Thursday, June 29, 2006

I'm wilting..... wilting!

On Monday, I made one of Tom's bean salads called A Winter Bean Salad. Well, the weather has taken a turn and now it's hot here, prompting me to make a different version, something I would call A Summer Bean Salad. I'm glad that Tom opened my eyes to the wonder of beans in a salad. I had almost forgotten how much I loved them. During my B.A., I was obsessed with a kidney bean and blue cheese dressing salad!! Well my hips can't handle that obsession, unfortunately, so I made a slimmer version today shortly after returning home from work.

Here's the ingredients list:

tin of kidney beans
one punnet of mixed 'designer' leaves - chicory, radicchio, and baby spinach
halved cherry tomatoes

I tossed the salad with all these ingredients and added a homemade vinaigrette - balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and lemon juice.

Verdict: Delicious!

Inspired by Tom, made with love by me; you should try it too!

I apologize for my unloving of Cupboard Love lately -- it seems as soon as it gets warm I am physically and mentally incapable of making a shopping list and really planning out my meals. I promise I will catch up soon! :) Don't forget about me!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I just can't help myself!!!

Many people spend their lives helping other people; finding cures for awful diseases, educating others, leading charity groups. Me, I have my own life mission; finding the perfect risotto!

Yes, I know I had risotto only three days ago, but ever since my sister compared my risotto to the ones in the Risotteria, I just had to see what she was talking about. I went to not-always accurate Menu Pages to find some reviews of the restaurant. Quite surprisingly, it seemed like 8 out of 10 were positive reviews. But it was the negative ones that caught my eye; something about risotto should never be part of a short-order type of menu, that the risotto came to the table too quickly and something had to be wrong with it. I had to agree with these people; I can't imagine tons of tables being served risotto all at once. Were there rows of stirrer-robots in the kitchen standing my risotto pots, and that was there only function. How could one or two chefs possibly produce so many risotti at once?!

This led me to search for my own perfect version of risotto. One that was made with love; where the chef stood by the pan's side, putting all of him/herself in one dish, and one dish alone. The dish would be risotto, and I would be the chef.

If you could count up to six, you would notice that I finished all the risotti recipes in Cupboard Love. I needed a challenge; so I decided to change my favorite one in CL and make it mine. I took the Chilli and Herb Risotto and changed things up a bit.

1. I used the perfect proportion of chicken stock this time - having found out what the proportion finally is after many salty risotti - the stock had a pinch of saffron in it. (Last time, you may remember, I used vegetable stock.)
2. I ladled in more stock each time and had the heat really low so I could finally get the 'al dente' bite back from the risotto.
3. I put it in a combination of chopped rosemary and sage.
4. I took it easy on the chilli flakes so this wouldn't be a three-alarm fiery risotto.

And then I got it; perfection!

'Real' chefs may disagree with me and point out ten thousand things that I did wrong - but I think it was pretty damn tasty. I may not be the smartest person around, I don't know how to play an instrument, can't hold a tune to save my life, but damn, I make some kick-ass risotto. Mission accomplished. And now I'm so full I think I'm going to pass out. Good night, all.

Winter's Eating

The tricky thing about posting about dinner the next morning is that you feel hungry all over again! And for stuff not necessarily breakfast-like!

New York has been experiencing unseasonal weather lately; not exactly freezing temperatures, but lots of rain and clouds, plus the breeze which always feels cold without some sun hanging around. It's bummed me out! I thought I'd turn to something comforting for dinner last night, but at the same time, something not too laborsome either. I found my dish in the Larder Salads chapter.

94. A Winter Bean Salad - *Larder Salads*

I have to admit that I haven't given this chapter much respek in this project! I'm not a salad type of person. I don't know why, but I find it too annoying to prepare; all that chopping, all those extra ingredients, etc. But the great thing about salads is that they could be made ahead of time, and that a lot of things constitute as a salad. The bean salad I made last night is certainly a different take on my idea of one.

The salad ingredients included one vegetable I have never actually bought, and am not sure I tasted either -- radicchio. I knew what it was though, or at least I have heard of it. I used to watch When Harry Met Sally endlessly as a kid, and it is my favorite movie - now you know how I picked my blog title. I remember at the 'double date-that-never-was' scene that Sally had ordered a 'grilled radicchio'. I thought how fancy she sounded ordering that, and imagined myself at her age doing the same thing.

So the 'radicchio' I attributed to being a very posh type of veggie. And it certainly looked posh to me.

The rest of the salad ingredients are actually pretty standard -- canned cannellini beans, 'good' olives, parsley, thyme or rosemary, and parmesan or pecorino romano. Sounds like a fab combo, no??! Well definitely definitely yes! I had jotted down the ingredients yesterday at work; Rafa had given them to me over Messenger - bad girl, Ilana, I should be working!

To accompany the salad, I decided on Nigella's Soft White Dinner Rolls from Feast. I have made these countless times so it was a no-brainer.

I had the dough rising for the second time when I got started on the salad. So, I chopped up a radicchio, after cutting out the core.

Then I chopped some rosemary (it looked better than the thyme at the store) with some flat-leaf parsley.I chopped up some olives and grated some parmesan. Then, I drained the beans and reserved their 'liquor'. I took half of this reserve and heated it on a low heat with some olive oil and red wine vinegar. To the pan, I added the radicchio, chopped olives, chopped herbs and beans. I tossed it around for a few seconds, and quickly took the pan off the heat. It's a warm salad - but not necessarily cooked. Tom gives the option that if I was to serve it warm, I should incorporate the cheese into the salad rather than serving it on top. And I did just that.

The bread rolls were done baking, and I brought the salad to the table.

It was gorgeous! A really really delicious dish - and if you didn't get that, IT WAS REALLY GOOD! No, seriously, we really enjoyed it. The sauce out of the bean liquor and olive oil and vinegar was perfect - no extra seasoning was needed. The radicchio was soft and warm and blended in perfectly with the beans and herbs. The olives added a sharpness, but were not too obtrusive. The dish was to include capers, and I actually convinced Rafa that he should try them, but just my luck, the store didn't have them.

And the dish was great with rolls too, as there was lots of 'juice' to mop up. Mmmmmm. See, now I'm hungry again!

The recipe serves 4, and I was really hoping there would be some left for me today, but no, we demolished it! Well all the more reason to make it again, which I will! Yum!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A welcome distraction, with some S&M

You may be reading the post title and wondering what I'm on about. Well I have been so involved in Cupboard Love lately, I haven't had a chance to cook out of other books. While reading The Next Nigella, I came across a Nigella Lawson dish from How to Eat I have never tried before, and I was sorely tempted. 'The Next Nigella' had made Nigella's mash from Nigella Bites and paired it with the Red Wine, Cumin and Onion Gravy from HTE and sausages. It looked to be a beautiful combination -- sausages and mash -- S&M; what did you think I meant, you perverts!??

Luckily for me, Tom also had a way of cooking up sausages in his Grills chapter!

93. Grilled Sausages - *Grills*

The sausages are simply the 'hot pan-hot oven' method. So, I seared some Italian sweet sausages (I was actually after some bratwurst but my communist-block Russian store didn't have any - they did have knackwurst though) on a hot unoiled pan.

Then, I put it in a preheated oven at its highest setting. I wasn't sure how long to leave them in there - see, Tom doesn't actually say. He did say that sausages are quite fatty so I should prick them, which I did, and that they benefit from this cooking method like chops, but no actual time was given. I looked at my Nigella books, and she shifts from 30 to 45 minutes. I kept an eye on the sausages and they took about 20 minutes to be the color I wanted and knew Rafa would like. He was the only one eating them because I have a horrible reaction to minced meat/sausage-type stuff.

While the sausages cooked I had the gravy already done but still simmering on the stove, and the potatoes for the mash were boiling. I added loads of butter and milk to the potatoes when they were done and what resulted was a beautiful creamy mash. I served up dinner to Rafa and myself - I had mash and leftover salad from yesterday, with the gravy of course. Here is Rafa's plate:
Rafa really enjoyed his meal, but only managed one sausage and some mash. It hardly happens, perhaps the culinary equivalent of a blue moon, but the man just wasn't hungry! Damn, the first time he really really liked something, and he wasn't bloody hungry! Well now I'm going to feed him veggies every day till he begs for some S&M! Hrmph!

1, 2, 3...

Tom says in his Pasta chapter that Italians are not known for their heavy sauces when it comes to making and serving pasta. In fact, Italians don't do much to a pasta dish - letting each ingredient speak for itself. Tom says, 'We swamp our pasta dishes with sauce, whereas Italians use the sauce almost as a seasoning.'

I chose the simplest dish to illustrate how it doesn't take a lot to make a great dish. In fact it only takes three ingredients, not including the pasta: butter, parmesan and sage.

92. Pasta with Parmesan (sage variation)
- *Pasta*

You may remember that I made the original Pasta with Parmesan in one of my very first CL recipes, and also included its tomato purée variation. This time, I would use just a few sage leaves for the dish.

For this recipe, I chose linguine instead of spaghetti as I thought it would do a better job at absorbing the sauce.

So I let the pasta cook in boiling salted water. Once it was done, I drained it and added some butter cubes (25g for one portion) and chopped sage leaves. I mixed it off the heat and let it sit for a few seconds before folding in the grated parmesan (also 25g).

And that's it!

Could it be any easier, or more delicious?

Despite the butter and cheese, it was actually a very light and fulfilling meal. I didn't even need to add salt or pepper and just enjoyed the sharpness of the parmesan against the mellow warmth of the butter and fragrant sage. I have to say sage is the most beautiful of all herbs - so velvety.

I often daydream of having a villa in rural Italy. Imagine being able to go out before the sun gets too hot, getting fresh butter, parmesan and sage. And then making this dish for lunch and eating it in a cool house with the shutters closed to block out the garish sun. Bliss!


Last night was a great entertaining night for us. I am not the type to entertain that often - something about the anxiety involving making a lot of food and satisfying guests. But my friend Elana came over to spend the day in Brooklyn (I shouldn't say more for fear that she will be an exiled Manhattanite!) and for us to make risotto together. I had only one risotto recipe left in Cupboard Love, so decided to go with that!

90. Dried Mushroom Risotto - *Risotto*
91. Courgette and Spinach Salad - *Pasta*

Even though risotto is said to be something that should be made for one person or two, I couldn't resist making it for a crowd because I know that I heart risotto, Elana hearts risotto, Rafa hearts risotto.... so risotto it was!

After going to the annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island on a slightly drizzly Saturday afternoon (where we witnessed men and women in scantily clad costumes, most of the time with only some sea shells covering their bare essentials!), Elana and I headed off to see my sister. It was then that I learned that my sister was indeed going to join us for dinner with my brother-in-law, Roman, and my nephew, Liam, in tow... Ok, no probs. I was planning on making risotto for 4 but now would I have to make it for six?? My sister said she was bringing marinaded sole so I decided to stick with the 4 since I was making salad anyway.

After Elana and I got back to my apartment from hanging out a bit outside, we started cooking dinner. First, I soaked the porcini mushrooms in some hot water.
Tom calls for 50g for a portion of two; I was able to find the dried mushrooms for $3.99 for 13 grams at Dom's - so that would mean for a portion of two I would have to spend close to 16 bucks just for the mushrooms. Not happenin'! I'm sorry, I'm sure it would have been fab but there was no way I could justify it, especially since I would have had to spend $32 now that I planned on making a portion for 4! Since the mushroom stock would have had to come from the porcinis, I decided to make it up by using some porcini stock cubes I also got at Dom's.

While the mushrooms were soaking, we got on with the chopping for the ingredients in the risotto and salad. First we blanched some courgette (zucchini) slices in boiling salted water...

... and drained them and let them cool.

Then Elana chopped up the onions (good job, Elana!) while I got on with the garlic. She continued to chop up fresh mushrooms (I just got button mushrooms) and I cut up some sage leaves. We let all of those sweat away in a pan for a few minutes.

At around that time, the porcinis were done soaking. I drained them and reserved the liquid as stock. I added it to a simmering pan of water with a stock cube dissolving in it. For the porcinis, I just simply blitzed them until they were almost like a paste.

Then I added the rice, tomato purée, and some white wine to the onion mixture, and I let it bubble away for a little bit. Then, I lowered the heat and started to add stock. I was wow'ed by the color of the mixture and also how lovely it smelled in my apartment - onions, mushroom and sage!

The zucchini slices were dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt once cool and put in the fridge. At the last moment, a handful of baby spinach was added to them, and the salad was complete!
The final ingredients for the risotto were being prepared like taking out the butter and grating some parmesan. This is 'proper' parmesan, as I ran out of poorman'sgrana. The education of Ilana is complete!

Once the risotto was the texture I wanted, I took it off the fire and quickly added the parmesan and some butter! I let it sit covered for just a few minutes. By then all the guests had arrived and we sat to eat fairly soon after the risotto was done! Perfect timing -- but a hell of a lot of risotto, this is a portion of 4?

To die-hard risotto fans like me, I see a big mound of risotto like this and just want to dive in, face first. I was not so sure of Roman and Liam's reaction. Roman tends to be a more, erm, discerning critic, and Liam is 16 months old. But both men loved it!! As did everyone else!!

The risotto was really perfect; my sister said it was better than risotto at the Risotteria on Bleecker Street. What?? A place that its prime menu item is risotto, and I have never heard of it??! What's this. I must go! Well I have never eaten there so cannot really compare theirs with mine, but it sounded like a pretty good compliment! The risotto was deep with the flavors of the mushrooms and sage. I'm sure it would have been even more fab with more porcinis but I think they still did their job!

My sister brought sole marinaded in mustard and soy. It was in the oven while we ate the risotto and salad (which was good, not unbelievable, but people seemed to like it), and then the fish was a perfect accompaniment to the other dishes. I hardly eat fish; correction: I don't eat fish, apart from sushi. So, I was quite excited to see a non-fishy pretty fish in front of me. And it was delicious too! Proud of my sister I am!

We ate and laughed and ran after my rambunctious nephew for a while.. a great evening indeed. And all the plates were licked clean - we only had a little risotto left which I put in a separate container for Liam's lunch the next day. Dinner was followed by the one-year old tiramisu. This tiramisu was given to my sister and Roman about a year ago, but not being huge tiramisu fans, they had it in the freezer -- for a year! But it was fabulous; actually it was the best tiramisu ever! Mmmmm!

After dinner we went to listen to Korean jazz! The music was OK but I was actually really entertained by the facial movements of the overenthusiastic keyboardist. Well, as long as the company was good, I wasn't complaining! And memories of a great evening had by all.. Now, all after me, We Heart Risotto!!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Think Pink

I wanted a low-effort type of salad tonight as it is hella hot here and really craved something light. Well ya give a girl a food processor and it is amazing the things she comes up with!

I decided to make a sort of warm shrimp salad with a pungent homemade vinaigrette. The result was pink -- very pink.

The result of red onion, fresh oregano, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice -- plus an overzealous Pulse button pusher!

And the salad -- mixed mesclun leaves, shrimp, orange tomatoes, red onion slices.

I think I'll call it 'The Barbie Salad' -- and it was Malibu-tastic! Or I could be really embarrassing and say it's the 'Shrimp on the Barbie Salad' - HA!

Ok, seriously, it was pretty darn fantastic!!! We dipped our Sullivan St. sourdough into the extra sauce -- mmmmm! Pretty darn tasty, if I do say so myself.


Following my very happy trip to Dom's the other day, I have decided to venture out and not be one of those never-leaves-their-desk-in-the-height-of-summer type of person. But, I am also coming to the realization that I do not deserve to call myself a New Yorker, because all the hip and cool spots, I've never been, and usually, never heard of. I am fortunate to work really close to Soho, prime location for cute shops. A friend pointed out to me that there is a great little bakery in Soho. Much to my amusement, this little bakery is actually a hop, skip and a jump away from my office. Or rather, a 5-6 minute walk!

So I went there for lunch today; Sullivan Street Bakery!

I sat at the bench on the right, back against the glass-brick wall (yes I know there is a proper name for this, I just don't know it), enjoying the sunshine on a beautiful summer afternoon. Pizza patate in one hand and San Pellegrino Limonata in the other.

pictures courtesy of

I felt like a student again, sitting in a piazza, with the only street food I could afford - thin crust pizza and a fizzy lemon drink. I'm so lucky and glad I live in this great city! I talk shit about it all the time, but it really is a wonderful place to be. It reminds me that although I'm a workhorse (at least some of the time) at day, I'm still a foodie by night... and the occasional lunchhour!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

...and another thing!

Just a small tidbit here about the lovely ice cream shake I had for dinner!

89. Marathon Shake - *Afters*

It don't look like much but it sure is yummy. Formula to yumminess = banana + chocolate ice cream + peanut butter + golden syrup (I used corn syrup) + milk + ice. Mmmmm!

Tom named this the Marathon Shake because it reminds him of the Marathon bars he used to eat as a kid -- before they were renamed, eh-hem, Snickers!


Last night I successfully made pizza for myself and for hubby - but not at the same time. Rafa was working very late last night, so I made the 'pizza' for myself when I got home, and then made his later on.

87. French Bread Pizza - *Junk Food*
88. Fiorentina - *Junk Food*

My inspiration to make pizza was because I managed to get some fabulous Italian groceries at a shop near my job. In NYC, 'near' is a relative term. It was actually straight down Spring Street and into Little Italy; this is where I shopped at Dom's during my lunch hour.

I discovered Dom's just a few days ago when hanging out with my friend, Elana, in Little Italy and Soho. I needed a place to source some dried porcini mushrooms and porcini mushroom stock cubes. What I was so psyched to see was the same exact brand of peeled plum tomatoes that Tom uses in Cupboard Love. Here is La Bella San Marzano!

Notice the lovely plum tomatoes on her crown! Peeled plum tomatoes is not something I would make a fuss over, but I figured a relatively inexpensive thing like the canned tomatoes I could make an effort and find the 'real deal.' My verdict of these tomatoes is further on down!

I started the French Bread Pizza first. Tom mentions this is a type of 'seventies' dish as he remembers his mom making it for him. I also have a sort of childhood story related to this dish. I was 'bestest bestest friends' with a lovely girl named Nicole - I think we must have been 11 or 12. Anyway, she lived in Mill Basin, the 'Beverly Hills' of south Brooklyn! I was so impressed with her 'very typical' American family - they made Jello on Thanksgiving, and Nicole's mom would make her a home version of the frozen-food favorite, French Bread Pizza. The fact that her mom would do that for her daughter was so cool in my eyes. I would come home and instantly tell my mom how to make it -- a halved baguette simply spread with tomato sauce/pizza sauce and lots and lots of shredded mozzarella cheese (the yellow kind!), and then bunged into the oven until the cheese was brown and bubbly. This version tasted like heaven to me! I thought I was just the coolest to have junk food at home!

Tom's version differs slightly. First I cut a baguette lengthwise, and I scooped out the interior. I pulsed the bread pieces into rough crumbs using my gorgeous food processor....

Then I set those aside and got to chopping up the rest of the ingredients.

Mozzarella into cubes.

Tomatoes deseeded and chopped -- and return of the over-ripe tomatoes!

Prosciutto sliced into shreds.

Plus some grated pecorino and chopped oregano with the rest of the ingredients, and this was all mixed in with a beaten egg and the processed bread crumbs.

The hollowed out baguette was then filled with this mixture and baked. Mmmmm.

And pretty good it was! It was just a tad on the salty side. I think that was the combo of the ham and the pecorino. I think next time I would omit the ham altogether and maybe just add a few olives instead.

So onto Rafa's pizza! I had some thawed pizza dough that I made last time, and I decided on the Quicker Tomato Sauce, though mine should be the Quickest since I didn't bother to measure the ingredients or use the food processor. LOL. Basically, I took the San Marzano plum tomatoes I bought, and squished them in a colander. Let me tell ya, what a difference! The tomatoes I used in the past were tough and once squished the juices went everywhere. The San Marzanos were softer and easier to crush - just a more pleasant experience, and I felt good knowing that Tom used these tomatoes too! There's hope for me yet.

I mixed the tomatoes with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and finely chopped garlic. That was the sauce done!

The toppings for the pizza just involved some light preparation - grated whole milk mozzarella (the white kind!), drained baby spinach leaves, garlic slices, a broken egg in the middle, and a sprinkling of pecorino and nutmeg!

I did a fabo job of rolling out the dough and got it to fit the entire pizza pan - finally! The pizza came out thin and crunchy - yum!

And Rafa liked it!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Monday Night Stir-Fry

I'm seeing a bit of a pattern when it comes to my cooking. Monday nights are funny nights -- I'm obviously feeling guilty that I haven't caught up on the weekend but I am so into that Monday-feeling-sorry-for-myself feeling that I can't really think of cooking anything substantial. Also it's now 8pm and it's about 86º degrees here. I am not in the mood for anything too time-consuming. That just screams to me, 'stir-fry'!! (If you're curious, yes, I made a stir-fry last Monday night too!)

86. A basic vegetarian stir-fry (summer variation) - *Stir-Fries*

When Tom listed the Basic recipe he stated that it was sparse on purpose - so people are free to add and subtract ingredients as needed, and also to cook seasonally. The 'summer variation' includes courgettes (zucchini) and peppers. And this time, I remembered to get the red onion!

So all it entails is chopping up some zucchini, peppers, red onion, garlic and ginger pretty small. The onion goes first into a hot and oiled pan, then the garlic and ginger follow. The last additions are the peppers and zucchini slices. I let this cook slightly longer than Tom stipulates since they are harder vegetables, as compared to the broccoli and carrots of the Basic version.

The sauce goes in last (made of soy sauce, water, and honey) and let to cook for about thirty seconds. Easy peasy lemon squeasy! And so beautiful and fragrant too!
I even had time and energy to make a double-batch of Rafa's fave 'lemony cookies.' I didn't want to turn on the oven, but he asked nicely and cranked up the A/C.

Dinner and dessert without breakin' a sweat. ;)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Attack of the Over-ripe Tomatoes!

I'm a gal that can't resist a bargain. I was telling you yesterday how the fabulous yellow/orange tomatoes I found at my local grocery store were only 99 cents a pound! Well yesterday, as I was mentally scanning the store's inventory once again, I found that the tomatoes have been reduced to 69 cents a pound!! Are you kidding me?! Well I have to admit that this was the last of them and they were going over to the state of mush and over-ripeness (sp?). A lady near me also saw the amazing price and quickly turned away from seeing their state. Well, I couldn't just leave them alone. So, I picked up just over a pound of gorgeously ripe and bright colored tomatoes! Thank goodness Tom had a recipe that would utilize these beauties in his Pasta chapter!

85. Chilli, Basil and Almond Sauce (Picci Pacci) - *Pasta*

Picci Pacci, Tom indicates, literally means 'this and that'; meaning the pasta had elements in the sauce that incorporated a few ingredients here and there. For this dish, the sauce would have tomatoes, an herb (Tom said I could use parsley instead of basil, and I did), chilli and almonds. Like the Quicker Tomato Sauce, this combo of ingredients did not need any cooking as such, but they do need to sit together for a while so that all the flavors could develop and mingle.

I first started the sauce for the pasta (Tom recommends spaghetti, but it is not mandatory) by crushing my glorious over-ripe tomatoes over a colander. Once I was happy with the pulp I got, I mixed it in a bowl with some chopped garlic, extra virgin olive oil, chilli flakes, chopped parsley, salt and red wine vinegar. I covered the bowl and let the sauce macerate for about two hours.

Then it was just a matter of toasting some almonds -- Tom says to use blanched almonds but I already had almond flakes lying around needing to get used, so I toasted them on a hot and dry frying pan. Once they were cool, I chopped them coarsely with my mezzaluna.

The last part of making the dish was to just simply boil some spaghetti, drain it, and mix it in with the sauce. The chopped almonds then went on top.

Isn't it just glorious?! It looks like a crown for a summer queen, if there ever was one, to symbolize the heat and beauty of summer! I just love the color of the orange tomatoes against the paleness of the almonds and the sharp green of the parsley! I think with a fabulous sauce such as this one, this could certainly turn into an impromptu pasta salad for a barbecue. And I'm not talking about ones that are coated in mayo and sweeter than grandma's peach cobbler! I mean a cold pasta, such as rotini, with a beautiful and sharp coating of sauce, such as this one! Here's another view:

I have to give a fair bit of warning, though I think this may fall on deaf ears, or rather, over-enthusiastic, spice-seeking, tongues. For two portions, the sauce must have 1/2 tsp of chilli flakes. I found this way too much for me. Not oppressingly so for me, as I was able to eat the dish and not experience the metal-tongue I usually do when eating extremely spicy things that kill all my tastebuds, but enough that in addition to it being about 100 degrees in my tiny apartment, I was sweating buckets! (And I even used 1/4 tsp!) So I think next time I will use only a pinch of the chilli flakes unless I need to get rid of a sinus cold or something!

Anyway, this is a great last-minute type of recipe to try; I actually was not planning on cooking at all last night, but once I bought the tomatoes I knew that I had all the ingredients I need!

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Untraditionalist

Tom starts off the introduction to the Napoletana pizza recipe saying that it is a very traditional one. Ha! Well, leave it to me to screw with tradition! When do I ever seem to follow the rules in this project??!

83. Quicker Tomato Sauce - *Junk Food*
84. Napoletana - *Junk Food*

I was hesitant to dive into another pizza recipe following my previous debacle. Ironically, my pizza making in the past had been disaster-free. I think it is because I didn't heat my pans first, or would just make one large pie, albeit not exactly a thin-crust one!

In order to give myself more time and to not rush, I made the basic dough on Wednesday night, and the pizzas last night. The dough, as you may recall, is quite simple - I have to toot my own horn and say what a bad ass I am when it comes to making dough in my Kitchenaid. It has taken a lot of time and practice but I finally have all the techniques down resulting in perfect dough and no last minute running for more water or flour! I left the dough to rise in the fridge overnight, knowing that it will probably result in a crunchier pizza - fine by me!

So last night, I made the sauce and added the toppings for the final assembly job. The sauce, as its title implies, is mega-fast to make. But I am mega-slow, so for me, it was a Moderately Fast Tomato Sauce. :)

First I crushed some tomatoes in a colander. Tom indicates to use two cans of peeled whole plum tomatoes, or to use fresh, if I'm confident my tomatoes are ripe and delicious - oh boy, were they!!

Don't adjust your screens, yes those are orange tomatoes! This was my first summer seeing these tomatoes in Brooklyn. I'm sure they are all around greenmarkets in the 'city', but it was the first time seeing them at my local grocery store. Of course, how could I not pick them up?! Actually, I walk by the store every day mentally scanning its inventory - I was so delighted to see them this week, and for 99¢ a pound!

Now, back to the sauce, it was indeed 'quicker' than the Quick Tomato Sauce, in that no cooking was involved. I squished the tomatoes, getting rid of extra moisture. This tip came from the man himself in an email to me. I had asked Tom about his expertise in making sauce out of fresh tomatoes, and he said:

Whenever I use fresh for sauces I deseed but often don't peel them. You could do both, but needn't bother with either if the tomatoes are on the small side. It's the runny juices in the cavity rather than seeds or skin that can make the sauce watery that bother me!

I managed to squish the tomatoes as much as possible to get rid of any juices, and what I got was a wonderful orange pulp! Beautiful!

In a separate bowl, I squished some garlic with salt and added it to some light olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Then I pureed the entire thing in my new Kitchenaid (cobalt blue, natch!) food processor. It's only a 3 cup one - many of my friends will know that I am saving myself for the 12 cup when I buy a house! But this one was purchased to replace my $9.99 one, that I had purchased at Rite Aid, no less! Ain't my new boyfriend a beauty?!

And there you go, the Quicker Tomato Sauce. I loved the technique of using non-cooked tomatoes and just mixing it up with salt, oil and vinegar, and garlic. That's really all a sauce needs, in my opinion. It reminds me of the fabulous fresh sauces on the brick-oven pizzas served here, like in Patsy's or Lombardi's. Fantastic!

Then came time to take out the dough and start a-rolling! Last time, I had a few problems, to say the least. This time I was more organized, took out two pizza pans, and chucked half of the dough into the freezer for next time.

It was a bitch to roll out, I'll admit, but I know that is because it was losing its chill from the fridge and did not lend itself too much, but after some elbow grease I managed, erm, sort of 24cm circles. Well, close.

As you could see from the top, I topped the pizza Napoletana-style (sort of!) with mozzarella, oregano, and dry and wrinkly black olives. This is where I went untraditional. First, I used orange tomatoes for the sauce. Then, I completely ignored Tom's suggestion to use anchovies and capers. I hate the former, and Rafa hates the latter. We're fussy! No wonder we have no friends! Ha! He said that mozzarella is not traditional, but nevertheless yummy, so I decided to go with the yumminess factor and included it! Tom also mentioned to add the oregano or basil after cooking, but I knew I'd forget that way, so added it with the other toppings. I must say, the pizza did not suffer - in fact, it was fantastic!

I was happy that the pizza did not get too puffy and maintained a certain air of crispiness and thin-ness. The toppings worked so well and the entire apartment smelled of garlic due to the fantastic sauce! I didn't bother heating the baking pans first, but I don't think my pizza was gravely affected because of that. Here's a virtual slice for hungry readers!

Mmmmmm! Pizza! A friend said I had some balls to attempt to make a pizza to rival the great pizzerias around me -- well I have to admit, it's not exactly
Trio, but not too shabby either!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Check in your knives at the door!

Now I'm back in familiar territory - vegetables! It's been a while since I checked out the Stir-Fries chapter!

81. The No-Knife Stir Fry - *Stir-Fries*
82. Chocolate and Banana Shake - *Afters*

Tom is true to his word about the stir-fry ; there is indeed no chopping at all! It consists of oyster mushrooms, bean sprouts and mangetouts (snow peas). All of these items were purchased when I got home from work.

The preparation for the stir-fry sauce was equally simple; I grated some ginger, garlic, and lime zest into a bowl. To this I added lime juice, honey, and soy sauce.

The stir-fry itself took minutes. First I heated some light olive oil until my pan was smoky, and I started frying the oyster mushrooms, that were just torn into smaller slices. They fried for a couple of minutes, and then I added the mangetouts, followed by the bean sprouts. The sauce was added last, and that's it! The rice was ready on the next hob, so dinner was promptly served!

This was really wonderful! I particularly liked the tang of the lime in the sauce and also the oyster mushrooms. It was the first time cooking or eating with them and I was happily surprised! Mmmmm!

For dessert, I decided to just make a quick shake of chocolate ice cream, bananas, and milk! Delicious!!!

The shake could have been a tad sweeter - it's due to the bananas not being ripe enough. I'm an impatient gal!!

So now that I have had my veggies and fruits, I could afford to have a brownie or four, right?!