Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Left overs dinner.

A week after my pizza party with Eli I still had left over onions and peppers. I'd used some of the onions and the mushrooms in chicken and gravy on Sunday. And I always have some fresh peas sitting around these days. Today felt like the day to use them or lose them. I hate throwing away food.
So I cooked up some pasta, heated everything else up in some chicken stock and ... dinner.
So easy. So good.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Du beurre,du beurre,du beurre ---"

When it comes to food I have three kinds of friends: hippie health food types, gourmands and people with diet histories. I guess I do have a few friends who eat junk food and don't really think much about it. So. Four kinds of friends.
Once I made a comment to my mother (person with diet history) that I use about a stick of butter a week. More if I bake. She thought that was an enormous amount. Mom sort of scrapes a bit of butter on her toast and then tops it with jelly. I'm not sure why the calories from the jelly are OK and the calories from the butter are not. I imagine it has to do with the fear of fats. I said something about it to a friend (hippie health food type) who also thought a stick of butter a week was quite a lot. I mentioned both conversations to a friend who is a pastry chef. We were shopping at the time and she simply pointed to her basket in which there was a pound of butter.
So I was amused when I read the quote from Fernand Point, ""Du beurre,du beurre,du beurre - that is the secret of good cooking in The Tenth Muse by Judith Jones. The book was a fun read. She is one of those women (Julia Child, MFK Fisher) who went to France and became a foodie. She was a central character in the evolution of foodie culture in this country. The book is conversational in style. I got bored with it for awhile but that's more about my state of mind than about the book. Yesterday I did a bunch of laundry so I finished the book while I was waiting for it but for some bits of writing attached to recipes in the last quarter of the book.
There are days when I don't eat any butter. I eat fruit and yogurt for breakfast when the weather is warm and less cooked food in general. No butter on pizzas although I was tempted to try some on a left over dough. I thought butter and honey might be good. In the end I used up some the left over tomato/leek sauce and some mozzarella. Another time perhaps.
If you told me I had to pick one thing to eat for the rest of my life it would be good bread and butter. That might seem like two things but I think Fernand would understand why it is one thing for me.

Friday, April 16, 2010

More Fun With Pizza

I baked orange muffins last Sunday. Just as they came out of the oven Laura called so I said, "get over here."
She did.
Half way through the muffins I started talking about pizza and then, of course, I had to make some.
It's a long process. She left for awhile while the dough was rising and I was making toppings: caramelized red onions with fig balsamic, sauteed leeks, crumbled feta, sliced roasted lamb, (from Whole Foods deli) crumbled smoked trout and crumbled feta.
I liked the dough better. I added a bit of whole wheat and a bit of corn meal, brushed it with roasted garlic infused olive oil and I cooked it longer. It isn't perfect yet.
First pizza was tapenade, the red onions, roasted lamb, feta and watercress. The second was
leeks, trout and creme fraiche. Both were pretty bleepin good.
The dough makes four pizzas and one is very filling. We each ate half and half and I took a half and half combo over to Kev and Mimi. I saved the remaining pizza till the next day, which worked. Fresh is best but it worked.
Today I roasted some roma tomatoes and garlic sauteed leeks and made sauce. It's hard when you should only make one pizza and you have a gazillion ideas. Fortunately Kev and Mimi are willing to be taste testers. And I'm experimenting with keeping two half baked doughs for tomorrow.
I'm getting better at the doughs. I shaped them into rounds and then used the rolling pins to get a more uniform shape. I'm not overly concerned with uniformity. I like rustic looking pizzas but working the dough is a good idea. I'm not likely to be one of those dough tossing types. Because the sauce was really saucy I pre-baked the dough. I took the first pizza over to K & M: tomato/leek/garlic sauce, fresh mozzarella, a mix of olives and pancetta. Since there was garlic in the sauce I brushed the dough with truffle oil. It smelled SO great when it was cooking.
My shopping stupidity is still in play. I bought a nice mix of olives, all of which had pits. So I was slicing them off for the pizza and then sucking on the pits for awhile. Not a bad thing. The pizza I made myself was more complicated. I wanted to use some stuff up. It was good but a little messy looking.
Friday night.
Belly full of pizza.
Sink full of dishes.
Left over sauce and dough.
What will tomorrow bring?

The Good Watercress

If you go out to eat with me and there is watercress on the menu there's a good chance I will order it. If there's a salad with beets and watercress it must be mine.
Whole Foods has terrible watercress. It has flat uniform leaves and no flavor. I saw Rick Bayless shopping on an episode of Top Chef Masters saying something about wanting the good watercress. Love that guy.
I look for good watercress and I found some at Safeway the other day.
I made a bit of dressing in the bottom of the bowl with shallots, olive oil and sherry vinegar, tossed the watercress in that. I roasted a Yukon Gold and picked apart a fillet of smoked trout. Topped it all with a swak of creme fresh.
I love this kind of plate. Cold and hot, salty, creamy, crunchy. So much going on. Happy, happy meal.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

In the last update for my Blackberry I got Social Beat. I usually check it late at night after I've turned off my computer and I'm about to go to sleep. On Tuesday night I saw a link to this article about people who photograph their food and post the pictures on line. I forgot about it until late on Wednesday when I skimmed it. Finally got around to reading it today.
I remember years ago I found a blog on which a guy was posting pictures and descriptions of his lunch. It wasn't beautiful or unusual food but I liked the blog. It was fun to see the plastic containers he used. He was very good at compartmentalizing.
This guy seems to eat a lot of cottage cheese, bananas and what looks like some kind of cereal. He has 9000 pictures on line. I'm not sure what I think about that. It's also kind of fun. But how many pictures of popcorn does anyone need? I could argue for and against the project with equal fervor. I wish I knew more about why it's a trend. The guy with the 9000 pictures says it keeps him honest. So I guess he doesn't want any one to know if he eats cake. That, of course, makes me roll my eyes.
Another woman from the article is motivated by taking pretty pictures of good food. I get that.
I don't think of myself as a photographer. I don't even have a camera. I'm using my Blackberry. I almost took a picture of some potato leek soup that I made the other day and had for dinner twice this week. It was visually appealing. It was chunky. I dunno. I looked at it and thought about taking the picture but I didn't have anything to say about it. And I was hungry.
I just had a late lunch/early dinner of brie, pineapple, toast and cold green tea. I took a picture because I'm thinking about the article but it doesn't look particularly beautiful or say anything about me. I bought the brie to use on a pizza with leeks and crimini mushrooms. But the leeks ended up in soup and I have some Fontina to use with the mushrooms. I was trying to stay out of the kitchen because I wanted to mop the floor. If you look carefully in the photo you can see why.
The floor is mopped. The plate is clean. I'm still jumping around on blogs from the article. It's very interesting.
I guess I think food can be boring. Pictures of food can be boring. On the other hand and I'm not sure why, simple pictures of food can sometimes be so beautiful. People have been painting pictures of food for a long time.
I've always liked Thiebaud's paintings. And in some ways all those pictures of bowls of cottage cheese, bananas and cereal have a similar aesthetic. Except the project isn't about beauty or a love of form. It's about using the fear of public disapproval as a way to not eat a jar of peanut butter.
Like so many times I feel myself wandering around in a value structure, not sure where I stand. The article quotes Brillat-Savarin. “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are. I like that but I'm also aware that it's like any other way of assigning meaning. My bias about food makes it hard for me to understand people who aren't open and willing to try things. But I do know people who aren't that into food and I like them. I don't think badly of them.
The Internet is curiouser and curiouser.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

There were a number of things that caused me to attempt food writing. I've mentioned a few but I saved the best for last.
So. I have this fantasy about the cooking I'm going to do when I'm older and retired. Well I am older and being unemployed is similar to being retired.
Sort of.
Just more stressful.
Anyway. One of the things I was always going to do was make pizzas. I like cheesy, tomato sauce old school pizza but that's not what I mean. Pizza is a great medium. There are a gazillion things you can do. Someday I figured I'd buy a pizza stone and a peel and start cooking.
And. I've been looking for a toaster oven. I've had my toaster oven for over fourteen years and I've never liked it. It's been fritzing out for the last few years and I knew I needed a new one.
And then. I was watching Avec Eric and wanted to see if he had posted a recipe from the show. I was looking around the site and noticed his web show: Get Toasted. After watching a few I bounced over to the Cuisinart page and start looking at the toaster ovens and ... there is was ... the toaster oven of my dreams. It was also way more money than I could rationalize. Ah well. Some day when I'm older.
But then.
One day I was I was looking at the Macy's web site for no particular reason and saw the same toaster oven for about forty dollars less. My neighbor Mimi works at Macy's so I sent her an email asking if she could get it at more of a discount and it turned out she could.
I am so crazy gonzo in love with this toaster oven it's ridiculous.
My knee is quite a bit better but still hurts if I stand on it for any length of time. The pain slowed me down. Years ago I bought a set of books William Sonoma books, one of which was about pizza. It's pretty good. Loranza De'Medici contributed to it. I spent a few days reading it and imagining all the things I could do.
Today it's raining and cold and seemed like the perfect day for pizza. I pushed through the pain and made the dough. The book has four or five dough recipes to be made in a Cuisinart or by hand. I used my Cuisinart but I didn't like it. It felt like the motor was going to burn up. Mine is pretty old but I think I'll switch to my Kitchen Aid next time. I was worried that the yeast wasn't going to work because the kitchen was cold but I turned on the oven and set the dough to rise on top. It worked.
I caramelized some red onion and once again my bad shopping messed with me. I didn't have any Balsamic vinegar. I ALWAYS have Balsamic vinegar. My kitchen has fallen apart. I used some red wine. Different taste but OK. I roasted some asparagus and two cloves of garlic and sliced some prosciutto. Cut some mozzarella balls in half. Got out the Grana and THEN...

I intended to take a picture when it first came out of the oven but I got too excited. I knocked on Kevin and Mimi's door and told them to come see as soon as I put the first one in the oven. We ate the ones with asparagus first and I'd cut this one before I remembered to take the picture. The dough recipe makes four small pizzas. I don't love the dough. It's thicker than I want it to be. It never got brown. I need to experiment with the temperature and possibly precooking the doughs. I'm also going to try the other recipes and the one in The Cheese Board book. And I've read a few on line. They're all pretty much the same. I'm ambivalent about whole wheat but half and half might be OK. I wonder if a little bit of wheat germ might add flavor. So many experiments await.
And then there's the toppings.
I understand how all the people with i books feel. I have a new toy. Cooking is science and art and great fun.