Archived entries for

A Tale of Three Pizzas, Part One

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It seems like everyone has pizza on the brain. Out in Seattle, new restaurant owners Molly (of Orangette fame) and her husband, Brandon are throwing Padron pepper pizzas into a wood fire at Delancey. Another one of my favorite couples-with-blogs just posted a three-part series of tips for grilled pizza that’s certainly worth a look. And here we are with a brand-new pizza crisper pan.

I was eager to try a crust recipe that the writer of Everybody Likes Sandwiches claims is “The Easiest Pizza Dough in the World.” It’s pretty straightforward, and quick enough to make after work with no advanced planning (as long as you have a packet of yeast in your fridge.) Seriously, I mixed the yeast with warm water and honey (accidentally adding a tablespoon instead of a teaspoon, though that was no disaster) and left the kitchen to take a shower. (It’s muggy in New York in August, in case you didn’t know.) Then I stirred in the flour and salt, olive oil, and a bit of fresh rosemary, and set it aside while I got dinner ready. The dough process literally takes about five minutes of active time—less than it would take for use to beg a ball of dough from our local pizzeria, which is literally on the ground floor of our apartment building. And certainly less than the time it would take to wait in the interminable lines at Whole Foods, or, God forbid, the Union Square Trader Joe’s. Suburbanites, you have no idea how we suffer for our TJ’s fix.

There’s a lot of yeast in this recipe, puffing it up just enough while you fix a salad and prep your pizza toppings. I didn’t feel like the dough benefitted from a longer rising time or wait in the fridge overnight—in fact, it developed much more gluten and was a little tricky to shape the leftover dough a day later—it kept bouncing back into its original form every time I tried to stretch it. Even without the long rise, even without any kneading, this was a terrific crust. I’m not sure I need to try any other.

I know a lot of you are devoted to pizza stones preheated for a long time in the stove. There may be a reason to have one. But this pizza crisper pan with holes across the bottom worked great for me, and is much easier to store in our teeny kitchen. It yielded a crisp, chewy crust that was totally easy to slide off the pan.

And the toppings? Delicious. I started with a spread of pumpkin purée that I spiked with a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. After the pumpkin, torn fresh sage leaves, crumbles of intense Bucheron cheese, and a sprinkling of smoked salt. It was a savory and satisfying vegetarian meal.

Want more pizzas? Coming right up.

Continue reading…

Like Peas in a Pod: Orecchiette with Pancetta and Fresh Green Chickpeas

While we’re talking about fleeting seasonal produce, let’s talk about chickpeas. I mean, not what you think of as farm-fresh, right? Usually, I shake them out of a can, rinse, and proceed. I never even thought of what they might look like before canning.

But there they were, sitting pretty at the market: fresh, unshelled garbanzos. They look a bit like fuzzy edamame pods, stuffed full with chubby chickpeas. (Two per pod, usually.)

I had to have them. (I think you’ve heard that one before.)

Fresh chickpeas are delightful raw: a bit crispy, a bit sweet, tasting of green sweet peas almost as much as they remind you of the garbanzos you know and love. If you find them at your market, make sure to eat a few raw while you’re popping them out of their pods. Or, eat all of them that way.

That’s where the novelty is; I have to be honest. Once cooked into a pasta dish, I’m not sure these tasted that much different than my usual canned ones. They have a slightly better texture, and a slight sweetness, but I’m not sure that’s worth the trouble.

Not that this wasn’t delicious—it was rich and salty and savory and filling. Who would turn down pancetta and garlicky pasta, stirred with enough pasta water to make the sauce silken? Not you or me, we’re like two peas…

Continue reading…

Keeping Currant: Mini Currant-Kefir Muffins

When I become obsessed with an ingredient, I can’t rest until I’ve found it. Fresh currants, little rosy globes of tart juice, were calling my name. I had to have them.

But having scored the object of my desire, of course, I had to find something to do with it, and that can be tricky. Having never actually tasted a fresh red currant, I imagined that there would be loads of available recipes calling for them. No dice. These glossy jewels make very pretty garnishes, but I couldn’t find an appealing baking recipe that actually incorporated the fresh currants into the dough!

Luckily, I have a bit of a cookbook obsession, too. I recently acquired a discounted copy of Flo Braker’s Baking for All Occasions in the basement of the Strand. Her “Blue Ribbon Worthy” blueberry muffins seemed to be a classic worth riffing on. Instead of blueberries, I subbed the teeny red currants, perfect to be distributed among the cups of the too-cute-to-let-sit-on-a-shelf mini-muffin tin our friend Adrian gave us as a wedding gift.

The batter sounded a little sweeter than my usual, but I counted on the currants to provide a contrasting tartness, and they came through as promised. When the grocery store didn’t have organic buttermilk, I decided to substitute kefir, a newly-trendy traditional fermented milk that’s a bit like drinkable yogurt. To play up the flavor of the currants, I included a bit of cornmeal with the dry ingredients (though it probably would be good with more) and a little almond extract.

The little muffins puffed up enthusiastically, and they’re cheerful with bright red pops of color. It could be fun to make two batches, one with currants and another with blueberries—maybe for a 4th of July celebration? I bet the currant ones would disappear first, though. They’re fluffy and lemony, a little tangy from the kefir and a bit rich. They’d be delicious smeared with red currant jam—does anyone have a recipe for that? Not sure I’ve had my fill of currants yet, and the season is running out!

Continue reading…

Too darn hot: Cold udon with coconut, basil, mint, shrimp, and goodness.

It is hot here.

Bloody hot. Crazy hot. Run-through-the-streets-with-a-look-of-madness hot. Hot enough that I’ve been perfectly happy living on tomatoes, basil, and little else–much to Bench’s dismay. Though he is generally on board with my crazy food obsessions, it would seem there are only so many tomatoes a man can eat. And so, the other night I was faced with the explicit request to make something…well…without tomatoes. Something different.


Now, having spent the whole day in a letterpress class, cool and refreshing sounded like just the ticket (in addition to different)–I was loath to engage in anything that required much by way of actual EFFORT. The idea of slaving over a hot stove made me physically ill, much in the same way a prospect of another night of tomatoes filled Bench with dread. And so, we met (more or less), in the middle–I devised something that was both non-tomato-y and required only three minutes of time in front of a heat source–AND netted some extra bonus points for using several things we already had around the house, including the mint and basil that had been languishing on the fire escape.


The dish? Udon noodles with grilled shrimp. Cold, savory, spicy, and sweet in a coconut and citrus dressing, made cool and green with basil, mint, and spinach. If I’m being honest, it’s a blatant aping of a dearly departed dish once offered at Republic in Union Square. However, amazingly, I like mine better (which is probably good, since they’ve taken theirs off the menu). The flavors actually appear to come alive once mixed, swirling and dancing on the tongue, refreshing like a cold swim on a sweltering day. Every part of the mouth wakes up, and every sense is indulged by the silky noodles, the intoxicating scent, the luscious green of the sauce.

Oh, the sauce. The sauce is so good that I’m figuring out how to turn the sauce into a cold soup.

Basically, it’s just what the doctor ordered after getting heat stroke out on the golf course–it’s easy, it’s fresh, it’s cool, it’s zippy, and it’s delicious. Throw in a nicely spiked Thai iced tea, and you’re laughing! All in all, the perfect summer dish.

Continue reading…

A little tropical refreshment: Piña Colada Ice Pops

If you happened (hypothetically) to be visiting the Pacific Northwest in the last week of July, you may still be in shock. It can get that hot in Portland, and not everyone is prepared for it. The restaurants don’t all have air conditioning. The traffic lights got shorted out. We’re just lucky it didn’t last too long.

And we were lucky that my mother had the foresight to save a page of grown-up popsicle recipes from July’s Gourmet magazine. These piña colada ice pops were fresh and not too sweet. They were easy to whip up ahead of time, and made a fun finish to a spicy takeout Thai dinner we ate the night my brother’s family arrived.

If you can’t get a sweet ripe pineapple, you could probably use canned, but I suspect it wouldn’t be quite as good. In the future, I might add a tablespoon or two more rum to make sure you can taste it a little. Adding too much could keep them from freezing solid, though. Also, don’t be tempted to skip the straining step—getting lazy might mean you end up with quite a fibrous dessert.

If you don’t have popsicle molds handy, I hear you can use shot glasses or little jars as well.Dont worry, hers was just apple juice

Don’t worry, hers was just apple juice.

Continue reading…

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