Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's what's for dessert.

I've been having a lot of fun dessert-related experimentation. I have decided that the world should be aware of the creations I have discovered through my well documented scientific method. Observe subject one.

Subject one is the culmination of several separate fruit trials, brought together for magical results. It all started with some over-brown bananas in the fruit basket. My man, the baker, tossed those babies into a nice batter and baked up some fine banana-nut bread, two loaves. We ate one and because that was all the banana bread we could stomach for a time, we froze the other.

Fast forward to last weekend. I was in Michigan, where the grocery prices are lower, and we bring a cooler for the purpose of cheaper grocery transport back to Cleveland. Kroger had a big sale on all things fresh berry. I partook of two packages of raspberries and one of strawberries. By weekend's end, due to much family quality time and a few meals out, I still had one package of each when I got back to my own kitchen. To use them up quick, I squashed them together in a bowl with a potato masher. Then, I put them in some tupperware in the fridge. 

There was still a slice of defrosted banana bread in the fridge. An idea was born. I took that slice of the bread after dinner the next night and topped it with crushed berries, drizzling both a glaze frosting (powdered sugar mixed with a dab of water) and some chocolate syrup.

It was heaven on a plate.

Subject Two: The Patriotic Parfait

Alas, despite my best efforts, there was still berries left over. I wanted to use them up before they went bad, so I took some lowfat vanilla yogurt and scooped some into a small bowl (read: recycled sinlge-serving greek yogurt container). I topped the yogurt with the remaining berries and drizzled a tiny bit of chocolate syrup. Then, to make things festive, I added a few July 4th star sprinkles.

This scientist's conclusion: Not only is it a healthy dessert alternative, but it's also darn cute.

Subject Three: The Vegan Extra-Chocolatey Oatmeal Cookies

These are from the book "Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar." I have already made their chocolate chip cookies in an earlier blog. Those were a big hit. These babies, these are epic. They are cosmic. They are the Platonic Form of Cookie-ness. These things were delicious. Two different kinds of cocoa powder plus some chocolate chips make Chocolate Fudgy Oatmeal Cookies quite um... chocolate-y. Every bite was infused with cocoa, and because most of the chocolate flavor did come from cocoa powder, rather than baker's chocolate or chips, it was less rich with a hint of bitterness that made these unique. To make your very own Chocolate Fudgy Oatmeal Cookies, go buy the dang book already. Trust me, it's worth the money.

The Batter:

Apparently, these cookies can also be made with dried cherries in them. I didn't have dried cherries when I made this batch, but you can be darn sure that I've already picked up a bag of dried cherries for next time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Barley N Cheese

The first Giada recipe of the summer is here.

I've been really interested in barley lately. I even went out and bought a box of quick-cooking barley in order to make a soup. The soup is as yet unmade, but Giada has offered me another way of sampling this grain in its true form (you know, other than in my breakfast cereal). Since I can't make anything with eggplant yet, I figured this was the perfect time to try out her cheesy baked farro recipe. It requires no eggplant. What it does require is farro, which is hard to come by in the US, at least in Cleveland. However, some internet research (one link uncovered during a google search) confirms that barley can be substituted for farro. They cook up exactly the same.

Thus,  I ran out to my nearest grocer and bought a nice generic bag o barley. I wanted to save the box of quick-cooking. That soup might get made yet. I also bought a few other essentials I didn't have lying around the kitchen. 

Barley N Cheese
(the Kate-ified version of Giada's Cheesy Baked Farro)

What you need:
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 c flour (unbleached)
2 c warm milk
salt and pepper
2 1/2 c grated or shredded Parmesan cheese (I used shredded)
1 1/2 c other assorted Italianish cheeses (I just used mozzarella)
6 c veggie broth
2 c barley (rinsed in a colander with very tiny holes)
1 tsp fresh thyme (straight from the garden)
2 c mushrooms (I used baby bella)
3/4 c halved grape tomatoes
1/2 c bread crumbs
olive oil

1. Do not preheat the oven if it's the middle of the summer. It's too soon and there's a lot to do before anything goes in the oven. If you do preheat right now, you will swelter for the next 20 minutes in an overly hot kitchen wishing you had just listened to reason. There'll be time later to turn on the darn oven. Just wait. Be patient. Do, however, spray a 13 x 9 pan with cooking oil.

2. In a saucepan, melt the butter over med. heat. Add the flour and whisk, whisk, whisk. Slowly add the milk. Hey, did I say to stop whisking? Whisk some more. Simmer for 8 minutes, whisking all the while. Don't you stop whisking. Keep at it. Whisk like you have never whisked before. Don't you slow down. All right, you baby, switch arms. Don't let the butter-flour-milk mix boil. And whisk. Whisk. Whisk.
When the 8 minutes are up, remove from heat and yes, it's alright to put the whisk down. Salt and pepper liberally, even if you usually vote conservative.

3. In pot on med-high heat, bring the broth to a boil. Add the barley, lower the heat, and simmer for about 25 minutes, until tender. Drain the barley.

4. In a skillet, heat 2 T olive oil over med-high heat. Add mushrooms and salt and pepper. Cook for 8 minutes. Add the tomato halves and cook another 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

5. Now, you can preheat the oven. No need to thank me. In a large bowl, combine the cheeses and the thyme. Remove 1/2 c of this cheese mix and hold in reserve. Add the barley, sauce, and mushroom mix to the cheese bowl and stir. A lot. Season. A lot. Then, pour it all into the 13 x 9 pan. Sprinkle that last 1/2 c of cheese on top with the bread crumbs. Drizzle some olive oil across the top too.

6. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes. The top should be golden brown. Don't serve right away unless you want to burn your mouth. (We both know you don't want that.)

This stuff is just the ultimate in adult grain and cheese recipes. It's macaroni and cheese, but with a richer flavor, whole grain, and vegetables included. Not only that. It's also quite filling, so you don't eat as much and aren't left hungry again at 9 p.m., thinking about whether or not you should succumb to a giant bowl of popcorn. If it wasn't so filling, though, I'd compare it to crack. It took us four days to use up the leftovers, but I never got tired of eating it. It's just that good.

I also had a side of salad, complete with baby red lettuce and kale from my garden (along with a little bagged romaine and ranch dressing). The greens are coming in and surely, the eggplant will follow shortly. I mean, the bushes are flowering. That means the fruit should come soon, yes?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Stuff the Crust, Roll the Dough

This month was officially going to be Giada month, but that has gone out the window now. The eggplant bushes have yet to start fruiting and almost all of the recipes I wanted to use from the Giada cookbook were eggplant-related. And no, I am not going to the store and purchasing eggplant when I have two (count them, two) whole eggplant bushes just waiting to mature.

Though, there has been cucumber already:

Alas, this summer is now the summer of Giada with other things mixed in. Consider this a thing mixed in. It's an oldie but a goodie. Pizza! True, I have blogged about pizza before. However, you never stop learning, especially when it comes to upgrading recipes in the kitchen. My pizza, as always, is made from scratch using the Barbara Kingsolver recipe. It just makes the perfect crust. If you don't believe me, try it for yourself.

The trouble for me with homemade pizza has always been how to get it from that raised ball of dough to the flatter-than-a-pancake disk that a good pizza requires. I have tried various methods. I have tried the age-old way so popular in movies, where you toss the dough into the air. By some miracle, the dough evens out into a thin flat surface. Or at least, it's supposed to. For me, it stays a ball mostly, and there's a good chance that ball will fall on the ground at least three times.

I've tried stretching it out on all sides, but this results in an uneven crust, usually with holes in the thinnest spots that need mended by dough from the thicker spots.

I've tried holding the dough by its center on my palm and letting the weight of its hang-off shape it. This causes results similar, though by no means as terrible, as those for the stretching method.

Listen close, now, because if you have this same issue, I have discovered the secret to perfect thin pizza crust every time. The answer is so obvious, I feel stupid for wasting time on alternatives.

Here's what you do:

1. Get a rolling pin. I'm partial to the big heavy metal ones.
2. Roll out the dough on your pizza pan or stone as though it where a pie crust (which it sort of is)
2. When the pizza is at desired thinness and bigness, stop. You have a pizza.

You might also notice that in the above picture, the crust of my pizzas are bigger than usually. Rolling out pizza dough really lets me get it ultra thin (I love me some thin-crust). This also means that I can make it thin enough to make the crust thin enough to stuff and roll back over itself. Yes, that's right. Those are cheese-stuffed crusts. It's like the fun of breadsticks right at the edge of your pizza and for a fraction of the cost you would have to spend to get the same results from a pizza at Pizza Hut.

For stuffed crust, follow steps 1 and 2 above, but for step 3, roll the dough to beyond the plane of the pizza pan. Then, place scoops of shredded cheese onto the pizza dough, lining it along the circumference of the pizza. This will take quite a bit of extra cheese, but it's worth it. Then, roll your crust around the cheese, sealing the outside edge as you go. Bake that puppy up and you have your very own stuffed crust pizza.

( Shown here with veggie toppings)