready for the eggs.
  6. Taste the chickpea and tomato stew for seasoning and make any adjustments that you would like, adding a little more water if the sauce has reduced too much. Then make four shallow indentations in the stew to hold the eggs. This won’t be perfect, but it helps to keep the egg together and to mark where you want to drop them. Carefully break the eggs individually into a ramekin or small bowl, and tip them into the four indentations. Season the eggs with a dusting of salt, pepper and paprika.
  7. Place the skillet into the preheated oven and bake until the whites are just set but the yolks are still soft, about 5-8 minutes.
    Turkish Style Baked Eggs
  8. Serve this directly from the pan at the table, alongside a fresh green salad and with copious amounts of flat bread. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Turkish Inspired Baked Eggs recipe.

Farm fresh eggs

Using Frozen Pizza Dough

It came to my attention that while I have briefly talked about how to use frozen pizza dough for flat bread, I’ve never actually given the process it’s own center stage.  Frozen pizza dough is like gold in your freezer, and it is incredibly easy to thaw quickly in the microwave.  There is no need to wait for a solid hour or more for it to thaw out on the counter top.  So I wanted to share that information here in it’s own post and it’s own recipe.  Hopefully this will help make it more accessible and also take a bit of the fear factor out of using the dough from frozen.

This all started with a blog post about stocking your pantry with easy to make foods, that can be made cheaply, made in bulk, and frozen for storage and easy retrieval later on.  For me, the most versatile thing that I make in my kitchen is Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, and unless something terrible happens (like our freezer being such a mess that we can’t possibly see a frozen ball of delicious dough… which has happened…) I always have it in my freezer.

What I do not always have is the hour or more that it can take to allow the dough to leisurely thaw out and come up to room temperature while lounging (the dough, not me) on the kitchen counter.  This is especially true in the cold weather months.  Instead, we have been graced with the microwave.  If, like some of my dear friends, you have no use for the microwave then please by all means use this same recipe to make and freeze the dough.  You need to be more organized than I am in order to remember when to pull the dough out to thaw, but judging on the organizational skills of my friends who choose to not use the microwave that isn’t a problem.

But back to our task at hand…  Using frozen pizza dough.  This is going to be important, since the next post I do will have an amazing Turkish inspired baked tomato and egg dish.  You are going to want to make that dish, and you are going to want this easy flat bread to go with it.  Trust me.  🙂

Pizza Dough Flat Bread Using Frozen From Scratch Pizza Dough

Ingredients:
One portion of premade frozen Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (white dough works well for this too!)

Directions:
If you have lots of time…

  • Remove the frozen portion of pizza dough from your freezer and place it on the counter or someplace warm to sit for about an hour to thaw. Once the dough feels slightly chilled, but no longer frozen, use it as described below.
    Frozen pizza dough lounging on the counter

    Frozen pizza dough lounging on the counter

    If you don’t have an hour to thaw your dough…

  • Remove the frozen portion of pizza dough from your freezer and remove any plastic or other coverings you had it protected in.

    Frozen dough ready to be defrosted.

    Frozen dough ready to be defrosted.

  • Place the frozen dough on a small, microwave safe plate and “heat” the dough on regular power for 30 seconds.

    Pizza dough that has been defrosted in the microwave and rested.

    Pizza dough that has been defrosted in the microwave and rested.

  • Let the dough rest in the microwave undisturbed for about 5 minutes. After the dough has rested give it a gentle poke with your finger in the center to see if it has thawed all the way through. If it still has a large frozen portion in the middle, then heat it again for 30 seconds and let it rest for 5 minutes. Continue doing this until the dough is completely thawed. Be careful since if you heat the dough too much in the microwave the edges will start to cook all the way through. You can still use your dough if this happens, but just know that those edges may get extra firm when you bake the dough.

To Bake Your Dough:

  • Roll or stretch your dough to the desired shape and thinness for whatever purpose you desire.
    Ready to roll...

    Ready to roll…

    Hand stretched dough seasoned with a little olive oil, salt, and dried thyme.

    Hand stretched dough seasoned with a little olive oil, salt, and dried thyme.

  • If you want to be sure that you don’t get too many bubbles forming in the middle of your dough, dock it at this point with a rolling docker or simply poke it all over with the tines of a fork.
  • If you want the dough to be used as a flat bread or similar preparation, season the dough with a little olive oil, salt and your favorite dried herb blend and then bake it in a preheated 425 degree oven, checking it after about 10 minutes to ensure that it isn’t browning too quickly. To give it a nice burnishing on the top, switch your oven to broil for the last minute, but watch it like a hawk so that it doesn’t char.
  • If you want to use the dough for pizza, simply follow the pizza recipe you have at hand, or check out some of the options here at thesheepareout.com.
  • Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe.

Click here for a printable version of the Using Frozen Pizza Dough recipe.

Pizza Dough Flat Bread

 

 

A Green Persian Spring

This post is a little bit late, but may I wish you all a happy welcome to Spring and a happy Nowruz.  The first day of Spring is also the first day of the new year according to Iranian tradition, hence “Nowruz.”  Dear Iranian friends first introduced me to the holiday in southern California, and since then we always celebrate it at home.  I also celebrate this holiday in my anthropology of food classes where we make our own version of the traditional Haft Seen table, or table of seven S’s that symbolize best wishes for the upcoming new year.  It’s a great excuse to get people thinking good thoughts for everyone around them, as well as focusing on the upcoming greenery that is (hopefully) starting to peek out of the dirty snow banks and brown, crinkle grass yards and fields.

If I could pull it off, I would have a massive Persian feast on Nowruz, and in the past I’ve done that using it as an excuse to have friends over to celebrate over good food and new friends.  However, as with many things in life with kids (or kid), I’ve scaled things down a bit.  At least for this year.  If there is ONE dish that I simply must have when this time of year comes around, it is Ghormeh Sabzi or Green Persian Stew.  “Ghormeh” in Persian means stew and “Sabzi” is the word for green or in this case green, leafy vegetables.  Ghormeh Sabzi is a rich, beef and bean stew with a sauce brimming with slowly simmered, finely chopped Springtime greenery.  The slight citrus acidic kick cuts through the richness of the stew itself and ties everything together.  Just writing about it makes me want to simmer up another batch, and in fact I might just do that this weekend.  Hmmm… We are having guests…

But back to Ghormeh Sabzi…  I know that the name is likely rather foreign to many of you, but as we make this transition from frozen, cold whiteness into the chilly freshness of Spring, this is the perfect stew whether the name sounds familiar or not.  It bridges both the desire for comforting warmth and the desperate need for all things green and full of life.  And frankly, what better time to try something new than a new year, whether or not you start the new year in January or March?  I hope that you all have a fantastic Nowruz (new year) and a gorgeous Springtime.

Ghormeh Sabzi - Green Persian StewGhormeh Sabzi (Green Persian Stew)

Ingredients
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2 leeks, split in half lengthwise and well washed
1 bunch cilantro, well washed
2 bunches parsley, well washed
1 lb. beef stew meat
1 tsp. tumeric
3 tsp. salt
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 c. water
¼ c. lemon juice
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

IMG_9959Directions

  1. Put the rough chopped onion in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Put the onion in a small bowl and set aside.

    A roughly chopped onion ready to be sublimely and finely chopped.

    A roughly chopped onion ready to be sublimely and finely chopped.

  2. Roughly chop the cleaned leeks and add them to the food processor. Pulse them until chopped finely, then put them in a medium bowl and set aside.
    Halve the leeks lenghtwise, keeping the root end intact.  Then hold them under running water, fanning out the layers as you go, to rinse out all of the grit.

    Halve the leeks lengthwise, keeping the root end intact. Then hold them under running water, fanning out the layers as you go, to rinse out all of the grit.

    The rough chop waiting for the food processor magic.

    The rough chop waiting for the food processor magic.

    I love my food processor.  Finely chopped leeks, perfect for this stew.

    I love my food processor. Finely chopped leeks, perfect for this stew.

  3. Add the cilantro and parsley to the food processor and chop finely. Add them to the leek bowl and set aside.

    Cilantro and parsley finely chopped in seconds.

    Cilantro and parsley finely chopped in seconds.

  4. Pour 1 tbsp. of olive oil into a Dutch oven and heat the pan over medium high. When the oil is hot add the onions and sauté until browned on the edges.

    Browning the onions.

    Browning the onions.  I seem to have a number of “steamy” pictures for this recipe.  Is there a special benefit to hot onion facials?

  5. Add the stew meat to the pan and brown the pieces on all sides.

    Adding the stew meat to the pot.

    Adding the stew meat to the pot.

  6. Add the turmeric and salt, and stir to combine.

    Turmeric and salt ready to go.

    Turmeric and salt ready to go.

  7. Add the leeks, cilantro and parsley to the pan, along with the kidney beans, water, and lemon juice. Bring the stew to a simmer and let it bubble away gently for 1 ½ hours. Taste to adjust seasonings.
    The amount of raw greenery can look daunting in your stew pot, but it will become something magical.

    The amount of raw greenery can look daunting in your stew pot, but it will become something magical.

    Adding the beans and remaining ingredients.

    Adding the beans and remaining ingredients.

    Everything looks a bit raw when first added to the pan, but after the long simmer...

    Everything looks a bit raw when first added to the pan, but after the long simmer…

    After the long simmer, all of the flavors come together and this stew is the perfect cold Springtime dinner.

    After the long simmer, all of the flavors come together and this stew is the perfect cold Springtime dinner.

  8. Serve over steamed basmati rice. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Ghormeh Sabzi (Green Persian Stew) recipe.

I like how the Piggy Bowl seems to strut its stuff for a number of the food glamor shots.

I like how the Piggy Bowl seems to strut its stuff for a number of the food glamor shots.