Friday, January 31, 2014

Pizza Sauce with Anchovies

Fog often rolls in, sweetly and meekly undulating before finally settling in to blanket the sky.

Seldom, but not never, the fog sheds its docility and becomes an aggressor. Overtaking the skies rapidly and fiercely. Rather than creeping up on you and catching you unaware, you cannot help but notice its intrusion.

This aggressiveness is similar to that of eating anchovies on a pizza.  You are happily chowing down on a slice until your mouth encounters this overly salty, briny substance.  Then it becomes a punch in the face.  Or the mouth, rather.

Then you become all sad, because you were quite happy eating your pizza until you ran into the anchovy. And not only are you sad, but you are confused.  So confused.  You usually love the flavor anchovies.  And you love pizza.  But why don't you love the pizza topped with anchovies?

Then the answer hits you.  You need to tame the aggressiveness.  And then you can still have a pizza that has that special something that the anchovies give.  

So you started making your pizza sauce with the anchovies melted into it.  And then there was no more confusion.  The fog had been lifted.

Need a pizza dough recipe to go with the sauce? Cooking Light has a great basic pizza dough recipe right here!

28 ounces crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 anchovy fillets
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 of a small onion
4-5 ounces tomato paste
red pepper flakes, to taste (I like about 1/2 teaspoon of the stuff)
salt, pepper, and sugar to taste, if necessary

In a pot over medium low heat, add the tomatoes, oil, anchovies, garlic, onion, tomato paste, red pepper flakes.  Simmer for approximately 45 minutes, until the onion is soft.  Remove the onion.  Adjust salt and pepper and sugar to taste.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Greetings, changes afoot...

Hello, readers!  Though we almost never break the fourth wall and speak about the blog itself in our posts, we just wanted to take this special occasion to let you know that we are revamping a bit, and as such, posting will be less frequent over the next few weeks.  We are preparing to build a new type of content into the site, and it's something we've been very excited about, and enjoyed working on.  We can't yet say for sure when this will come online, as we'd like to link it to an upcoming redesign, but please, bear with us, and stand by!  Have no fear, new recipes will still be posted regularly, but there will be a slight drop off from the usual Monday/Thursday routine.  In the meantime, take care, and don't be a stranger!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Beef and Orange Dumplings

My faith in humanity is often challenged.  Occasionally to the point of being nonexistent.  From the lack of action on climate change to the lack of a truly universal health care system, I find myself in despair.

These spirals of despair, however, are punctuated with little bursts of light that shine on the goodness in this world.  One such light is the existence of dumplings.  We, as a species, did good there.

Dumplings are little edible presents.  However, instead of being unwrapped with fingers and hands, with bows and papers being flung in the air with wild abandon, one’s mouth tears apart a dough to get to the delectable combination that awaits inside – be it vegetables, meats, or something sweet.

Are not dumplings some of the absolute best food?  Indeed, the answer would be yes.  Yes, they are absolutely wonderful.  Yes, they are absolutely delicious.  How can the answer to this question be anything but an emphatic and resounding YES!

Our love of biting into dumplings knows no bounds, so we were so ridiculously excited to get this month's Creative Cooking Crew Challenge  - dumplings! This month's challenge is hosted by Joan from Foodalogue, so be sure to check back here later in the month for the link to the round-up!

Here we filled wonton wrappers with minced Kobe beef, 5-spice powder, and a bit of orange flavor. The dumplings were boiled and then coated with a serving sauce spiked with a hint of orange blossom water. Heaps of freshness were added before serving as well - mint leaves, scallions, and slices of jalapenos (for those who have a taste for spicy).  A restoration of faith in the good.

Note: I adore the book Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen - her book has been a huge influence on any dumpling prowess I may possess.  I wholeheartedly suggest picking up her book if you are interested in dumpling  making!

For the dumplings:
5-6 ounces Kobe beef, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine
1/2 teaspoon 5-spice powder
pinch kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cara cara orange juice
splash orange blossom water
1 teaspoon coconut oil, melted

For assembling the dumplings:
25-30 wonton wrappers
beef mixture
small bowl of water

For the serving sauce:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
2 tablespoons cara cara orange juice
pinch 5-spice powder
1 tablespoon sesame oil
handful sliced jalapenos
2 garlic cloves, minced
torn scallions
generous handful of torn mint leaves

To make the filling:
In a medium bowl, mix the beef with the garlic and ginger.  In a small bowl, whisk soy sauce, rice wine, 5-spice, salt, pepper, orange juice, orange blossom water, and oil.  Pour the mixture over the beef mixture.  Set aside, allowing the flavors to come together for at least 30 minutes.

To assemble the dumplings:
Take a wonton wrapper and place in the palm of your hand. Place ½ tablespoon of the mixture in the middle. Dab water around 3 adjacent edges and fold into a rectangle shape.  Then bring the ends together to make a round-ish sort of shape.  Repeat until the mixture has been used up (makes 25-30 dumplings).

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Drop 6 or 7 dumplings into the water.  Once the dumplings float to the top, allow them to cook for three more minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the dumplings.  

To make the serving sauce:
Place dumplings in shallow serving dish. Stir together soy sauce, canola oil, orange blossom water, orange juice, 5-spice powder, and sesame oil.  Pour mixture over dumplings.  Scatter jalapenos, garlic, scallions, and mint leaves on top.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Garlic Bread with Everything

There are times when, in order to have a healthy relationship, one must first leave it.  Then, and only then, can an improved, a mature relationship be forged.

And so it is with garlic bread.  Previously, I had been serving it large amounts of pasta.  And a small amount of vegetables.  It became too much.  Too much carbohydrates.  Too much garlic.  Too much competition with the rest of the meal.  Eventually, the bread fell off the menu and out of my life.

Recently, I started reminiscing about this former flame, craving its warmth and toasty garlicky goodness.  It had been years since we last saw each other, but I knew it was time to see each other again.

A reunion was hastily put together, but this time, no pasta would welcome its return.  It would be a pleasure to be enjoyed in and of itself.  Not an afterthought to an already delicious meal.  But a shiny star in its own right.  A shiny herb-laden, garlicky star.  With perhaps some vegetables served on the side.  Or perhaps not.

I do not employ a stingy hand in making this bread.  It is an abundance, an excess of herbs and garlic and butter.  A sprinkling of spices is mixed in as well to perk up the flavors of the basil, parsley, scallions, and the garlic.  A bit of lemon acts as a brightener.

The excess becomes apparent while eating, as leaves of basil or pieces of scallion may fall of in the process.  If that happens, just pick them up, put them back, and enjoy the glorious, buttery exuberance of taste.  Maybe my relationship with garlic bread is not actually mature, but that is neither here nor there.  I will happily rollick in the gluttony.

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground sumac
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup packed torn basil leaves
1 cup parsley
2 chopped scallions
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 loaf crusty bread - I used a baton of sourdough because I'm obsessed with sourdough bread

Heat oven to 375.

In a small bowl, mix cayenne, sumac, black pepper, salt, smoked paprika, and lemon zest.  In a big bowl, mix together the basil, parsley, scallions and garlic.  Sprinkle the seasonings over the herb mixture and toss. In another big bowl, mix together softened butter, yogurt and lemon juice. Fold the herbs and seasonings into the butter.  It may seem unlikely that the butter will take in all those herbs, but it will.  Oh it will.

Slice the bread lengthwise and slather the herb garlic butter over the entire thing.  Bake 8-10 minutes, until toasty and butter has melted into the bread.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Spice Mix with Sesame and Thyme

Some days start too early.  And generally as a result of strange noises.  The blare of foghorns punctuating the stillness of the night.  Loud metallic sounds clanging on asphalt.  The ambient noises of people chatting, car doors opening and shutting, and engines starting or stopping. Nugget boys lugging their owl suitcase into mom and dad's room at 3 am and accidentally banging it on every piece of furniture along the way.  Small puff cats yelling loudly into your ear to lift the covers up so that they may snuggle under the warmth of blankets.

Those are the days that need help. They need more.  More deliciousness, more love, more fun, more coffee, more stimulation to keep one's eyes from closing before the appointed bedtime hour.

A seasoning mix like this can help on such a day. It livens up everything from toast to eggs to a bowl of mixed salad greens.  The sesame seeds give an earthy crunch in your mouth, which is then punctuated by the fresh woodsy taste of thyme and some bright and happy lemon zest.  A little pinch of some fennel, lavender, allspice, espresso powder, and nutmeg, and some salt, of course, rounds it out.  The day may have started too early, but it did allow for more chances to use this.

2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon espresso powder
1/8 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
pinch ground dried lavender

It occurs to me that you could dry the lemon zest to store it for longer, and then perhaps substituting substituting dried thyme for the fresh (though one should reduce the amount of thyme used if using the dried). I used this up rather quickly, so I didn't encounter storage issues.
To make, just mix everything together and sprinkle away!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Baked Eggs with Cream, Rosemary and Orange

Expectations are constantly being challenged and upended, and in the process, becoming the unexpected.

Like when your child asks for a book about black holes.  One's expectation is not that the child follows up repeatedly with a recommendation that the puff cat JiJi needs to have the book read to her as well.

Or take Christmas morning.  One expects, after sharing quarters with the little guy for some time now and having a good idea about his sleeping habits, that this child would be well awake by 6 am.  Of course, this is the first and only time that the kid decides to sleep in to 8 am, the exact morning, of course, I would have loved him being awake early.

Or when said child is told not to climb on furniture, then climbs on furniture and subsequently falls and hurts a tooth.  One expects the child to have "learned a lesson" and stop doing the action that got him hurt. Ha.

When expectations are actually met, the experience can be so novel, so seldom occurring, that one must revel in all its glory.  When a small pot of eggs, doused in cream, fresh, piney rosemary, and sweet, tangy orange  is placed in front of you baring its soul, you know exactly what to expect - a rich, creamy, fragrant, slightly sweet breakfast treat.  Each bite is a lovely sensation, never hiding itself, never more or less than what it is. An open book of sumptuous breakfast expectation met with aplomb.

Need some more baked egg recipe ideas?  Cooking Light has some here and here! Such a fun way to enjoy the incredible, edible egg!

For each ramekin:
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
pinch salt, pepper, allspice
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon blood orange juice
1 egg
Parmesan cheese, for serving
olive oil, for serving
orange wedge, for serving
crusty bread, for serving

For each ramekin, pour in cream, olive oil, rosemary, spices, orange zest, and orange juice. Crack egg into the mixture.  Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, until the eggs have set. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese and drizzle some olive oil on top.  Serve with orange wedge and crusty bread.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Super Simple Orange Honey Popsicles

Over the past few weeks, Max has put in the following food requests:

1) Magic School Bus Bread

2) Aurora Borealis Cookies

3) Popsicles

The first two requests elicited similar responses from me. 
 a) Panic.  Upon which I would say no, I can't do that.
 b) Guilt. Upon which I would say yes, yes I can do this. 
 I can make Magic School Bus Bread if I put my mind to it, only to have it vaguely, if you squint and actively use your imagination does it in any way resemble some sort of bus, and yes, I can make aurora borealis cookies if we paint them the colors of an aurora and they will most definitely end up looking like the auroras despite having zero artistic talent, and then in the end the cookies look nothing, and I mean nothing, like an aurora borealis.

So when the request for the popsicles came in, it was a breath of fresh air.  Of course, Max, of course we can make popsicles! This I can handle.  So the little guy and I headed to the kitchen, blended some mandarin oranges with Greek yogurt, honey, and vanilla extract, froze it, and then had popsicles.  So easy, even I can handle it.

3 cups of segmented mandarin oranges (I needed about 6 medium sized ones)
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients together (I used my immersion blender).  Strain out the pulp. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.
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