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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pizza success

I used the pizza calculator to come up with this recipe. My aim was to get a New York style pizza with a chewy crust, crispy bottom, yet foldable; and this is as close as I have come. My husband like it so much he even ate the crust which he never does!

Here's ther ecipe if anyone wants to try it. I use a good grams scale since I think it's important with any bread baking to weight out the ingredients.

For on 15 inch pizza

Flour (I used Sir Lancelot) 301.44 grams
Water (use very cold)          192.92
Instant dry yest                         0.6
Sea salt                                     3.01
oil (vegetable)                          3.01
Place the water and salt in a mixer like a Kitchen Aid. Stir. Combine the flour and yeast and add it to the water. With the paddle attachment, and using low speed, mix for two minutes. Then add the oil . Mix on low another minute or two .

Now, switch to a doug hook and knead on #3 for 8 minutes, or till smooth and elastic and the dough passes the window pane test. When mixed, cover it and let it rest an hour at room temperature.

After the hour of rise, form a ball with the dough and place it in a very lightly oiled bowl. Turn it over so it's lightly oiled on both sides. Cover it well and refrigerate one to three days.

The day you'll be baking the pizza, remove the doug from the fridge around 1pm. Let it rest for an hour. Then  form a tight ball and cover it and let is rest another couple of hours before forming and baking.  *** 1 hour before actually baking preheat your oven to 550 with a pizza stone on the bottom rack. Another thing I do it place another stone on the shelve above. That helps the top cook at the same speed at the bottom.

When ready to form the pizza have your pizza peel covered lightly with coarse corn meal, and have all your topping ready. Remove the dough and place it on a lightly flour3ed work surface and quickly form the pizza. If you overwork the dough it can get tough. When the dough it formed, put in on the peel and quickly top it with your favorite sauce,  good quality mozzarella and other topping you might be using. I sprinkle the tiniest bit of oil on top and baked till done which takes about 6-8 minutes. Remove pie and let it sit a minute or two before cutting.

PS: there are very good how to videos on you tube showing the proper way to stretch the dough. Learn to do it the proper way. Never use a rolling pin!

Bone Appetit!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

New pizza dough and pizza sauce

Today turned into a cooking day after a morning visit with our son and a friend. Once I finished a bunch of morning and early afternoon chores like de-icing the walkway which was resembling an ice skating rink, putting up some Christmas decorations, and email, etc,etc., I finally found my way back to the kitchen after lunch.

 My pizza dough for tomorrow is now made, and in the fridge for an overnight cold rise. It's a new  recipe I created using an on line pizza calculator to come up with what I hope will be a good clone for a New York style dough that I I grew up eating - thin, crispy, yet foldable and chewy. I used a King Arthur Lancelot flour today and I like the consistency of the finished dough. I'll only use half of the dough batch  for one pizza and if the dough works out well, I'll let the rest of it sit in the fridge another day so I can compare the flavor between a one or two day cold rise. 

The longer, cold rise, allows more flavor to develop in the dough. I guess you could say it gives it a little bit of a sourdough flavor after a day or two.

I also made a batch of pizza sauce using Cento certified San Marzano tomatoes in a puree that I bought on line. Every tomato in the can was bright red. I loved that the can has a white liner, so there's no direct metal contact with the contents. I saw these being used in a you tube video on making true Neapolitan pizza, by a chef from Naples. It's a lot pricier than most but one can made enough sauce for eight 14 1/2 -15 inch pizzas. I have other varieties on hand and over the winter will be using them with my new sauce recipe and see if the higher price is worth it.    

Both the new dough and pizza sauce recipes are the result of a lot of research and then using bits of other recipes to create my own. There's lots of flavor in the sauce from the garlic and herbs and my not so secret ingredient - a 1/2 tsp of anchovy paste for a 28 oz can of the San Marzano tomatoes. It is sooooo good!

I also use 1T each of olive oil and butter to saute 2 large cloves of pressed garlic, and half of a peeled, onion, which is removed when the sauce is done. The tomatoes are processed in the food processor until there are some very tiny pieces, and before it turns into a puree; or if you want to remove the seeds, which I sometimes do, you can just run them through a food mill using on of the coarser discs. The tomatoes are added to the garlic onion mixture, once the garlic has released it's aroma (about a minute),  along with one to one and a half tsp of salt or to taste, a pinch of dried red pepper flakes, about 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves, about a tsp of dried basil, the anchovy paste and a teaspoon or more of sugar depending on how sharp the tomatoes or garlic made the sauce. I also give it a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper.

I cook this covered on a very low heat to develop the flavors and until the onion is softened. When done, I remove the onion and press in a sieve or strainer to release the juices into the sauce, stir and package the batch in 8 equal portions in small plastic containers. I have a medium sized ladle that I use to measure one serving size and then freeze all but what I might be using within a few days.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kitchen is on vacation for most of the day

The town is turning off our electricity any minute and the electrician will be here at least 4-5 hours connecting everything we need in case of long power outages, to the new generator.

I was in the studio at 6am mixing, de-airing,  pugging and bagging clay and afterwards had  a hearty cinnamon oatmeal breakfast which will hopefully hold me a long while. After breakfast  I was back in the studio gathering some tools and my little portable table, a bucket of water and slip  so I could work in bed making some clay impression stamps and rollers and practice slip trailing. I need a lot of practice with this new skill I'm attempting to learn.

It was 18 degrees here this morning and the house is going to get cold pretty fast and the only auxiliary heat we will have is the gas fireplace in the bedroom and living room. So the plan is to retreat to the bedroom, close the doors and hope it will generate enough heat. If not, I'll be donning a lot of layers and getting under the covers!

The last picked plum tomatoes  are ripe enough to make a Puttanesca sauce which I was going to make for friends tonight; but we had to change those dinner plans and will be taking them out to the Mexican restaurant instead - not a bad alternative.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tuna Noodle casserole aka sixties soul food for easterners

Winter has arrived and it's time to think about all those comforting, maybe not so healthy dinners. On a day like today  I am going to take out my old 60's stand by Better Homes and Garden cookbook and find the tuna noodle casserole recipe. Broccoli will be the healthy addition to tonight's body and soul, warming casserole. Of course, I will also have to make some of those decadent, high fat, Pillsbury crescent rolls to go with it. It's the perfect marriage of two carbohydrates.

The problem with using these old recipes is the every shrinking of canned foods. These days the cream of celery soup that is called for in the recipe, has shrunk a few ounces, so I'm force to buy 2 cans instead of one. For years it was only the candy bars that were shrinking and in recent years Campbell's has joined the ranks of  "give them less and charge them more".

Years ago I purchased a set of very, very old cookbooks and was warned at the time that I had to be careful, because apples, for instance, one or two hundred years ago were much smaller.  So the apples have gotten bigger, but everything else seems to be shrinking. If I live another twenty years, which is highly unlikely, the candy bars might wind up being the size we now give out to trick or treaters.

Time to check my recently sprouted basil. I have it growing under a grow light in my meditation room along with a big pot of lemon grass.

Monday, December 2, 2013

No knead sourdough

Just took this no knead sourdough out of the oven. Now I just have to wait till it cools so I can taste it. It certainly is a pretty loaf! This is my first time making a sourdough version of the no knead bread and if it tastes as good as it looks and smells, I'll be making this a lot more often.

Since it's a cold, rainy day with some light snow in the forecast, it seems like a good soup night, so I'll be making Julia Child's French onion soup. I was going to use gruyere which is my preference, rather than swiss cheese, but neither of my local, large grocery stores had plain gruyere, so I'll be doing Julia's version instead. 

Thanksgiving was great. Since our son was doing two deep fried turkeys, and our daughter-in-law doing most of the veggies, I made coleslaw, pate and a couple of cranberry sauces. There were about twenty of us at dinner and we all went back Friday for the leftovers.

The best cranberry sauce was a cranberry apple that was the winner hands down. I'll be making that to go with other meats as well. It would be great accompaniment to other fowl and pork dishes.

If anyone wants the recipe, you can find it on the Food Network web site; or just google "cranberry apple sauce" and it should have a link to the recipe.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Been away from this blog too long

Now that we've gotten our first freeze, and the garden is wearing a mantle of frost, it's time to hunker down for winter and start thinking of winter menus, and winter projects, like planning next years garden.

Tonight will be an easy lamb chop, baked potato and salad dinner and tomorrow night we'll turn on the fireplace and have some cheese fondue and I'll make some kind of dessert to go with that. Monday I'm making a seafood and chicken gumbo and taking it over to our sons place. He's flying in before the family to open up the house and take care of some other things and it will be easier for us to just take dinner over there. Plus, he has a great wine cellar and likes to share even his best wines, so we'll have a good dinner, great wine and some time alone before all the rest of the family and friends arrive for a full house of family and friends for Thanksgiving at their place.

My garden did pretty well this year. This is my second year doing the square food gardening in two 4X8 by 2feet deep beds. The only thing that didn't do well for me in the beds were the bell and frying peppers and beets and I don't know why. The hot peppers in the grow box system did great, so I think I have to check the soil in the square foot beds. Lettuce, arugula, beans, tomatoes, kale, carrots, onions, broccoli, celery, spinach,fava beans etc. did great. But the beets were just leaves with almost no root, and the pepper plants looked stunted. So I need to find their ideal PH and either adjust it or just continue to grow the peppers in the grow boxes where they do very well. I may just get another one of those grow boxes next spring. Last year I did Eggplant in the grow box and it did great. This year I skipped the egg plant altogether since I plated some at our sons place. I didn't grow any squash here for the same reason, but I may try one plant next year. There's an Italian heirloom zucchini that I really like. It will probably take up four squares, but I decided against doing fava beans again only because you really need to grow a lot of get anything worth cooking. I think I got about a cup from 18 plants - just not worth giving up that much space in two raised beds for so little food.

I had major surgery almost 3 months ago to repair a paraesophageal hernia and that took at least two months out of my garden and studio time since surgeons order were no bending or lifting for 8 weeks. Fortunately I had started a lot of seeds indoors and done a lot of my early spring planting before I went in for surgery, so the beds were about half planted and I finished the rest in late May. 

I'm now waiting for this sudden cold spell to leave and when it warms up a bit I'll be out there pulling up tomato and bean cages and cleaning out the rest of the non producing square.We got our first freeze two days ago which is very late, so we got lucky with a lot of late tomatoes and lettuce. My winter lettuce is covered with heavy remay but it went down to 19F the other night, and I doubt if the lettuce survived that even with the heavy remay.

I got a few winter saffron crocus bulbs planted a couple of weeks ago and did some late summer planting of lettuce as well as clean up some of the squares in the beds. There are about ten or twelve yellow tulip bulbs in the fridge which I haven't gotten around to planting, and if the ground freezes too much and I can't plant them, I'll just put them in pots in soil and force them in the spring for the house. I'm also, slowly getting back to some studio time and after the holidays will get into a more regular routine.

There's still some more testing to do with slips and decorating techniques with this new body of earthenware that I'm transitioning to after about 40 years of working in high fire reduction and then soda and salt firing the last twelve years. It's been frustrating at times making such a big shift, and it's been almost a year of testing. You can't get much progress in pottery in six months or even a year especially if you're only working part time and dealing as I was with a medical issue and settling in to a new home; but I am finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

We have settled in pretty well in a year and a half, done a lot of work to the house, added a new range top and vent which is making my cooking chores a joy. The old range top was woefully inadequate - no power to speak of. My new one isn't perfect for the burners are amazingly powerful. Every burner has the power that a wok burner would have. It took a bit getting used to all that power. The simmer doesn't simmer. It boils, so I just learned to shift the pot off to the side. I have to check out their website and see if they've come up with a fix or a plate that you can put over the burner when you need to simmer something.

Well, that's it for this long overdue blog update. Hope everyone had a great summer and fall and are looking forward to winter pleasures.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Check out my friend Lora's blog today. She takes you on a tour of one of the most amazing food shops you'll ever see in Munich, Germany. Enjoy!

A lot has gone on since my last post. Over two months ago I had surgery to repair a really bad paraesophageal hernia and was in the hospital 5 days and am just starting to feel like my old self ten weeks later.  Fortunately my physical activity was only limited to heavy work and bending (it's not easy bending over with an 8 or 9" scar from your solar plexus down to below your navel), so I've been able to get a lot of time doing sitting and standing  chores which meant cooking and computer work. There was no garden time except to harvest veggies and plant some seeds in my raised veggie beds. Doctors orders were strict - no studio work, bending or heavy lifting for 8 weeks.

The past couple of weeks I've been back in my pottery studio a bit, but the heavy lifting of those slip and glaze buckets is not going over well, so I'm spending more time on my computer and in the kitchen.

After breakfast yesterday I made a nutty fruity breakfast bread. I got the recipe on the King Arthur site and it's our favorite breakfast bread . Since I had pottery related chores in the afternoon, I decided to make dinner early. It was a cold, rainy morning and a pot of hearty Tuscan bean, sausage, escarole, potato and carrot soup seemed like a good choice. I only made 1/3 or the recipe and that's enough for two meals for the two of us.

My husband celebrated his 80th birthday Saturday and we went out to dinner at our favorite restaurant  in Talent - Sammy's Cowboy bistro. It's a very upscale establishment, and not like the name implies. and we had a fabulous dinner, as always. The chef sent out an amuse bouche of pate on dark German bread that was delicious and very filling. It wasn't a typical, tiny amuse bouche. We both ordered the house smoked salmon on top of a potato pancake which was also delicious. They made their own bread so I had a small piece of that when we first sat down, so by the time our duck breast entree arrived with the veggies and cheese gnocchi, I was pretty full and wound up taking most of my entree home for the next day, so I could save a bit of room for the cinnamon ice cream dessert. It was an eating day and it was fun; but we don't want to make a habit of that!  We are sure that the good wines helped to cut the cholesterol a bit. :-)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dealing with seesaw weather again

These are the raised beds we had built last summer and I'm trying the square foot garden method for the first time. So far, most things are doing well. I've never had kale as big as the two growing in two of the squares, and the potato plants (you can see them at the far end of the left planter), are big and lush. I planted two potatoes in each square, which may be too much; but I read different numbers are different sites; and since I put some really great soil in these beds, and am using a special, organic fertilizer for potatoes, I'm hoping for the best.

The beds are 2 feet deep and totally filled with rich, organic soil. The unexpected hot weather equaled failure for my square of radishes, and beets, even though they were planted early enough; but the lettuce, kale, carrots, shallots, garlic and everything else is going great. The fava beans in two squares look healthy. It's my first time growing these, and there wasn't much square foot gardening information on them, so I may have planted too many in one square (I planted 9). There are beans forming, but the pods look pretty small, so 9 may have been too many, unless these pods are going to get bigger.

We've gone from temperatures in the 80's and now looking at a few days of 50's weather with high 30's and low forties overnight. So I've covered my peppers and basil and brought a lot of planting tender veggie seedlings which I'm holding for my daughter-in-laws garden, indoors for a couple of nights.

Yesterday was a day of baking and cooking. I made nutty fruity breakfast bread - my husbands favorite. It's a recipe I got from King Arthur flour a year or so ago and it's become a regular part of our breakfast diet. They have a scone mix which is really delicious. I've made my own from scratch, before but through it would be nice to try these. The mix saves a little bit of time; but not that much. If you've never made scones and would like to try them, I think their mix is a good one to try.

It was also a day with making pizza. I'm still looking for the definitive recipe. I have a good recipe from a friend; but it's not quite the crispy bottom, yet chewy, thin, but fold-able, crust of the New York pizza I ate growing up in Brooklyn, New York. So the search continues.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Spring seed starting and planting

This is the time of year I start getting really excited about the garden. My first seeds of tomatoes, serrano chiles, leek and others are already sprouting under grow lights and with the help of a seed starting heat pad to help them along. 

Today I planted mesclun, basil and padrone pepper seeds. The space under my one and only grow light is filling up pretty fast, so I'll soon be back at Lowes to buy another one. After lunch I headed out to the garden and planted some red potatoes, escarole and fava beans. It will be interesting to see how the potatoes, in particular, do with the square foot gardening method  in my raised beds.

A few days ago I transplanted onion, lettuce, spinach, kale and arugula in those beds, as well as seeding beets and radishes. Tomorrow I'll plant a square of carrots, then only other things I'll have to plant will be tomatoes, beans, peppers and eggplant as well as a second crop of lettuce.which won't happen for another two months. That will be it for those beds. I have an artichokes and garlic growing in a   large pot, and have to get another one that size for the other artichoke yet to plant.

Last summer I had two 4x8 foot, 2 feet deep beds built; and set them up with the square foot gardening grids. Since they were built late in the season, most of what I planted was cold weather crops - like cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccolini, lettuce, scallions and garlic.

The very cold weather arrived before most of them were ready for harvest, so I covered the beds with heavy grade remay and checked a couple of times during the winter. I harvested lettuce and arugula into January; but it didn't look like the cole crops were going to do anything. So I wrote them off and I figured I'd pull them all out when I started re-planting this spring; but when I went out a several days ago to prep and fertilize some of the squares, lo and behold, there was broccoli ready to pick, and the broccolini was already flowering, and the cabbages were already forming small heads and the brussel sprouts had very tiny fruits already formed.

The few carrots from last year look like they may also be continuing their growth; and there was one lone spinach and some lettuce volunteers from last years plants. I never expected that those plants could suspend ripening all those months, and then  continue to grow the minute the weather started to warm. I don't know if that would have happened without the heavy covering of remay; but I certainly found it to be a very nice surprise.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's about time

To say that I've been a bit lagging behind on blog posts for this blog is like saying World war 1 was just a little skirmish! My last post was October 2011, so for this blog, I missed all of 2012 without boring or exciting any readers with my latest gardening or culinary efforts.

2012 was a bit of personal life changing time - family illness, selling a home and moving the contents of a home and studio cross country. I won't bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say, it was life changing to the max!

Jim and I and our two furry kids Bonnie kitty and Bodhi our little Jack Russel are now firmly settled into our new home and new life. Bonnie still hides under the bed the second Bodhi's barking may indicate a strange presence. She is now a house cat and adjusting, but not particularly thrilled about it. Like us, her life has changed a lot! Bodhi, on the other hand has found other dog friends at our sons place where he can run free for a time with his much larger golden retriever cousins Tank and Bianca, and a neighbors door who often joins in.

I no longer have 11 acres of fruits trees and flower and vegetable beds. Those have been replaced with a postage stamp lot in a golf community. The back yard is 99% swimming pool and concrete; but I have managed since we arrived last May, to garden in containers and two very deep 4x8 foot planters that I had made late summer. In addition, I've had my son and daughter in laws large garden to play in when they aren't here in Oregon. As for my studio space, it's been halved. My large soda/salt kiln is gone, gifted to a couple of newly married, very talented potters. Other large equipment and large amount of raw materials were either sold for a song or gifted. I had 30 days to pack house and studio, a daunting task even with the help of our son and daughter who flew out and gave me a lot of help in a short period of time.

My current studio space is half of a two car garage - very tight, but doable. Jim insisted I put a heater/air conditioner in there, so I won't be a slave of the weather. Since this is a retirement space, the old, big kiln, gone, I decided to explore earthenware and will be using my old bisque, electric kiln for any new work I make. I brought a small gas test kiln with me so I could finish up some pots that were made for the old kiln; but that will have to wait for spring when we are through the rainy season, since there is no covering over that kiln and I need 3 clear days for loading, then firing and cooling.

Our new, old home in Oregon, a place we left in the late 90's, feels good again. I'm still adjusting to less studio space and definitely, much less storage space. There's no room for a spare fridge or freezer, so my level of cooking and planting has changed drastically but appropriately for this house and garden. Fortunately there is a lot of good, local food and other shopping and many decent and very good restaurant choices.

I'll try to post a bit more often now that we're pretty settled. As for today, there's still the Anthony Bourdain's book "Medium Raw" to finish, on this, my last self proclaimed, vegging out day to catch  up on email and snail mail after a lovely post Christmas wining and dining trip to Napa followed by more of the same with family and friends back here in Southern Oregon.